Forget-me-nots on Alaska Day (observed)

Alaska, Macro

Today is (observed) Alaska Day. The official Alaska Day is Oct. 18 and recognizes the U.S. flag raising at Fort Sitka on Oct. 18, 1867. 

The U.S. flag replaced its Russian counterpart following the purchase of Alaska for roughly $7 million. Alaska Day is being observed a day late this year because it is a paid holiday for state employees. 

Since I didn’t post about it yesterday the observance also gives me another opportunity. It’s impossible to find one photo, or even a group, to represent all Alaska has to offer. Instead I chose Alaska’s state flower: the forget-me-not. 

The tiny blue and orange flower is hard to spot, and equally difficult to photograph.

Forget-me-not

Fog lifts from a hayfield

Alaska, Landscapes, Weekly Photo Challenge

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”

 

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My happy place is a state of being — the culmination of numerous factors. A breath of fresh air in sun or snow. Freedom to run through the woods, twisting along a skinny trail. A beer and a dance floor with great live music, or a slow sunday with a cup of hot coffee.

Of course looking through a viewfinder is often a happy activity for me.

Catch of the day

Alaska, Landscapes, Weekly Photo Post

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Above: Expect more of a “fishing perch” than a “fishing hole” when dip-netting the Copper River in southeast Alaska. Spirit Mountain pokes above the big and fast glacial-fed river that’s full of silt and very cold. Copper River Reds, the salmon in the net, are some of the most sought after in the world. 

The river is also an excellent of the Weekly Photo Challenge of boundaries. Rivers are some of Earth’s most common boundaries. For the fish in my net it is a boundary of left and death, or for a person if they fall in. 

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Sometimes sweeping is necessary — a time- and labor-intensive technique during which the fisher sweeps the net with the current, resets and repeats.

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Even when fishing is done much work is left to be done. Here a king salmon is butchered. 

Fall around Fairbanks

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography

Above: The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, with a satellite-receiving dish on the roof, sits tucked among trees as a runner makes her away along trails far below, visibly only by a bright blue jacket. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the boreal forest, that which is found around Interior Alaska, is largest terrestrial ecosystem on earth. 

Interior Alaska’s fall comes fast, and leaves even faster. With only a small variety deciduous trees we don’t get a large variety of color, but the bright yellow leaves among dark green spruce still make dramatic scenes. It can take less than one week for trees to shed their leaves if a hard frost is followed by a strong wind or rain. 

Scenery and a sandpiper

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Travel, Wildlife

Above: The Eastern Alaska Range backdrops the Delta Clear Water, a spring-fed river in Interior Alaska. A small canoe can be seen in the lower third of the photo,

The Delta Clearwater is an Interior Alaska river true to its name: clearwater. An early summer float trip provided astounding views and some small wildlife.

Night hike of Granite Tors

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography

Earlier this summer three friends and I took advantage of Alaska’s 24-hour daylight to night hike Granite Tors in the Chena River State Recreation Area.

We started aaround 8:30 p.m. and finished the 15-mile loop trail around 3 a.m. We ran as much as possible of the challenging trail and took one or two snack breaks.

Two benefits are immediately noticeable when night hiking. Catching spectacular sunsets and avoiding scorching mid-day heat.

Skiing World Class Thompson Pass

Alaska, Landscapes, Sports

Above: Mt. Diamond backdrops Eli Sturm as he skies down a couloir in Thompson Pass, where the scenery and snow are world class. 

The 2,805 foot Thompson Pass pass is outside the coastal town of Valdez, and averages more than 550 inches of snow per year. Skiers and snowboarders travel from all over the world to make turns in Thompson. Copious runs are accessible right off the road, while endless mountains provide the potential for extended excursions. 

My friend Eli and myself made the six hour drive south from Fairbanks last Saturday for two very full days of riding. We mostly used climbing skins — directional skins you attach to the bottom of your skies to ascend mountains.

On the first day we skinned about 4.5 hours, climbing roughly 4,000 feet, to the top of a couloir, a steep narrow gully on a mountain. The result was some of the best and most scenic riding of my life. 

Descending towards Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass with spectacular snow.

Descending towards Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass with spectacular snow.

A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.

A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.

Majestic Alaska: Castner Glacier

Alaska, Iphone, Landscapes

Some time ago I realized I live in one of the most stunning landscapes on the planet, yet fail to truly experience it. I call it the backyard syndrome: it’s so close you rarely walk through it. Not to say Alaska isn’t enormous, harsh and challenging. So more and more I have been taking to the trail.

A few weeks ago four people from the Alaska Alpine Club attempted to summit White Princess — a nearly 10,000 foot peak in the eastern Alaska Range.

The 9 mile approach up the Caster Glacier took all day, but bluebird skies always make great skiing. Unfortunately, bluebird skies didn’t stick around, and near-whiteout conditions high on the mountain nullified Sunday’s summit push. Absolutely no complaints though.

The photos are mostly 35mm film with two iPhone frames.

Angle Rocks in spring and fall

Alaska, Photography, Travel

Above: Sun shines on a granite tor of Angle Rocks and trees in golden fall colors, to the right the Chena River snakes through a valley cast in shadows. September 11, 2014.

Angle Rocks is almost assuredly the most popular hiking spot near Fairbanks. It’s a 3.5-mile loop in the Chena River State Recreation Area, about 45 miles from Fairbanks, that takes trekkers through and around a variety of tors formed from granite.

The tors were formed hundreds of millions of years ago when magma bubbled up from the Earth’s mantel, but failed break through the ground. They then slowly become revealed as erosion striped the surrounding land, exposing the giant rocks.

I hiked Angle Rocks twice this summer, once in spring and once in fall. Both seasons provided fantastic and vibrant colors. The cool and calm spring greens and the energetic and exciting gold of fall.

Far Mountain Traverse

Alaska, Landscapes, Photography, Travel

Above: The view south from the top of Far Mountain, northeast of Fairbanks. Smoke rises far in the distance from a wildfire more than 100 miles south.

Far Mountain Traverse is roughly a 28-mile hike that starts and ends at Chena Hot Springs. The loop has a total elevation gain around 15,000 feet, with a summit of more than 4000 feet — one of the highest peaks in the surrounding area. 

In addition to considerable mileage: rock fields, granite tors, smoke clouds from wildfires, mild bushwhacking and a lot of mosquitos. All standard Alaska backcountry. 

One thought I had during the hike was to reach Far Mountain, then pack raft out. I found a very in-depth blog post about just such an adventure at Go Play Outside, a fun Alaska excursion blog with extensive information. A hike a raft is doable.