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Tea in Denali

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

When my wife, Susan, and I traveled to Denali National Park in Alaska, we walked along the evocatively named Savage River. The park as such did not exist when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, but we imagined a fantasy adventure there anyway. You’ll have to imagine all the drawings that could accompany our story, which follows.” – Marvin Olasky


In 1867 two elderly men visited Alaska. They met caribou, grizzly bears, and trappers who wore big fur hats.

One of the men, Charles Darwin, was a famous scientist. The other, Charles Hodge, was a Princeton professor who wrote books about God. They wore bowler hats and carried valises with umbrellas sticking out.

The two Charlies hiked on a trail along the Savage River. As they walked, they talked about Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“Dr. Hodge,” Darwin began, “my theory explains everything. It even explains the knobby legs and huge feet of that moose over yonder. They help it wade through deep snow.”

“My dear Darwin,” Hodge responded, “you are absolutely right. God created the moose so he could survive the winter.”

“You are wrong,” Darwin stated. “Once, all living things were in the water. Then creatures developed lungs and slithered ashore. Many years later their descendants developed legs.”

The two Charlies crossed a rivulet over a series of flat stones perfectly placed for hikers. “Darwin, good fellow,” Hodge replied, “faith in your theory blinds you to evidence of intelligent design right before your eyes. See how these rocks are set just this way so our feet do not get wet?”

Darwin chuckled and puffed on his pipe: “There you go again, Hodge. The scientific mind sees how rocks tumbled down this steep slope and landed here, the force of their fall driving them into the ground. Our dry walk is mere coincidence.”


They walked on silently until Hodge glanced ahead and exclaimed, “Is that a bridge? How convenient!” Darwin peered through his thick glasses and mused, “It must be some sort of natural formation over the river.”

Hodge reached the bridge: “My dear Darwin, it’s crafted of wood. Look at the smooth planks. Someone clearly designed and built it.”

“Absurd,” Darwin replied. “Those logs must have been swept down the river and dashed against the boulders. I admit it seems unlikely, but natural forces must have turned the logs into boards and lodged them. Wind and rain over the ages smoothed them.”

“Ah,” Hodge said, “but what about the nails?”

“You grasp at straws,” Darwin replied. “The force of the river also drove those bits of metal into the wood. But all this thinking makes me thirsty.” He took out his pocket watch and said, “It’s tea time. Let’s sit down on that bench.” Darwin opened his valise and pulled out a china teapot plus two teacups.

Hodge examined the bench: “Look, my comfortable Darwin. It’s made of half a log. Its legs are also logs, and very smooth. You can’t deny this was made by a clever carpenter. And if this was designed, then the whole trail was.”

Darwin turned pale. Smoke from his pipe wreathed his face. He stared at the rushing water. He then turned to Hodge with a pitying expression and said, “The overall process is obvious. A huge stone drove an enormous log down the river. It slammed up against that rock and split in two. The logs on which the plank sits rolled down the hill and wedged themselves in the soil. Then a windstorm carried the cloven log and set it on the other logs.”


It was Hodge’s turn to chuckle: “That’s a creative explanation, but where’s the other half of the big log?” They walked 200 yards farther and found a bench identical to the first. Darwin, with a big grin, pointed to it and said, “There’s the other half. My theory is now proved.”

The sun was now low in the sky. Darwin and Hodge reached the end of the trail in silence. Behind them stood a sign neither noticed: “Denali National Park. Savage River Walking Loop. 1.8 miles. U.S. National Park Service.”

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