Klondike Country

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.

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Choose your own adventure!  Finally got to see some of those elusive purple auroras.  Had to shoot this sign dark, otherwise you’d be able to read all the dumb chicken related town names, found in Chicken, Ak of course..
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I found this curious Grey Jay, aka. Whiskey Jack aka. Canadian Jay, along the Top of the World Highway.  She even came in for a landing, had me feeling like Snow White.

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An enormous gold dredge beached in Chicken.

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Tombstone Territorial Park has some of the most impressive mountains I’ve come across. Unfortunately circumstances and time restraints stopped me from exploring around here as much as I’d like, but that’s for another time I suppose.
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I loved the little line of autumn following a tiny stream down the mountain, though bushwhacking through alders is the pits.  About 10 miles, I ran into a grizzly.  Part of me would have rather been eaten than find my way back through this devilish undergrowth.
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These are tailings, the raw earth dumped out the dredge after its done its thing refining out the gold.
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They stretched on for miles!
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Another gold dredge, and why preservation of historical structures is important.

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The Great One, Denali

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.

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Peaking through autumn alders at a big ol brown bear.
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A really strong aurora flared up, visible even in the glow just after sunset.
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Massive dry river in late autumn, really hope to get back during the summer snow melt and get this same shot except with a raging river.
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A big male who still eyes a mom and cubs after being run off.
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This mountain blows my mind.
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The road here is probably about 4K ft elevation. Crazy to think its another 16,000′ up to the top.

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Even the ‘foothills’ are impressive.  Wish I could share this full image with you, its 25k pixels wide, and you can see every detail of every amazing peak.  Maybe on a video soon…
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That would have been an impressive bull for sure.
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Mama comforting her cubs after chasing off a male.

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Derp!

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Mama running off a male while the cubs try to keep it. It was wonderful to see these massive creatures move like a freight train up the steep terrain.

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Denali foothills showing off some impressive autumn.

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A strange igloo along the Denali highway.
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These aren’t even the peak.

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Chena Hot Springs

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.

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Alaska / Canada Mountain Roaming

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Samuel Peak, Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park
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Mt. Bell, Yoho N.P., Alberta
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Chugach State Park, AK
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Windy Day in Haines Pass
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Magical light on the AK/CN border

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Castle Junction, Lake Louise, AB
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Pyramid Peak, Jasper
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Denali is unbelievable.
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My first Grizzly encounter, just giant puppies long as you give ’em some space..
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A whole family just plodding along.  It was amazing to see Mama bear take off full sprint to chance off a big male who appeared out of nowhere.
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Just the foothills of Denali.

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Jasper in January

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.

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A lovely frozen scene as Maligne River exits the canyon.
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Roosevelt Elk, casually grazing and fortunately not mating season, they were super docile and relaxed and I trailed them for hours without them ever giving a care.
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Auroras over Pyramid Island.
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Pyramid Mountain rises high over Jasper town.
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5th bridge over Maligne Canyon, off to the wilderness!
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A world famous ice climber’s playground in Maligne Canyon, with dozens of frozen waterfalls dotting the route.
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Nature putting on quite a show.
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Another of Maligne’s frozen falls.
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I love that little slice of light before the sun has taken over.
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The impressive range running north of Jasper town, as seen from Indian Peak.
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I could spend weeks watching the light and clouds play in these ranges.
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A big bull takes a break from sweeping snow to get to the grasses, I can only presume to take in the scenery as I was.

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Ice Sculptures

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.

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A cave cut into a thin glacier turns the whole world blue.
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Bubbles from lake bottom collect and get frozen in layers of ice at Abraham’s Lake.
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A small frozen falls in Maligne Canyon, Jasper, which I illuminated with some flashlights.

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A section of Wapta Falls, frozen solid.
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The view from behind the frozen falls pictured below.

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The falls frozen over in Johnston Canyon, Banff
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Falls in Maligne Canyon make a perfect playground for ice climbers.
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The Mendenhall glacier in Juneau cuts its way around the cliffside in its slow descent.

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A small falls was encased in a giant bell of ice, with a hole just big enough for me to fit a lens in.

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A wall of ice shows a bit of the Athabasca glacier under a winter’s worth of snowfall.

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Kennecott, Alaska

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.

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The remains of an old roadhouse somewhere along the Yukon highway.
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The ruins of a concentration mill, 7 stories into a hill, overlooking a serene frozen lake.

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It’s wonderful the gov’t stepped up to preserve this amazing slice of American history, the Kennecott copper mining town, overlooking a massive glacier.

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A trestle towards an old mining town hangs on to its last legs in the remote Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. 

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Hatcher Pass, AK in Autumn

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.

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Not sure where the pooch came from, but it was nice to have some company for bit til she trotted off down the mountain.

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I found her people but she went off exploring the mountain on her own.  I need a mountain dog…

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This guy’s got alpine travel figured out.  I think when my knee finally goes I’m gonna go this route.

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Sketchy crossings,  no problem for the slow and steady…

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Autumn found in pockets amongst the pine.  There were also entire mountainsides which were a blanket of yellow birch and spruce.

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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.

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Nice little ptarmigan, funny little birds and not in the least bit shy.

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Independence Mine and Hatcher’s Pass, Alaska

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.

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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.

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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.

Cathedral Gorge, Nevada

I never knew this gem was only an hour or two north of Vegas.  Such a cool spot with little caves and slot canyons that wind their way in a maze of passages into the eroded cliffs.  The walls narrow to inches wide at places, but extend vertically for 100’s of feet.  I even found a little owl that had burrowed a nest into the soft walls.  If you’re ever not doing so hot at the tables, change your luck and visit this spot!

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