“McKinley never had a thing to do with—or ever set foot in—Alaska, but the mountain got named for him just the same.”

ON A SUNNY DAY in southcentral Alaska, an official indicator of just how nice a day it is is, “The mountain’s out.” Which mountain? Well, obviously, you don’t live here. “The mountain” is of course, Denali, all 20,320 feet of it. A hundred miles from Anchorage, it looms up substantially on the northern horizon nonetheless. Known to people from Ohio as Mt. McKinley, it was named in 1917 for US President William McKinley, also from Ohio, by a miner who wanted McKinley to put the United States on the gold standard so he could make a killing on his gold claims. Mind you, President McKinley never had a thing to do with—or ever set foot in—Alaska, but the mountain got named for him just the same. Locals call it Denali, Dena’ina for “great one” or “mountain of the sun,” depending on which Native language-English dictionary you pick up.

Dana Stabenow. Alaska Traveler (Kindle Locations 1254-1255). Gere Donovan Press.

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