A Look Back: Alone With My Thoughts in Denali
|Sunset on the Healy Range, Denali National Park, 2006.|
I was an outdoor n00b living in an outdoor adventurer's paradise, Denali National Park, and planned to take full advantage. But I didn't know what I didn't know. We've all been there.
This is an excerpt from the journal I kept there detailing one of my most memorable misadventures.
this place. this wonderful place. this wide expanse of enthralling beauty, so much beauty i could cry, so much beauty i can hardly believe it truly exists. i'd seen the pictures just like everyone else, but i never anticipated this feeling of wonder and excitement just from gazing out my window as the slightly setting sun hits distant ridges i might be lucky enough to stand on. despite the sun that never sets, snow stays unmelted on the highest peaks and in rock crevices that never feel its warmth. i want to see it all. and it's all mine. it's my own giant playground.
i'm waking up, stretching my legs, and realizing the world as i knew it has changed. it's surreal. this place is altering my consciousness every minute of every day. i'm going out into the wilderness alone tomorrow for the first time, my first solo camping trip, and i'm so scared-excited. i'm going out on my own because i can. because it's there. because i want to experience silence.
the sun's turned Mount Healy an impossibly fluorescent shade of pink. an Alaskan sunset - the absence of the actual disappearance of the sun over the horizon, but rather defined by the vibrant colors and shadows it brings while the larger inhabited part of this hemisphere is dark. it's almost midnight and i can still see every tree, clear as day, clear as i will seven hours from now when i pull myself out of bed for my little adventure. Sanctuary Creek, where i'm headed, we'll see if it's actually a sanctuary. it sure looks like one. and sounds like one.
|a self portrait on the Denali Park Road at Sactuary Creek, 2006.|
tomorrow, i'll leave it all behind. i will just be. i will exist, Denali will exist, and that will be enough.
Embarrassing as this is to admit, my not-so-badass self and I didn't spend the night out in Denali National Park. I set up the tent as planned, went on a hike and came back to make dinner. At that point, I realized I was alone, and lonely. At 22, being alone with my thoughts was a little much. I wasn't scared, just lonely. Time passed so slowly, and I realize now I just wasn't ready to be completely alone with myself, yet. I packed up my 30 pounds of gear after seven or eight hours out there, saddled up and biked the 22 miles back to the park entrance. I'd never biked that far in my life. The park road is hilly, long, and mostly gravel. I made it back in the middle of the night, sore and slightly defeated, but optimistic. I look back at this and smile because that trip seems so small and silly now, but it was such a big deal then!