Winter, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Snow covered spruce trees in the boreal forest, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Snow covered spruce trees in the boreal forest, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

This photo from my most recent trip to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, over the Xmas- New Year. The note below was penned one beautiful evening last winter, by candlelight in a tiny cabin in the Alaska. There’s nothing quite like the silence and the cold of the boreal forest in an Alaskan winter.

The Paradox of Silence and the Cold

Silence is the aural equivalent of stillness. Both appear related to time, or at least our perception of it. Winter in the north seems to be abundant in both. The northern winter, often so harsh and unrelenting, is also the time when the place becomes still and silent.

Sometimes it feels so still, so beautifully still, that I am sure time must have paused. Time, perhaps, rests, fatigued after the frenzied bustle of summer and the frantic world of countless reproductions eases. The textbooks tell me that such is not possible, but maybe, just maybe, they’re wrong. I remain unconvinced. Time just may well pause here in the north.

How can they say time doesn’t stand still? Surely even the slightest of movements would be apparent in this world of calm and yet there is none. Nothing moves here, why time? The air, so still. A fresh layer of snow muting even the slightest of sounds, mutes even movement. The sun, ever low on the horizon, hangs, and it too pauses, before continuing its journey to the next of days.

The depth to this stillness is the exclusive domain of winter – no other season holds time quite like this – not a breath, a whisper, a thought to break the silence. The air is too brittle, so thin it’s almost fragile.

The cold, so lifelike at times; a sinewy, shy, elusive fellow, comes in the night to greet me in the morning. His welcome is my solace – without it, who alone could tolerate this stark, silent vastness? The cold becomes my friend, I can accept him or resist him; the latter is clearly a path toward my discontent. Rather, like a lover, the cold is best embraced, accepted, and loved. Without my shivers for company, what solace could the cold know?

Like an old friend, I open the door when he knocks, for I know his approach well, as he, in turn, anticipates, my opening the door. A greeting, the cold, I embrace, you bring me warmth.

Cheers

Carl

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5 thoughts on “Winter, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

  1. Minna

    That really resonates with me! There are times when I’m out in the winter landscape that those timeless quiet moments just take my breath away in all their beauty.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Bill Leahy

    Carl,

    Nice post! Just a week ago, I was watching the “wolf moon” rise over Lake Huron from outside of a cabin on the Straits of Mackinaw in Northern Michigan. It was a still night, and the moon seemed to be the only thing that was moving. I can only imagine what winter is like in the interior of Alaska. One of these days, I’m hoping to find out.
    On another note, I think I may have crossed paths with you a few years back. In July of 2005, on a cold, windy and rainy day, I was hiking with my guide in the Skolai Pass area. On our way back to the airstrip area, we encountered a group of backpackers headed up toward Chitistone Pass. I recall that the person who appeared to be leading the group had what seemed to be an “Aussie” accent. Could it have been you?
    Had the good fortune to visit the Wrangell St. Elias area with my son last summer. In addition to hiking on the Root Glacier, and rafting on the Chitistone and Nizina Rivers, we were able to spend a couple of days in the Glacier Creek area. Wonderful trip! Maybe next time, we’ll book a trip with you.
    I love your photography, and I very much enjoy reading your blogs. I commented on your blog about trash in Georgia a while back as well. One thing that makes me proud to live in Michigan is the fact that we are the only state that has a ten cent deposit on all carbonated beverage containers. I think it should be a national law, and I also think it should apply especially to bottled water. (Sorry, just had to get my “Ya-ya’s” out!)
    Anyway, keep up the good work. Maybe our paths will cross again some day.

  3. Carl D Post author

    Hey Bill

    Ya know, I could SWEAR I either replied to your earlier post, on the environmental discourse rant, or sent an email .. i see now the reply isn’t posted, so it’s long gone, or sitting in your junk email folder. 🙂

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore you at all.

    Yeah, I remember you folks – you were hiking with Paul, correct?

    This last summer was a mixed bag for trips, with the fires and the weather in August – I scored pretty well, considering, and our trips were mostly pretty nice. I hope the weather held for your trip there. When were you there?

    I’m actually planning on running a spring ski/snowshoe trip next year in the park -probably stay in a cabin or something and do day trips, I think. The winter is an amazing time there.

    I think ‘bottled water’ should just be ‘water’, myself – those darn bottles are a mess. 🙂

    Thanks again, I’ll email this to you as well.

    Cheers

    Carl

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