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Curry Ridge Trail – Denali State Park

At 325,000 acres, Denali State Park does not have the name recognition of its larger neighbor, Denali National Park, which at 6 million acres is famous for the tallest mountain in North America. Nevertheless, the state park does have panoramic views of the Alaska Range including Denali, Mount Foraker, and others.  My plan for the day was to hike up Curry Ridge Trail to capture a scenic landscape at the peak of fall colors in September.  Instead I got this photo.  What happened?

When I left my house in the early morning for the 120-mile drive,  it was a typical crisp fall day with clear skies.  Winter in these parts was not far away. I was optimistic about getting the shot I envisioned.  My optimism faded when I arrived to find the area closed in by fog. In retrospect I shouldn’t have been surprised. Moisture from the still warm rivers and lakes in the valleys condenses into fog as the colder, drier air moves in.  There would be no panoramic view that day.

Having driven over two hours to the trailhead, I did not want to return home empty-handed so I hiked up into the alpine as planned. Experience guided me through this foggy situation. I knew that when skies are dull or, in this case obscured by fog, switching from a grand landscape to an intimate landscape might yield a keeper. In other words, as the maxim goes, chance favors the prepared.

When I came to this curve in the trail I knew this was the shot. The brilliant colored ground cover softly faded away as the trail led to the fog shrouded trees. The scene reminded of all those inspirational corporate posters adorning walls in businesses everywhere. I imagined just below this photo would be a quote like, “Life is a journey” or “Don’t fear the unknown.” 

This is not the photo that I wanted, but it captured the essence of the day. In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you’ll find you get what you need.”

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