Monday, December 31, 2007

New Favorite Place

Hi Gang,
If you want to see a true Alaskan Adventure checkout my new favorite place titled Journey on the Wild Coast. I don't think I've seen many greater adventures than the one this couple is on. Great photos and great stories and it's for a good cause!

Happy New Year!

Lots of people told me that Laird Hot Springs is a must stop when driving the ALCAN on the way to or from Alaska. It was cold and dark when I arrived in mid January but it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. I pulled into the lodge parking lot after an amazing day of seeing lynx, caribou and a wolf.
After dinner I put on my headlamp and walked down the trail listening to the crunching snow beneath my feet and considering taking a dip in the naturally heated hot springs. As I got closer I could hear voices of several others and I was afraid I would shine my headlamp on some skinny dippers or kill somebody's mojo. Also it was about -3 degrees so I chickened out.

The next day I got up early and decided to head back to the springs for some photos. It was amazing to see. Probably in the top 5 most beautiful things I've ever seen. I don't think I did it justice with my little point and shoot. Everything covered in snow and frozen except the warm water of the hot springs which can be up to 108F. There's steam everywhere from the springs which then freezes and falls down like snow on all the trees and other vegetation.

So it was less than ten degrees and the changing building isn't heated! I decided that you only live once, stripped off many layers of clothes, put on my bathing suit and made a run for the springs. What a great feeling to be soaking in the hot water looking at the beauty of nature all around me. After a few minutes a nice guy from Ft. Nelson and his ten year old son showed up. We got to talking and then his son told me I couldn't leave Laird Hot Springs without doing the most fun thing of all. Being adventurous I stand over in this warm spot with frozen overhanging branches of a huge tree above me. He stands nearby and counts to three then his father hurls a rock high up in the air knocking icy snow from the branches covering his son and I with ice! Talk about a wake up call.LOL! It was too funny:) I moved away while the kid made his father throw rocks until there were none left. Finally I climbed out of the water and went to the shack to towel off and realized the puddle forming at my feet had frozen causing my feet to stick to the floor and my bathing suit was stiff as a board while I walked back to the car. My New Years resolution? Find more beautiful places like this and go visit them! Have a Happy and Healthy New Year and thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Winter Fun at Mendenhall Lake

Well I had just gotten done complaining about not enough snow here in Juneau as it's been very warm(high 30's low 40s) through most of November. Then it hit single digits for several days and we had winds up to 68 MPH even knocking some boats off trailers in down town Douglas. That allowed the Mendenhall Lake to freeze and today I went there for some exercise and to see how close I could get to the glacier. There are always iceburgs but I didn't realize how huge some were until I today when I was able to walk right up to them.

This wasn't a very big iceberg but these kids were hanging from the ice axes and taking all sorts of fun action shots.

Here's two more adventurous folks(the tiny figures in the middle of the photo). I zoomed all the way in on these guys who were waking around about a thousand feet away on the Mendenhall Glacier. Seemed a bit risky as visibility was getting low with all the snow falling and the glacier making everything on top look white. The longer I live here the more toys(outdoor gear) I think I'll need to buy but then again maybe it's better if I stay away from ice climbing until I find somebody who knows what they're doing.

This one is the Glacier with a skier in front for perspective. It's tough to see with all the snow falling. There were many Xcountry skiers around the lake area today. I think that's my next investment. It seems like good exercise, lots of fun and probably less likely to cause me to use my health

Then I turned around and couldn't see the visitor center with all the snow falling. You can see the snow covered iceberg with the people on the right but the visitor center is only about 1/4 mile behind them and at this point was invisible until I got much closer. It was not even close to a white out but certainly gave me a friendly reminder to use caution.

Friday, December 7, 2007

West Juneau/Douglas Alaska area

This is a view across the Gastineau Channel from the Douglas highway which is the road I take to work every day. The channel seperates Douglas Island where I live from the Juneau road system. The boats were out fishing for King Salmon in June. In the background is the Mendenhall Glacier which I think I posted photos a few months ago on this blog. It's one of the only glaciers that you can just drive to within about a 1/4 mile away and then get a very close up view.
This is what the "beaches" look like in Southeast Alaska it's another photo of Gastineau Channel form a different angle. I frequently see harbor seals there but there are also humpback whales, occasional Orca(which sometimes block the channel and shut down cruise ship traffic) and some other marine mammals such as sea lions. It's truly amazing especially on sunny days like this one last June. Imagine coming to visit one of the people that lives here and kayaking with marine mammals. I didn't get the chance last summer but it's on my list for next summer:)

More Juneau Alaska Area Photos

To get to Juneau I drove from the Kenai so I went through Haines and took the Ferry. I spent a couple of days there at the Bear Creek Cabins which I highly recommend. The owner Mike is a great guy and told me a bunch of places to see wildlife. The young brown bear was eating grass right next to the Lutak Rd. Behind the bear is a view looking across Chilkoot inlet. The vessel in the background is mostlikely coming back from Skagway further north. If anyone wanted to come visit me (hint hint) this is only short 2-4 hour ferry ride(depending on which ferry) from Juneau. I think it cost about $109.00 including my subaru forester if I remember correctly. Anyway it's breathtakingly beautiful! My uncle Michael was there for the filming of the movie White Fang which was filmed somewhere in the Haines area.

This is Chilkoot Lake also in Haines. It's very tough to see but that v in the water in the right hand side is a beaver swimming away. Anyway the weather was pefect and as you can see the lake was so calm the mountains were giving a good reflection on the lake.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Juneau Photos

A while ago my friend asked me to add photos of the Juneau area near where I live. This one is downtown Douglas Alaska taken when I first moved to the Juneau area.

In downtown Juneau they build the houses right up the mountainside because they don't really have a choice. Some folks have houses or apartments up several flights of stairs. This guy who looked to be in his early 70s designed a way to make his garbage can into a backpack. A neighbor saw me taking the photo and told me he fills it with firewood in the winter. I guess if you live here long enough you get in great shape. Amazing!

Here's the full view of the stairs. He climbs to the top set!
I'll try to get more Juneau area photos up soon. Hopefully before I come down south for a XMAS break:)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Life on the ALCAN in January

During my drive to Alaska in January of 2007 I saw lots of wildlife. One of the coolest was this lynx in the Yukon near the ALCAN highway. I saw several but most were fleeing. I couldn't figure out why this one stayed next to the road and looked back. At first I thought it was looking at a prey but it didn't seem to be in stalking mode.

The answer became clear when I saw the second lynx climb up the snow bank. I was so excited to have such a shy animal staying within camera range for about five minutes that I took the first few photos through the windshield of my subaru. Most came out blurry but few were worth posting.

When I finally got out of the car they were moving quickly up the mountain on the opposite side of the road. Since lynx mate in March/April and this was January I'll have to do more research to find out if these two were siblings, adult and juvenile or male/female. That's what's so cool about nature you can study it forever and never really no more than tiny fraction of what's out there.

Neighborgoods and Friggin Fabulous Radio

I feel the need to plug two great artists who just happen by coincidence to be my cousins:) Neighborgoods is a cool store that sells some great artwork, books, CDs ,etc. It's run by my very talented cousin Caitlyn who studied art in college. Be sure to check it out for some unique christmas gifts and more!
The other site Friggin Fabulous Radio is run my cousin Nick who is a great guitar player and music afficiando with some cool interviews and more! Luckily for us they're from the artistic side of my family. I seem to have missed out on that gene pool unless you count writing about nature which is still a work in progress for me:) Please give them a look today!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Winter's on it's way

First I'd like to say welcome to visitors from afar. I've had people from as far away as Great Britain and Japan visit the site which is very cool. After enduring lots of darker rainy days we finally have some clearer skies on the way with plummeting temps. Today everything was covered in ice and I had trouble opening the fuel door to fill up my tank.

I've gotten some funny phone calls at work. A person from Anchorage called to ask me what she should do about the moose stuck in the Christmas lights down town. Apparently a bull moose picked the wrong ornamental plant to feed It's supposed be down to 10 degrees this weekend with clear skies. Today was in the 20s and sunny which makes the outline of the snow covered mountains above the glacier look beautiful!

All this cold weather on the way reminds me of my move to Alaska from down south last January. It's quite a memorable experience to drive the ALCAN through the Yukon and British Columbia then through Tok and down into South Central AK. During one stretch highway they kept announcing warnings on the radio about a herd of bison in the road. Well I came across them and it was an awesome sight to watch such huge animals sweeping there furry faces back and forth to clear enough snow so they could reach the grasses underneath. Some were just lying around ruminating with steam coming out of their nostrils(it was about 5 degrees F). Anyway here's a photo I thought you might enjoy. I'll add more when I chance. It's taking forever to upload tonight.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather together and be thankful I thought I'd add some more photos of some families that I've seen over the past year. I hope you all have a great Turkey Day full of good food and good company!

This one is two brown bear sows with spring cubs(born this year). The one on the left has a big chum salmon.
Finally the other family gets to eat:) Note the immature bald eagle sitting on the stump, the raven nearby and the gulls overhead. Salmon spawning streams are one of the most amazing ecosystems. When the fish are in everybody gets to feast!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Zarembo Island

Hi Gang,
I just got back from my trip to Zarembo Island. You can find it on the map in Southeast AK just south of Mitkoff Island where Petersburg is. Petersburg is an old fishing village with lots of Norwegian influence. It has a small town feel where everybody knows everyone else:) Pretty cool to meet people on the plane who were off getting braces done in Juneau because they missed the time of year when the dentist came through town while they were out moose hunting!LOL! My friend Dan says it's annoying but I think it has a Northern Exposure type feel with volunteer D.J.s on the radio interrupting songs to say things like "the pod of orca is now at hungry point. That's right the whales are a hungry point." Or "please stop feeding the deer because its stupid and if you do we'll all know it's you when we see then peeking in your living room window." LOL! They also have ads for things like trading stuff from your garage, etc. and everyone has the same exact area code and exchange so when someone asks your phone number if you live in P.Burg all you need to say is something like 2134 because everyone has the same six first

While on Zarembo Island doing some more marten research we met lots of people hunting Sitka blacktail deer. It was really interesting to see kids on ATVS riding past me down the road weaving back and forth with one hand on the handle bar and the other holding the loaded rifle vertical. lol I got to see lots of wildlife(no martens unfortunately) and lots of interesting people. One guy who was hunting at age 77 y.o. told us it was only his second year using an ATV and most of his hunting was by proxy(hunting for other people who are "too old" to hunt). LOL! What a character. We met him lying on the ground and helped him up after he fell off his ATV and hurt his shoulder but refused medical attention. Next time we saw him he and his injured shoulder had harvested a deer and he even lifted it onto his ATV by himself. Jeez! Only in Alaska:)
We had a gale storm with 50MPH winds that sounded like it would rip the cabin down but luckily didn't really do any damage. Then on the second to last day of the trip our truck broke down and Gill(the 77 y.o.) walked out of the woods just as it rolled to a stop. We would have had to carry our gear 6 miles or sleep overnight in the truck until we could get help but he shuttled us and some of our gear back to camp. Imagine me on the back of a four-wheeler with a 77 y.o. who has trouble starting and shifting his much less driving! If you were ever around to see my uncle Campion drive my parents old VW Bug often getting up on two wheels around corners you can imagine what my trip was like.LOL! Actually I think my uncle was looking out for me because it seems pretty amazing to have a bad fuel pump all week and then break down at the most convenient time and place with someone right there to give us a ride!

Sometimes being "stuck" somewhere isn't all bad. We had to wait over an hour for our float plane ride from St Johns Bay(on Zarembo) back to Petersburg. While we waited there were lots of critters about. We could hear and occasionally see some humback whales way off in the distance along with loons, barrows goldeney, woodpeckers, eagles and some very curious harbor seals like the ones in these photos. Click to enlarge!

They kept surfacing real close and then moving in until I tried to get a photo and then would dive down. It became almost like a game but I got a few decent shots.

The curious little guys sure made the time pass more quickly:)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Here's how to make photos bigger

I had a comment that the photos on this blog are too small. Some definitely came out smaller than I anticipated. However, you can click on any photo and make it bigger. I'll also try to find out from someone with more editing savy than me about methods to use photoshop or other software to make them better. Eventually I need to get a better camera but for now I only have a 3.2megapixel so there's limited room for

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Kuiu Island Southeast Alaska

Well I just got back from the camp at Rowan Bay on Kuiu Island which is west of Petersburg in S.E. AK. I was there for about 9 days at end of September and then I was back again for another eight days to finish the project and break down camp after we did some research on marten. It's a bit strange being at the mercy of the weather for flying but...

when I landed it was like paradise. There were sea otters everywhere and the sun was shining so bright I was in short sleeves which is rare enough in August but this was September 22nd. It was one of those days when I can't believe they pay me for this! Then for most of the next 7 days it was typical rainforest weather aka rain, rain and more rain. In fact I had to stay two days longer than expected and continue working by myself until the weather broke and my colleagues could arrive. To add to the fun we had to bushwhack through thick vegetation including a nasty plant called "devils club". It's covered in thorns everwhere except the roots so when you slip and reach for the nearest plant to catch your balance sometimes you get a nasty surprise!

But where else can I see sea otters, packs of wolves, blue grouse and over 30 black bears(yes we were bushwacking on the island in southeast with one of the highest density of black bears in North America). Information I could have used before I left for Kuiu without gun or pepper spray! It's a bit of an eye opener to see an empty marten live trap crushed flat by a bear and not knowing how long ago it was being crushed. The bears eat the bait(not the martens).lol Imagine carrying jam, sardines, moose meat and marten lure in the woods in bear country and you get the idea how alert I was:) Needless to say I made a bit of noise. If it had been brown bears I would have taken the .338 rifle for sure. I'm learning fast that I need to buy a better camera. Luckily we've gotten some colder weather and the food is running out so the bears are starting to den up already. So I saw only four on this last trip.

We were there to catch and release marten for a research project because marten are an important indicator species of the health of old growth forest. Unfortunately, on the first trip we only caught one marten while I was around. Arghh! Then I went to Anchorage for a law eforcement training and all hell broke loose while I was gone. Suddendly they were catching marten everywhere. By the time they asked me to go back and help wrap up the project they had used all the radio collars they brought with them! So I went back out to Kuiu island excited that the project was a success and my odds were much better. But then after setting up the live traps I went out and didn't catch any marten on day one. Here we go again I thought. By now I'm wondering if I have anti-marten pheremones or something. Everything changed on day 2. The very first trap I checked had movement inside. I crouched down and saw a little furry head with dark brown eyes peering out at me. Man how cute they are I thought. That is until I went to pick up the trap. Then I wondered if I had accidently captured a tazmanian devil! It began hissing at me with teeth bared snapping at me every I came within close proximity to the cage until I could lift the handle with a stick(which it also tried to bite). Then I had to bushwhack again while holding the trap with a marten bouncing around in it making my way out through the brush and devils club while trying to keep from falling or getting bitten.LOL! What fun! As you can see from the picture I successfully managed to calm her down with soothing words and gentle handling:) Yeah right! Obviously she was tranquilized. I'm happy to report I caught six martens and all were release alive and well no worse for the wear. Actually I even recaptured one the day after I release it:) I leave Monday for Zarembo Island and if we catch any marten there it will be the first proof of their existence on the Island.

I thought you might like to see one that isn't being handled. This photo was taken in January when I was at Laird Hot Springs in Canada. A must see if you're in the area. While walking down the snow covered board walk on my way for a quick dip I hear movement from the tree and saw this one climbing around on it's morning hunting trip. It was tough to take the photo since it kept moving around to the other side of the tree every time I moved. Sorry it's so far away they're excellent climbers and this one was up pretty high. They sure are amazing animals:)
You might have to click on the photo to get a good look.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Feeding The Moose

Life at the moose pens was always interesting and feeding the moose was sometimes an adventure. In some pens all we had to do was open the back of the feeder and dump food in from outside the fence. Then the moose come running up and you get to watch the dominant moose eat first while the others try to squeeze in for their turn. Sometimes they get very aggressive charging each other or even rearing up and kicking each other with their hooves. It's always fun to watch them from outside the pens. But it can be quite the heart racing moment from inside. In this photo I pulled up on the snow mobile and dumped the first 50lb pound bag of feed and then went back to the sled to get the next one only to see George the bull chasing the others around to get to the food first. Some of the more wild moose(those that haven't been bottle fed) keep their distance. But then there's the more habituated moose like George. He's not afraid of humans or his fellow moose so he tends to push most of them around sometimes literally! My goal was to ride in on the snow mobile as quick as possible and then dump the food and get out of there but some of the moose have an almost Pavlovian response to the sound of snow machines or ATVs so it makes things very interesting.

One on one snowy day in March I was coming back from Monte's loop(the feeder in the photo above) and rounded a corner at about 25 MPH only to see this moose caused road block. After my heart rate slowed down a bit I took this photo. Then I fired up the snow mobile and headed back to the cabin. I got a strange feeling after about a hundred yards and turned around to see George hot on my tail about 75 feet behind the snow mobile. I was going about 20MPH. So I sped up to about 35MPH and he stayed on my tail for at least another 1/4 mile. I was glad to see him break off because I was running out of road and wondered if he could put the breaks on in time if I slowed down.LOL! Sometimes life is stranger than fiction:)

Here's another one of George and a smaller bull in the background.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meeting the Moose

My first day at the moose pens was very exciting. I got to practice with the radio telemetry and tracked a moose named Mattie who was one of the friendly moose at the pens and quite the mooch. So there I was walking on snow shoes that were a bit awkward in about 4 feet of snow and when I finally find Mattie instead of hiding or running away like a wild moose would she comes walking right up to me and lets me scratch her ears. Then nearly knocks me over when I decide to stop. So I'm taking photos of Mattie and suddenly she starts to put her ears back and and moan and move away. I'm wondering what I could have done to bother her and trying awkwardly to move away without falling only to hear movement behind me and see Melody come charging out of the trees in order to chase Mattie away! Well imagine trying to run on snow shoes that are about 32" long while avoiding a moose quarrel. I nearly needed new underwear and would soon learn this is everyday life at the moose pens. They rarely are out to get you but it's not always easy to get out of their way when they want at each other. Quite the amazing and exciting first day. These photos are both Mattie.

The Kenai Moose Research Center

Well I have off for Alaska Day and decided to add a bit about one of my favorite places. The Kenai Moose Research Center on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. I applied for a volunteer internship there and live onsite in a remote cabin about 40 miles down dirt roads from the nearest town. The facility has approximately 20 captive moose at any given time. Many of these were bottled fed in order to have them become highly habituated to humans. This allows scientists to approach close up and study moose without them becoming fearful and running away. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff at the MRC(Moose Research Center). I learned more about wildlife science from these folks than from any college course I have taken and just being able to spend time in a wilderness setting with these great people aiding in the study of one of my favorit mammals was the experience of a lifetime. I took many photos there and thought I'd share some with you. This first one is me and a moose named Peanut. She's a big cow moose that is the dominant one in her pen. When we weighed her in the spring she was about 430KG. As you can see her shoulder is almost at my head level and I'm 5' 10". If she hadn't been habituated I'd never get this

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mendenhal Glacier before and after

These are photos of Mendenhal glacier. The first photo shows huge chunks of ice that broke of this spring. The third photo was taken 4 years ago in July of 2004. The last photo was taken June 2nd 2007. When you see it in person it's a bit scary how much has melted away. If I had realized I would want comparison shots I would have taken the recent one from further away.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Summer in Southeast Alaska

Sunsets in southeast A.K. can be amazing. This one is from windfall island looking toward swan cove which is on Admiralty island. It was taken at 10:35P.M. in July.

These next two were taken during my "commute" to work in July. They're out the window of the floatplane(obviously). It's the only way to fly(weather permitting). lol

We talked a bored pilot into taking a different way home from windfall island. This is over the north end of Admiralty island. It's a lot of fun being able to get so close to the mountains although the margin for error is greatly reduced at this altitude:)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Everything is big in Alaska

Sitka spruce trees can be over 700 years old in S.E. alaska. I thought you might enjoy a photo of me standing next to one that is ancient. It has10 "leaders"and is truly amazing. If you ever get to swan point off admiralty island in S.E. AK take a look for it but beware the "hot feet"(bear trails). That's what scientists call it when the trail is used over and over again with bears walking in the same foot prints over many years. This area is heavily used by brown bears. I'd never go there without making lots of noise, a can of pepper spray and preferably a rifle. lol Places like this make me realize just how small we really are and how amazing alaska really is!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

More fun at Chugach State Park

Hi gang,

I've returned from the anchorage area and noticed there was request for more upclose and personal moose photos. Here's a few from my recent trip. Fall in the Chugach is amazing! the first photo is a bull moose that was right next to the trail last fall during the wildlife society conference trip that some of us went on with Bob from ADFG leading the trip. The bull moose in the second photo was about 100 yards below me away from the trail earlier this week. It took forever to for him to lift his head and face the right direction. The top moose has a radio collar.

The photo on the left is an example of some future darwin award winners. If you look close you can see at least seven people some of which are way too close to some bull moose. The closest people were supposedly from N. Geographic! They were hitting the brush with sticks to call in the rutting bulls. Then I would watch them drop the tripods and run when the moose decided they'd had enough. LOL! I guess that's how they get the good shots. This all took place in a state park off the powerline pass trail.

This is popular hiking trail loaded with wild moose. The two moose in the photo are a cow and a calf. Luckily for her and her dog this cow moose didn't feel threatened. Even when she dragged the dog past them. lol