I’ve created an online store containing items featuring some of the photos from our travels. I hope you will take a look at it. Thanks.
Following are some examples
I’ve created an online store containing items featuring some of the photos from our travels. I hope you will take a look at it. Thanks.
Following are some examples
Lake Clark National Park was the last national park in Alaska on our bucket list to visit. In talking with someone who lived and worked there, the question we got was “What took you so long?” It was quite obvious that this was a very special place in the hearts of those folks.
Like a number of the Alaskan national parks, our way to get to Lake Clark was by air. So we boarded a small plane at Lake Clark Air in Anchorage and set off on another adventure. The flight took us over spectacular mountains, dozens of glaciers and through Lake Clark Pass to Port Alsworth on Lake Clark itself.
Having become a National Monument in 1978, Lake Clark was designated a National Park and Preserve in 1980 and enlarged through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Park encompasses over 2.6 million acres and the Preserve an additional 1.4 million acres. Within the park are 4 National Register of Historic Places, 3 National Wild Rivers, 2 National Natural Landmarks and 1 National Historic Landmark. This all within a park with a total of 0 miles of road – yes, zero miles.
We stayed at The Farm Lodge in Port Alsworth. Lake Clark Air and the Farm Lodge are operated by a multi- generation Lake Clark family. In 1944, Mary and Leon “Babe” Alsworth staked a homestead at Tanalian Point on sheltered Hardenburg Bay. Babe Alsworth was one of the aviation pioneers in southwest Alaska. A narrow channel affords a landing and take-off “strip” for float planes and Alsworth also cleared a runway for wheeled aircraft. Tanalian Point was later renamed Port Alsworth and is currently home to about 100 year-round residents and is a base of operations for numerous fishing lodges.
Our cabin was located right on the shore so we had a ringside seat on the front deck to watch planes, both wheeled and float, arrive and depart. Babe and Mary’s grandson, Glen Jr. and his family operate the Farm Lodge and made our stay there relaxed and pleasant. The staff went out of their way to insure our comfort and make sure we got to do the things we wanted to do.
With numerous greenhouses and gardens, the meals served at the Farm took advantage of the fresh produce, and were outstanding. Custom sack lunches were provided for lunch to accommodate the various activities of the guests. Breakfast and dinner were served in the lodge at a designated time and provided the opportunity to meet and get to know the other guests. We thoroughly enjoyed the interesting people and the camaraderie.
The National Park headquarters was a short hike away so we set out to visit and orient ourselves to the park and of course to pick up any available information. The young ranger there was very helpful and pleasant. We watched a short film and picked up several books.
While at the Farm, we took a floatplane tour with Glen, Jr. as our pilot and guide. The scenery was so breath-taking it was hard to know which way to look out of the plane. Glaciers in many forms and stages presented all kinds of photo-ops, including pink algae living on a glacier.
We flew around Mt. Redoubt, which is an active volcano with steam rising from the snow near the top, and were near enough we could smell the sulfur!
We landed on a small lake and had our lunch on the shore, seeing bear tracks but no bears. However, Glen identified the soapberry which apparently bears like to forage. It was so peaceful and beautiful – certainly a great place for a picnic whether you are bear or human.
Flying on, we saw many Dall sheep at mineral licks on the mountainsides and caribou trails were evident up and down the mountains. An aptly named Turquoise Lake shimmered in the sunlight.
Landing on Upper Twin Lake, we were treated to a visit to Dick Proenneke’s cabin with Kay as our extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.
At the age of 51, Dick Proenneke set out to prove that he could survive in the wilderness. He built his cabin during 1967 and 1968 using only hand tools and whenever possible, materials provided by the land. Neither the first nor the largest cabin ever built in the Alaska Bush, the remarkable craftsmanship, and the fact that he filmed the entire construction process makes it unique. Throughout the years, Dick Proenneke kept meticulous journals and, in 1973, his journals edited by Sam Keith, under the title One Man’s Wilderness, were published. Since then, a second volume has been published and a third is underway.
Proenneke was not a hermit. He kept up a great deal of correspondence and welcomed visitors to his cabin. It was quite obvious from the people we met who had known Proenneke that he was well-liked and respected. A self-educated naturalist, Proenneke lived in this cabin for 30 years without electricity, running water, a telephone or other modern conveniences. Dick Proenneke left Twin Lakes for the last time in 1999 at the age of 82 when the extreme cold and hard physical work became too much.
Proenneke donated his cabin to the National Park Service and it is now a part of Lake Clark National Park. The cabin and outbuildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Our final full day at The Farm, we decided to hike the Tanalian Falls Trail. Taking bear spray with us, we set out. We were told to carry on conversation, sing or somehow make some noise as we hiked so we did not inadvertently startle a bear. We did so, although we realized that it was rather unnatural for us to just chatter as we hiked. We did not come across any bears but the hike was pleasant and a very enjoyable way to spend the day.
It’s understandable why Lake Clark has such a hold on the people who live there. Flying is such an integral part of the way of life there, we asked Glen when he started flying and he said, “when I was twelve years old.” He grew up in Port Alsworth and told us that he had been many places all over the world and had never found another place he would rather come home to. That pretty much says it all.
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When we planned the trip to Katmai National Park, we were thinking brown bears, brown bears and more brown bears. As we did prior to our visit, many people are fascinated by the bear cams located at Brooks Falls – http://explore.org/live-cams/player/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls. Little did we know that not only are the brown bears amazing but there is so much else to make Katmai unique. Our visit there was truly special.
Katmai, located on the Alaska Peninsula and nearly 5 million acres in size, includes 15 volcanoes, magnificent scenery, and is home to North America’s largest population of protected brown bears – about 2,000 of them. It is one of the least-visited of our national parks, with only 37,818 visitors in 2015, ranking 53rd in visitation out of the 59 national parks.
Initially, we assumed we would stay at Brooks Camp, but we quickly found out that lodging there is booked up well over a year in advance. The person I spoke with suggested Kulik Lodge as our base. She said we might be happier there as it is smaller, with fewer people, and without the day-trippers from Anchorage and we could still make a day trip to Brooks for bear-viewing. This proved to be brilliant. We were very happy we were at Kulik. It’s truly a first class wilderness lodge. Manager Chaad McBride and his outstanding staff do everything possible to make a stay memorable and exactly what you’d like.
Kulik Lodge is a remote fishing lodge on Nonvianuk Lake and the Kulik River in the northern part of the park. At 6:30 a.m. we boarded a seven-passenger plane at Katmailand Air in Anchorage for the flight to Kulik. The 90-minute flight took us over breath-taking mountains and a brown bear ambled out alongside the gravel runway when we landed at Kulik.
Kulik Lodge is composed of the lodge building, individual cabins, and numerous outbuildings. It’s located in a prime fishing location with Nonvianuk Lake and Kulik Lake connected by the 1 ½ mile long Kulik River.
We were greeted by the wonderful staff at Kulik, treated to a great breakfast (which was only a sample of the excellent meals at Kulik) and introduced to our guide for the day, Grey. Tom and I are not fishermen so going to a fishing camp in the first place was a unique experience but we were game to try fly fishing. Grey was a good teacher and very patient as we learned a bit about casting from the lake shore.
We then went out in a boat to the Kulik River where we got into the river and started fishing. Yes, actually clambering in and out of the boat into the river. Getting back in was much more of a challenge than getting out. Throughout the day, we each managed to catch several rainbow trout, which are catch and release. Personally, I had always seen people standing in a cold river in waders and thought they were slightly crazy but I found out just how much fun it actually is and why you could really get “hooked” on it. We, of course, never made the “fish board” but we had a great time.
While we were fishing, a bear swam across the river, leaving her cubs on the other side. They were very noisy and obviously not very happy about it but it seemed as if she was telling them – “just be quiet and wait, I’ll be back for you” – much like any mother might.
Meals at Kulik are served family-style and were incredible. The chef there is outstanding. Lunch was served at noon and included homemade soups, salads and a variety of sandwich makings. The complimentary bar is open from 4 to 11, with appetizers at 6 and dinner at 7. The first evening we were there we had fried chicken, salmon, pulled pork, cole slaw, green salad, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, bread, jam and either lemon meringue pie or blueberry ice cream for dessert. Every meal was just as amazing as the first.
Mealtimes provided a time to get to know some of the other guests and discuss everyone’s activities for the day. There were only 23 guests at Kulik so it was a rather intimate group and we met interesting people. The fireplace in the lodge also served as a gathering and visiting place.
Since it never gets truly dark during the summer, some guests chose to go night fishing while we decided to walk around the property and just enjoy the peace and serenity and turn in a bit early. We had had a very full day.
Coffee on the front stoop at 5:30 a.m. provided a good start to the day which began with a hearty breakfast and a 6:45 boarding of float planes to Brooks Camp for bear-viewing.
The first stop at Brooks Camp is the ranger station for the required bear orientation. Bears have free range and the right-of-way and there are very specific guidelines for visitors. We saw a bear in the midst of the camp very shortly after our arrival. On our walk to the bear-viewing at the falls, we came around a corner of the trail and saw a sow and two cubs about thirty yards away coming toward us. Everyone scrambled to get off the path and out of her way. They are a bit intimidating and you definitely don’t want to get too close!
In Katmai, abundant salmon means abundant brown bear populations. Daily fish catch for most bears runs to 10 to 20 salmon a day and, nourished with such high-fat fare, male brown bears can grow to 1500 pounds or more than three times the size of interior grizzlies. Coastal brown bears and interior grizzlies are both members of the Ursus arcto species. The difference in size is attributable in part to the abundance of salmon in coastal and near-coastal areas.
We saw a sow and three cubs on the river bank as we approached the Brooks Falls viewing platform and then watched a number of bears fishing for salmon. It’s rather astounding how quickly these giant animals can move in order to catch salmon. The Park service has a pretty efficient system for allowing a certain number of people on the platform at once and rotating them after an hour to give someone else a chance.
Walking back toward the river viewing area, we came across a juvenile male coming down a path toward us. Once again it was a scramble to get out of his way – believe me, I was well back when I snapped this photo.
We spent quite a lot of time at the Brooks River viewing area watching bears fishing and what appeared at times to be playing with each other in the river. They were fascinating to watch.
Another possible day trip from Kulik is to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. On June 6, 1912, residents of the northern Alaska Peninsula experienced one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. The Novarupta volcano eruption sent ash over 100,000 feet in the air and released 30 times the volume of magma as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. When Robert Griggs in 1916 gazed into the former Ukak River valley and saw the transformation from the eruption, he saw tens of thousands of smokes curling up from its fissured floor and dubbed it “The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” Even though those fumaroles have since died, the valley is still a unique and otherworldly landscape.
On our last day at Kulik, Bryce was our guide and we went fishing again but the weather turned on us a bit making a hot shower welcome after standing in the rain in the cold river. It cleared off later in the afternoon so Bryce took us on a tundra hike. Treeline in Katmai is less than 1000 feet so most of the park is above treeline and exposed to extreme weather. Plants that survive best hug the ground but moose, caribou, red fox, wolves, lynx and a number of other animals make this their home.
Our last evening at Kulik we were treated to a presentation by Sonny Petersen on the history of the lodge and Katmai. Sonny’s father, aviation pioneer Ray Petersen, in 1947 founded his Northern Consolidated Airlines. Petersen was committed to fishing conservation and was granted a permit to build and operate five “Angler’s Paradise” camps, making him the park’s first concessioner. Thus, he provided both the places to stay and, with his airline, the way to get there. Petersen was an avid southwest Alaska promoter wanting to attract the tourist “who goes places just to be amazed.”
Katmai National Park is a special place and Kulik Lodge was the perfect place for us. On the last evening, a young woman, Annie, from Beijing took this photo of us and later emailed it to me. It captures the bittersweet of our last evening at Kulik. We created great memories.
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Colorado Columbine Pillow – wild columbine – Colorado state flower – reminder of the wild flowers in the mountains
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Kobuk Valley National Park is so remote there are no visitor facilities in the park at all. Kobuk Valley National Park is so remote that you have to bring your own sign to get the iconic national park sign photo. Kobuk Valley National Park is so remote a visit definitely requires planning. Basically the only ways to access this park are by small plane or boat on the Kobuk River. At 1,750,000 acres, Kobuk is the ninth largest national park and one of the least visited.
Located 35 miles above the Arctic Circle, Kobuk calls to mind images of snow and ice but a summertime visit proves that preconception very wrong. In the Kobuk Valley, the boreal forest gives way to the tundra. The Kobuk River bisects the park with the Baird Mountains to the north and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes to the south. Kobuk is home to many animals, including grizzly bears, wolves, foxes, moose, Dall’s sheep and the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the largest herd in America.
In researching for the trip, it quickly became apparent that a trip to this park located entirely north of the Arctic Circle would be an adventure. It is remote and wild with no roads, no specific entrances or campgrounds. Everything we read emphasized that you are completely on your own in this park and you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient. The ever-present “weather-permitting” applies to every step of the way.
We flew to Kotzebue, Alaska, a small native village on the Chukchi Sea. This village is located on a small peninsula so landing there involves water on pretty much all sides. In Kotzebue, the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center houses a museum as well as the National Park service administrative center. The Nullaġvik Hotel served as our base during our stay and we were presented with certificates stating that we had journeyed north of the Arctic Circle.
The site of Kotzebue, or Qikiktagruk (as it is called in Iñupiaq), has been occupied by Iñupiat Eskimos for at least 9000 years and is believed to be the oldest settlement in both North and South America. “Qikiktagruk” was the hub of ancient Arctic trading routes long before European contact due to its coastal location near a number of rivers.
As this was part of a more extensive trip, we were not prepared to backpack and camp so Tom arranged for an air taxi to take us into the park, drop us off for a few hours of hiking and then return to pick us up. Of course, here again the “weather-permitting” applies.
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
The night before our flight into the park I did not sleep well. I kept having visions of being out there completely by ourselves with no communication whatsoever and bears or caribou appearing. Thoughts of our bear spray having a range of about eight feet, weather stranding us there for days, and any number of unknowns did not make for a restful night. (Understand that I’m usually the one who can sleep through anything.) Tom had put together a very small survival kit to carry in his backpack and of course we had rain gear, gps, first aid kit, snacks, water, etc. so the chance of anything really bad happening was actually quite unlikely.
When the pilot handed us a fold-out wooden national park sign to take with us, we knew we were in for a different experience. He landed on the sand dunes, dropped us off and took off to continue on a flightseeing tour with another passenger. As the plane disappeared over the horizon, we set the sign out and took the picture, shouldered our backpacks and set out for a hike on the dunes.
Somehow it seems very strange to be hiking on sand dunes and know you are north of the Arctic circle. These dunes soar up to two hundred feet high and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes cover 25 square miles. Great Kobuk Sand Dunes constitute the largest active sand dunes found in the Arctic.
Kovet Creek acts as a dividing line between the dunes and the forest and tundra. The dunes were formed from the windblown outwash of melting glaciers and a special combination of topography and eastern and northern winds keep the dunes moving and inhospitable to vegetation. We saw some tracks but no animals.
As afternoon clouds began to form and move closer and closer, the “weather-permitting” warning came to mind and we were quite happy to see our plane in the distance.
He set down again on the dunes and we scrambled aboard for the flight back to Kotzebue. It was definitely a day to remember.
The mention of Anasazi ruins brings to mind cliff dwellings and a “lost” civilization. No longer called Anasazi but rather Ancestral Puebloans, these people left massive ruins on the floor of Chaco Canyon which are mind-boggling. Many questions are raised and the imagination is ignited.
In northwestern New Mexico, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is one truly amazing place that I find fascinating every time we visit. To reach Chaco, the last stretch can be a bit challenging. After turning off Highway 550, the first five miles are paved, the next ten are pretty bad dirt road and the last six are really bad dirt road before reaching the paved park road. There is a campground and a very nice visitor center but no other facilities so one needs to be prepared with lunch, snacks and, of course, plenty of water. This high desert area is very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit.
Who were the people who left these testaments to their civilization? Without the benefit of the wheel, metal tools, or beasts of burden in a land of little rainfall, how did they manage to build these magnificent structures? Why did they choose this arid canyon? Why did they abandon them? Most answers to these questions are to a degree conjecture but with continued archeological research and scientific advances in the field, the “educated guesses” continue to evolve and the puzzle pieces become a little clearer.
1,100 to 1,200 years ago this canyon was the center of the Chacoan world with monumental architecture, far-reaching trade, and a complex society. Massive great houses rose three and four stories high and contained hundreds of rooms. Water collection and retention systems, dams, and canals were in place. Over 400 miles of road networks linked the great houses in the canyon to over 200 sites throughout the region. Prehistoric staircases provided access from mesa tops to the canyon floor. In addition to the dozen or so great houses, vast numbers of smaller community ruins are found throughout the canyon and the entire San Juan basin.
Pueblo Bonito is the core of the complex and the largest great house. Built in stages between the mid-800’s and early 1100’s. Pueblo Bonito rose at least four stories high, had perhaps as many as 800 rooms and 40 kivas, encompassing almost three acres. The great houses of Una Vida and Peñasco Blanco were also begun in the mid-800’s. Hungo Pavi, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo Alto and many others followed.
Pueblo del Arroyo
Using masonry techniques unique for the time, Chacoans continued to expand their massive, multi-story buildings for over 300 years. Construction of some great houses spanned decades or even centuries and although the masonry styles varied somewhat over time, they remained distinctively Chacoan. The massive beams (over 200,00 of them) and all other wood used in construction had to be harvested from distant forests and transported to the sites manually. Many original beams and latillas are still visible today and through the use of dendrochronology dating of the cutting has been possible.
Since the earliest archeological expeditions to Chaco in the 1800’s, many theories of use have been proposed. With continued archeological research, theories have evolved from the original ideas of massive habitations with a large population to more ceremonial buildings with pilgrimages from surrounding communities and a smaller permanent population.
Buildings’ orientations, internal geometry and geographic relationships consistent with solar and lunar alignments indicate an extensive knowledge of the heavens. Astronomy apparently played an important role in the lives of the Chacoans. Several solstice markers are present throughout the ruins and on Fajada Butte a three-slab-and-spiral-petroglyph provides a solar and lunar calendar.
So many questions continue to be unanswered, not only about how Chacoans built their structures and how their society was organized, but also about the reasons for abandonment. Even as recent as twenty years ago, it was often said that these people “vanished.” However, it is now accepted that the Anasazi are the ancestors of the modern Pueblo people of Arizona and New Mexico and that these ancient people simply moved – some to the south and some to the west. It was probably not a mass migration but rather a somewhat gradual movement. Then the next question is: why did they move? That one hasn’t totally been answered. There was no more building after about 1130. There was a long period of drought at that time and diminishment of nearby resources. There is little or no evidence of violence as a factor. Perhaps it simply was not sustainable to remain in Chaco Canyon and therefore was time to leave.
Each visit to Chaco reveals something missed on the last visit and raises new thoughts and questions. It is definitely worth the rough road in to get there.
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