Archive for the ‘Parks’ Category

Alaska National Parks, photos and blogs about various parks in Alaska, including wildlife refuges, monuments, forests, places.

Sleeping warm winter camping in Alaska

Monday, January 27th, 2014
Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Sleeping in a winter sleeping bag on snow in Alaska in January, a camper is tucked up and bundled up tight in his down sleeping bag. Mountain Hardwear Ghost sleeping bag, Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

It’s January, and Alaska can be a rough place to sleep outside during this time of year. Temperatures can easily be down below zero F, even into the minus 30’s and 40’s, or colder. So sleeping outside is not to be taken lightly.

Bring a good sleeping bag. A REALLY good sleeping bag. If you predict temperatures of zero (F), I’d go with a sleeping bag rated to minus 20 degrees F. I prefer a down sleeping bag over synthetic bags, but the key is a high quality, and well rated bag. If you have a good synthetic fill sleeping bag, use that. It’ll be heavier, and less compatible, but you can deal with that. You don’t want to have to deal with being cold.

Your bag is your last refuge against the cold. Don’t skimp on it. Bring “more” sleeping bag than you think you need.  I do like the goretex or similar shells for winter bags, and highly recommend them.

Bring a good sleeping pad. A REALLY good sleeping pad. Jake, above, is using (well, half using) an Exped Sim Comfort 10 LW, which I highly recommend if you’re not packing it into the backcountry. If you need to haul it (snowshoeing, skiing, backpacking, go with an Exped Downmat 7 or even the Downmat 9). An insulated pad insulates you against the cold snow underneath, where even the best sleeping bag won’t offer much protection – once you lie down in the bag and compress the insulation underneath you (be it down or synthetic), it offers little insulating value. So a high quality insulated pad makes a huge difference. You want it to be about an inch or more thick.

Although it’s not generally needed with a high quality sleeping pad like this, I often like to throw a hard cell foam pad under the inflatable. It adds a little extra insulation, but mostly a little protection against a leak or anything. It’ll definitely ad to the life of your sleeping pad. Unlike Jake, above, don’t slide off the sleeping pad. You’ll get cold. 🙂

(more…)

Tent Review – Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP Review

Saturday, January 4th, 2014
Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP backpacking tent in Alaska.

My backpacking tent, the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 DP ultralight tent, sitting thigh on a ridge in the Chugach Mountains on our Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trek, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, last summer. This tent LOVES this place! Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

Some of you might have seen a few years back I raved about the Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 2 backpacking tent. So why now, am I writing about it again? Why, other than to show you our killer campsite we call “The Mezzanine”, from the classic Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes trekking trip? Everybody loves The Mezzanine!

Well, one more reason its because it’s been upgraded, modified and changed, twice now in fact, so I thought I’d touch on a couple of things about the newer version of this tent, the Skyledge 2 DP.

Firstly, it has a new name. The DP is short for ‘Dry Pitch’. Meaning it’s possible to set the rainfly section of the tent up first, and then add the inner part of the tent afterward; a handy feature in the rain, for sure. The Mountain Hardwear bio reads “DryPitch™ fly-first pitching lets you set up the tent in the rain and stay dry”, which I think is a little misleading. You will still get wet. The inner part of your tent will stay somewhat drier .. but rarely will it remain completely dry. Still, it’s a handy feature that I’m glad to see Mountain Hardwear working on. (more…)

Image of the Month; January 2014 – Snowshoeing Caribou Creek

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Bob and Nancy pause for a photo while snowshoeing on the Caribou Creek Trail, in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Bob and Nancy pause for a photo while snowshoeing on the Caribou Creek Trail, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Hey Folks,

Welcome to the new year!

I thought we’d start of the fun this year with a quick photo from a place I’ll be headed to next week; Wrangell – St. Elias National Park. A week snowshoeing, skiing, sitting by the fire, watching out at night for some northern lights, enjoying good company, good food and a nice warm fire sounds like a GREAT way to start the new year. (more…)

Northern Lights & Winter in Arctic Alaska

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
A stock photo of the northern lights rising over a small creek, with the Brooks Range mountains in the background, part of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

The northern lights rising over a small creek, with the Brooks Range mountains in the background, part of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks

I am just now back from a trip to the arctic looking for the northern lights; 4 of us went north of Fairbanks, to the Brooks Range, and spent a dark, cold week rambling around the mountains, enjoying what is ordinarily an incredible place; in the winter, a unique and somewhat amazing experience.

The northern lights themselves dropped by for a visit each night; we were indeed fortunate. We had cloudy skies for part of just one night, and all the moonlight anyone might ever hope for to light up the foregrounds. In the arctic, the moon doesn’t really pass ‘overhead’, but circles around the sky, so though it’s not high in the sky, it stays out for quite a while.

We were also lucky with the weather; there was just enough wind around (particularly higher in the mountains) to keep things from getting too cold. Weird, huh? Wind (generally) keeps things warmer in the winter. On our final day, there was not the slightest breath of air, and the temperature dropped a lot .. hitting minus 40 right as we departed for the drive south. For the duration of our trip it had been (mostly) in the 0 to minus 20 range; Fahrenheit, of course).

Photography in the cold, at night, can be a challenge, but we were all well prepared, and managed to make some keeper images. I’ll write another post later about tips and ideas to alleviate some of the problems folks run into in such conditions. For now, I gotta catch up on some sleep.

Cheers

Carl

 

 

Backpacking Bremner Mines to Tebay Lakes, Wrangell St. Elias National Park

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
A hiker rests on a rock and looks out over the Little Bremner, Bremner and Copper River valleys. The Chugach Mountains are something else! Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

John rests on a rock and looks out over the Little Bremner, Bremner and Copper River valleys. The Chugach Mountains are something else! Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey folks,

Here’s an image I took of a guest one morning on our Bremner – Tebay Trek this August. John was sitting quietly before breakfast, on this rock by his tent, and I had grabbed my camera to shoot some landscapes when I saw him here.

The fog in the valley below was amazing; so thick it looked like you could walk across it. Then as silently as it had appeared before dawn, it simply vanished and the entire valley scene opened up. We had a grand, but tough, day’s hike ahead of us, and ended up doing in one day most of what I would typically do here in 2 days.

This is a tough hike, and I don’t recommend it to people lightly; a guide from another outfitter leading his clients made it about  3 days into the hike and turned around, as he felt they weren’t going to make it out in the allotted time. It definitely helps to know the area better, and avoid the brush and the gnar.

It also helps to have such grand weather. This trek has always been good to me, weather wise, so far I don’t think I’ve had anything burlier than a hail storm the day we flew in, and a light rain/snow the next morning. Other than that, I’ve always had good weather here.

For strong intermediate to advanced  backpackers, for sure. And definitely give yourself a good 10 days on this route. It’s a “bit of a mission”, as my friend Gabby from New Zealand would say. 🙂

Cheers

Carl

Image of the Month: Oct, 2013. Brown Bears Playing

Sunday, October 6th, 2013
2 male brown bears, adults, playing, wrestling and fighting in play. Brown bear males tend to be wary of one another, but can also be seen from time to time playing and wrestling with one another. Brown bears (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

2 male brown bears playing in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Told you there were bear photos to come!

Just in from a few weeks in Katmai National Park where we had an amazing time with the bears and a whole lot more. Some incredible situations.

This one we were lucky enough to have these 2 adult male brown bears decide to play and wrestle away the day .. for nearly 30 minutes we watched, photographed and videoed the action. Good times indeed!

I’m heading to the arctic for polar bears. Catch ya soon,

Cheers

Carl

Alaska Harbor Seal

Monday, September 16th, 2013
A harbor seal in Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A harbor seal in Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Just back in for a day or so between trips, and thought I’d post a photo from this last trip; the Coastal Brown Bear Photo Tour. So, of course, I’ll post a photo of a Harbor Seal, instead of a bear. We had a few great days with the bears, in Geographic Harbor, Kinak Bay and then went up Kukak Bay for the last day and a half, where we were able to find some super, uber tolerant Harbor Seals. It was a real blast seeing them up close and personal.

We also got to photograph some bald eagles, which was neat, as well as a couple of wary sea otters. Sea otters are ridiculously cute, but can be challenging to photograph. We saw a beautiful gray wolf in Geographic Harbor, and also saw whales on our flight over from Kodiak to the Katmai Coast. All in all, a really fun trip.

Bear photos to come.

Cheers

Carl

Lakina River Packrafting Trip

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
PFDs, helmets, drysuits, spraydecks, gloves and more for whitewater packrafting trips.

PFDs, helmets, drysuits, spraydecks, gloves and more for whitewater packrafting trips.

Hey Folks,

Big, big fun ..  HUGE fun at the end of a recent (and very soggy) hiking trip, from the Kennicott Glacier, up hidden Creek, over the pass and down to the Lakina River. At the end of the trip, the clients flew back to McCarthy for a hot shower and dinner, while I met up with Jule (fellow guide and cook extraordinaire for our Grizzlies in the Fall Photo Tour) and 2 other folks for a packrafting adventure down the Lakina River. At high water, the river runs a solid Class II, III and a couple of III+ rapids. We bombed down the river in about 5 hours, including a couple of quick stops for bodacious snacks, bathroom breaks, etc.

Just a few moments of this made it on to my video camera, so I edited them together for this little Packrafting Trip video teaser. More info and trip details to come, but for now, enjoy the clip, and read up about Alaska Packrafting Trips – you’ll be wanting to come on a packrafting trip before you know it. Great fun stuff!

Cheers

Carl

Sea Kayaking with Harbor Seals

Friday, September 6th, 2013
A slow, careful approach allowed us to get up close and personal with these Harbor Seals on our Sea Kayaking trip.

A slow, careful approach allowed us to get up close and personal with these Harbor Seals on our Sea Kayaking trip. Please click the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Another photo from our July sea kayaking trip to Icy Bay. After a great day paddling across the bay, hiking along the edge of the Karr Hills and taking a close look at the Yahtse Glacier, we paddled back toward camp and found Harbor seals .. lots of Habor Seals. There are an estimated 3500 harbor seals in Icy Bay, and we saw plenty this afternoon.

It seemed like every other ice floe had a small family of seals lazing upon it, resting on the ice in the sun. Though any of them are somewhat skittish, because they’re so NOT used to human visitors, we had our share of seals that allowed us a closer look.

One interesting aspect of the wildlife ecology here is the prevalence of Harbor seals yet complete absence of orcas, a major predator of the seals. I’ve never heard of anyone, ever, seeing an Orca in Icy Bay; for some reason they just don’t come into the area. As a result, the seals are abundant, and somewhat casual, less wary than they can be elsewhere.

I shot a few video clips of the seals on the icebergs, as well as a number of still photos, as well. It really helps to have such relatively calm waters to sea kayak in when photographing, and Icy Bay is great in that regard. Even though some times its windy here, generally the water is reasonably calm and protected; great sea kayaking.

Heading off for a Brown Bear Photo Tour soon; I’ll maybe catch some more harbor seal photos on that trip, as we’ll be along the Katmai Coast. Big fun!

Cheers

Carl

Image of the Month; Sept 2013

Friday, August 30th, 2013
Sea kayaking in Icy Bay, with Mount St. Elias rising in the background, 18 008' high above the sea. Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Sea kayaking in Icy Bay, with Mount St. Elias rising in the background, 18 008′ high above the sea. Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Welcome back! I know I might’ve missed a few months here recently; it’s been tough to get time to blog lately. This month’s image, from a recent trip Sea Kayaking in Icy Bay Trip, is one reason why I haven’t posted anything recently.

We were lucky enough to have some amazing weather this summer – 5 days in Icy Bay with a backdrop like this show what I mean. Seb and his partner Lauren flew all the way to Alaska from France to see Mt. St. Elias. I tried to point out to him here he was looking in the wrong direction; that it was right behind him!

Heading back out soon. I’ll try to post again before I go.

Cheers

Carl

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Owner and guide Carl Donohue.

 

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