Niebrugge Finds Beams of Sunlight


Bob and I hiked east climbing Sable Pass in Denali National Park pausing now and then to shoot a landscape photo when a beam of sunlight found its way through a hole in the clouds spotlighting a mountain or patch of fireweed. It was August 7 and the brilliant fuschia colored fireweed blossoms topped their stems signifying six weeks until winter according to local legends. We reached the summit and headed down Igloo grade stripping off jackets sweaty and too warm from sun. Stopping to rest near the north end of Castle Mountain we boarded a bus and headed back to the Murie cabin.

When we returned we were surprised to see three buses and people scattered all over the creek and woods below, some curiously approaching the cabin others sitting on the hand hewed log benches along the banks of East Fork River. Tables and food were set out near the buses and we realized that everyone was carrying plates and eating. One of the private lodges at the west end of the park uses this spot as a rest stop on the 90 mile drive through the park. I vaguely remember being briefed about this, but it was such a shock to see. Here we were dirty, scruffy, without showers for days, living in a very rustic situation only to be greeted by 80 eager tourists with clean shiny coiffed hair, designer clothes, spotless shoes, sporting lightweight day packs stuffed with camera, book, sunglasses and necessities. These travelers were a whole different breed of cat than those of us who rode the green buses.

Standing there, mouths agape, muddy shoes, rain gear tied around our waists, greasy hair, dirt under our fingernails, heavy backpacks a can of bear pepper spray attached, the smiling host invited us to share dinner with the guests. And we did. The sun shown on this picnic as if it were an every day occurrence, and I winced inwardly for missing this precious time with the light, instead I socialized with strangers. We were part of the park attractions, I later learned that the guide books listed the Murie cabin as a place for VIP’s and the Artist-in-Residence. Anonymity was not a part of the deal.

Gail Niebrugge, Denali Artist-in-Residence

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