Best Place to Backpack in Alaska?

December 17th, 2021 by Carl D
Backpacking the 7 Pass Route Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
Backpacking the 7 Pass Route Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Hey Folks,

A favorite topic of mine.

Where do I want to backpack most?

It’s impossible to say. In some ways, I’d simply suggest (and often do) “wherever you happen to have good weather”

And I’ve done more than a small share of backpacking in Alaska. I’ve backpacked in the arctic, walked the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and I’ve backpacked in temperate rain forests of SE Alaska. I’ve also traversed many, many points in between.

I’ve enjoyed them all. Really. I can’t think of any place I didn’t enjoy backpacking the wilderness in Alaska. I’ve had some trips that were harder than others, I’ve had some trips with less than favorable weather, I’ve had some trips that I’d love to have another jaunt at and do a “take two”. But I’ve certainly found positive experiences on all of them.

There’s something about Wrangell-St. Elias National Park that just holds me. That could be the alder of the Chugach mtns, LOL. 

Continue reading…

Photography Tips – Less is More

December 10th, 2021 by Carl D

Camera gear isn’t always your friend

A polar bear in Beaufort Sea, ANWR, Alaska.
Polar Bear Portrait

Hey Folks

We all know this saying, but most of us rarely apply it.

When it comes to camera gear, most of us have WAY too much. I know I do. But I’m trying to shoot with less gear and more consideration to what I want the image to be.

Often I’ll bring one lens on an outing and shoot with that. Or not shoot and simply observe.

Continue reading…

Specialize And Narrow Your Focus

November 9th, 2021 by Carl D

Focus Your Photography

A bull moose in DenalI National Park, on tundra in rich fall colors.
A bull moose and fall colors, DenalI National Park.

Hey Folks

Pick a subject, and work it. A shotgun approach to a trip of trying to shoot lots of different subjects is more likely to just yield a bunch of mediocre images.

Spend time with your subject. The best images typically will take time. Give yourself that opportunity to really make something special happen.

It’s nice to come home with lots of different images of lots of different things, but it’s really nice to come home with really strong images. In my experience that works better when we focus on a subject and work it. Work it some more. And continue to narrow that idea down.

Less really is more.



Correct Layering for Backpacking Trips

October 21st, 2021 by Carl D

Hey Folks,

Layered and ready for hiking in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.
Rhane layered up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

I think one of the most commonly misunderstood phrases/ideas in the backcountry is “layering” (along with “if your feet are cold, put a hat on your head”). I’m not about to tell you NOT to layer, but I do want to shed a little light on what all this means.

The single most common ‘mistake’ (I use that term very loosely; it’s far too subjective to be seriously called a mistake) I see people make on their Alaska Backpacking Trip is bringing a whole bunch of  thin to medium layer in the hope of staying warm. Baselayers, polypro layers, lightweight fleece, etc are all great pieces of gear, but you don’t need to swamp your pack down with them. You need, at most, 2.

Rarely, if ever, do I need to hike with more than one layer on my torso;  if it’s super warm, I’ll wear a polypro t-shirt. Generally, though that single layer is almost always a single long-sleeved nylon (tight-weave so it’s bug proof) shirt. You know the generic ‘safari-style’ shirt you find in any outdoor store; dawky looking, button-down, collar. and rolled up sleeves. If it’s raining, I’ll throw a thin, breathable waterproof-breathable shell over my shirt. That’s it.

Continue reading…

Wildlife Photography Tips

October 19th, 2021 by Carl D
Wildlife photography tips from professional photographer and photo tour leader, Carl Donohue and Expeditions Alaska.
It’s all about the light.

How to improve your wildlife photography

Hey Folks

I guess it’s safe to say at this point of my life that I’ve been doing this a long time. For better or worse. 😗

Not just photographing wildlife and studying wildlife photography, but taking folks like yourself out into the field and shooting together. I’ve been guiding wildlife photo tours for nearly two decades now. And I figured it might be a good opportunity to share some tips for budding photographers. Tips based largely on what I see people do, or not do, on our tours.

So I’m starting a little section on my blog that you’re welcome to subscribe to. Every so often I’ll include a short piece on how you might make yourself a better wildlife photographer.

Obviously short brief pieces and tips aren’t designed to turn you into a pro (if such a thing as “Pro wildlife photographer” actually exists any more; a separate conversation worth having at some point).

Continue reading…

Requests and Asking for gear information

October 18th, 2021 by Carl D

Hey Folks,

Supper under a tarp, Denali Natilonal Park backpacking trip, Alaska.
Supper under a tarp, Denali National Park backpacking trip, Alaska.

This is a post you might be able to use regardless what you’re wondering about (we’re all wondering about something, right?). One of the things I see most common when I cruise around the web at different forums, blogs, websites, check my email, etc, etc is requests for information about gear. Whether it be camera gear, ski gear, backpacking gear, rafting gear, paddling gear, biking gear, mountaineering gear, whatever. So many people post requests for information about gear choices without offering much, if any, idea on their intended use.

Backpacking Gear Questions

Example; “I’m looking for a good pair of hiking boots for the winter”. This kind of request is, in most forums, useless. before offering any kind of recommendation at all, I’d need to know more information. A lot more information. What kind of hiking? On trail/off trail? Winter where? Alaska, or Florida? Hiking, as in dayhiking, or backpacking trips? You wanna go backpacking in Denali National Park? Or Gates of the Arctic? And on and on. Without even discussing the nuance of individual fit. style, taste, etc (particularly important with boots), it’s about impossible to really offer any useful information to the request.

Continue reading…

What is the Wild

October 15th, 2021 by Carl D
Black bear stares through the forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.
Black bear stares through the forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.

Hey Folks,

We live in a world defined by our own constructs. The rules we learn and abide are our own, the maps we follow are our own, the stories we learn are own. The way we see the world is through the eyes of our culture. At times, it provides a miraculous view; I can’t imagine my life without the music of Stevie Wonder to keep me company, or the writings of Thoreau, or the photography of Frans Lanting. Those are the parameters of our civilized lives, and they serve us usefully much of the time.

But what of those parameters not laid out for us by other people? What if I want to see the forest through the eyes of the bear?

The easiest way to experience a bit of what the wild was like is to go into a great forest at night alone.  Sit quietly for awhile.  Something very old will return. – Jack Turner

Challenge yourself to experience the world beyond the models we’ve constructed for it to fit inside.



Offtrail backpacking in Alaska

October 13th, 2021 by Carl D
Offtrail backpacking in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Alaska.
Backpacking off-trail in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Hey Folks

Offtrail backpacking

It doesn’t mean what you might think it means.

What do we mean, here in Alaska, when we say “offtrail’?

Well, what we mean is “no trail”. It’s not the same thing as backpacking through the mountains for a few days on a nice trail, hitting the open alpine terrain where the trail disperses and you flit over the green alpine grasses the von Trapps.

When we talk about “offtrail backpacking” travel we mean when the terrain is challenging, you have no trail. We mean when the terrain is easy, there is no trail. We mean when the terrain gets really, really hard and downright nasty, we have no trail.

Continue reading…

Mt Sanford and the Sanford Plateau – IOM Oct 2021

October 8th, 2021 by Carl D
Backpacking backcountry campsite and view of Mt. Sanford in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park nad Preserve, Alaska.
A View from camp. Mt. Sanford.

Hey Folks,

Here’s one from a couple season ago. Rhane led a great trip up around the Sanford Plateau area, got some great weather, and just crushed it. What a cool place to be on days like this.

I could sit and stare at mountains like Mt. Sanford all day long.

On the right hand side of the pic you see the upper reaches of the Sanford Glacier, which forms the Sanford River, flowing in to the legendary Copper River and on to the Gulf of Alaska.

Not a bad place to pitch a tent.



What’s a good daily mileage for an Alaska backpacking trip?

September 30th, 2021 by Carl D
Backpacking distances in Alaska, how far, how hard. Lake Clark National Park backpacking trip, Alaska.
How far = how hard.

Hey Folks,

There is no generic answer to this most-frequently asked question for Alaska backpacking trips. Obviously your fitness, your pack weight, your group, etc, all heavily impact the distance you’ll cover each day. More than that, the terrain itself will determine how far and how fast you travel.

Not just the gradient and uphill/downhill stuff. Those things clearly are important. However, here in Alaska, the most common determinant, and most profound one, is the terrain itself. The footing. What are you walking over? What are you walking THROUGH? Heavy, dense alder will slow you down way, way way more than you imagine. Add thickets of Devil’s Club inside that and you’ll be moving very slowly. You might make 3/4mile an hour. Maybe. Even on flat terrain.

Continue reading…

Expeditions Alaska
Visit the wild