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Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

The Chow Line


We passed a hatchery along the River on the Richardson highway and the Gulls were out in force.  They were gorging themselves on the newly released fry apparently.  They would line up on this roof and then swoop down and gobble some hatchlings up and then return to the end of the chow line and roost for a while.  I don’t know how much Fish and Game is paying to feed the gulls but I hope they put enough in for the rest of us to catch some.  What you see hear is a fraction of the hundred or so that were taking advantage of the free meal.

Reed Lakes Trail


I headed up the Reed Lakes Trail for some scouting and a good training hike and got into some great scenery.  The sun was just popping up behind these peaks in the Talkeetna’s and the slow, low clouds were rolling off the hill sides.  Great morning hike to the lower lake and then the usual slide out.  If you have hiked in Alaska you know what I mean, if not, well let’s just say there is nothing quite like steep, muddy, slickery Alaskan hillsides.  Virtually impossible for me to keep the shiny side up but worth it every time nonetheless.

Too Much Skookum


This is what it looks like when you have had too much Skookum.  We went up and hiked the Skookum Volcano Trail in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  The trail starts out from Nabesna Road and goes about 2.5 miles up a creek bed to the pass.  I hiked this trail last year scouting for some photos and I knew there were Dall sheep up there.  Some recon the evening before showed several sheep visible so we decided to head up and the plan was to camp out and photograph landscapes and Dall Sheep.  Well, that didn’t work out so good.  We decided to take our dogs with us (as usual) and our oldest, Hairy, had a really hard time.  This years flooding really brought out the boulders and when it was wet it was slicker than anything I have ever been on.  After about 2 hours lifting Hairy over boulders he finally found a sand patch and laid down.  He had had enough.  It was a beautiful day so we chilled and ate lunch and let Hairy take a nap.  Then it was down the trail to do it all over again.  He wasn’t too happy about that either and parked himself a couple of times in some soft cool sand.  We managed to keep him moving and finally made it out, he finally got what he wanted too….

Silvers & Reds


Cottonwood Creek runs by my house here in Alaska and it has all three Salmon runs on it.  Well at this time of year the Red Salmon and the Silver Salmon are moving upstream onto their spawning grounds.  On their trip up from the Cook Inlet, after dodging the fishing nets, and after dodging the sport anglers, and after dodging the eagles and bears, they have to run this little stretch of water.  It’s pretty shallow here so the bigger ones are popping up and out and over things.


This Red is scooting his way around this rock and then into another pool.  From there it is another little step to another pool….and over and over again we go.  They do a lot of work to get where they are going.  Here’s to hoping this guy makes it all the way and carries on his good name.

Gavia stellata: Red-throated Loon


The ponderously beautiful Red-throated Loon is the smallest member of the loon family.  It also has some capabilities that are unique to this loon.  While the larger loons can require up to a 100 meter running start to get air born the Red-throated loon requires much less and can actually lift off from land.  The mating pairs also engage in a unique duet of calls as opposed to a singular territorial yodel of its male cousins.  The Red-throated loon of the North American variety primarily breeds in coastal tundra habitat which puts it out of contact with most people so it is a relative unknown.  It is an incredibly beautiful loon and a pleasure to watch.  This female scooted back and forth across this pond enjoying the late evening Arctic sun and did not seem to mind me too much.  I made her a little nervous initially but she quickly got over it.  I am glad she did.



Everybody loves chicks.  Loon Chicks are a special treat, and Arctic Loon chicks are too cool.  I found this mom and chick squirting around a little pond of water and after some initial hesitation they relaxed and let me observe and photograph.  Arctic Loons are an absolutely beautiful bird and I did not realize that they actually can have a very dark green neck, only when the sun hits them just right does it appear anything other than black.  This little chick was having a pretty good time but it must have been fed earlier, the day before both mom and dad were working lunch duty, today the action was not so feverish.  The little chick had been swimming in between the two of them and just turning its head from one to the other to get whatever it was they were getting from the bottom.  Good times.



I love these foxtails.  They are so beautiful in their color and the way they sway in the wind and catch the summer light.  The Wrangell Mountains were peeking out behind some very thick cloud cover prior to it raining.  This is a nice little settlement at the end of the Nebesna Road.  From here it is about 6 miles to an abandoned mine that makes for a great little day hike.

Gold Mint


Alaska can be a very inhospitable place so it never ceases to amaze me at the toughness of the Alaska miners.  The 1870’s saw the first gold rush to south east Alaska in the Harris Mining District of which the town of Juneau was the center of.  As the new century approached gold deposits were being found further north including gold on the beaches of Nome.  These findings initiated a true gold rush to Alaska which in turn built the cities that we have now.  It is important to note that without the gold rushes, the American West would have settled at a much slower pace and the development of this country would have taken an entirely different route.  Additionally the gold made the U.S. one of the richest nations on earth which provided the impetus for our government to become a leader on the world’s political stage as still a very young nation relative to the European countries abroad.  There was a heavy price to pay for this gold though as new starry eyed miners noted that the summer was rather short and the winters, well they come fast and hard, especially in the mountains.



I headed out into the Talkeetnas’ to scout some photographic locations and I think I may have found some.  The weather has been hot and dry and the hike in was a boiler but by the time I got up top some minor thunderstorms had moved and it started to rain.  No big deal, set up the tent wait it out.  After the weather several of these were out to play.  This lasted for about an hour before I was smack in the middle of a REAL thunderstorm right on top of me that lasted for about an hour.  No harm no foul, but that lighting was, um, really, really close…



Lupines.  Alaska is full of these beautiful flowers everywhere it seems.  They are usually the first out for spring and they just light up the roads with their awesome beauty.  The wildflower season is just heating up.

On the Way to Hope 2


If you are lucky you could see this too.  We were heading down to Hope and as we made our way down Turnagain Arm we could see this developing on our left hand side.  We motored around the end of the Arm and we were heading up toward the mountains and the sky just opened up and the sun came pouring through.  The light didn’t last long but it was enough to get the day started off right!

Great 4th!


Hope you all had a great 4th of July!  We had absolutely great weather and saw some great country.  We spent the day up on Dog Sled Pass and had an amazing time.  Our town had it’s parade and BBQ’s and everyone was out at the Lake like they were down south somewhere!  It is hot and dry for Alaska right now so we have some fire haze…from 60 something fires burning right now.  Most are small and are being allowed to burn naturally, a couple are being fought but nothing is really big, let’s hope it stays that way.

On the way to Hope


Hope Alaska sits nestled in a notch on Turnagain Arm about 1.5 hours south of Anchorage.  The drive there takes you along the waters of Turn Again and it is spectacular.  The tides in Turnagain Arm are the second swiftest tides in the world and when they go out it is like draining a bathtub.  In 1888 old man Alexander King rowed a dory up the Cook Inlet into the Turnagain Arm and beached on the south shore.  Two years later he rowed out with four pokes of gold, and became a man of great interest.  By 1895 five mining partners on Sixmile Creek were spending their 40K in gold around Seattle and suddenly The Rush was on.  Three thousand people headed to Sixmile Creek in 1896 and Hope City got its when the miners decided to name the town after the next person that got off the boat – that was Percy Hope – 17 year old prospector extraordinaire.

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.



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.

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.



I seem to always struggle with the season between Winter and Spring.  I guess it is not a season, but the couple of weeks of it sure make it seem so.  This, we will call it a “shoulder” season, is a time of what I tend to want to call…..ugliness.  The snow is dirty and rotten, the trees are bare and broken, the garbage is out all over, the junk in the yard is exposed, ugh.  So what’s a photographer to do?  I typically play catch up on my film development and bury myself in maps waiting for some “good weather” to get things going again.  Unfortunately I always seem to slip past that two week period of spring where the leaves have just started budding and they catch the light in the most amazing ways.  Backlit, freshly sprouted leaves are some of the most intriguing eye candy and I seem to get so busy on inside projects that I miss it.  Well, here’s to not missing it this year.  In the mean time had to make an run up the Glenn to escape the “tweener” time.  I must say I enjoyed the ride…

Buoys Awaiting Service


I am continuing this Homer Spit/Maritime theme for a bit because, well, I like it.  This is another set of buoys being temporarily stored on the docks at the end of the Spit.

Homer, Alaska


We just got back from several days in Homer.  The weather was very spring like so that brought some rain but also some very dramatic cloud formations.  You know what they say, “Bad weather makes for good photographs.”  The shore birds are showing up but the recent volcanic ash dump seems to have dampened the activity a bit.  There was quite a bit of it, Homer got about a 1/4″ of an inch of accumulation.  Didn’t eat here but I have plans…

Spring Fever


Spring fever is here for me, my goodness.  Up here in the Great White North we are still buried under.  We are getting some great sun but it is not coming fast enough it seems.  Now I love the cold, and I love the snow but this year I am just ready to roll.  Last summer was very short due to some late snow storms, rain, clouds and the coldest summer on record up here.  All of that has me, and my northern brothers and sisters, chomping at the bit to get some warm weather “on”.  April is here and that means birds, lots of birds, and I am looking forward to that.  Unfortunately a considerable amount of snow is still covering major nesting areas and so we are all anxiously awaiting break up so these guys can get in here.  We will be heading down to Homer later on this month to catch the migration stop over that comes through there; if reports are accurate we are talking tens of thousands of birds at a minimum. This will be our first time to attend this and we are looking forward to it.  The stop over in the Copper River Delta is to the tune of millions of birds.  That is the one I want to hit next year, it just won’t work out for us this year.  They had a bird count of 1.25 million birds in one day last year.  We also have a massive Rapture migration that occurs through the area.  Gunsight Mountain is a major migratory corridor for this and there is a raptor watch from Feb to April with some days counts over one hundred.  If you want to participate check out the Anchorage Audubon website they are looking for volunteers.  There is a BBQ coming up too in April.

Rail Cars and Ash Fall


Crazy day shooting yesterday.  Wind was all kicked up and keeping everything down on the ground but the ash.  We saw more eagles on the ground than I have ever seen.  I watched one for over a half hour sway back and forth in some wicked gusts;  I think it was sleeping, or trying to.  It never did move so I moved on.  The ash was getting kicked up too (Redoubt) and smelling acrid, but hey it’s all good.  Snowed last night and that laid it down.  Anyway got a few pics in, I liked these rail cars sitting out in the Valley.  The railroad is doing some work out on the Knik River Bridge and these cars were sitting for the weekend.

We got a light dusting during the night of the ash cloud that came from the late Saturday afternoon eruption but it turned out to not be too onerous.  The snow was dirty but mostly just a trace.

Eagle River Owling


Owwwwwling:  Spent Sunday at The Eagle River Nature Center owling.  Saturday I located a  Great Horned Owl and I wanted to follow up with an attempt to find him/her in the daytime.  It had snowed a couple of inches by the time we got there so it was beautiful.  Hard to keep the dogs reeled in too with all of the foreign, uuuumm, smells.  It wasn’t toooo cold, about 20 F.

The owls are out right now hooting for mates which makes it a little easier to find them.  The GH I spotted was sitting silently on a branch and then started calling after I started making a racket with my camera (it was my first GH).  So I got off a couple of shots on it but they were bad because the light was so very low, I started banging around with my tripod like a rookie and I’ll be darned if that owl didn’t turn around to me and tell me to shut up.  I mean if he had actually said the words it wouldn’t have been more clear than him looking me right in the eye, leaning in, thrusting head out towards me and giving a scolding HOOOOO,……..HOOOOOO!  I froze like a little boy and then started laughing, couldn’t help myself and with a disgusted look over his shoulder the wise old owl lit out.  He came off his perch and dropped down right in front of me and I could not hear the wind in his wings, amazing.  I would hate to be a critter having to watch out for those guys.

Seward Dry Dock


I LOVE going to the dry dock in Seward.  We went down there a couple of weeks ago for some photos and had a fantastic time.  I love boats to begin with and then I love old stuff so a bunch of beat up old fishing boats gets me going.  We spent an evening and morning at the dock and got a ton of eagle photographs that day too.  A lot of young eagles lacking the expected characteristic “bald” head were waiting out the weather in trees and light poles and stumps, whatever they could find.  Mergansers were found quite easily and of course the ubiquitous gull was hamming it up just about everywhere.  We saw a couple of other water fowl that I have to look up, don’t know their name, but they were beautiful birds.  We stayed at Miller’s Landing by the way, if you are looking for a place to stay in the area one of these days.  They are good people and their offering for accomodations is quite diverse and always clean.