Alaska is immense. Obvious, indeed; however, much like that first visit to a place such as the Grand Canyon – Denali was a similar experience – general knowledge and photos are completely inadequate. They’re must visits and perspective altering experiences. I imagine Neil Armstrong and his companions understood as they stared at the pale blue dot shrinking as they closed in on the great unknown. To experience Alaska is to understand how incredibly insignificant our place is in the world, let alone the vast universe.
I recently returned from a two-week trip to The Last Frontier, and it was easily one of the better all-expenses paid vacations offered to me by the military in the last 14 years. Sometimes you’re removing dirt out of crevices of your body you’d previously never known in an effort to maintain a sense of dignity while keeping your fingers crossed that the local bomb expert is more of a novice, and other times you’re watching a black bear run across the street with her cubs a few days after experiencing blue, cotton candy like glaciers in the Alaskan Gulf. Military trips are a real gamble, and this one paid off.
To say I enjoyed Alaska would be quite the understatement, of course excluding the military stuff. As I slowly realized that the mass of clouds in the distance was in fact the lower portion of Denali, I experienced a sense of awe that could have only been matched a few times in my previous 32 years. The simultaneous experience of amazement and feeling of insignificance was an emotional juxtaposition that will remain with me for quite sometime. Only a few days removed from that trip and already I yearn to go back.
I was on the road for more than 24 hours traveling from Anchorage to Fairbanks back to Anchorage and then to Seward, and I experienced only a fraction of what the state has to offer. The promise of solitude, infinite wilderness and a chance to return to a more primal nature is something that will always remain in the embryonic area of my brain that finds pleasure in a simple campfire surrounded by the call of the wild.