I’m normally the type that needs to spend some time in a place to photograph it. Learn the light, plans my shots, explore every angle, appreciate the details. I’ve never had much luck as the weekend warrior type, but when I’m busy as hell and get a little window to get back to nature, damn right I’m gonna pack up the truck and find some quiet. Two recent weekends, one in autumn and another in winter, I had a few days to kill so I road tripped it to Maine and back. They were both incredibly wonderful and productive weekends. From America’s version of abandoned castles to mass migrations, frozen falls to painted forests, New England’s pretty great any time of year apparently, even if you only have a day or two there’s always something cool to find.
This was the place at the heart of the famed “Klondike” gold rush in 1896, and is still filled with remnants from that rich history. Along the ‘Top of the World Highway’, 200 miles along a mountaintop from Dawson City, Yukon to Tok, Alaska, the artifacts are as plentiful as the amazing auroras. I also spent some time bushwhacking through Tombstone Territorial, and another trip back there is high on my list.
It took three trips, but I was finally able to see the mountain. I visited Denali twice in winter, and both times it was completely shrouded in clouds. I learned that 70% of people who visit Denali never get to see it, the weather being so frequently unforgiving. But on my third attempt the following autumn, I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. I arrived, by luck, 3 days before the only road in is bared for the winter, and only 6 other people got on the bus for backcountry access, I’d never felt more remote and alone, but not in a lonely way. It was nice naturey feeling, knowing there was barely a soul or trace of mankind within 100 miles of me. I had the mountains and the rivers to myself, and it was lovely. Well, not totally to myself, lots of animal sighting including my first pack of wolves! Unfortunately they were on the ridge opposite a massive valley so no worthwhile photos, but to hear a howl when the auroras started blazing away was an exhilarating experience.
It was a steady -30 to -45°F for about a week solid by the time I made it to central Alaska in late January. Just north of Anchorage I found a gem which saved my spirits, Chena Hot Springs. Due to the extreme cold, the steam from the pools had encased the entire landscape in a thick coat of ice, which you can see below makes a playground for any photographer. Not only that, but after months of frozen toes, this was the first hot spring I found since Liard 1000 miles back in B.C., so dipping in for a few days really helped kick the winter blues that had been building up.
Jasper is one of the coolest little towns I’ve ever seen, nestled amongst some of the most amazing winter scenery I came across in my northern adventure. I followed around some docile elk for an afternoon, hiked around a frozen canyon with a river rushing beneath the ice, amazing aurora shows over imposing peaks. Truly a wonder place to visit in winter, I can’t recommend it enough.
Some awesome rewards for braving the cold of the Alaskan winter, I found all sorts of interesting ice formations in the form of frozen falls, glacial caves and lakes locked in 6′ of ice. Granted it took about 6 months for me to regain feeling in my toes again, but at the time it seemed like a small price to pay for such wonderful and unique views.
A collection of shots that I’m still catching up on from last winter’s trip, this bunch from around Wrangell-St. Elias, a remote national park in Alaska, as well as the remains of a lot of mining history and abandoned structures dotted along the Alaskan and Yukon wilderness.
Amazing how much a few months can change a place. This is the same mountain pass from the previous post. Definitely a different feel from when its not encased in 10 feet of snow, and made for a much more enjoyable hiking.
Not sure where the pooch came from, but it was nice to have some company for bit til she trotted off down the mountain.
I found her people but she went off exploring the mountain on her own. I need a mountain dog…
This guy’s got alpine travel figured out. I think when my knee finally goes I’m gonna go this route.
Sketchy crossings, no problem for the slow and steady…
Autumn found in pockets amongst the pine. There were also entire mountainsides which were a blanket of yellow birch and spruce.
I’d been on the road for a week at this point, and hadn’t found a shower in awhile. This is me, debating whether to brave the cold and take a bath in this lovely little alpine lake… Frigid but completely worth it.
Nice little ptarmigan, funny little birds and not in the least bit shy.
I’ve been bad about posting awhile, as I’d basically been living on the road for the last year or two. But I’m back at the computer and ready to share what’s been my most prolific period yet. The road took me from Los Angeles to northern Alaska in the dead of winter, and then right back up the following autumn with plenty of adventures in between. There’s so much to show I’m not sure where to begin, so I’ll just start with my favorites and see where we end up.
I was wandering around SE Alaska, restocking on supplies in Anchorage, when the cashier told me about a Independence Mine, an hour north in the mountains above Hatcher’s Pass. What a tip! I found one of the coolest and most well-preserved historic sites I’ve stumbled upon. Even with snow shoes, it was one of those miserable hikes where every few steps I’d posthole up to my waist, but after battling the snow drifts and spending 2 hours to hike only a mile, the town did not disappoint! I ended up making three trips here over the next week, and each night the changing weather and auroras made for a wonderful array of lighting to play with.
There’s a whole other set of images from this location, that I took when I went back to Alaska the following autumn, so stay tuned and I’ll get those up here soon.