Though surprisingly difficult to imagine “nature” while immersed in New York City, I often have to spend a great deal of time thinking about nature and the natural world when I’m working (aka teaching). I’d hardly call it work, though. My first day in Denali allowed me to connect with nature, as we explored a fraction of the park by utilizing their shuttle bus system. The landscapes were sweeping and expansive, quickly dwarfing you into a small and insignificant organism in this massive, gorgeous land. The animals we encountered were equally majestic, giant bull moose and chubby grizzly bears, beefing up for the long winter ahead. But my second day in Denali allowed me a moment to connect with something I don’t usually encounter: wilderness.
I guess coming from one of the largest metropolis on this planet makes me feel disconnected from wilderness. I’m always felt connected to nature. Growing up in New England, nature is all around. Spending so much time outdoors both as a camper and then as a nature director working at my same childhood camp, I felt connected to nature. But Connecticut is far from wilderness, especially since the forests are all secondary growth after the statewide deforestation from over a century past. Hiking in Denali, even for a few hours, allowed me to connect with wilderness.
For the majority of our hike, it was just the four of us. When you stopped and listened, really listened, there was true silence. Usually I’d feel a bit panicked by the notion of no civilization for acres upon acres, but instead, the expansive landscape felt comfortable. And calming. The idea of untouched land, the true wild, was so appealing. We had a small trail of sorts, a community trail from people before us, but I like the lack of trails in Denali. Moving beyond a connection to nature and the natural world, I felt connected to wilderness for the first time. And I really liked it.
Lately my travels have brought me a desire to explore further, not to repeat locations and return to places I’ve been. But after a few hours hiking in Denali, I’m eager to return and camp in one of their campsites, perhaps the super buggy site set far in the park, at the base of Mt. Denali. Even if I come back by myself, just a week in the wilderness would be perfect.