Monday, August 18, 2008

Pioneer Peak

This past Saturday we set out with 7 friends and 8 dogs to climb Pioneer Peak. Located at the North end of Chugach State Park, with a prominant location overlooking the Knik River/Glacier Valley to the east and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley to the North. The parking lot begins at approx. 100 feet above sea level; the south summit is approx. 6300 feet above sea level; the north summit, approachable only with technical climbing gear sits at 6398 feet.

The trail is basically 12 miles round trip. 6 miles strait up, and then 6 miles strait back down, barely every allowing leg muscles to rest with level ground.
The first 4.5 miles switchbacks through grass and tree's. The last 1.5 miles moves along a rocky narrow ridge too the last couple hundred feet where you scramble to the summit.

Kurt takes a break to scope out some lines for ski season.
Jasper finds a pinacle.
The narrow ridge towards the south summit as seen from above.
Gretchen and I, pausing for quick summit shots before heading back down in a growing snowstorm.

Jasper falling asleep while waiting for a snack...
Knik Glacier seen in the background. (can you see the rainbow)

Friday, August 15, 2008

26 Years, 26 Miles

After spending the last 5 years gainfully employed with the US Army on August 10th, I decided what a better way to celebrate this year then walking the 26 miles from Girdwood along the Seward Highway, over Crow Pass, across and then along the Eagle River, and back to my house in Eagle River.
It began with a typical Alaskan summer day, 55 degrees and misty rain.
The parking lot is at roughly 1600ft, the highest point of the trail is Crow Pass at 3500ft.
Raven Glacier is one of the first vividly seen from the trail.
Group shot with friends Kurt, Matt, Gretchen, and Ryan, along with man's best friends Labeta, Denali, Jack, and Jasper.
Birthday Boy at the pass.
Looking through the pass north towards Eagle River and several 6-7,000ft peaks.

Once off the pass, the trail drops into dense vegetation.

Fireweed beginning to bloom. It blooms from the bottom of the stem to the top. The legend goes, once the fireweed at the top blooms, the "termination dust" (snow) is soon to fall.
Looking down the gorge towards Eagle River.

The first sight of Eagle Glacier, source of the frigid Eagle River we are about to cross.
Jack and Jasper begin to look for a suitable crossing spot. Jack says, "damn this water is cold, are you freakin crazy..."

Changing into alternate footgear, to keep our hiking shoes dry.

Gretchen, Jasper, and I decide we'll lead the way by crossing first.
One of several tributary creeks to the Eagle River you have too cross.
Jasper telling us, "dogs don't do ladders..." Labeta getting a little help from Matt on the ladders. The Twin Falls

Echo Bend, almost to the end of our journey
Partyin' it up at the Eagle River Base Camp, aka 8905 Eagle Place Loop

The 34ft Tower

As part of a recent 425th BSTB family day, Soldiers familys had the oppurtunity to try the 34ft tower. A training tool designed for young paratroopers with the objective of overcoming any fear of heights, and practice executing a "mock" aircraft door.

Gretchen show us how its done!

A I R B O R N E ! ! !

Thursday, August 7, 2008

KATMAI NATIONAL PARK: The Bears of Brooks Falls

These are just a few of my favorite photographs taken from the Brooks Falls Viewing deck.

Again, just entering this deck makes you feel like a scene from "Jurassic Park", as you walk down a long boardwalk, suspended over 8ft above the ground, while opening and closing a series of very heavy metal gates. Sure, if the Bear's wanted too, they could easily climb and over run the viewing platforms, but they're currently so fat on salmon, they don't pay much attention to the parade of photographers and bear watchers observing their eating habits...

I nickname this one "Grumpy Bear". The park service actually numbers all bears observed within the Brooks Range area, giving most of them nicknames as well. This more easily helps the biologists catalogue their habits and daily on-doings.

All photographs were taken with my Nikon D80, using either the 15-55mm lens, or 70-300mm telephoto lens. Each shot is different, I have spared putting the photo data here, but I don't use a tripod or remote.

I really like the way using a slower shutter speed in this shot makes the water appear as more of a white blanket, while keeping the bears profile vivid.
This was the first time, after hundreds of tries, I was able to capture a Salmon in mid flight.
Mom fishing for her two cubs...
So I really love this photograph, it sort of epitomizes what amateur and professional photographers come to the falls to capture. Nature, at its most raw; Bears, doing what they do.
It also signifies what I think is the most important aspect of photography, being in the right place at the time, forever capturing the image on film.
On any given day during peak season (July and September) during the height of the Salmon run you can have anywhere from 5 - 22 bears at the falls. I give those numbers because that is what we saw over the course of our time here.
Got em!
As all living creatures, Bears don't always get along. The have the say guilty desires to covet they neighbors fish. Here a hungry bear thinks he might be able to win over another Bear's fish, ha, he was wrong.
It wasn't uncommon to see the bears "sparring" or play/fighting, these bouts last from 2-3 minutes, dancing back and forth, while growling and flaring chests.
The photo's above are sort of deceiving with a telephoto lens, making the bears appear closer then they actually are, but here you can see, the bears really are very close.