The third day of our Alaska adventure offered, yet again, an experience of a lifetime. After waking up to one of the most beautiful sunrises of all time and eating a mouthwatering breakfast, we put on our snow gear, packed into the Suburbans, and headed off for a day of cross-country skiing. After a short drive to the meeting point, the highest point accessible by Stampede Road, we became acquainted with Chris Mayor, a Denali local and our ski instructor for the day. Chris gave a short spiel about safety and the basics of cross-country skiing and then we laced up our ski boots, snapped into our skis and headed off to the races. Well to be honest, it wasn’t exactly the races yet.
The first hour of skiing consisted of a lot of falling, struggling to get up, followed by more falling. Cross-country skiing is best described as walking with 5 foot planks attached to your feet; in other words, very awkward. Even so, by the time we skied down the first hill and stopped in front of Eight Mile Lake, most of us had got the hang of the skiing. In front of Eight Mile Lake we were also forced to take off a couple layers of clothing during our short break due to the clear skies and the rigorous aerobic workout of cross-country skiing. We were midway across the lake when we were able to sit down for a well-deserved lunch. It was an amazing experience to be able to eat lunch on the middle of a lake with nothing but frozen tundra hundreds of yards in every direction.
After lunch we kept skiing for the rest of the day. We skied in every type of terrain imaginable. We skied up hills, down hills, across vast catwalks, on top of dog sled trails and over frozen lakebeds. By the time we returned to the starting point, we had skied over seventeen miles. We packed our bruised, beaten, and exhausted bodies into the Suburbans and drove home knowing the only thing you can do when you fall off the skis is to get back on.