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Two sisters, two wildernesses

For one, the charm is in the microscopic; the other scans for bears.

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Denali National Park, Alaska: An early-morning summer sun bathes 17,400-foot Mt. Foraker in the 6-million-acre wilderness park, which has but a single road. North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley, is here.

Dan Joling/AP

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We don't know where we're going, and we don't know how we are getting there.

This truth becomes ever more apparent as my sister Britta and I bushwhack through tangles of willow. We gouge our shins on immovable limbs, get clipped in the head by big branches, snag our packs on twigs. We have long extolled the virtues of the trail-less wilderness backcountry system of Alaska's Denali National Park: You are assigned a unit and can camp anywhere, as long as you are a half mile from the single park road and out of sight of the tourists peering from buses. Now, as the willow shrubs tower above our heads, the system seems a tiny bit less ideal. What a wonderful thing is a path! What a lovely idea, to have a preordained campsite!

It takes some persistence, but we muscle our way through the willows and stand on shaking legs on the other side, wheezing like animals.

 
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