The season is changing quickly. Already the temperature has begun to drop. The days of endless sunlight are waning as the early morning hours have turned to black skies filled with stars and the Aurora.

The mosquitos have disappeared. The forest is still and quiet. The only movement is wind, blowing through the gold branches of the Aspen, Poplar, Cottonwood and Birch trees. The once green foliage is now a patchwork of yellow, orange and red and the air is dense with grey fog and cold rain.

Fall is here in Denali.

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Two weeks remain in my Alaskan adventure. Time has passed by so quickly this summer. I will leave feeling accomplished yet there is still so much I wanted to do.

I would have liked to spend more time in the backcountry. To don a backpack and hike cross-country through the heart of Denali would have been amazing. The musk ox, wolverine, wolf, polar bear, great grey owl and marine mammals such whales and orcas will all have to wait till next time. I’ll be back Denali.

I have spent my time as best I can. I came here to experience Alaska and I think I’ve done just that.

I went gold panning the other day. Some friends and I trekked to a hidden stream out of town. We spent hours sifting through the mud and silt. To my surprise, I found gold in my first pan! And my second! And Third!! I was finding gold dust in every pan! Things just became really exciting!

My heart raced as gold fever took hold. The minuscule amount of dust isn’t worth much, so I panned the frigged waters of Denali in hopes of finding the “million dollar nugget.” After a while however, I calmed my senses and accepted the fact that I wouldn’t strike it rich that day. As I sat there, taking a break and watching my colleagues continue their pursuit, my attention was drawn to a rock beside me. My heart leapt into my throat. There to my side was a ten pound rock speckled with dime sized gold nuggets!

“Woah!!” Everyone turned to me. I’m going to be rich… I mean… “We’re going to be rich!” They all dropped what they were doing and ran over. This is where we really lost it!

“Oh my God!” “I’m going to buy a mansion and a yacht and 15 Ferrari’s!”

“Yeah! I’m going to retire tomorrow and travel the world forever!”

“Me too! I’m never working again!” Baaaaaaaaaaaaa!!

Yes… these were our thoughts as we prepared for life as bajillionaires.

“Let’s take it to the shop in town and see how much it’s worth.”

A short drive later brought us to a jewelry store nearby. At the front desk I asked him, “Hey, we found gold! How much do you think this is worth?” The anticipation was killing me!

Without even a second glance, the jeweler said, “Oh honey, that’s fool’s gold.”

Dreams… shattered.

Speechless and defeated we dragged our feet out of the store. As we neared the door though, the Jeweler hollered back, “But don’t stop believin!”

For whatever reason we burst into laughter! “What a fun day!” “Yup. No nuggets but we found gold dust!”

We cranked up Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ in the car and rode home, singing loudly.

So all in all, Denali had been great so far. With only two weeks left here, there isn’t much time to explore. But I feel as though I did a pretty good job of ‘seeing’ Alaska. I haven’t even left yet and already I can’t wait to come back.

 

By the way, when we arrived home we smashed that rock with a hammer. Good times.