My Wilderness Essay: Bette Burt

By Bette Burt

Denali - where in a matter of hours, the terrain changes as you drive inward: from tall woodland forests, to scrub land with trees no taller than 4½ - 6 feet, to tundra with nothing growing over 4½ - 6 inches!

Denali - where in a matter of hours, the terrain changes as you drive inward: from tall woodland forests, to scrub land with trees no taller than 4½ - 6 feet, to tundra with nothing growing over 4½ - 6 inches!

Denali - where you can stay at a magnificent lodge with the staff attending to you and yet nearly step in the bear scat just beyond the lawn.

In early September, the mist and fog obscure Mt. McKinley/Denali for most days. On that rare day, when the sky is clear - the snow-covered giant can be seen towering over its brethren. We saw it from over 100 miles away and it was car-stopping impressive.

September is our favorite time to travel in the National Parks and in early September, we came to Denali. We were introduced to Denali National Park and Preserve as part of a train tour. We were so delighted with the Park’s emphasis on preserving the park for the animals that we drove back to Denali a couple weeks later to leisurely enjoy its gifts.

We have stopped to watch a bull moose step onto the road and cross in front of us: step, grunt, step, grunt, step…all the way across the road. He didn’t even bother to look back as he lumbered away.

We have watched a herd of caribou move quickly alongside the river. They seemed to be a living river of their own as they hurried forward and flowed around each other.

We’ve nearly missed seeing the ptarmigans as they puttered near the edge of the road.

One afternoon we spent a couple hours watching a female moose grazing behind some small pines. A younger bull moose was hanging around in the neighborhood and then a larger bull moose came into the area. The larger moose moved towards the younger one until they were face to face. There was a staring contest and then the larger one turned his side to the junior. He slowly walked towards the female and grazed. As the three of them grazed and moved, the bigger moose made sure he was between the female and the younger moose. It took a while, but the small bull finally gave up and moved away from them and kept moving until he disappeared into the brush.

We have taken the Park bus tours and we’ve driven the road as far as is allowed many times. The scenery always seems new. The wildlife is abundant or scarce depending on the time, the day, or just luck.

We have walked along the main road with our cameras and binoculars. We have watched the occasional brave backpacking soul striding into the interior.

But we have never camped or even ventured onto the hiking trails. Just reading all the warning signs posted along the roadside have convinced me to forgo that experience. But I am sure it would be wonderful to experience the Denali that is over that hill, down that valley, away from all the people noise, and to claim it as your own.

About "Your Wilderness Stories"

2014 was the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. As part of that celebration, Denali asked visitors to share their stories, to help in building a collection of stories about what wilderness means to you!