Our first sojourn into the state of the fleeced and furred; shunning the traditional cruises chosen by our contemporaries, opting for an adventure into the landscape, the wildly wonderful, virginal terrain of the 49th state. Arriving at Denali Backcountry Lodge, buried, far from the maddening crowd, cauterized from all communication (internet, TV, radio, telephone,); the droning, daily, orality, confounding and confusing the senses, substituted with a cocoon of solace and solitude. Amazingly, while searching for a pen, before the electricity was extinguished (a fear never realized, darkness in July is anathema), I found nestling in tandem, the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita (subsequently discovered the owner of the Lodge is Indian); India with its mythic ties rearing its philosophical tenets and Krishna, the oracle of wisdom paving for Arjuna the path to enlightenment, invades serendipitously the commencement of my embryonic voyage; judicially, metaphorically I accepted his role as my guide and guardian.
So Krishna, my mate and I watched “Deadly Assent” the excellent, chilling documentary about the overwhelming physical obstacles climbers of Mt. Denali “The Highest One”, also known as Mt. McKinley must confront. It is the coldest mountain in the universe and at 20,300 feet claims copious lives each season, 45% of climbers fall; doctors have invented a pill that when swallowed can determine the body temperature of ascenders, hence recognizing the toxic symptoms, warning signs of hyperthermia. This inflexible, frigid mistress of nature lures hundreds each year willing to sacrifice life and limb to its breathtaking, oftentimes lethal embrace. Flying over the mountain in a four -seater plane one is mesmerized by its galvanizing, glacial gorgeousness; viewing its pinnacle, witnessing the omnipresent power of the divine.
Arriving by float- plane at Winterlake Lodge, remote, isolated, water-enshrined, magnificent landscape; only five cabins, ours titled “Happy River Cabin”, a short walk from the iconic “mushers”; dogs starring in the renown Iditarod Dog Sled Race held every year since 1973; they are given a wide berth, have the lean and hungry look, minimally endearing, “Fiona”, our ferociously charming favorite.
We saw bear, moose, sheep, seals, caribou; even a brazen coyote sauntering at a majestic pace, our bus driver a slave to his caprice. While staying at Talkeetna Lodge we jett boated into “Devil’s Gorge, Canyon”; another natural phenomena, rapids testing man’s ability, agility, endurance in besting nature at its fiercest, most unforgiving. Turning back at the halfway point, joyful, healthy cowards.
It was at our final and most luxurious accommodation (Hotel Alyeska) that Krishna and I greeted and conquered the utmost challenge, paragliding. Running with my Guide/Pilot, Bill plunging off the side of the Alyeska mountain, over 2,000 feet in the air; flying, floating eye to eye with the eagles; understanding the aphrodisiac of flight, shared with the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindberg; laughing with exhilaration, clairvoyance, realizing the ultimate lesson of the Bhagavad Gita , what Krishna taught and enabled Arjuna to finally comprehend, renunciation; only through renunciation, casting off the chains, claims of materialization, the angst and agonies of real and imagined pains, eliminating vanities, ego -inflating accolades, once shed, renounced, then and only then, can one attain freedom, wisdom.
Leaving Alaska, purified, simpler souls, happier individuals. Grateful.