Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Alaska’s Denali National Park—and THE MOUNTAIN

©Bert Gildart: In Alaska, in Denali National Park, on the night of June 21—the summer solstice—the sun dips to its lowest point about 1 a.m. and then rises again about 20 minutes later. Light, of course, is most dramatic around the time of sunset and sunrise, and that evening, I set out from a campsite to film the majesty of Mount McKinley. Mosquitoes were thick, and when I struck out over the muskeg, swarms of vicious, demonic bugs rose with each footfall and descended with a vengeance.

Alaska hosts 20-some different species of mosquitoes, and that night every single last species (please don’t doubt me!) attacked. In my crazed state of mind, these mosquitoes seemed birdlike in size prompting me to recall the empirical observations of one noted naturalist who maintains that your average Alaskan-male mosquito “can stand flatfooted and kiss a turkey.”

THE MOUNTAIN: On another more sober occasion, this same naturalist said that at the peak of mosquito season the hordes could suck a quart of blood a day from a caribou (and, by inference, from me!). Still, I hurried on, reaching a point I had scoped out earlier in the day. Here, a blessed breeze was blowing, enough so that many of the mosquitoes were knocked down—allowing sanity to return.

Hurriedly I set up my tripod, and though a number of persistent bugs swarmed not only in my face but also in front of the lens, I controlled the situation by waving my hands just before clicking the shutter. To make sure that my long hike would not be in vain, I took many insurance shots. After all, here was THE MOUNTAIN, as some proclaim in reverential terms.

But the bugs were such a distraction that I couldn’t linger, fully understanding why criminals who have escaped to the tundra grow frantic before the onslaught of winged-demons and happily surrender. That night I returned to the protective shroud offered by my tent; next day, I surrendered to the comforts of my trailer, and did so with alacrity.

TENT CAMPER: Without qualification, RV travelers to Alaska have an advantage over other forms of exploration, and over the years, Janie and I have driven the ALCAN and visited the park many times, progressing from tent camper, camper van to travel trailer. With but one exception, we’ve always found ourselves waiting out adverse conditions—or spending a day or two retreating from a swell of mosquitoes, obsessed with ways to cope (more on that later). Nevertheless, moody—even contentious—Denali has never disappointed, for in between spates with mosquitoes and dark days of rain, there have always been visits with wildlife enjoyed nowhere else in the world. And, finally, of course, there had been THE MOUNTAIN, and when it did come out from behind clouds, sometimes the occasion could be so moving that it seemed to affect our very souls.

If you’ve ever wanted to go to Alaska but were afraid of the ALCAN, let me reassure you that the horrors no longer exist, for in 1994, the road was straightened out and most of the gravel replaced with asphalt. However, the journey is still an adventure, and you’ll want to plan your outing well in advance. Now is certainly not too great to get started.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll provide some thoughts on places to stop along the way, and items you should take. However, we’ll be traveling this next week, pulling our Airstream to Kennewick, Washington, for an outdoor writer’s conference. So we’ll be reporting for several days on activities from there. For those who have been following along with this blog, you’ll recall I’m entering a photo contest and I’ll let you know how I make out.



3 Responses to “Alaska’s Denali National Park—and THE MOUNTAIN”

  1. Roger Smith Says:

    Although I was only 4 at the time, I remember the ‘horrors’ of our family trip to Alaska in 1964. I have some information post at my blog at:
    http://www.casarodante.org/2006/07/18/the-beginning/
    I would love to go back and probably will.

  2. Focus Photography | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] Last year about this time I was reliving one of the many trips we have made to Alaska. Read post [...]

  3. Pakboats Serve the "Minimalist" Approach of this Airstream Couple | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] as I write, they’re on the ALCAN , and they plan to visit a whole host of places in Alaska to include Denali National Park . They [...]

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