Thursday, May 13, 2010

On The Road Again...

Well, with camp finished and a bit of free time to kill, Dave-O and myself...after a hectic bit of arranging, a sainted woman who goes by the name Dawn, and one reliable vehicle later, made our way out towards Denali. I love a good drive, especially through beautiful country...and well, Alaska is beautiful country. We'd stop now and then for a good view of the landscape, as the vistas pretty much demanded it. Of course, now and then, there was the demand for something else...the demand to 'party!' And, well, nothing says party like a dedication plaque! So, I ask you, are you ready... are you ready to party?


(You might want to scroll past the next picture if you're easily offended. However, if you're 'ready to party,' this establishment will probably accommodate you. I think I'll pass.)

stay classy.

Moving on...So, here's the river as we cross into Denali National Park. There was rafting taking place just beyond the bend. I was immediately sorry I was not participating as I love rafting and at the time of my last planned trip, I was totally dying. Maybe next time...definitely next time. Anyway, I was taken with the place before we even got into the real park. Sure, you head in and the shops, cars, and hotel are all buzzing, so it doesn't feel much like the great outdoors, but at the same time, it does. You can see beyond all that into the total and absolute vastness that is being offered and it's astounding...even with the clutter. I was really excited to start heading out towards Wonder Lake.

We ventured up to the hotel, but I'm not showing it to you...because it's a hotel...and I'm sure you've all seen one before. The wind however, was intense due to the location of the hotel on a bit of a precipice overlooking the park! I love a windy day.

(I promise you, everyone goes gangster around me...)(Dave-O^)

We made our way to the bus station to hop on the bus we were taking out to the lake to camp. It's, I believe, around 85 miles into the park and a 6 hour bus ride. When I first heard that, I was not amused. I did not think 6 hours on a bus would thrill me in the least. However, as it turns out, the bus ride is pretty good times. The roads are, in some areas, completely scary...which is a bonus in a way. You also get a really good overview of the park via this 'tour.' Plus, given the fact that you're covering a lot of ground, you see a lot of wildlife. (More of that later.) The six hours passed extremely quickly and the scheduled stops gave you a good opportunity to get out, stretch your legs and wander around a bit. (I will say, I would be sad if all I did was a bus ride...even staying overnight wasn't long enough. It's the kind of place where a few days worth of hiking and camping is well worth any discomfort/cost.)

Well, as we get going, things start to get pretty. It's just so open, so big. I think that's what amazes me the most. Whenever I come back home from up there, everything just seems so small for so long. Even the sky seems to shrink.

(My natural skin tone is not 'hot pink!')

THERE'S A GRIZZLY BEAR IN THAT PICTURE! Even though she and her cubs were a fair distance from us, I was excited. And really, don't you want a mother Grizzly to be a fair distance from you? From what I've heard, Ursus Arctos Horribilis (fancy!) is not as approachable as Teddy Ruxpin would have you believe! (I bet they're totally soft and cuddly while they're ripping your face off.) Still, I was totally thrilled as I'd never seen one in the wild.

Inflatable hoodie! Isn't that landscape gorgeous!? This is one of the stops along the way...obviously. For someone who comes from a place where foothills are as big as you get, the mountains can be almost visually overwhelming. Awesome. (Wow...I never realized how short those "long" pants were. Oh well, I destroyed them a week later through some mishap anyway...)

I'm not sure if they were diverting the river channel, building up the bank, or putting in a new visitor station, but for some reason, the presence of construction equipment bothered me. Of course I realize that we are impacting the think otherwise would be naive, but I suppose that particular visual reminder left me unsettled. Ironic that I'm musing all of this while sitting on a bus specifically designed to invade these spaces. If you'll allow me to wax philosophic for a moment, even though the area is preserved and protected, we're still marking our trails all through it. We're totally invasive, even if we are lessening our impact. Don't get me wrong, I believe the National Park system is awesome and one of the best conservation efforts ever established in the US. I'm stoked that Denali exists and that I'm fortunate enough to take advantage of it, but seeing something like that just reminds me that you'll always know when people have touched a place. (Not that it's always bad, just always...obvious.)

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world." -John Muir

The first hint that something bigger lies beyond...

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