“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” —John Muir
Here are my top ten most spectacular moments in nature (in no particular order):
1) Aurora Borealis—I watched it alone in mesmerized silence for hours reclining against the windshield on the still warm hood of a rental Jeep Cherokee somewhere several hours north of North Pole, Alaska in the wilderness not far from the Arctic Circle.
2) Humpback Whale Breach—My youngest daughter and I were in Resurrection Bay, Alaska for her coming of age trip on a small boat. We were just turning back to port in defeat—having not seen a whale up close when it happened in full view just a few yards from us.
3) Leonid Meteor Shower—My oldest daughter and I lay on sleeping bags around 2 am in a remote field in the woods with virtually zero light pollution near Leiper’s Fork, TN and there were so many we finally quit counting at 200 meteors. The largest one was so huge it left a light trail that persisted for several seconds and we literally heard it hiss and swoosh as it fell.
4) A Bush Plane Dropping Me Off In The Wilderness of Kodiak Island, Alaska For Five Days—One stunning moment I recall in particular; I was immersed in the frigid Uganik River in waders, fighting an enormous silver salmon on my fishing rod as it jumped in the air twisting and zipping out my line, sun reflecting off its gills, water spraying like diamonds, at the same time watching a 1200 pound Kodiak brown bear slap and then gnaw a salmon in its cavernous jaws a few yards away, a stunning crystal-clear waterfall in front of me, and a bald eagle soaring regally overhead.
5) A Solo Summit of 14,000+ ft Mt. Columbia Near Buena Vista, Colorado—Began the attempt at 3:30am to avoid afternoon thunderstorms but took a wrong turn and foolishly ascended what the guidebook calls “the steep and uncomfortable” west slope without technical gear. At one point I froze for what seemed like hours, exhausted, feet shaking on a 5 inch grip, looking down at over a thousand foot sheer drop, not knowing how to proceed. I finally and stubbornly summited around 2pm in the afternoon totally spent. Thankfully there were no storms that day and the breathtaking views, standing literally on top of the world, and the elation of surviving the climb—simply indescribable.
6) Murchison Falls, Northern Uganda, Africa—What began as a ride in a dilapidated open air riverboat on the Nile with giraffe, elephants, rhinos and myriad other exotic animals on the banks and in the river, we passed under the high wire that probably caused Ernest Hemingway’s plane crash in 1954, and climaxed in a wild climb flanked by guards armed with M-16’s, to the top of the most powerful waterfall I have ever seen. Looking down through the spray to the bottom, hundreds of enormous crocodiles lay in wait for prey.
7) Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef near Hamilton Island, Australia—Simply another world. The myriad colors so vivid, almost blinding. Enormous sea creatures (and coral) of every description. Water so clear it almost seemed invisible. Once unexpectedly passing over an enormous chasm, it seemed I would surely fall thousands of feet, I felt a sense of weightlessness, and gasped so hard I almost choked.
8) Diving In A Glacier Lake In The Beartooth Mountains of Montana—On my oldest daughter’s coming of age trip, she dared me to jump in the iridescent blue-green and milky white icy water of a glacier lake deep in the wilderness during our backpacking trip in grizzly country. I dared her in turn and surrounded by mountain vistas worthy of heaven we held each other’s hands and jumped in together. The shock of the sub-freezing water left us shivering and exhilarated for hours.
9) Summiting Mt. Whitney—Two of my friends and I undertook the challenging hike on the western side of Mt. Whitney—at 14,505′ it’s the highest point south of Alaska. A stunning sunrise turned the peak a surreal glowing orange as we ogled in respect and awe from our base camp, anticipating our summit attempt. And the sunsets—oh, did I mention the vivid sunset at Outpost Camp at 10,000 feet? Wow! Or the debilitating altitude headaches or the strenuous eleven mile trail? Ouch! Giant granite peaks and indescribable views abound. Yes! And summit I did! With no oxygen. Just think of this way. Next time you are on a plane and they say we have reached a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet. Look out the window and down. When you are at 10,000 feet climbing Mt. Whitney, you still have almost a mile to go—straight up!
10) What’s next? For Me? I have some ideas. What about YOU? What is your most spectacular moment with nature? Comment and tell us below.
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