(ed. note: click on the panoramas for larger versions)
250,000:1 was the scale of the map I spent most of last week looking at. It’s how I feel trying to write about it- I need 250,000 words to describe just one: Alaska
This trip, I went to celebrate one of my favorite couples tying the knot. I got to introduce my special lady friend to my special friendly place. I got to see a pile of other wonderful people and places that have shaped the scale of my mental universe.
After celebrating in Palmer, and having the honor of playing my cello as my good friend Margaret walked down the aisle, Abigail and I took the rare chance to get into the Brooks Range in Gates of the Arctic National Park. One extremely generous friend loaned us an appropriate vehicle, another collected our soggy selves on the return.
A few notes about visiting the Gates of the Arctic National Park:
- There are no trails.
- There are no trailheads
- There are no roads that actually cross inside the park boundary
- There are no medical or rescue services
- There are no other visitors
- There is a gift shop
The Brooks Range is the most pure, wild place I have ever been. I love it for the unique depth of its wilderness. For the steep price of commitment and effort it requires to visit. For the singular vibrancy that only tracing the edge of the unknown can reveal.
We also had a pile of fun. Since there are no trailheads, we started our trip based on identifying major topographic features from the road, crossing a major river, and walking into the woods. On our second afternoon we discovered we had, yet again, underestimated the scale of our map, and started our trip 15 miles south of our original itinerary.
The mistake allowed us to let go of the arbitrary goal we had picked on the map and accept the spectacular place we had found ourselves.
Our mistake also allowed us to play our hand against typically Alaskan weather. We set up base camp, drank coffee while it rained and dashed out when the clouds broke. Thanks to Abigail for her wisdom in making the most of the alternate path. Intermittent rain followed us down the road home, but broke up south of the Alaska range, just in time to see Denali before we met friends and flew back to Seattle.