Tuesday, July 29, 2014


At the end of the tunnel, there is the lovely little town of Whittier.  It’s mainly a port town, altho there are several shops and little restaurants for visitors to check out!


Isn’t this a lovely sight?  I loved imagining that I was in that speed boat, racing to wherever it was racing to!  Wouldn’t it be nice to sit back and just enjoy the mountains, view of the town, ships coming into and leaving port – ah, I could go on and on!

There were seagulls galore!  I can’t tell you how many shots I took of this guy and his seagull cousins until I got one shot that captured the free feeling there was watching them soar and weave in the air!

A lovely dining spot in Whittier!  This was a seafood shack.  Now, those of you that know me well know I am not a fish or seafood person, except for shrimp.  I did have a shrimp basket, and it was incredibly tasty!  The shrimp had an interesting (good) taste to them.  When the cook walked around to check on how people liked their food, she told me that the shrimp was fresh, caught in the Whittier area, and she described their taste as “sweet”.  I would never associate that adjective with shrimp, but she was right!  That was exactly the taste – a very subtle sweet taste!

Here’s my favorite shot.  We had hot chocolate (me) and pop (Jeff) and shared a decadent brownie, and sat in these chairs enjoying the views.  In fact, this was where I was sitting when I took the first image of this blog post!

Views from the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center

Before one enters the tunnel going to Whittier, there is the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center.  This visitor center is named after 2 politicians who were lost in an airplane crash in Alaska back in the 1970s.    Thomas Hale Boggs was a Democratic US House Representative from Louisiana and Nick Begich was a Democratic US House Representative from Alaska.  Their plane was never found.

This is a view from a viewpoint near the visitor center.  You can see a glacier in this view – many glaciers in Alaska – way more than I ever thought!

I did not think I’d see icebergs like this once we left Antarctica, back in 2009!  However, here was a very large one, just floating in the lake just outside the visitor center.  An interesting fact about icebergs – the ice area that is blue, is very, very old.  The older the ice is, the closer it gets to being transparent.  The last color that it is before becoming transparent is blue.

I had to include a close up of the iceberg.  I just love the ultra-blue color.  It looks so clean and fresh.

I included this image to give you an idea of how large things are – the mountain and the glacier.  Just check out the people at the bottom of the image!

Alaska Railroad Train Ride!

While staying in the Whittier area, we took a day trip on a train operated by the Alaska Railroad, to see some glaciers and views that you can’t see from the road.  It was a fun day, with some very cool sights…
Here it is, coming into the station!  One cool thing about this train in particular is that the conductor on the train is a guy that we’ve seen on a cable TV show called “Railroad Alaska”!  He seemed quite pleased that I recognized him…..altho it was really Jeff who recognized him – I just had the nerve to go up and talk to him!
The image above and below are 2 of the glaciers that we saw on this trip.  The above glacier is called Spencer Glacier, and was called a “step glacier”.  If you look at how the glacier is flowing down (center of image), you’ll see what seem to be some peaks as the glacier has moved/grown downward.  Those are the steps.  In the image below, the Trail Glacier has a dark streak running thru it.  That streak is a moraine, of some natural occurring debris in the glacier that has risen to the top of the glacier and appears as a sort of trail down it.  I thought it was kind of cool.


Isn’t this guy cool?  As we moved along, this eagle sat perched on a dead tree (a favorite perch for eagles apparently), surveying his domain.  I really liked this image, because he’s in his natural environment, and truly looks majestic.  He was close to his nest, where there was an eaglet (I think that’s what a young eagle is called), so I think he was in protection mode.  I was also very lucky to get this shot, as we were in a moving train, and I was shooting thru a window, not generally conducive to a good image!

Another animal we were lucky enough to see was this black bear.  I applied a painting type effect to it, to make him appear a bit more like he did in reality.  He was moving, as were we, so this was the best it could be.  Still, I like it as a painting.

One of the neat things about this train ride was the series of tunnels we went thru.  What made it a bit different was that the tunnels were so close together.  This image captured that – we were coming out of one tunnel and would be entering and exiting another is just a few seconds.

This image is of a waterfall called Snow White Falls.  It got its name from the fact that there are 7 waterfalls make up this one waterfall.  What struck me about this waterfall is that it really sort of illustrates the vastness of the truly wild part of Alaska.  This is a waterfall that is invisible to you if you are driving in a car.  I couldn’t help but think about all the beauty that is out there that is invisible to just about everyone, except those intrepid explorers.

And, finally, one last image from the back window of the train.  A lovely day indeed!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thunderbird Falls Trail

Chugach State Park is really a huge state park, and has many, many trails.  We walked one of them – Thunderbird Falls Trail – and what a lovely walk with beautiful sights to see, in addition to the waterfall itself!


Jeff actually spotted this cute little mushroom. There were quite a few of them throughout the trail, and this is one of a couple I’m sharing

I really love some of the sights in the forest and this is one of them – I really love the layered look of all the shades of green.  The different textures are very cool, too.  This just makes me feel so peaceful, tho, and that has to be the best thing I love about this.

There’s something about red and green occurring in nature that draws me to it every time!  The perfect round red berries and the green leaf seemingly waiting to catch them.

These delicate little flowers were blooming on the very edge of a high bluff over the river that the falls emptied into.  They are in such a precarious position – it seemed at odds with how delicate they are.  Ah, the dynamic of Nature!

Here’s the other mushroom image I’m sharing.  Again, the layers of green, different textures of the greenery, and then the smoothness of the mushrooms against the rough texture of the downed log would seem to create such busyness that the image should be, well, a mess.  However, I really feel a sense of calm and that things are exactly as they should be.

I love the lines of the fence along the edge of the trail leading up to Jeff walking down the trail.  How great that the shirt he wore this day added the perfect touch of color!

And, here were the Thunderbird Falls.  They are lovely falls, but I almost feel they are anti-climactic to everything else we saw on the trail!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beeman's Cabin at Byers Lake

We camped for a couple of days at Byers Lake Campground in Denali State Park, Alaska.  One of the coolest “find” Jeff and Miki made on one of their morning walks was Beeman’s Cabin, a deserted cabin buried in the woods around Byers Lake.  Of course, I went with them to see this treasure in the woods!

When walking thru the woods, it’s almost easy to miss.  It’s sort of buried, or almost buried, with trees growing from the roof!

There are all sorts of warning signs around the cabin, warning not to enter it.  I didn’t, but I did walk around to get a good look at this.  It looks like it’s really old, doesn’t it, including…..

….the inside of the cabin, complete with rustic work tables.  I peeked inside the window in the image before this one, and this was what I saw.  I wondered how old this was, as it certainly seemed like an antique.

Can’t you just imagine a pioneer, gold rush prospectors, or some other rough and tumble Alaskan setting up a homestead there?  Well……as it turns out, this cabin was built in 1959, the year Alaska became a state.  Darn!  And, I had such a good story going on in my head!!  LOL!!

Flowers and Fauna at Byers Lake

As we walked along the paths and trails at Byers Lake, we came across quite a few interesting and different flowers and fauna…..

There was such lush greenery all around us and this photo drawing is of some great huge green leaves throughout the wooded area.  I love the lines of the leaves and this drawing effect really serves to show that off.

Isn’t this a lovely dwarf dogwood bloom?  There’s something so perfect about how the leaves frame the very small bloom.  It’s delicate but pretty tough to survive and thrive in this area.

As we walked the trails, we came across some trees that had moss hanging down.  I always thought of moss in trees as a southern thing, but obviously it can be found in the north as well.

Here’s an image of the state flower of Alaska, the fireweed flower.  As you can see, the blooms are slowly making their way to the top.  Once that happens, the summer is over and fall is around the corner.

There was something about this birch bark in the greenery that I really liked.  This image has a sort of peaceful feeling about it that I really liked.

Talkeetna Blooms

We took a day trip out to the quirky little town of Talkeetna, and altho I was taken with the cool signs I saw there (that’s another posting!), the flowers blooming throughout town were also quite the sight.  Take a look –

Isn’t this a beautiful sunflower?  I truly love all the detail that is in this bloom.  Funny how the simplest thing – like a basic sunflower – can really contain such complex beauty.

The lilies were just incredibly vibrant!  I just had to fill the frame with their luscious color!

Aren’t these blooms lovely?  The bright pink and green in the background are so complementary.

This is my favorite image of all of them.  The breeze had picked up and the flowers just waved back and forth slowly.  I was very lucky to capture this image clearly and yet, have the grace of the breeze blowing reflected as well.

Quirky Signs in Talkeetna

As I mentioned in a previous posting, we visited the quirky town of Talkeetna on a day trip.  As we started wandering around the town, I couldn’t help but notice the cool signs posted around the town.  I thought I’d share some with you….

I thought this was a cool storefront – check out the antlers and the snow shoes! 

Isn’t this a quaint sign?  The House of 7 Trees!  I’ve heard of (and read) The House of 7 Gables – somehow, I doubt this is even close to that book!

Along the Alaska Highway for years and years, there were little roadhouses found sprinkled along the highway, in between the towns that existed.  These roadhouses offered travelers gas, food and lodging.  Unfortunately, due to the advancement of time, technology, and yes, government regulations, many of these roadhouses are now closed.  It became just too expensive for them to remain open, given that there wouldn’t be much traffic during the winter months.

This sign just made me smile.  Yes, trek the miles and miles in your snow shoes to get your share of “spirits”!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fabulous Views at Denali State Park

Just down the road a bit from Denali National Park is Denali State Park.  We decided to stop and visit there for a couple of days, to take it what it had to offer, including great views….

One of the things the state park offers are some good vantage points of Denali (the mountain).  Of course, it was hiding in the clouds, but this time we managed to see the South Peak (we saw the North Peak while at the actual National Park).  The South Peak is actually the taller of the 2, and many years ago, a climbing expedition known as the Sourdough Expedition climbed to the top of what they thought was the highest point on Denali, the North Point.  How disappointing to find out they missed the mark of the highest point!  The incredible thing about this expedition (which occurred in 1910) was that it was 4 guys with no experience, and they were fueled by hot chocolate and donuts.  Must have been some mighty powerful donuts and cocoa!  The first successful summit of the South Peak happened 3 years later, in the Stuck-Harper Expedition.  Walter Harper, a young local Athabascan Indian, was the first man to stand on that summit.

Like the national park, the state park offers up some other great views, other than Denali!  I loved the way the clouds just hugged close the mountains in the Alaska Range (I believe).

Finding Treasures in the Woods at Denali State Park

Of course, we explored around Denali State Park and I wasn’t disappointed in my ongoing quest for beautiful flowers and fauna.  Take a look…..

I believe this is a variation of a wild rose.  I was really lucky to be able to capture this bloom just as it was opening – gave me the opportunity to peek inside!

This is a flower called a Northern Yarrow, according to a book I have.  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to capture this image!  I love the meandering look to these blooms – so peaceful and flowing. 

We don’t get much rain in New Mexico (altho I do understand we’re at least having somewhat of a true monsoon season back home), so finding raindrops on the leaves of bushes and trees is very uncommon.  The leaves may not be perfect, but the rain drops are!  Actually, I take that back about the leaves – they are perfectly imperfect!

Here’s another bloom about ready to burst.  I couldn’t find this in my reference book, so I’m content just to think of it as a mystery flower.  It’s so incredibly delicate and the simplicity of it sort of takes my breath away…

Oh, no!  The summer season is short up here in Alaska, and maybe this is the first sign of what’s to come to this area in another few months.  I’m not certain exactly when fall begins to arrive, but I’m sure we’ll be gone by then.  Still, it is a sign that our grand adventure won’t last forever….sigh……

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Intro to Denali

They have a policy at Denali National Park that requires one to take a bus into the park after a certain point.  You cannot drive your car all the way into the park, with certain exceptions.  Needless to say, Jeff & I did not meet any of the exceptions!  For the first day and a half, we made ourselves content to drive the distance (15 miles) that we were allowed minus the bus.  We did sign up for a bus tour the 3rd day, but this posting just covers what we saw on those first 15 miles on our own.

Of course, everyone’s interested in seeing the mountain – Denali – aka Mt. McKinley.  However, there are many other views that are just as beautiful and here’s one of them!  I love all the different terrain that you can see throughout the park, and this shows off some very nicely.

I’m used to seeing pine trees all bunched together, and was very taken with these that seem to just randomly sprout up.  Most of what’s between the pine trees is, I believe, willow (which moose love to eat).  Interestingly, we did learn that the tree line in Denali used to be about 2500 feet, and now they are starting to see trees as high as 3900 feet (in elevation).  I don’t know if that’s why these are so scattered – that they are forging new ground, but regardless of the reason, I found this quite interesting!

Isn’t this a cool sky shot?  We actually saw this from our campground just outside of Denali, but I decided to include it in an intro posting because it was early on in our visit there.  I don’t know what caused this cloud pattern.  At first, I thought it might have been the Aurora Borealis forming (even tho it’s too early to really see that), but it never changed color, so that wasn’t it.  I just love the way the sun was lighting the clouds.

Here’s a nice wide view of the Park from about mile 15.  Just looking at this makes me want to run out in the fields…..except there are moose, caribou and even grizzlies out there!!  More about them later!