National Geographic : 2016 Feb
Denali 89 with me—I’ve got all the daylight I need. Walk- ing back toward the road, I flush a golden eagle from a high overlook and realize that I’ve been walking far more quietly than is smart in bear country. As soon as I open my mouth to speak, I top a rise and look down on a large male griz- zly cooling off in a pond about 200 yards below me. When my voice reaches him, he rises on his hind legs and looks around, comically. He’s a big guy, but he’s not a troublemaker. He wades to shore and climbs out of the water, stopping to shake himself dry before sauntering slowly up the mountain and out of sight. I flag down the bus a final time and step aside for a solo backpacker who’s chosen this spot to disembark. He has a four-day pack on his back and a laminated map in his hand. I ask him where he’s heading. He sweeps his map across the vista of mountains and valleys and rivers and sky, his eyes crinkling into a smile as he takes in a range of possibilities broad enough to be a world unto itself. “Out there somewhere,” he says. j Surrounded by hunting trophies, guide and pilot Ray Atkins relaxes in his cabin near the park. Guiding is big business in Alaska; Atkins charges $14,000 for an eight- to ten-day hunting trip.