My Wilderness: Donna Morefield Campbell

By Donna Morefield Campbell

Denali...the name stirs up a yearning. From 4,300 miles away, the wilderness calls "come!"

Denali Calls ...

Denali...the name stirs up a yearning. From 4,300 miles away, the wilderness calls "come!"

In 1973, National Geographic published an article about a young couple homesteading in the Alaska wilderness. The story of their adventure, the challenges they faced creating a home in a remote area, and the solitude and beauty surrounding them, sparked the yearning. Since reading that article as a teenager, the Alaska wilderness has called. But it was not until 2009 that the dream was realized.

Since the planning for the journey to Alaska began in 2008, the "must-see" destination was Denali National Park, and included the hope that we would "see the mountain." Finally, months of planning preceded by years of anticipation, led us to an overnight stop in Talkeetna. When we arrived in the afternoon, the "Great One" was hiding in the clouds. A visit to the Ranger Station to view a video about the challenges of climbing the mountain only increased the anticipation. As the evening went on and the sky began to clear, an excitement was felt throughout the hotel among murmurs that "the mountain is coming out!" Finally, in the late evening hours, there it was - Denali!

The next morning, the sky was a clear blue and the mountain was glorious. We boarded a train heading north excited to explore the wilderness nearer to the mountain. As the train pulled into the Denali Station, we were greeted by a moose in the middle of the small adjoining gravel airstrip. We were definitely near the wilderness!

Around daybreak the next morning, with fresh snow on the mountain peaks, we boarded a shuttle bus to head into Denali National Park. The bumpy tour bus carried us along the narrow gravel road deeper into the wilderness. We gradually gained altitude, stopping at Polychrome Pass. After a short climb, one could look across the vast expanse that is home to grizzlies, moose, Dall sheep and other wildlife.

The braided rivers, the fall colors in August, snow on the mountaintops, and the endless views of unspoiled wilderness, reveal the glory of creation and the wonder that such beauty was made for man's enjoyment. When we eventually left the Park that evening, it was with the certainty that we must visit again.

As our Alaska adventure neared its end in Fairbanks, we boarded an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage on a beautiful clear day. As we settled in for the short flight, the pilot made the announcement that he would be veering slight off course to fly over Denali - in all his previous flights, this was the first time that the mountain was exposed from the clouds. Seeing the mountain from the air was magnificent, and the perfect conclusion to our first Alaska wilderness adventure.

The wilderness continues to call; in 2012, we made our second journey to Alaska; and, in just a few weeks, we will begin our third Alaska adventure, including three nights at Denali National Park, and a drive along the remote Denali Highway. To quote the famous words of John Muir, "The mountains are calling and I must go."

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!