February 24, 2014
Three out of the four times that I flew between Anchorage and Nome, Alaska, the weather was overcast and clouds covered much of the landscape below. However, when I flew from Nome to Anchorage in August 2013 I was fortunate enough to fly on a day when skies were clear. I was thrilled to obtain a spectacular view of Denali, also known as Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Denali towers an impressive 20,237 feet above sea level. Flying over the Denali mountain range was a beautiful, humbling, thought-provoking experience. The landscape is certainly breathtaking. Rugged white mountain peaks are flanked by immense brown-and-white striped glaciers that snake down the slopes before melting into sediment-laden rivers that rush through green valleys then meander across the flat, pale green plain far below the mountain peaks. I found the glaciers particularly beautiful and fascinating. I also wondered and worried about what the glaciers will look like in 10 years, in 20 years, in 50 years, in 100 years– blinks of an eye in geologic time but significant periods in human time. Will the glaciers have shrunk due to warming climate? Will they be there at all? The immensity, and also the fragility, of the lofty landscape humbled me. So, too, did the thought that I was flying high above Denali, traveling in a little metal airplane built by little men (and women, I hope). I likely will never have the skill or guts or determination to climb a mountain such as Denali, but thanks to modern technology and some good weather conditions I was able to, for a little while at least, appreciate Denali’s beauty from a great height.
Below are some more plane views of Denali and the surrounding landscape. Enjoy! Please feel free to point out features on these pictures if you are familiar with the terrain. The National Park Service provides some information about the geology of Denali here.