While traveling to the Great North, I searched for ways to connect to a land far from home. Alaska was always a place I dreamed of visiting one day. Two weeks ago I made the journey with the intention to reconnect with old friends, eat local fish and berries, and experience the wild wilderness of Denali. How much awe and wonder can I experience from towering mountains that meet the ocean?
Naturally, food and herbal medicine took my breath away. Salmon berries dripped from steep mountain slopes while hiking up to Exit Glacier. Picking blueberries in Denali National Park was thrilling in other ways. One must keep an eye out for the grizzlies who, like us, also enjoy the fruits of late summer.
We watched men, women, and children pull salmon out of the sea by the dozens in Homer. After each fish was fileted, they were packed into coolers ready for stocking the freezer for the long winter ahead. What does this diverse group of locals all have in common? Food. Hunting, fishing, canning, drying, and freezing food for the winter is part of life in Alaska.
Every weekend, my friends headed out of Anchorage to forage and fish. The dehydrator always was running. The smoker was full of salmon. The chest freezer packed with berries, meat and veggies. The garden was in its last push before the cold returns. Alaska summer is short, but the days are incredibly long and full.
I brought an eye mask in case the sun didn’t set for long enough to get my full 8 hours. Yet, the long days of hiking and exploring left my body so tired, as soon as I lay my head to rest I fell into deep dreamy sleep. Camping was our primary form of lodging. Bear spray (strong pepper-spray) bottles were easy accessible inside the tent in case an unwanted visitor approached. Fortunately, we never used them, but they did make us feel a bit safer.
Bald eagles perched atop tall pines almost as abundantly as our red tailed hawks in the Northeast. Rainbows magically appeared as the weather shifted so frequently. Change is constant and the weather is unpredictable. We hiked in downpours that suddenly turned to bright sunshine.
The tallest mountain in North America, Denali (The Great One), cleared entirely for 2 days in a row. After a 5 and a half hour bus ride and a night of rain, we woke at Wonder Lake Campground, 84 miles from the park entrance. “I have a good feeling about this morning,” I said while opening the tent door. Sure enough, the entire mountain was visible and they sky was clear. Denali, more immense than I ever imagined, gleamed back at me only 20 miles away. I felt like I could reach out and touch it.
What kind of wisdom does this great mountain have to offer me? I sat with this inquiry far longer than the cool damp weather permitted in only a fleece jacket and wound up with a cold the next day, but it was worth it! The mountain answered loud and clear, “Expose yourself to the ones you love.”
I took the message home with me. Be YOU. Be vulnerable with those you trust. Be BOLD. Do what you love and trust in the magic of the Universe.