I just returned from a hiking trip in Alaska, and man. It was beautiful and intense. Stunning landscapes, especially as the snow was melting. The trails were difficult – icy, muddy, steep – and incredible. Alaska really is Into the Wild, magic bus from the movie included.
And we got to know some of the locals. When you’re not outside, you’re in the bar. It’s just where people go. So, we drank.
It’s hard to describe how different the culture is in Alaska to more “urban” environments like Los Angeles.
For one thing, people take rifles on the trails because….bears. There are lots, although I didn’t encounter any for some miraculous reason. And there are tons of gaming areas, so get used to a lot of antlers and stuffed moose heads as part of the ambiance.
Highways stretch for hours with no gas station or McDonald’s in sight. And did I mention there are like 18 hours of daylight right now? Flip that for winter.
This is why I love traveling. It reminds me that we each see the world from our own, insular perspective until we meet people from other places. Alaska is intense, and the people along with it. You have to be rugged and capable to respond to such weather extremes. If you aren’t in a city like Anchorage or Fairbanks, you spend your -40 degree winters chopping wood for your wood stove cuz you have to stay warm. You become self-reliant because you have to. Nobody saves you. There isn’t a convenience store down the corner. You will be waiting 2-3 weeks for that jacket from Amazon (if you’re lucky). You have to look out for yourself. At least, this is what I observed.
But the rewards are amazing. We were among the lucky – the 30 percenters. Only 30% of the time do people get to see the top of Mt. Denali, the highest peak in North America. Most of the time it’s covered in clouds.
Plus, we got to climb Mt. Healy for some spectacular views of Denali National Park.
Denali was overwhelming. It’s just so…huge. The size of Massachusetts, or so I read. Plus, this was where Chris McCandless tried to take on nature in Into the Wild, and nature won.
Hiking is humbling. You remember how small you are, how vast and beautiful and dynamic nature can be. You remember what you see because you want to preserve it.
Thank you Alaska for the experience. You are stunning, humbling, and remarkable.