Alaska welcomed us with a sunrise so picturesque I could post it on Instagram with a #nofilter tag. After a hearty breakfast at the Touch of Wilderness B&B, we started our day. We drove in Skelly’s (A.K.A Yellowjacket) Suburban and blasted Avril Lavigne and sang along to Kelly Clarkson, a secret Skelly will take to his grave, until we arrived at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park. The park is over six million acres, roughly the size of the state of Massachusetts. We would only be able to see a small fraction of the entire place.
Upon our arrival at the learning center there were a few civilian casualties courtesy of the black ice lining the walkway. After a very informative talk about climate change and its effect on the Alaskan landscape, we embarked on a short hike into the park. In the winter, the park road is only open for twelve and a half miles up to the Mountain Vista Rest Area. The park was originally founded in 1917 to protect the area around Mount McKinley, which at 20,320 ft. is the tallest mountain in North America. In 1980, the park was expanded to its current size. During this hike we learned more facts about the ground we were walking on, and even got to witness MJ (our teacher) pick apart a piece of moose dropping to show us the difference in their diets during the winter time. She said that in the summer they are full of nutrients like a fully topped pizza but in the winter they are dry as a cardboard pizza box.
During our hike we were able to take really cool photos and some of the more daring photographers (with waterproof shoes) jumped into a stream to take shots from under a sheet of ice. We got to see Luca fall a couple more times and then we retreated back to the learning center.
At the learning center, MJ kindly let us interview her on all things climate change and her own personal experience with Alaska. After we interviewed MJ we were able to interview Chris, a park ranger from Ohio, who was able to shed some light on why people choose to move to Alaska and the dichotomy between life in Alaska and life in the rest of America (what they call “the lower forty-eight”).
Finally, once Ivan was satisfied with the interviews and we managed to get enough footage in between phone calls and door slamming interruptions, we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the lodge. It was a great way to be introduced to the Alaskan landscape and wildlife and I now have a much better understanding of the place where we are living for the next few days. All of this being said, I can’t wait to go dog-sledding tomorrow!