The trailhead at the Eagle River Nature Center opens the pathway to spring. As you set out down the trail, the sweet scent of fresh green pines baking in the sun is strong. It’s a unique alpine announcement that spring is in the air.
Denali Ranger is an inspiring biography about a man who dedicated most of his life to North America’s highest peak, Denali, and the land surrounding it. In many ways, it is a love story. As a national park ranger on 20310-foot Denali for nearly 40 years, Roger Robinson became a major figure in the mountain’s history by pioneering a new environmental ethos in climbing management: removing waste from the slopes, or “cleaning” the mountain.
It doesn’t matter who we are or where we live, we are drawn to nature because we are nature at the molecular level, or as the late astronomer Carl Sagan opined: “our bodies are composed of the same elements in stars …we are essentially star stuff.”
The grade of the gravel mining road was steepening and littered with cobble-sized rocks, creating some challenges for bicycling, particularly for this novice off-trail cycler. My buddy Pete Panarese seemed to be doing a little better, riding a short distance ahead of me. But soon we were both walking our bikes. “This hill has got to let up pretty soon,” I said to Pete between huffs. “It doesn’t look this steep on the map.” (I’m quite positive these eight infamous words are eternally chorused by hikers and climbers the world over). No sooner had I uttered those words when we came around a bend - revealing another undocumented stretch of steepness.
It lingers in the cool, crisp air. Time is suspended, a breathless anticipation from valley to alpine meadow to craggy mountain ridge. The land’s apparel slowly changes from green to brown, saffron red, yellow and gold. It is nature’s finale – an explosive display of color that ignites our senses and seems to proclaim: “look at me, this is my dance before the long, dark, cold days of winter.”