Image of the Month – Hiking at Skolai Pass

June 1st, 2010 by Carl D
Backpackers hiking the tundra at Hole in the Wall.
Hole in the Wall, near Skolai Pass, is a great place to explore. Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Photo of the Month for June, 2010, is this photo of some folks hiking up at Hole in the Wall, near Skolai Pass, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I love the sense of scale this photo gives for the peak in the background. This is one of the peaks known as the 7 fingers, glacier-capped outcroppings towering above the tundra. Hole in the Wall is a classic old glacial formation, and a great place to walk and explore; I’ve spend many a day wandering around on the moraine, awestruck at the magnificent jagged cliff faces soaring above me.

This trip was a few years ago, and we had a grand time. The weather was, as you see here, unbeatable, and we all enjoyed the week we spent in Skolai Pass. We camped on an open ridge above the pass, before heading south to Chitistone Pass, where we camped and enjoyed the scenery. From Chitistone Pass, we ventured down to Russell Glacier, over into Chitistone Valley, and checked out the Goat Trail. Then we made out way back along the floor of Skolai Pass.

The big boulders in the foreground are called erratics; a piece of rock that differs from the size and type of rock native to the area in which it rests. They’re moved into place, carried by glacial ice , and deposited when the ice retreats. Sometimes they’re moved hundreds of miles by advancing glaciers; at Hole in the Wall, they were moved a mile or so. But a number of these large boulders technically aren’t really erratics, as they have fallen from the cliffs above. Massive, some of them are the size of a small house. The geology here is incredible.

I’m looking forward to getting back up to Skolai Pass this summer; it’s just one of “those” places that I can go back to every year and love it. It’s kinda like going home each summer. Each trip brings both new vistas and intimate views of the nooks and crannies, the secrets of Skolai. At the same time, seeing the features like Hole in the Wall and Russell Glacier again is a welcome treat. I love it.

We’ll be up at Skolai mid july this year, and I can’t WAIT!

Cheers

Carl


The Hubbard Glacier Calving into Russell Fjord.

May 7th, 2010 by Carl D
Hubbard Gacier calving chunks of ice into Russell Fjord, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
Hubbard Glacier calving chunks of ice into Russell Fjord, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo from a trip to southeast Alaska I took, of the Hubbard Glacier calving into Russell Fjord at Gilbert Point, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, near Yakutat. To watch a 250′ high wall of ice crash into the ocean is simply awesome. And I mean awesome like ‘inspires awe’ … absolutely jaw-dropping stuff.

The Hubbard Glacier is one of the few advancing glaciers in Alaska right now, as most are retreating under the glare of warming climate; the cycles of glaciers that calve into the sea are also dependent upon dynamics of the sea floor, as well as other complicated elements. The glaciers are often at various stages of a retreat-advance cycle, and the Hubbard is currently advancing. A decade or so ago it actually advanced across the very narrow neck of Russell Fjord, known as Gilbert Point, and blocked off the Fjord – drastically affecting the ecosystem there. The pressure built up in the Fjord eventually pushed back, and the glacier washed out. Continue reading…


Image of the Month & Radio Interview Live on the ‘net!

May 3rd, 2010 by Carl D
Brooks Range meets the coastal plain, Brooks Mountain Range foothills, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska.
Coastal Plain and Brooks Range, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

I thought I’d post a quick promo here for a radio show I’ve been invited to join on lensflare-live. I’ll be talking with Greg Downing and EJ Peiker of naturescapes.net, a fantastic nature photography community and radio show host Dave Warner. The topics for discussion include wilderness and backpacking photography, art, conservation and environmental topics, as well as a discussion of a few images we’ll be presenting on the show.

I’m really talking forward to this conversation. Greg and EJ are photographers I’ve been a fan of for quite some time, and I really am looking forward to talking with them. Dave is a great photographer as well, so the discussion should be a lot of fun. If you have any questions regarding any of these subjects, feel free to join in the conversation online or by calling in. The show is scheduled to be broadcast at 9pm EST, Tuesday, May 4, 2010. You can listen to it here.

After we’ve finished, naturescapes.net will edit the broadcast down, remove all the “ahhh’s” and “uhhmmms” and long periods of silence, and present the discussion as a podcast. I’ll provide a link to there here as it becomes available.

The image above is from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). That seems particularly relevant in light of the horrific Gulf Coast Oil disaster. Hopefully we can learn something of the importance of ecosystems and fragility via this mess.

Please check out the radio show. It should be fun.

Cheers

Carl


Image of the Month | Grizzly Bear Photo

March 31st, 2010 by Carl D
Grizzly bear rubbing on a tree, Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Grizzly bear rubbing on a tree, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Please click on the photo for a larger version.

Hey Folks

Welcome to April! The Image of the Month for this month is a grizzly bear rubbing his head on a tree. I photographed this bear sleeping not long before I took this photo, and after he woke up, he strolled directly over to this small Black Cottonwood tree, and rubbed and scratched on it for quite some time. I got a few photos of him standing at full height, which is an impressive sight for a bear this size. I’d estimate him to be well over 9′ tall.

April is the month the bears typically will be waking up from their long winter hibernation, and start moving around again. Won’t be long before my sojourns into the woods will again require my can of bear spray in my pocket. This bear had just awoken, so I thought it might be a good photo of the month for April for that reason.

Bear hibernation is a pretty amazing phenomena. No other animal anywhere near the size of the grizzly can sleep an entire winter away, living off it’s fat reserves, stored up from a summer of eating. Some folks argue that grizzlies (and black bears) aren’t true hibernators, because they actually wake up during the winter, and their body temperatures don’t reach down to the temperatures of other (what we call) “true hibernators”, like the Arctic Ground Squirrel, etc. Other people contend that given it’s size and mass, the grizzly is probably the greatest hibernator on the planet.

However we refer to it, I’m not sure the grizzly cares.

Cheers

Carl


Red Foxes, Coastal Plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

March 10th, 2010 by Carl D
Red fox kits (Vulpes vulpes), ANWR, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

Here is a photo from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge I took one evening, around 1am. These red fox kits were playing just outside their den, and I spent quite a bit of time, patiently trying to get close enough to photograph them. These foxes were pretty wary, and if I approached too quickly they’d duck down into their den. The interconnected network of burrows meant they could, and would, popup anywhere, often 50-60 yards away a few minutes later.

Red foxes appear to be moving further and further north with the warming climate; longer summers and less harsh weather in the winters means they’re able to survive where previously they didn’t. The red fox is larger than their arctic cousins, the Arctic fox, and are (apparently) starting to cause quite a dent in the population of arctic fox, in some areas. Each year I’ve been to the coastal plain I have seen fewer arctic foxes than the year before, and seen more red foxes than previously. Continue reading…


Image of the Month | Skiing in Wrangell-St. Elias

March 1st, 2010 by Carl D
Backcountry skiing on the Root Glacier, Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks

Here’s our Image of the Month for March 2010. Backcountry skiing on the Root Glacier one gorgeous spring day. This little blue pool of crystal clear water was simply too nice to pass up for a photo op.

Carrying a tripod allows me to set up for photos when I’m out and about by myself. I set up the shot, and visualize where I’d like to stand to make the composition. Sometimes standing a bit further away allows the photo to be more of a scenic shot, without the person being too dominant in the frame.

This is where a digital camera really helps, being able to review the shot in the LCD, as I’m not able to guess exactly where to stand. For example, I didn’t want my head here to merge with the horizontal line at the end of the glacier – base of the mountain in the distance, so it took a couple of tries to get it right.

Normally I wouldn’t leave quite as much room for the sky, but I wanted to give the image a bit more of an expansive feeling here, with more space. I also wanted to leave plenty of room for text, if the photo were ever to be chosen for a cover shot for a magazine or story. Continue reading…


Many Rivers to Cross

February 18th, 2010 by Carl D
Backpackers crossing a creek in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

One of the more challenging aspects of an Alaskan backcountry trek is river crossings. With the exception of the occasional Kenai Peninsula hike, all of these treks are off-trail, wilderness backpacking trips, and so there’s no easy way to get across the streams, creeks and rivers that meander through the mountains. A few tips that can be useful to heed:

1) For smaller streams, I prefer to cross one person at a time. If by chance someone in the group does stumble, it means we have one wet person to deal with. Everyone else in the group is safe and secure on shore. Things unravel quickly in the backcountry, and that happens most often when something small goes wrong. One person stumbles, takes a dip, someone else reaches to grab them, they go down, knock their partner off balance, and all of a sudden bedlam results. That’s how people get hurt. It can also mean everyone gets wet gear. A much simpler problem to deal with is getting one person out of a creek, drying them off, and loaning them some warm, dry gear that another person in the group has in their pack. One person falling is a hassle – a group falling can be a disaster.

2) For anything over knee-high, unbuckle your hip belt and sternum strap on the backpack. Continue reading…


Grizzly Bear Photo Tour – update

February 10th, 2010 by Carl D
A large male adult grizzly bear, mature boar, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
A large mature adult grizzly bear male, or boar, approaching, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Click to see a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Just a quick post to announce that spaces are filling up on the grizzly bear photo tours, scheduled for Fall, 2010. It’s also, perhaps, a good time to say check over the website, and see how you like the recent changes. The Grizzly Bear Photo Tour page is just one of the new additions, and that tour has already had a bunch of inquiries. I don’t want to sound like a car salesman here, so I won’t say ‘book quickly‘, but I do want to say, if you’re thinking about it, it might be worth at least sending a quick email to get your name on the list. That way I can at least put a temporary tentative hold on a space for you.

I’m also excited about a few other trips this summer, including a Mt Jarvis exploratory hike, and a few others you can see listed on the custom trips page.

The ANWR trip is a great float down the Canning River, and we’ve added a great slide show from that trip. Take a look at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge trip. Continue reading…


Backcountry Photography

February 4th, 2010 by Carl D

Shower Camp Camera Cover from Expeditions Alaska on Vimeo.

Hey Folks

I thought this video might be both entertaining and useful to visitors to the website. Here, Andy Seeger shows off his fashion-sense and creative ingenuity with ‘Shower Cap Hat’ – a cheap workable solution to protecting your camera gear from bad weather on backpacking trips. Backpacking is ALL about compromise; weight, bulk and space, durability, multi-use, etc … these are things to consider when packing for your trip.

Rather than carry an expensive and heavier camera rain cover, a cheap plastic shower cap fits perfectly. it’s lightweight, packable, durable, light and easily available. What’s more, as Andy says, you can even get water with it. 🙂 Continue reading…


Lookin’ for the Wolf – Image of the Month, Feb 2010.

January 31st, 2010 by Carl D
Winter travel through the boreal forest, in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. A man hikes on snowshoes through the snow-covered taiga, white spruce forest in winter.
Snowshoeing through the forest in search of the wolf, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

Hey Folks,

A week or 2 through the winter boreal forest hoping to find wolves is always a treat – whether the wolves show themselves or not. So far, no luck – they remain the mystery.

But what a treat it is to hear their howls, or find their soft tracks in the snow, and to know they too sift through the boreal forest. To enter the winter boreal forest is to enter the realm of the wolf – the home of Canis lupus. Few creatures can quite so vividly engage our mind and spirit like the wolf – so rarely even seen, yet so enmeshed in our cultural histories and stories.

I’ve walked I don’t know how many miles and waited hours, days, hoping for a glimpse, Continue reading…


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