The pilot tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a huge glacier stretching as far as the eye could see, one of many huge natural wonders in this wilderness area of Alaska. Flying over the Alaska Range of Denali, I felt like a tiny insect being engulfed by the land. A vast landscape of dramatic scenery, a labyrinth of mountains, rivers and forests. This is the home of the largest mountain in North America ‘Mount Denali’ aka ‘Mount McKinley’.
Alaska has been referred to as ‘a land of superlatives – biggest, highest, wildest, most beautiful’; this was definitely evident on my trip. Flying in Alaska is the only way to truly explore, experienced bush pilots are as common as black cabs in London. Gliding at what felt like meters above the mountain tops affording an eagle-eye view of the land below was incredible. If the scenery was not breathtaking enough, I had the added bonus of travelling in the Autumn. The colours radiated, the vibrant reds of the fireweed standing out against the backdrop of the bright yellows and auburns. This is a special time to visit Denali, the seasonal cross over lasts just weeks at best, each day bringing a visible change until the winter snow casts its blanket.
These days terms such as ‘off-the-beaten-path’ and ‘untouched’ are thrown in as second nature and can be misplaced when describing a destination. In Alaska, this opportunity still awaits. True there are the regions where tourism is visible, but a vast proportion of the state is still so remote locals rely on hunting as a way of life and survival is a necessity through the winter season.
Travelling through Alaska was humbling, with residents playing a role in a greater cycle dictated by the weather, land and the mass of wildlife that governs much of the terrain. Nature takes its course here, and it was wonderful to be a small part of it if only for a while.