Expeditions Alaska http://www.expeditionsalaska.com Visit The Wild Fri, 14 Nov 2014 00:00:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Lost Coast Hikehttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/lost-coast-hike/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/lost-coast-hike/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 17:45:14 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3886 Hey Folks Now that summer and fall has wound down some, I’ve got a little time to catch up on image processing and maybe blogging as well! We’ll see how far we get with that. One of the trips I was really looking forward to this summer was a hike along the coast, the southern […]

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The Lost Coast in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, with Mt Cook and the Saint Elias Range rising in the background.

The Lost Coast in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, with Mt Cook and the Saint Elias Range rising in the background. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

Now that summer and fall has wound down some, I’ve got a little time to catch up on image processing and maybe blogging as well! We’ll see how far we get with that.

One of the trips I was really looking forward to this summer was a hike along the coast, the southern reaches of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I’d hiked part of this area previously, some of it a couple of times, but I’d never hiked the eastern section, below the Malaspina Forelands. So it was a great experience to finally get down to this area and walk the coastline, completing what is really a cool walk.

We did the hike as an exploratory trek this year, and took a bit longer for the the hike than I normally might, as we wanted to explore a few things along the way, look for the best campsites, and so on.

Packrafts are a necessity along this route; some of the rivers that have to be crossed would be foolish to cross without a packraft, unless at super low water. So we carried a couple of Alpacka Packrafts, and all the gear to go along with that. It’s a bit of “extra” weight to haul, for sure, but it’s so worth it to open up so much of Alaska’s awesome backcountry that would otherwise be impassable.

We also took a side venture with the packrafts north, off the beachline, to Malaspina Lake, and then paddled part of the lake one glorious afternoon, then paddled back down one of the outlets from the lake to the beach, and made our way over to camp. A great day trip, and easily a good overnight as well, if desired; some really cool little islands in the lake would make fantastic campsites.

Bears a’ plenty, we ran into 3 grizzlies in 5 days. No problems or issues at all, but there are definitely a number of big ole brown bears (grizzly bears and brown bears are the same species) along the coast. Alaska Dispatch recently had a mic article about these Malaspina Brown bears.

What we didn’t run into is people. Nobody. We spent 5-6 days along the coast, then another 5 days in Icy Bay sea kayaking and hiking and photographing, and not a soul outside ourselves. How cool is that! This area is so little visited, in the summer of 2014, the Malaspina District, an area 150 miles in length, had fewer than 75 people visit the entire season. If you don’t count people hunting and fishing, the season had a grand total of 2 people along the Lost Coast. Chuck, from Florida and I were the only folks here all summer! Way cool.

Most of the hike is beach walking, sand and some small rocks, nothing problematic. The western end of the trek, we didn’t hike this time around, has a much rockier section along Sitkagi Bluffs (Or Sitkagi Boulders, as it should be more appropriately named). There’s no real issue with tides for the hike, other than river crossings, which are best dealt with via packrafts. The tide can come up pretty high on the beach, and I would be super careful about tent sites on the beach; in general, avoid it, especially once you are west of Sudden Stream.

We finished our trek with a very cool mile or 2 through the magnificent Sitka Spruce Forest, along a centuries old bear trail; how do I know it’s that old? Because the bear prints, imprints of individual footsteps (bears often will walk along in a trail stepping precisely in the footsteps of previous bears), are worn 6 inches deep into the moss and earth. How cool is it to hike along a trail like that, and step in those same footsteps!

Amazing views of the St. Elias Mountain Range, of course, definitely a highlight of the trip. And the Pacific Ocean is always a treat to walk beside. We saw river otters, bald eagles, various species of shore birds, ducks and other waterfowl, as well as sea birds like Oyster Catchers, gulls, etc, etc. Tons o’ stuff!

Les, our pilot, showed up on the beach right on time and flew us and our gear over to Icy Bay, where we sea kayaked and hiked for another 5 days before wrapping things up and heading back to Yakutat for a shower and a burger. Fun times.

I’ve got some GoPro video from the sea kayaking and packrafting sections, I’ll try to splice together over the winter and post it online as I can.

Great trip! If you’re interested, drop me a line about the summer of 2015; I’ll definitely be leading this trip again. Great for Beginners -> Advanced, a little something for everybody, if you will.

Cheers

Carl

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Brown bear and a Sockeye salmon: Image of the Month, Nov 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/brown-bear-and-sockeye-salmon-photo/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/brown-bear-and-sockeye-salmon-photo/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 04:42:22 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3866 Hey Folks, Meet Little Otis, one of the most beautiful brown bears I’ve had the good fortune to see and to photograph. I’ve shot this guy for a number of years now, as he’s grown from a cute young cub to a cautious young subadult bear to a nearly full grown adult male brown bear; Little […]

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A mature male Alaska brown bear carries a bright red Sockeye Salmon by the dorsal fin, in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A mature male Alaska brown bear carries a bright red male Sockeye Salmon by the dorsal fin, in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Meet Little Otis, one of the most beautiful brown bears I’ve had the good fortune to see and to photograph. I’ve shot this guy for a number of years now, as he’s grown from a cute young cub to a cautious young subadult bear to a nearly full grown adult male brown bear; Little Otis is no longer quite so “little”, but always  treat to photograph. He’s definitely one of the most photogenic brown bears I’ve photographed.

Nearly full grown, he’s just as magnificent as ever, with a beautiful light brown coat, blond highlights and markings, and a playful, easy character. I’ve watched him play and wrestle with other young male bears, and never once seen him show aggression toward another bear. He pretty much (typically) goes about his day looking for salmon. He also has this rather curious technique of carrying salmon by their dorsal fin; he’ll often catch a fish in the stream, then grab it’s dorsal fin and carry it ward shallower water, where he’ll eat it. I’ve not seen a lot of other bears carry the fish this way, particularly big male bears and certainly not so predictably.

Little Otis is an awesome bear.

Cheers

Carl

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Hiking poles and Alaska backpackinghttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/trekking-poles-alaska-backpacking/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/trekking-poles-alaska-backpacking/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:53:26 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3862 Hey Folks,   So one question I’m frequently asked about pertains to hiking poles, or trekking poles, and how important or useful they are for backpacking here in Alaska. In short, I’d suggest they’re more than useful, almost mandatory. Of course, few things in the mountains are ever so objective; the mountains are a subjective […]

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A hiker backpacking up Harry's Gulch in the eastern Chugach mountains of Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A hiker backpacking up Harry’s Gulch in the eastern Chugach mountains of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Hiking poles, or trekking poles, can be considered an integral part of the setup for a trek like this one from Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes.

Hey Folks,

 

So one question I’m frequently asked about pertains to hiking poles, or trekking poles, and how important or useful they are for backpacking here in Alaska. In short, I’d suggest they’re more than useful, almost mandatory. Of course, few things in the mountains are ever so objective; the mountains are a subjective place, and so we shouldn’t look for objective answers like this. What’s right for me mightn’t be right for you, and what’s right on August 15 mightn’t be right on August 16 (or even 3 hours later on August 15), and so on. But as a general rule, I’d urge anyone coming to Alaska to backpack, and particularly someone on their first ever trip here, to count on using your hiking poles.

Jon, pictured above here, is a great hiker; in super shape, he’s athletic, well-balanced and a very good walker; safe to say he’s a much better hiker than the average backpacker. Much better. He cruised the Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes route with virtually no trouble at all, and that’s a tough walk, by almost anyone’s metrics. Even Jon mentioned how useful and helpful the hiking poles were for him on this trip. This image, taken as we walked westward up Harry’s Gulch, shows one of the most strenuous parts of hiking in the mountains around here; Sidehilling. Walking along the edge of the hill/mountain is tough. It’s very tough. It mightn’t look like much here, but I guarantee you this stretch of the hike will kick your tail (and there’s plenty of walking like this on this particular route). Ask anyone who’s backpacked a lot in places like Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and they’ll tell you sidehilling, more than uphill or downhill, more than brush, more than rocks and boulders and moraine, and more than just about any other type of terrain you’ll likely encounter, is what separates the hikers from the stumblers.

You can see in this image the hillside is reasonably steep, and there’s no trail whatsoever to walk on. It’s tough, and you walk on this kind of terrain for a few hours and you’ll be feeling it. At the end of the day, you’ll be sore and tired. Dog tired. Carrying poles or at least one pole will help ease that weariness, and will help reduce the number of times you fall down. If I were Jon here, I’d have the pole on the uphill side (in his right hand) a little shorter than he’s carrying it, maybe 6-10 inches shorter, and I’d lengthen the one in my left hand. But Jon did fine, so it didn’t matter too much for him. For 99% of the rest of folks, it makes a difference to continually engage these little adjustments, and keep fine tuning the poles, etc, and tailoring them to your terrain.

Whether you want one pole (which is what I carry) or 2 poles, you’ll find the hiking MUCH easier with than without. River crossings become much more doable when you have a pole or 2 to help you, and they also make a helpful support pole for your tent/s if the wind really kicks up (which it can occasionally do). On the other hand, in thick brush, I’ll often shorten the pole all the way down to its shortest setting, and then strap it to the side of my pack for easier travel. It’s all about fitting the gear and the techniques to the terrain and the circumstance and your own experience or skill set.

Very few folks have come out with me over the last 15 years and done well without using trekking poles. VERY few. So count on bringing some for your trip. And walk carefully!

Cheers

Carl

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Polar bear cub and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Image of the Month, Oct 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/polar-bear-cub-alaska/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/polar-bear-cub-alaska/#comments Sat, 11 Oct 2014 06:59:30 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3857 Hey Folks, Still here in the arctic. And it’s very arctic indeed . we’ve had some crazy weather the last week, but things settled today and we were able to get out and shoot some images. This young cub approached us over the slush ice and snow at the edge of the barrier island, and […]

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A young polar bear cub cautiously approaches over the slush ice and snow of the Beaufort Sea, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

A young polar bear cub cautiously approaches over the slush ice and snow of the Beaufort Sea, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Still here in the arctic. And it’s very arctic indeed . we’ve had some crazy weather the last week, but things settled today and we were able to get out and shoot some images. This young cub approached us over the slush ice and snow at the edge of the barrier island, and I used a 28-70mm lens for the wide view. How cute is cute?

Cheers

Carl

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Brown Bear in Katmai National Park: Image of the Month, Sept 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/brown-bear-photo-and-reflection/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/brown-bear-photo-and-reflection/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 03:41:32 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3854 Hey Folks, Sorry for the delay again, I’ve been in the field, and still catching up with everything here since getting out; And part of that catching up involves packing for the next trip, where I’ll be leading 2 sold out photo tours to Katmai National Park for the Grizzlies in the Fall trip. Definitely […]

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Brown bear (Ursus arctos), and a reflection in a lake, sunset, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Brown bear (Ursus arctos), and a reflection in a lake, sunset, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Sorry for the delay again, I’ve been in the field, and still catching up with everything here since getting out; And part of that catching up involves packing for the next trip, where I’ll be leading 2 sold out photo tours to Katmai National Park for the Grizzlies in the Fall trip. Definitely a favorite trip of mine, and one I look forward to getting back to every year.

Hopefully this year we get some light and scenes like this one to make a few images. Fingers crossed!!!!

Cheers

Carl

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Chugach Mountains Campsite; Image of the Month, August 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/church-mountains-campsite/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/church-mountains-campsite/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:02:07 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3850 Hey Folks, A quick post from the eastern edge of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, near Iceberg lake in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Camping in a place like this is a real treat, even more so when the weather is this superb. Awesome place. Cheers Carl

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Campsite in eastern Chugach mountains, near Iceberg Lake, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Campsite in eastern Chugach mountains, near Iceberg Lake, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

A quick post from the eastern edge of Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, near Iceberg lake in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Camping in a place like this is a real treat, even more so when the weather is this superb. Awesome place.

Cheers

Carl

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Packrafting Malaspina Lake – Image of the Month, July 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/packrafting-malaspina-lake/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/packrafting-malaspina-lake/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 01:30:11 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3847 Hey Folks, What an awesome area; Malaspina Lake, near Malaspina Glacier and Icy Bay. We spent nearly 2 weeks down here, hiking and packrafting and sea kayaking along the Lost Coast and Icy Bay. This day was a memorable one, spending the afternoon paddling around Malaspina Lake in our Packrafts. Had a bit of a […]

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Chuck takes a swig of water from his Nalgene bottle while we're out paddling around in our packrafts on Malaspina Lake, in southern Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Chuck takes a swig of water from his Nalgene bottle while we’re out paddling around in our packrafts on Malaspina Lake, in southern Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

What an awesome area; Malaspina Lake, near Malaspina Glacier and Icy Bay. We spent nearly 2 weeks down here, hiking and packrafting and sea kayaking along the Lost Coast and Icy Bay. This day was a memorable one, spending the afternoon paddling around Malaspina Lake in our Packrafts. Had a bit of a mission of a hike to get to the shore of the lake, but it was all so worthwhile when we arrived.

Cheers

Carl

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Grizzly Bear Paw printhttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/grizzly-bear-paw-print/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/grizzly-bear-paw-print/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 01:13:11 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3841 Hey Folks A recent trip to Malaspina Lake, and the Lost Coast and Icy Bay treated us to this set of prints, along the silty shores of Malaspina Lake. So whoever saw a grizzly bear with one bear paw and one human foot? Amazing. The Malaspina Monster, evidence at least. The missing link? Who knows? […]

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A footprint in the mud of a grizzly bear paw and a human footprint.

A footprint in the mud of a grizzly bear paw and a human footprint side by side. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

A recent trip to Malaspina Lake, and the Lost Coast and Icy Bay treated us to this set of prints, along the silty shores of Malaspina Lake.

So whoever saw a grizzly bear with one bear paw and one human foot? Amazing. The Malaspina Monster, evidence at least. The missing link? Who knows?

Cheers

Carl

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Harbor Seals, Icy bay – Image of the Month; June 2014http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/harbor-seals-icy-bay/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/harbor-seals-icy-bay/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 01:18:22 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3844 Hey Folks, A tolerant female Harbor seal and her young pup watched us curiously from this iceberg. Paddling back to camp one afternoon, we snuck by her as we were weaving our way through a throng of icebergs. Quietly trying not to frighten the seal from her place of rest, we paddled by and headed […]

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A mother harbor seal and her pup rest on an iceberg in Icy Bay, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A mother harbor seal and her pup rest on an iceberg in Icy Bay, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

A tolerant female Harbor seal and her young pup watched us curiously from this iceberg. Paddling back to camp one afternoon, we snuck by her as we were weaving our way through a throng of icebergs. Quietly trying not to frighten the seal from her place of rest, we paddled by and headed back to camp. Fantastyic afternoon sea kayaking in Icy Bay.

Cheers

Carl

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Image of the Month, May 2014: Male Polar Bearhttp://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/male-polar-bear-photo/ http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/ramblings/male-polar-bear-photo/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 05:19:24 +0000 http://www.expeditionsalaska.com/?p=3836 Hey Folks, A few days late, of course. It’s May, and sunny and great weather, and I’ve been getting a few things done other than update the blog. April was really some great weather here, and that makes it hard to keep up the blog. So here’s a brief post for the Image of the […]

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Male polar bear walking on snow, Alaska.

Male Polar bear walking across the snow, in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image above the view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

A few days late, of course. It’s May, and sunny and great weather, and I’ve been getting a few things done other than update the blog. April was really some great weather here, and that makes it hard to keep up the blog. So here’s a brief post for the Image of the Month, from last year’s Polar Bear Photo Tour. A beautiful young male polar bear walking across the snow-covered tundra of the frozen arctic, in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This year I have 2 spaces available on the Week 1, Oct 3-9 polar bear photo tour, and have offered a great discount for that trip through the end of May. Take a look!

I love the head down, eyes closed, pose.

Cheers

Carl

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