The landing strip at Denali Base Camp. Photo ©Erika Burkhalter.

Denali Base Camp

A Glacier Landing

Erika Burkhalter
Oct 8, 2020 · 4 min read

The vastness of Alaska lures my soul, my very essence, into the depths of the forests and the never-ending expanse of sky, ribboned with wisps of vapor and bedecked with iridescent puffs of clouds. To see Denali, standing 20,310 feet tall is to understand why the ancients all over the world looked at the mountain heights and saw the realm of the gods.

The tallest of those peaks can hide so deftly in the Arctic atmosphere that you’d never know that they were even there. Denali’s hip appears to be her cresting peak until she removes her shawl of clouds and reveals herself in her entirety. Even then, if you don’t know to look high enough into the sky, because you really don’t expect the mountain to be that tall, you might miss her completely.

To fly in a tiny airplane above the glaciers clawing their way down the purpled granite slopes, and be able to see, from that vantage point, the power and beauty and rawness of Mother Nature is to come a little closer to understanding the Goddess of All Things.

Landing on the glacier which is Denali’s Base Camp struck wonder into my heart. How could any person ever traverse that terrain on foot to arrive there? I understand the allure but am incredulous that it could be done.

The glaciers, eternally in motion, flow from the heights, spreading their gowns of ice, which seem to be bejeweled with topaz gems, where the ice is so pure that the sky reflects itself upon it. It’s as if the Goddess has sprinkled scrying bowls, through which you can peer into infinity, across the Arctic landscape.

From the air, I almost felt as if I was hovering above Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The mountains exhaled smoky vapor and I expected to see the Ents, the massive walking tree creatures, strolling through the valleys. I’m also certain there must have been a fairy castle or two tucked into the icy realm.

Alaska, or Middle Earth? Photo ©Erika Burkhalter.

Dragons, too, could be hiding, still as stone, amidst the frozen granite scales along the ridge lines.

Dragon Scales. Photo ©Erika Burkhalter.

The “braided rivers,” heavy with glacial silt, are possibly the most dangerous part of the trek to and from Denali. While crossing them, many a brave-spirited adventurer has discovered, too late, how the fine particles can fill your pockets and shoes and tug you under.

But, those rivers, nonetheless, nurture the land below, filling the valleys and flatlands with life-giving minerals and water.

Braided River. Photo ©Erika Burkhalter.

Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can almost still feel the breath of the mountains filling me with the mysteries of the universe. I breathe her in, and am comforted by the knowledge, deep in my very bones, that I am a minuscule part of the workings of infinite connectivity. The throb of existence thrums through these peaks, rippling and crescendoing into the vastness of eternity.

Erika Burkhalter is a yogi, neurophilosopher, cat-mom, photographer, and lover of travel and nature, spreading her love and amazement for Mother Earth’s glories, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MS Neuropsychology, MA Yoga Studies). Erika is also an editor for Mindfully Speaking.

I hope you enjoyed this excursion into the wonders of the Alaskan landscape. You might also enjoy:

Story and photos © Erika Burkhalter 2020. All rights reserved.

Chance Encounters

visual stories of happenstance

Erika Burkhalter

Written by

Photographer, yogi, cat-mom, lover of travel and nature, spreading amazement for Mother Earth, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MA Yoga, MS Neuropsychology)

Chance Encounters

visual stories of happenstance

Erika Burkhalter

Written by

Photographer, yogi, cat-mom, lover of travel and nature, spreading amazement for Mother Earth, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MA Yoga, MS Neuropsychology)

Chance Encounters

visual stories of happenstance

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