Into the Wild

Thoughts on Wilderness – № 2

“We need the tonic of wildness…

At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things,
we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable,
that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.

We can never have enough of nature.”

Henry David Thoreau

Denali National Park management goes one step further than most other parks by promoting their leave-no-trace policy. Backpackers in the park are now, as part of the mandatory safety instruction, advised not to publish or follow GPS-data on their hike in an effort to avoid the creation of man-made trails. “Leave only footprints, take only photographs” may be a popular motto in other parks with designated, and well maintained hiking trails. Not so in Denali National Park.

McKinley Bar Trail, Denali National Park, AK

McKinley Bar Trail, Denali National Park, AK

A few marked trails exist in Denali National Park, mostly around the park entrance. Few backpackers venture far away from the park’s road into the back country of this vast park. Those that do, enjoy the experience of wilderness as described by Thoreau. The management of Denali National Park wants to keep it that way. By preventing the establishment of man-made trails they hope to keep the majority of the park wild and pristine.

Tundra hiking in Denali National Park

Tundra hiking in Denali National Park

“Let the tourist be on his own, and not be spoon-fed at intervals. Let him be encouraged to keep his eyes open, do his own looking and exploring, and catch what he can of the magic of wilderness.” Those were Adolph Murie’s words in the 50’s, opposing a plan to develop trails in Denali National Park. His opinion seemed to have inspired the park’s trail-less philosophy.

This approach provides the unique opportunity for hikers to experience nature in the most profound and intense way.


Find your own path…

Wildlife management in Denali National Park also differs from most other national forest lands and parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. It’s hands-off. No animals are culled! In the most protected areas there is no hunting, period. In other areas subsistence hunting is allowed, but no guided trophy hunting, thank you very much.

Finally, no private traffic on the park’s one and only road. Just as Edward Abbey suggested. Unfortunately, many other parks look more like drive-through theaters than wilderness.


“Heaven is under our feet

as well as over our heads.”

Henry David Thoreau

Air bubbles trapped underneath the ice.

What was under my feet today

The ice on Puntilla Lake is now 2 inches thick. That’s enough to walk on it, I am told. Yesterday the lake made noises like a herd of whales.

“Whoooop, whoop, whoooouuuup…”

Not sure what that was. The water underneath loosing contact with the ice? The ice settling, cracking?

Today I walk on the ice. The windy conditions over the last few days have blown off the snow. I walk on the bare ice, which is gray and opaque in most places. Then, for no reason there are a few clear spots, where i can see the bottom of the lake, eerie. It feels like walking on that glass balcony over the Grand Canyon. Near those clear spots I can’t help but wonder if the ice is strong enough to support my weight. Silly thought, it is.

Small air bubbles have been trapped in the ice and float like little universes in it. That’s what I saw today, under my feet.

Nature #1