From Anchorage, we disembark again and begin the long journey up to Denali. At a stop by the side of the road, we catch our first view of its looming visage and the march of the Alaskan range across a sky obscured by clouds. Directly above us, a wide nimbus and the filigree of a rainbow surround the sun. They’re ice crystals, Ken tells us: a sign of high winds come to blow the clouds away. We wait and hold our breath.
a halo for the high one:
Indeed, within a few minutes of our stopping, the horizon begins to clear, and we can see its white, snow-capped peaks beyond the cloud cover. Refreshed, we eat our lunch to this majestic view before continuing northward
* * *
At Denali, we set up camp in a clearing between the evergreens. Our tents in place, we start walking south. The wilderness is vast here, and there is no trail where we’re going. The midnight sun and the twilight leave little sense of time, and no night will come to extinguish the sky. How easy it would be to lose oneself out here! The trees give way to a river below, and beyond that, vast rolling hills of green that run into mountains. We follow the river for a while, and then take off our shoes and roll up our pants and cross at a shallow spot. The cold water washes over our feet and rushes against our ankles up to our knees. The river stones are wet and smooth and slick. Moose tracks litter the mud. Back on dry land, we trek across overgrown hills, and the bush reaches higher and higher until it covers our heads and we’re forced to turn back. For dinner back at camp, we have Kim’s and Wai’s stir fry vegetables and reindeer sausage. We dry wood for fire. Finally, around midnight, we put the fire out and climb into our tents to sleep. The sun is still crawling across the world behind the mountains.
this deep wilderness—
a red heartbeat
from glacial waters warmed
by the summer sun