Glad Anger Fear
The size of many New England states,
(6 million acres) Denali National Park (http://www.denaliparkresorts.com/) can swallow you up. Last week it wanted to swallow me.
We asked several rangers what hikes they recommended but no one would offer an opinion. My guess was that they didn't want to be responsible if we took their advice and got lost or mauled by a bear or a pack of wolves.
We headed out but didn't know were we were going. We just started walking. Nothing real challenging. There were no significant elevations and the views were not necessarily inspiring. We were walking into no man's land with no idea where it would take us. It felt pointless. At one point, we were walking through willows that a week later would be impassable. The hair stood up on my arms -- it felt too "gamey." My instincts were correct, we were in a den area for 16 wolves! We were never lost but we might as well have been.
My legs were dead tired and my feet were killing me. I got tired quickly and was ready to find a ride and head for a hot shower.
Later that same day, and still in the national park, we started another hike up a different mountain. I'm not sure what the elevation was or how far we hiked. But this time we got up past the tree line and started moving across a ridge-line from peak to peak . . . each new threshold paying off with massive breathtaking views too extraordinary for my senses to absorb.
This was a challenging hike and 10x more difficult than the one we'd started earlier in the day that threatened to do me in. This time, it was as if I was being pulled up the mountain, ignoring blisters the size of quarters and almost fifty year old legs that don't spring like a mountain goat the way they once did.
I've thought much about the difference between the journey we took in the morning and the one we took later that day. Both were in the same national park. Both were taking me places I had never been. Both were with the same friend. One beat me down and the other built me up. The only difference?