Thursday, 26 May 2016

Alaskan Journal Part 9

Today we bade farewell to our little creekside cabin and drove the 250 miles back south to Anchorage. With mind-expanding scenery to the left, right and in front, it was not a real hardship. We stopped off in Talkeetna, a railway town dating from the 1920s and now the starting point for those adventurous enough to want to climb the 20000+feet of Denali (aka Mt McKinley), the highest peak in North America (have I mentioned that before?). A laid back kind of place and a good place to have a rather delicious Alaska salmon sandwich. And Mrs P's tomato and basil (sorry, tomaytoe and bayzil) soup went down well as well. After that we braved the drive around, not through, Sarah Palin's hometown of Wassila. What can I say? Not the sort of town I'd stop for: it hasn't even got an attractive backdrop of mountains to soften the blow. Maybe the residents decided to take their revenge on the world for making them live there by electing Sarah Palin to a position of prominence? Still, it was but a short journey remaining to get us back into Anchorage and the house party that is evolving around the wedding on Saturday. But more of that later.
Apparently, only 30% of the people who visit Denali ever get to see the eponymous mountain. Guess what? We were in the 70%. This is where it should be.
Last chance. Still looking. Still not there.
Patterns and colours. What's not to be entranced by?
Ditto for this member of the Daisy family. But which one?
And I should know what this one is (in the garden of our B & B) but it escapes me at the moment. Anyone out there know?

While we were in Denali, I think we tried to be simply there. We drove the Park Road, we hiked trails and crossed gravel bars. We touched just a little bit of the tundra. We saw Dall sheep, moose, caribou, ptarmigan, Arctic ground squirrels and bears. Quite a few bears. Someone said that when you see more bears than mosquitoes – that’s a good trip to Alaska. We’ve had a good trip to Alaska.
And what about the landscape? By trying to be there, we did more than only look at the landscape. Maybe, just maybe, for a small fraction of the time, we were part of the landscape. In a post a while back, I mentioned the feeling of ‘spirit of place’ that we get in some parts of our usual stomping grounds on Dartmoor. I felt that about Denali.

The landscape is not just something to look at and photograph from a tour bus or car window. It is something to experience. Yes, I took lots (and lots) of photographs but there were many times when I let the kit just dangle from my neck as I used my eyes and ears. Truly, how could anything captured on my screen compare to what I was seeing? How can it ever be captured adequately by a digital device? It has to be experienced viscerally and captured in the mind: that’s the only device capable of holding it, of really taking it all in. So, my tip for visiting Denali (or any isolated spot, for that matter), is to stride out, even if you go just a short distance. Experience the two-dimensional backdrop of the landscape morphing into three-dimensional space as you enter it. Experience, enjoy and be alive.

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