Welcome to Paradise

By Troy Letherman

There’s nothing that can prepare a person for Katmai. After crossing Cook Inlet and the sentry peaks of its western coastline, the Navajo Chieftain slipping nimbly between the twin spires of Iliamna and Redoubt, both summits entombed in several feet of enduring white, one glides down out of the clouds to at first catch but a glimpse of this milieu kept hidden from the highway maintenance, the drive-up latté stands, and the Wal-Mart parking lots of the other side—stark outcroppings of bare rock left clinging to the slopes now in retreat, an ocher hillside coming to an abrupt end at the edge of an isolated lake, the water so clear you can’t tell if it’s three or thirty feet deep, vestigial streams bending through an emerald expanse that swells and folds like the surface of the sea. Much ink has been spilled over the scene, but lacking is a patois with words for explaining the brutal realities one encounters when faced with the power of pure space. The effect is liberating, for few are the places left in this world that can render hyperbole so redundant. This content is available for subscribers only.

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