The Next Adventure: Hiking Denali

I was minding my own business sometime last week when I got a random text from my friend Ben (after whom my son is named).

“Justin come to AK w me aug 20 through 31”

Off the top of my head I wasn’t sure if AK meant Arkansas or Alaska, so I googled it just to be sure.  I didn’t think he was serious, so I told him I thought it was really cool that he got to go to Alaska.  He went on to tell me that we would be hiking Denali National Park, that flights are cheaper than they’ve been in a long time, he has an aunt who would house us, that we could probably do the trip for less than $1000, and that I should definitely come.

He also reminded me that “spontaneity is the spice of life.”

I am not a spontaneous person at all.  I am a planner, and so taking an impromptu trip to Denali really doesn’t fit my grid.  On top of this, I don’t like to be away from my family or ministry for long periods of time, and Melissa and the kids had already planned a trip to Kansas in September – no way was I going to be away from them that much.  Finally, even with the low cost of the trip, I felt guilty spending more travel money, especially since I hiked the Incan Trail last summer.

My wife came in the room, and I showed her the text conversation, fully expecting her to say, “Oh, babe.  It’s such a good opportunity but it’s probably not a good idea to go right now.”  That’s what I was saying to myself, anyway (minus the “babe”).

She read the conversation, looked at me, and then said, “Well you know what I’m going to say… YOU HAVE TO DO IT!”  I was stunned. She even called Ben (my friend) and said, “You have to talk him into going.”

And that, my friends, is why my wife is AMAZING.

We had to adjust the dates so that I would only miss a little more than one week of ministry (I take two weeks vacation per year).  Then we changed Melissa and the kids’ flights so that our trips would coincide.  Then we  figured out how to fit the trip within our budget (traveling is a priority for us so we invest money into a travel fund every month). And within 16 hours of the initial text message, I was buying a plane ticket to Alaska (for only $386!).

So here’s the adventure: Ben and I will spend a week backpacking through the 6-million acre Denali National Park.  The travel books say that Denali is the closest thing that you can find to a safari in North America.  There are no trails, just wilderness.  One road stretches around the park, and you can get off and on the buses whenever you see them.  They say it’s one of the best places in the world to see The Northern Lights.  Encounters with bears and other wildlife are almost guaranteed.

My heart is pounding just thinking about it.

For the record, I am a little intimidated by the bears.  I have been doing a lot of reading on backpacking in bear country.

But I have decided that I want to be the kind of a man who lives intentionally, loves well, walks in integrity and has adventures.

And THIS is an adventure.

God is an artist – The Artist.  And we get to play in His art.  I am thankful and excited.  Bring it on!

“Don’t accumulate possessions.  Accumulate experiences.” – Mark Batterson

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