Saturday, September 21, 2013

termination dust

My time in Denali is over. For now, anyway; it's hard for me to think about leaving places for good, I may be back someday. Things are coming to a nice, circular close, up here in Alaska. When I first arrived, I was picked up at the airport by some family friends and spent a day or so in Anchorage before catching a bus up to the park to begin working. Just the other day I hopped on a train and came back down to Anchorage, and was picked up again, and now spending a few days here before heading out (though not directly: a plane, then a ferry, then another plane before I'm home: rivers and roads).

The seasons are also serving as cyclical closure for my Alaska adventure: When I came in May it was still unabashedly winter: the ground still covered entirely in its white disguise, just like the ptarmigan and hare, with more snow to come in a rare late-season storm.

Spring was brief, but commenced with the blooming of the beautiful (though poisonous) pasque flower. Wildflowers continued through late summer, each dominating a certain area of soil and slope, rapidly rising to full blossom, and fading just as fast, giving way to another.

Pre-mosquito summer was incredible, and filled with lots of blue-skied hikes, trips to the lake or river, and even a half-marathon (my first: I'm not exactly hooked on running them. I did well, and for now am satisfied with having done it).


Mosquito season sucked. (ah, ah.)

Fall came late, but in striking style. While everyone had described fall to me as the most impressive time of year in Denali, the colors still took my breath away. And just like the transition of flower to flower, the colors changed everyday, the rapidity of its arrival and departure impressive, as I have found most things in Alaska to be.

And then, though there was a brief period, the tundra brown, the sky gray, where Denali was not the most beautiful place I could imagine, for once, the first snows came, bringing a close to so many things. The first snow on the peaks above, a confection coating called "termination dust," signifying the end of summer and fall, the end of the long days of light, the end of warmth, of colors on the tundra, and for me, the end of my time in the park. Of course, endings of one thing are always beginnings, as we all know, and so it is for Denali, and so it is for me.

Still, I thought it fitting, after my snowy arrival, that my departure, too, should be snowy, dusted with all the memories of the season: five seasons in one.

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