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.
Approaching an ice cave on the Caster Glacier, even simple Alaska scenery’s stunning.
Inside the ice cave a person’s presence is easily overcome by time, textures and colors.
Ski tracks say where you’ve been, and can be extremely satisfying to look at.
The only view we got of White Princess — the peak in the upper-right quadrant — was rolling into base camp around 9 p.m. Dark and cold quickly followed.
A large rock wall dwarfs skiers and illustrates the scale of Alaska’s environment.
Group shot before leaving base camp.
About the only blue sky seen on Sunday. Snow blowing off the ridge is a good indicator of the strong winds.
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.
Hikers climb and play on one of the many formations at Angle Rocks. May 17, 2014.
Colorful patterns created by shadows, leafs and rocks result in a busy but fascinating scene.
Trek 45 minutes past the main rock attractions to get a panoramic view all the way to the Alaska Range, hundreds of miles south.
Stretching silhouette at Angel Rocks.
Angle Creek trail winds though green spring trees in the valley opposing Angle Rocks. Specks of people can be seen in the lower-right rock formations.
My annual summer hiatus from blogging is nearing an end. Though with the record-setting rain Fairbanks had this summer, as reported by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, I easily could have found more time for blogging. Thanks to all those who continued to visit.
Animal Eyes is a Portland-based band comprised entirely of members from Alaska, who all met in Portland. It’s a small world. They rocked hard and long, during this June 31 concert at local dive bar The Marlin.
Animal Eyes performs at The Marlin on June 31, 2014.
Lights strung around The Marlin during an Animal Eyes concert.
Above: Mother moose sheds her winter coat, followed close by a yearling, Denali National Park, May 2, 2014.
My last post was the scenery I encountered during a long and hilly 50-plus mile bike ride inside Denali National Park. There were multiple large mountain passes, hot temperatures and in my case more then 10 pounds of photo gear.
I brought along my telephoto, predicting I would regret not taking it. While I probably could have done without, it certainly got me a few wildlife shots.
Both to my relief and disappointment, there were no bears on this trip. Bears in Denali are common, and traveling solo I didn’t want to see one too close.
These were far from the only instances I saw wildlife, most were too far away to do anything but acknowledge their presence.
Female ptarmigan in a tree, the Alaska State Bird.
Dall sheep in Polychrome Pass.
Male ptarmigan in a tree.
Caribou looks at you.
Above: The steep pitch of Polychrome Pass becomes evident when the horizon is set against the slope. May 2, 2014.
Polychrome Pass is a mountain pass named for Polychrome Mountain on the Denali Park Road, the 83-mile out and back road that takes visitors inside Denali National Park. The narrow, steep, winding pass is breathtaking, and steep.
“Poly” is latin for many and “chrome” is latin for color, so polychrome pass means “many colors.” It’s an appropriate name. Reds, greens, blues, violets, ambers, yellows and browns are just some of the spectrums seen at any given time. With the addition of sweeping vistas, it’s one of my favorite places in the park.
According to National Park Service geological information, Polychrome Pass features basalts and rhyolites deposited by volcanic activity 56 million years ago.
This post will feature some of the many colors and the swirling, striated patterns they create, mixed with grand vistas.
Dall sheep, masters of rocky slopes, forage in Polychrome Pass.
Abstract detail shot of colorful rocks.
Polychrome Pass looking southwest.
Polychrome pass looking southwest, the road winds through to upper left of the image.
Complementary reds and greens are just some of the many vibrant colors that give Polychrome Pass its name.
Shadows and striations make stark patterns.
Polychrome pass looking northeast.
All images were shot during a bicycle trip into Denali National Park on May 2. More to follow.
I recently returned home from a road trip through Canada, south through Washington, Oregon and California, then north through Nevada, Utah, Montanan, Washington and Canada again.
Because of the quickness both in taking and sharing pictures I really embraced my camera phone on this trip. This is the first of likely a half-dozen posts chronicling the road trip from my iPhone.
All these were featured on my Instagram account, follow me @rwoodpix to see what other adventures I embark on this summer.
The first leg of the trip was roughly 2000 miles, from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whistler, British Columbia, to do some snowboarding. This first post features shots from the road.
Caribou cross the road near the Canadian border.
Leaving Tox, Alaska, on the morning of March 7, 2014.
Liard River Hotsprings is a mandatory stop along the Alaska-Canada Highway in winter or summer.
Bison are common along the ALCAN,. The one center left moved minimally, so it was alive when we passed.
Blow out along the John Heart Highway.
Pretty light along the ALCAN.
Hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings flocked in frigid 20 below fahrenheit. I arrived unexpectedly on the scene and realized time was short.
I took five frames. Luckily I was at a very fast shutter speed, so four are nice and crisp. While all four images are fairly similar, they’re stronger as a set. Flowing patterns of birds in flight mixed with minimal tree reference and high contrast make complicated scenes and challenging composition.
In the day of digital photography it’s a great feeling to take only five photos and truly enjoy four.
Click on any image to view in carousel.
Waxwings three – Barely visibly birch trees
Waxwings two – Flight patterns
Waxwings four – Close up
Waxwings One – Sliver of a spruce tree.
Above: Straight down view from the parking garage during the start of the 2014 Yukon Quest international sled dog race.
The Yukon Quest kicked off February 1, a world famous 1,000 mile sled dog race between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. Dog teams pull sleds and handlers along the namesake Yukon River, up and down summits and through treacherous trails in some of the worst weather imaginable. A true endeavor for dog and man alike.
The race alternates start and finish between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, this year was Fairbanks. The Chena River in downtown Fairbanks is the usual starting spot, but due to unseasonably warm temperatures the ice was deemed unstable and the race started on 2nd Avenue. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people lined the street to send off racers.
I wasn’t on assignment so I casually photographed the race from the top of the parking garage. I love the chance to combine rugged dog mushing with a city scape – particularly from a high perspective.
Looking west a dog team leaves start gate of the 2014 Yukon Quest.
Looking east a dog team works toward the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks.
Above: Snow-covered spruce trees lead to a hill north of Fairbanks briefly blanketed by the golden glow of sunrise.
While much of North America is recovering from the recent polar vortex, Fairbanks has been experience lovely weather. Temperatures were above zero degrees fahrenheit for much of December and January, including plenty of balmy days up into the 20-degree range. Not to say we haven’t had cold weather – last weekend was 40-below – but it has felt pretty mild so far.
All that warm weather was ideal for cross-country skiing. Nordic skiing is easily one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors while getting a killer workout.
One of the outings was directed toward a frozen pond (in the summer nothing more then a swamp,) overlooked by a old cabin on the bank. Whispery clouds provided a canvas for the pink and orange sunset to blanket.
An old cabin at sunset just north of Fairbanks Alaska, Jan. 2, 2014
Closeup of an old cabin.
Above: A quiet and foggy beginning to the 2013-2014 season at Skiland. December 7, 2013 at 10:12 a.m.
December 7, 2013, marked the start of the downhill season at Skiland – the farthest-north chairlift in North America. Opening day is often a mad dash; wake up after a party; corral people, some gear, and grub; then try to get there for first run at 10 a.m., because last run comes quick at 2:30 p.m.
This year was relaxed, waxed boards the night before and went to bed at a reasonable time. The next day lots of clouds made visibility difficult, but unseasonably warm temperatures – over 10 degrees fahrenheit – complemented a snowpack that hide reasonable numbers of rocks!
Not much lifts the spirits in dark and typically cold December then an early opening at the downhill. Here’s a few examples of rapidly-changing light from the chairlift.
Sitting in a cloud, prepping for the second run of the season.
Visibility remained elusive, even worsening as the morning progressed – 10:42 a.m.
By 1:58 the sun was in decline, and direct sunlight had all but passed.
With one hour left to snowboard, at 1:48 p.m., the sun had broken some clouds – revealing spectacular scenery.