I know you know that Alaska is supposed to be beautiful and I'll confirm these findings. Not only is the landscape breathtaking but the people are weird and sweet and committed. Committed to the life they keep choosing to live. Committed to the element-fighting winters, to the the loose boundaries separating them from the wilderness, to the isolation.
Not all the people are weird but the ones you may wander across on the streets or at the one deli between Anchorage and Denali. The one working the front desk of your hostel, over-eager to tell everyone about her bear sightings. The thoughtful mom, completely at peace and her curious children, engaged and listening. The woman who runs the trailer park where your uncle lived. Where your uncle died.
The trees rule the landscape in quantity, the mountains in grandeur. The clouds mask both, playing new daily games with perception. The colors intensify in the rainy fall winds. The roads lay void of humans yet full of what I imagine to be wandering moose through the night. No headlights in the night. Actual darkness. Actual silence.
The turquoise glacial waters meander over inviting river beds, winterizing neighboring plants, darkening days. Alaska, as I know it, unlike every place I've ever seen, felt, touched, heard. The 6 million acres of Denali National Park house few trails, inviting us to explore wilderness, a path of our own. Inviting us to share the land with its natives, as gentle and curious guests.
This trip, my first to Alaska, lasted ten days. With the freedom of a rental car and a close friend/ wilderness-savvy man, we took empty roads from Anchorage, North through Denali and South through Hope and Homer Alaska. With the warm welcome of friends and new friends, we stayed warm, camped often, cooked outside, and got our asses kicked in pool by a local couple.
I can't wait to go back.