It’s the Denali apocalypse! No, really, I think it truly might be!
I went hiking in Denali National Park on Wednesday, and we summited Mount Margaret. It was glorious! Most hikes around here you spend hours busting your butt to climb to the top of something, which really turns out to be a sketchy ridge that’s overrun with bugs. You stay long enough to take a triumphant picture and get a cliff bar out of your pack, then skirt your butt back down the mountain before you’re eaten alive or fall to your death.
But on top of Margaret was a beautiful field! There were neat rock formations, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, and ice that never thaws.
We walked through flowers, found a cave. It was fantastic. Then we crossed the ridge line, frolicking through the field to hike down the other side of the mountain. I looked back and saw something funny off in the distance. At first, I thought it was a part of the outline of Mount McKinley (Denali), which is often covered in clouds. But then I looked back a minute later, and it had moved.
“Hey, that cloud looks like a tornado!” I said, pointing at the pretty thing. Luckily, I was with two people from Tennessee, who both immediately recognized it as a funnel cloud! A funnel cloud in the middle of Denali, touching a mountain ridge in the distance. And it was like a really, really far way away, so naturally, I sat down and had a snack while watching the cloud until it disappeared.
Then I stood up, saying what a neat hike it was. Then thunder shook everything. So the nice walk on the mountain became a game of get off the mountain as quickly as possible pretty darn quick. It involved bushwhacking and a lot of rain. My face bled a little, but we made it to the bus out of the park. We got on the bus, and an emergency radio call came in.
There had been a landslide on park road. Now, for those of you who don’t know, there is only one ninety-two-mile-long road that goes into Denali park. It that road is blocked, it’s either a helicopter or walking to get out of the park.
Luckily, we were far away from the landslide and really close to the park entrance, so our bus was unaffected. But still, I’ll give it a modest estimate that hundreds of park visitors were stuck on the far side of the landslide. I would have hated to be one of their bus drivers, trying to entertain bored tourists, but I’m sure everyone was fine.
I thought the strangeness in Denali was over until I woke up Thursday morning to smoke everywhere. There was a fire on the other side of the park entrance from us. You couldn’t see anything outside. At this point, we are just some raining frogs away from the end of Denali as we know it, people.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.