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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Entries Tagged as 'Alaska'

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Glacier National Park‏

June 7th, 2011 · No Comments

Experiencing Glacier National Park in Montana was one of the big reasons why I drove to and from Seattle on my recent trip to Alaska rather than flying all the way there. So many people had told me that Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road was a wonderful travel experience.

But the late spring delayed the opening of the road, and I was able to drive only the first 16 miles from the west entrance to Avalanche. At first, I was disappointed. But then I turned that limitation into a positive. Taking an hour-long helicopter flight showed me much more of the park than anyone can see by road.

I had driven 700 miles from Seattle to Kalispell, Montana, at the western edge of Glacier, in two days. After exploring a bit of North Cascades National Park, I overnighted in Moses Lake, Washington, making few stops en route. At one rest stop this wide-angle view of Dry Falls at dusk surprised me.

Dry Falls, Once the World's Largest Waterfall

A Wild Iris at Turnbull NWR

Dry Falls, Once the World’s Largest Waterfall

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The next day my only significant stop was at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, about 23 miles south of Spokane. On this trip Turnbull had by far the greatest profusion of flowers in bloom, like this one that I had always previously found hard to photograph successfully.

A Wild Iris at Turnbull NWR

A Wild Iris at Turnbull NWR

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Posted in: Alaska, Photography

North Cascades‏

June 3rd, 2011 · 1 Comment

North Cascades National Park in north-central Washington is about water and trees. My friend Tom Schulte had recommended that I take the North Cascades Highway through the park as I returned home on Sunday, May 29.

But because of the late spring in the Northwest, it had been closed until just May 25. “Snow up to 65 feet deep on the North Cascades Highway is causing one of the latest spring openings in the history of the 39-year-old highway,” the Seattle Times had reported on May 11. I lucked out again.

I was certainly lucky to have the hospitality of Tom and his wife Martha both when I left the Seattle area to fly to Alaska and to return there. Tom picked me up at the airport and took me to their home in Redmond for delicious meals, a bed, and great conversation.

Tom has so often given me good advice about routes to take that I made sure to consult with him when I got back to his home on Saturday. I remember his great recommendations on where to stay when I visited Mesa Verde National Park, when I returned once from Albuquerque, and en route to Portland to see Multnomah Falls.

“You could continue driving diagonally to the northwest to connect with Highway 20,” the North Cascades Highway, Tom wrote me. “Highway 20 goes over the Cascades right through the middle of the North Cascades National Park. North Cascades doesn’t have any real ‘attractions.’ It’s just a huge tract of wild mountains and forests – and a handful or so of Grizzly Bears, with many more elk, mountain goats, and sheep. As a National Park it’s actually pretty inaccessible unless you want to do multi-day (week) backpacking. But some of the scenic turnouts on the highway can knock your socks off – if you get there on a clear day.”

And, just as Tom have recommended, I did get there on a clear day. The views that I enjoyed the most were those on a small scale — streams and individual trees. At the Happy Creek Forest Walk I wandered through groves of old-growth Douglas-fir and red cedar, some of them 700 years old.

A Red Cedar Close Up

A Red Cedar Close Up

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At another turnout is this mountain stream.

A Stream in North Cascades

A Stream in North Cascades

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This route through one of America’s great national parks was a fitting way for the start of my journey back to Boulder.

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Posted in: Alaska, Photography

Glacier Helicopter Tour‏

June 1st, 2011 · No Comments

My Alaska vacation ended with an overview from on high, a helicopter tour of the glaciers in Juneau’s backyard.

During the entire trip I was blessed with sun and no real rain — only a couple brief showers. My good weather luck held to the end when the clouds broke on Friday morning, offering me excellent viewing for a helicopter tour.

Purposefully waiting until that morning to make a reservation, I called three tour companies. One didn’t return my call until two days later, when I was already back in the lower 48, and another didn’t have anything until the afternoon, when I correctly expected the clouds to build up again. But Era Helicopters needed a fourth person immediately in order to made the flight. Their friendly driver arrived 10 minutes later at the Driftwood Lodge, where I was staying.

The Views of the Glaciers were Spectacular

The Views of the Glaciers were Spectacular

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The Tundra Looks Like a Piece of Art

The Tundra Looks Like a Piece of Art

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Nate, our excellent and exceptionally courteous pilot, even landed the helicopter on one of the glaciers. He took this shot of me as I gingerly walked on the ice.

Apparently Alone on the Glacier

Apparently Alone on the Glacier

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This further extension of the optional extension of the Inside Passage tour gave me yet another way to see Alaska. With this flight, the modes of transportation that I took in Alaska included a ship, a jet boat, a catamaran, a skiff, two kayaks, a fixed-wing plane, a railroad train, a van, a shuttle bus, a city bus, and a taxi. You can say that I really get around.

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Posted in: Alaska, Photography

Juneau, Alaska‏

June 1st, 2011 · 5 Comments

Returning Friday to Juneau for the third time was a further extension of my trip to Alaska this year. A fabulous cruise through the Inside Passage was the main event, followed by an optional extension by train from Juneau to Skagway and on to Carcross, Yukon Territory. Most of my fellow tourists made that extension, but only my friend Parkie and I stayed for an extra two days in Juneau.

That stay gave me the opportunity to see a lot more of Alaska’s capital city. Here is a typical street:

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

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But Juneau isn’t a typical city. Besides being the state’s capital, this small town of 31,000 residents nestled between the Inside Passage and glaciers on the Canadian border, is a tourist mecca. Unlike the small group of 31 of us, they come en masse on huge cruise ships. The local newspaper carries the names and number of passengers in port each day, and one day I read that four ships carrying more than 10,000 people were visiting. The people on those ships overwhelm the city, and the ships dominate its skyline. Here is one example:

A Holland-America Liner on the Right and Juneau's Parking Garage/Library on the Left

A Holland-America Liner on the Right and Juneau's Parking Garage/Library on the Left

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Bear!‏

May 29th, 2011 · 1 Comment

“Bear!” I shouted as the bus drove past. We were about half an hour south of Carcross, Yukon Territory, on our return to Skagway, Alaska.

James, the driver taking me and 21 other people on the Mountain Outin’ extension of our Alaska tour, immediately stopped the bus and turned it around. The big bear was still there near the side of the road, happily munching dandelions that had just sprouted.

We pulled up close, James cut the engine, and we watched enthralled. I wanted to see and photograph a bear more than any other animal on my Alaska tour, and most of the other people on the tour probably had the same hope.

We were lucky to see a bear so close to us, in a clearing, and in excellent light. You can even see catchlight in its eye, something that photographers always try to capture. And we were especially lucky to be inside a vehicle at the time.

The bear was so hungry for the newly sprouted dandelions that it paid us little attention. I shot off about 200 photos in the five or six minutes that we watched until we got our bear fix. While I was shooting with my 100-400mm lens, the bear was so close that I shot at 200mm. These are my favorites.

Eating Dandelions, Leaves and All

Eating Dandelions, Leaves and All

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Coming at You!

Coming at You!

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Bear Up Close

Bear Up Close

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Posted in: Alaska, Photography

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad‏

May 28th, 2011 · No Comments

From Skagway, Alaska, to Carcross, Yukon Territory, on Wednesday I rode the narrow rails of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The journey was an optional extension of the Inside Passage voyage on the Island Spirit that Rolland Graham’s Mountain Outin’ Tours offered. I gladly accepted along with 22 of the 31 people who went on the Island Spirit.

Our Tour Group in Car 222, the "Lake Lindeman"

Our Tour Group in Car 222, the "Lake Lindeman"

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The rail line was born of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Sometimes known as the Yukon gold rush, this was a frenzy of gold rush immigration for gold prospecting along the Klondike River near Dawson City.

Just getting to the goldfields was an awful challenge for the stampeders. Until the White Pass and Yukon Route reached Lake Bennett in July 1899, none of the three alternative routes worked for most of them. Less than 10 percent of the 30,000 stampeders could afford the all-water “rich man’s route” from Seattle to St. Michael at the mouth of the Yukon River. Even fewer took the all-land route from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and that difficult route took two years; the handful who reached Dawson by that route got there after the gold rush was over. The third alternative, the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, a smaller port near Skagway, crossed the steep Chilkoot Pass.

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From Juneau to Skagway‏

May 28th, 2011 · No Comments

The deepest fjord in North America and one of the deepest and longest in the world connects Juneau and Skagway, Alaska. About 90 miles long and more than 2,000 feet deep, this fjord is an inlet into the mainland of southeast Alaska. But you wouldn’t know if from its name, Lynn Canal.

Twenty-two of the 31 people who took the Mountain Outin’ cruise on the Island Spirit through Alaska’s Inside Passage went on the tour extension through the Lynn Canal and beyond. On May 24 we took the MV Fjordland, a 65-foot catamaran, from Yankee Cove, which is 32 miles north of Juneau, to Skagway. We returned on May 26.

The views were grand, and the mostly sunny, dry weather was remarkable. I took more photographs of Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, and Steller Sea Lions during my two trips on this boat than in all of my previous 75 years together.

A Bald Eagle Watches

A Bald Eagle Watches

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Three Bald Eagles Watch in Three Directions

Three Bald Eagles Watch in Three Directions

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Petersburg‏

May 24th, 2011 · 1 Comment

South of Juneau along Alaska’s Inside Passage the first city is Petersburg. “City” is a relative term. Fewer than 3,000 people live there.

But it certainly qualifies as a city to me because Petersburg is the first place in three days on the water that we had cellular or wifi access. I needed it to send is my weekly article to HealthCentral as well as to transmit the last three photo essays in this series and to deal with 250 emails that had come in since I was in Juneau.

Petersburg doesn’t get many tourists because the big cruise ships can’t squeeze through the narrow channel. But we could on our small cruise ship, which was just one of hundreds of other small ships in the harbor of this fishing village.

One of Petersburg's Harbors

One of Petersburg's Harbors

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As we arrived in port we passed the normal marker buoys. But these buoys were occupied.

A Crowd of Sea Lions

A Crowd of Sea Lions

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Petersburg is just the right size to get around on foot, which is just what I did. After finding the city library with its fast Internet connection, I walked through town to a trail that wanders through the muskeg bog on the town’s edge and made a two or three mile loop hike. The most attractive view there was of something that from its name you might think wasn’t so pretty.

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Tenakee Springs

May 24th, 2011 · 1 Comment

On Monday, the seventh day of the cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage on the Island Spirit, we visited several hours in the small isolated city of Tenakee Springs. This incorporated city with 98 residents on Chichagof Island spreads out along the Tenakee Inlet. We went out of our way between Warm Springs Bay, where we overnighted Sunday, to Funter Bay near the tip of the Mansfield Peninsula, where we slept for our seventh night on board.

Tenakee Springs, Alaska

Tenakee Springs, Alaska

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After a skiff took us from the Island Spirit to the city’s harbor, we walked to the town. The bakery was the only open store.

The bakery had a wi-fi connection allowing me to read the 180 messages that had come in since I was in Petersburg. But it was too slow to send out the 36 messages that I had pending.

We also visited the post office, the dock, and the public bath — an enclosed hot spring. The general store, founded in 1899, doesn’t open on Monday.

After leaving Tenakee Springs, we returned to the Chatham Strait. There, we found more humpback whales.

Thar She Blows!

Thar She Blows!

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Jet Boat to Le Conte Glacier‏

May 24th, 2011 · 2 Comments

When Jeff, the captain of the Island Spirit, announced that Saturday’s activity out of Petersburg would be a jet boat ride, I decided to take it. But I didn’t expect much, because riding on a fast boat doesn’t excite me like nature does. Fortunately, we had both.

On the jet boat ride we went as fast as 48 mph — but only in the first few miles. Then we reached the ice flow from Le Conte Glacier. The glacier is a few miles southwest of Petersburg in the Stikine-Le Conte Wilderness in an arm of Alaska’s Inside Passage. There, we had to crawl along, often at no more than 1 mph.

When we came in view of the glacier, the ice was so thick that we could go no further.

The Le Conte Glacier and the Ice Flowing from It

The Le Conte Glacier and the Ice Flowing from It

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We passed much ice to get that far. The icebergs had their own individuality.

Ice

Ice

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Posted in: Alaska, Photography