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Archive for June, 2009

Money to Burn


Paxson (on the Denali Hwy) is not a big place but it has food (heard it’s very good) and you can buy firewood here.  You might want to consider it as dead wood is scarce and it’s nice to have a campfire, of course it must be in an approved fire ring.   Five bucks a bundle, but on the plus side…it looks good and it burns well…

I love Alaska, it’s so colorful.

Just Ducky


There are indeed limited services on the Denali Highway but it is not completely devoid of support.  There is a rather nice little restaurant – gas station – gift shop right up the road from the Tangle Lakes campground.  Don’t count on it for bare groceries but if you need a helicopter ride they can help you out.

To Cantwell


The Denali Highway is about 135 miles long and can be accessed from either the Parks Highway in Cantwell or via the Richardson Highway at Paxson.  It turns out that either way is within 50 miles of being the same distance from Anchorage, it all depends on where you want to start.  We started at the Tangle Lakes end and worked our way over to the Cantwell side.  The road is mostly good and can be driven by a car; the recommended maximum speed is 30 mph without another vehicle in your view.

That’s to keep you from running off the road while gawking.

The Denali Hwy II


The Denali Highway was completed in 1957 to serve as the access route to the Denali National Park.  The route catered to the motorists who arrived from the south via the Alaskan Highway as a straight path route to the Park.  The popular automobile tourists of the post WWII era were the target users; however the Alaskan Highway and the Denali Highway were not paved and subject to harsh conditions and made for a demanding trip. In 1972 the famously paved Parks Highway was completed to provide “civilized” motor access to the Park and for this highway Anchorage was the starting point; air travel had changed how people vacationed to the great state.

My what you all are missing…

Denali Highway


Wow!  The Denali Highway is amazing.  Between going up the Richardson Highway and traveling the length of the Denali Highway about 3 times we had so much mind boggling scenery it was eye candy overload.  Absolutely stunning.  I had high expectations due to the rumblings I had heard and I can honestly say all were exceeded.  Put it on your list.

Making a Photograph


There are two things one can do with a camera; one is to take a picture, two is to make a photograph.  Do you want to know how one makes a photograph?  See above.  

Ansel, of course, made photographs.



Then the little bear cub spotted her brother!  Momma got up and saw him and was visibly relieved.  He was more than a half mile away on the side of the next mountain anxiously pacing back and forth.  The separation was weighing on them all.  The little tike decided to take matters into his own hands and went back across the open valley and up the boulders on the back side of the mountain.  Joining up with his sister and Mother meant swinging low on the ridge that the big boar was eyeing them from.  We all watched with bated breath as the cub picked his way across the rocks just yards from the male bear who had been sleeping but now was up and calculating his chances.  Could he swatch that cub and send it over the cliff and retreat before Momma bear did the same to him?

At last it was over.  The cubs and Momma were reunited and the boar was beaten by Momma bear’s preparation, fierceness, and excellent defensive site selection.  The big boar laid down again just to make things hard but everyone knew the real danger had passed.  Momma could sleep while the cubs watched the old man and then they would move out after he did.  No way he was coming up that mountain.  It was almost midnight when this photo was taken, what a day.

Looking for Bro


The boar was swinging his massive head as he moved up the mountain saddle toward Momma Bear and the lone remaining cub.  Momma Bear had chosen an impeccable defensive position; increasingly steep mountain, loose rock footing and vertical cliff faces as the elevation increased.  She backed up the hill as the boar advanced and the cub was extremely anxious.  As the mountain ridge reduced to knife edges the boar looked over the side and pushed some rocks to check for footing.  No good;  if he gets pushed he is going to fall over a hundred feet.  He reluctantly turns back down the mountain to the saddle and lies down with a clear view of Momma Bear and baby.  He’s going to wait them out.

Momma bear is exhausted from the adrenalin rush of the fight and she is stressed; she cannot find her other cub.  The remaining cub is anxiously looking for her brother and his whereabouts are completely unknown.  Momma bear cannot risk taking the remaining cub off the mountain top, the boar could catch them and the defensive position she holds is too valuable to the life of her remaining cub.  She lies down exhausted; baby bear searches fruitlessly for her brother.

Ursus Horriblious


This Bad Boy Boar got within about 20 meters of the sow and cubs while they were grazing and laz’n.  They perked up to catch sight of this guy just in time and took off!  The boar chased them for about 2 miles up the river and around the bend and up the side of this mountain.  Momma turned on the old man about a quarter of the way up and laid into him and had the upper hand as she was on the uphill side.  Those cubs were running for their lives!  The dark brown cub went up and over the top and kept on running and running while the blonde cub stopped and waited on Momma bear.  The sow backed slowly up the hill with the boar swinging his head and menacing his way up the hill in full on attack mode; he wanted that cub.   Not good times.

Ursus At Play


These two cubs duked it out for about two hours one late evening.  They wrastled and rolled and bit and chewed enough to make us tired.  They were some crazy bears and a ton of fun to watch.  Got in a few clicks of course.  Momma was over to the right taking a nap so these two squared off to kill some time.  Good thing they were in shape too;  the nasty business of life as a cub bear was soon to brought to full bore.

Midnight Wilderness


Debbie S. Miller has written one of the best, if not the best, descriptive books on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and it is certainly the most enjoyable that I have read.  Debbie has real world years of feet on the ground experience in ANWR and her book will impart to you her passion for a place of moving beauty.  I’ll let her introduce herself in her own words (http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com/).  Midnight Wilderness is a book to read if you want to know what the fuss is about with regard to drilling ANWR.  http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com/MidnightWilderness.htm.  It is available on Amazon of course.

Just got back from Denali NP and Denail State Park so I have a lot of catching up to do.  I have a ton of photos to go through; I will put some up asap.