It’s about 34 degrees Celsius, the bitter cold is numbing against my nose, ears and extremities. I gaze to the north; thousands of square miles of mountains that have slept so quietly since the snow first fell on top of their brilliant and well-crafted jagged rocks. I look down to my feet and I stare in awe as I watch tiny pebbles and mud free fall 10,560 feet to the earth. I am standing on a glacier that has been in existence for generations. I can feel the very ice shake below me as the sub-temperature glacier water flows through the veiny arctic river system. The feeling of insignificance is overwhelming as I stand taller than any man in the entire western hemisphere. I am talking about the great state of Alaska; the last frontier. My life changing experiences and deep spiritual encounters that I had in this sub-arctic paradise have changed who I am; ultimately to become a more open-minded and cultivated human being.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
If this cross country trip had to start somewhere I would accredit it to my late brother, David. If it weren’t for his stories of the open icy west my dream would have been very altered. By the time my 18th birthday had arrived, I had done so much talking about visiting Alaska it was only appropriate for my parents to present me with such an opportunity. Talking about Alaska one second and finding myself touching down in the capital the next. It’s truly a dream successfully fulfilled. As we make our way to the hotel, I mentally prepare myself for the emotionally attached journey that I am destined to take. My parents and myself first drive to Talkeetna. A small, quaint village about 2 hours outside of Anchorage. An art dominated town, hand crafted, glass blown and self-painted beauty poured from every crevice of the town. As I admire a handmade toy moose made of white birch tree bark at a local farmers market, I look up to the sky and find myself staring at the highest point in the great United States; Mt. McKinley, standing at a mind blowing 20,327 feet. Our next step is to make it to that area.
Once we reach Denali National forest where Mt. McKinley rests, we throw on our boots, layers of warmth and our backpacks filled with the essentials such as water, knifes, lighter and snack bars. Once we gain entrance to the national park we start on a path that seems the most promising. It winds east and west between two mountain faces in a valley forming a repetitious gravel pathway. After about two hours of fighting back 30 mile per hour winds at a temperature low enough it hurts to breath, we are stopped dead in our tracks due to a level four rapid river about 50 to 60 feet in width. Next thing I know I’m taking off my socks and shoes and rolling up my pants in resemblance to Huckleberry Finn. The second I dip my toes into the water a thrilling shock pistols its way up through my spine and right to my brain. At this point I am gasping for breath and praying that I don’t take a wrong step and slice the bottom of my foot open on an acutely shaped stone.
The path wound up to one of the tallest points in American geography as we know it today. As I stood there, the wind eroded at my face and traveled smoothly through my hair. I inhale a deep breath through my nostrils. It was just like in the movies. I had finally felt what my brother was talking about all those years, all the stories that I carried with me when he past had finally come to life. All I could do was smile and whisper three worlds aloud to my brother. You were right.
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