Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whittier to McKinley {Lone Star to Last Frontier, 2015}

For the backstory, please see the post, "Courage, Dear Heart!" This post includes many photos, so e-mail readers may prefer to view the Web version of Whittier to McKinley.

On the morning after our 2 days among the glaciers, we disembarked the ship at the port of Whittier and boarded a bus north to McKinley Princess Lodge near Talkeetna, Alaska.

The long drive began with a one-lane tunnel; it was not for the claustrophobic, but by the time that discovery were made, there would be no help for it. The direction of the traffic in the tunnel changes approximately every 20 minutes. Our driver helpfully (but not so reassuringly) pointed out to us the recessed niches in the walls of the tunnel where we ought to take refuge in the event of earthquake, landslide, and/or fire.

Suffice it to say, the expression "the light at the end of the tunnel" took on a much more vivid meaning for us after experiencing this one.

Our driver told us many stories about life in Alaska. He drives this bus route in the summers and withdraws to his home in the bush country the rest of the year. Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness is both physically and psychologically rigorous, and because of the community's interdependence for survival in the long, cold winters, the entire group decides whether a prospective newcomer may move there.

We drove alongside Turnagain Arm in Chugach State Park. Turnagain Arm, a branch of the Cook Inlet, is famous both for its beauty and its treachery. Lives are lost every year when hikers walk along the water's edge at low tide, become mired in the quicksand-like mud, and cannot be reached by help before high tide rushes in.

Yes, really: moose crossing.

Other than our driver's fascinating stories, some beautiful autumn color, and passing within a stone's throw of Sarah Palin's childhood home, the only notable occurrence of the drive was seeing the great mountain briefly known as Mt. McKinley and now called again by its Native American (or First Peoples) name of Denali.

At the time of these photos, we were still more than 200 miles distant from the mountain. There was no opportunity to stop and leave the bus to fight the rain for a better photo, but at least we saw it, or rather its base.

After unloading our bags at the hotel, we explored the grounds a bit and enjoyed the beautiful,oversized flora and bronze sculptures of local wildlife which were scattered throughout.

Rose hips


Only 50+ degrees cooler than North Texas that day!

Then the men left for a lakeside hike and discovered sunshine along the way, while Mom and I enjoyed the lodge's coffee and a crossword puzzle she'd brought from home. The following photos are from Amore's snapshots of the hike.

I don't know what that sign is talking about. This looks totally safe to me. {Kidding!!}

When Mom and I ran into the brick wall of our ignorance and gave up finished our puzzle it looked like the sun might be peeking through for us a wee bit too. Mom indulged me with some photos of the mountains beyond the lodge's viewing deck while we waited for Denali to show its lovely self.

Denali is right behind her in that last photo. Do you see it? No? Completely underwhelmed? Here's the map to give you a hint:

Do you see it this time?

What, you still don't see it? I don't either. How could we not see the biggest hunk of granite in the United States, a mountain with net base-to-summit elevation greater even than Everest?

Two words: cloud cover.

If you will bear with another stupid question, here it goes: do you believe Denali is really there?

I do. The testimony has been confirmed by too many different sources who have seen it when clouds didn't "veil its lovely face." Plus, I did see it once. I saw it from a great distance as we drove. A mountain that big doesn't just cease to exist. At least, outside the events of Revelation it doesn't.

We were disappointed not to have a better view, but that in no way diminished our belief in its reality.

In ladies' Bible study right now, Mom and I are learning about and discussing perseverance in hard times, especially the relationship between perseverance, character, and hope. The study highlights the need to "look for lovely" to fuel our endurance. One way we do that is to fix our eyes on God's character, ways, and Son. In the second surviving letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul says it like this:
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18, HCSB).
In the same way that we persisted in believing in the truth of Denali though we couldn't see it, we may persevere through affliction by persisting in belief in that incomparable eternal weight of glory ahead. We may also persevere through affliction by recognizing that the very affliction which seems to destroy us is producing the glory awaiting us. Instead of focusing on the clouds, we (I) need to focus on the reality beyond them. We have an abundance of reliable, inspired, inerrant testimony in the Scriptures as well as our own less reliable but real memories of God's glory in our past experiences. Flipping through the pages of Scripture and our own mental photographs of spiritually sunny days can provide just enough help to focus on the unseen and experience renewal of our inner selves when all outer circumstance may look dim or even bleak.

It is my closing prayer for you and for me that these middle verses and the refrain from "My Hope Is Built," by Edward Mote, would become our testimony, too:

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Courage, dear hearts!

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