Tag Archives: Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve

The creative life.

A backpacker stands, naked, in the Chugach Mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A backpacker stands, naked, in the Chugach Mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click the image to see a larger version.

Hey Folks,

“It can be a difficult journey to live a creative life, if you live within an environment which does not understand or value creativity. Seek-out and surround yourself with positive soulmates”.

I read this note on a Status Update on facebook a while back, posted by a great photographer from Australia, Steve Coleman. Steve posts consistently valuable stuff on his facebook page, and I try to read every one of his insights. It’s nice to see someone so giving of their talent. I’ve never met Steve, but looking over his website I can tell you I already know I like the guy; click on ‘Workshops‘. That page tells me all I need to know; what a wonderful perspective!

The strength of the quote is in the paradox that it holds; creative work comes from within, yet what rises up from within is a function of the external. The input we open ourselves to form the outputs our work brings. But it’s more than that; I think a collective energy exists that is very real, very tangible, and we tap into that if we surround ourselves with a vibrant, creative community. Our neighbors, our friends, our peers, our families; these are all critical sources of creative energy that we draw upon, whether it be consciously or unconsciously.

To create and bring to life an idea, your idea, is a terribly frightening process; it opens us to vulnerabilities few of us wish to expose. A ‘support group‘ is critical. Continue reading

Mount Sanford reflection

Mount Sanford and reflection, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Mount Sanford and reflection, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a shot from my trip this last week to Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I’m so wanting this shot to come together – as many times as I’ve been here, and waited for the right light, it hasn’t happened yet. This particular morning the air was calm, so the reflection was nice, and the mist added a nice touch, but the alpenglow, earlier in the morning, didn’t happen.

What’s the longest hour of a landscape photographer’s day? That hour between when the light first touches the clouds/mountain tops and when the sun actually rises high enough to light up the valley floor. Standing around, wet and cold, for an hour waiting to see if “Stage II” of the morning light happened, is a tough choice. But, then the light comes up, and it’s all forgotten. What fickle creatures we can be.

I’m pressed for time folks, but I’ll try to schedule another post or 2 for this next week. I just got in this evening and am heading out again sunday morning for 10 days. See ya soon.

Cheers

Carl

Copper River, Wrangell Mountains, Simpson Hill Overlook

The Copper river and Mt Drum, from Simpson Hill Overlook. View of the Copper River basin and Wrangell Mountains, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

The Copper river and Mt Drum, from Simpson Hill Overlook. View of the Copper River basin and Wrangell Mountains, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image thumbnail to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

OK, enough with the waterfalls already! Here’s another image from my spring trip earlier this year, from Simpson Hill Overlook, off the Richardson Highway, near Glennallen, Alaska. This is a scene I’ll never tire of; looking down the Copper River, with the Wrangell Mountains in glorious sunshine. The mountains you can see in this image are Mt. Drum on the left and Mt. Wrangell the broader, dome-shaped mountain on the right in the background.

Just out of sight to the left of the frame is Mt. Sanford, and  Mt. Blackburn to the right. How many vantage points do you know of in North America where you might choose to exclude from your photo two mountains both of which stand over 16 000′ high? That speaks volumes, in my opinion, about how amazing this viewpoint is. The 5th (Blackburn) and 6th tallest peaks (Sanford) in the US and they don’t make the photo? Craziness!

The Copper River is pretty grand too. Not to get bogged down by meaningless numbers and superlatives, but the Copper River is 300 miles long, and the 10th largest river, by volume, in the US. The Copper River is also the north and western boundaries of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, coolest park in all the world! It’s perhaps best known, however, for its nearly infamous Red Salmon run, usually over 2 million spawning salmon, loaded with fatty Omega-3 oils that make for some delicious supper.

I was really hoping for some sweet delicious alpenglow on this particular evening …. but ….. alas, such wasn’t to be my fortune. The light faded soon after I shot this – the boreal forest in the foreground grew dark, and the mountain light ebbed and dwindled; distant dim clouds low on the northwestern horizon thwarted my efforts at capturing some rich color on the snow-capped peaks, as seems to be the case all too often.

This scene is one of the very few ‘roadside‘ vantage points from which to photograph some of the big mountains in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Willow Lake is another. The views on a clear day from these places rival anything I’ve seen anywhere else. The problem, I guess, for photographers is that the clear days are few and far between. Enjoy ’em when ya can! 🙂

Cheers

Carl

Chitistone falls, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park

Chitistone Falls, in the Chitistone valley. The Goat Trail is a popular backpacking route, from Skolai Pass to Glacier Creek, along the Chitistone River, in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Chitistone Falls, in the Chitistone valley. The Goat Trail is a popular backpacking route, from Skolai Pass to Glacier Creek, along the Chitistone River, in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

Chitistone falls are one of my favorite waterfalls in the park yet I rarely get to see them. When I do the Goat Trail now, I head north after crossing the scree slopes, and go away from the Chitistone river, rather than down lower toward the river, which is the only way to view the falls. However, this particular evening was so nice that after dinner I headed out for some photos, and knew right away I’d be spending some time watching and photographing the falls. It’s a tough slog to walk another 4 miles after backpacking all day, but can be SOOOOO worth it.

The trek down from where we’d camped was nice; it’s great to walk unencumbered after carrying a heavy backpack all day. I set out with my camera bag over my shoulder and my small backpacking tripod in one hand. For trekking I carry the carbon fiber Gitzo G1058  tripod and the ultra light Really Right Stuff BH-25 ballhead. It’s a great little combo for backpacking and hiking, weighing under 2lbs. Gitzo have since replaced this model with a newer version, the GT-0540 and GT-0530. I’m not sure how they’re different to my older one, but if you’re looking for a really great little hiking rig, this setup works well for me.

So I moseyed my way down from the high shoulder we were camped on, watching the light get sweeter and sweeter on the nearby high peaks of the University Range. When the weather is nice, few things are quite like walking alone  in the Alaska mountains late in the evening. What a beautiful hike this is!

I got down to the plateau I was aiming for, and, before even pulling out my camera, simply soaked up the atmosphere. The American Tree Sparrows were still singing their summer call, those 3 vibrato-laden little notes that proclaim the alpine summer. Hardly a breath of air moved and yet the sounds of the mountains carried down the valley; a moving experience in the Chitistone Canyon.

The word ‘Chitistone‘ is derived from  a native Ahtna (Athapaskan) word, ‘chiti‘, that translates as ‘copper‘ in English; so ‘chitistone‘ is ‘copper stone‘. The bulk of the rock around the Chitistone canyon is Nikolai greenstone and limestone. The entire region is famous for copper production, with Kennicott Copper Mine being perhaps the most famous of all. Fortunately, the mining has largely ended in the region now, and the canyons and mountains are left alone for the bears and Dall sheep and hikers, and the mountains themselves. It’s a grand landscape.

On a warm summer day, when the glacial melt is high, the river is fairly broiling, and the falls can be thunderous. Quite a spectacle.

This particular viewpoint has always reminded me of Artist Point, in the more famous Yellowstone National Park. This one receives far fewer visitors.

Chitistone Canyon rocks.

Cheers

Carl

Chitistone, the Goat Trail, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park.

Sunset over the Chitistone Valley and University Peaks.

Sunset over the Chitistone Valley and University Peaks. Mount Bona stands in the background. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

One gorgeous evening, a 2 mile hike (one-way) from camp and some more photos that I had been hoping for some time now to make. Lucky me!

We just trekked from Skolai Pass, in Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, to ‘Wolverine‘, a landing strip high above the Chitistone Valley, over the relatively popular ‘Goat Trail‘. This is a classic hike, and one I try to make every summer. Before I talk about it further, I’ll qualify what I mean by ‘popular’ here.

Probably not 50 people hike this route each year, more likely 40, at most. Consider, for example, that nearly TWO THOUSAND people venture to hike the entire Appalachian Trail each year, and one starts to see that the word ‘popular‘ is entirely contextual. I only say ‘popular‘ here because so few people hike anywhere else in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park.

We had a real mix of weather on this trip, so I was SUPER lucky to grab such a gorgeous evening here at this location. the clouds dissipated throughout the course of the day, which we spent backpacking across the Goat Trail, a steep sloping scree-sided series of ravines, traversed by a meandering myriad sheep and goat trails; hitting the correct ones makes a huge difference on how easy the traverse is. The ‘wrong’ ones can easily be impassable for people, especially those carrying heavy backpacks. Continue reading

Usain Bolt and Wrangell St. Elias

5 intrepid backpackers do 'usain bolt' after crossing the Goat Trail, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska.

5 intrepid backpackers do 'Usain Bolt' after crossing the Goat Trail, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, Alaska. Click the thumbnail to really see this classic photo.

Hey Folks,

It doesn’t get much better than this: 5 Usain Bolts in one photo! We’d just hiked across the infamous ‘Goat Trail’, of Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, on our Skolai – Wolverine backpacking trek. The weather was awesome this particular afternoon, and what greater tribute to such a place could there be than the great Usain Bolt pose?

From your left, Chuck, Bret, Les, Carl and Rod.

In the background, the University Range and Mt Bona, 4th highest peak in the US.

The Goat Trail is a special walk for me – my first hike in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve was down the Chitistone valley, from Skolai Pass to Glacier Creek; across the scree slopes known as ‘the Goat Trail’. Every time I walk it again it blows me away; absolutely an amazing trek. This year we had a mix of weather, and were blessed to have such a gorgeous day for our hike over the steep and nasty Goat Trail.

Why the Usain Bolt pose? Because Usain is awesome, that’s why. And, ya gotta admit, it makes a cool photo, eh?

Cheers

Carl

Boreal Forest at Dawn

Morning reflection, beaver pond, Wrangell St. Elias

Morning reflection, beaver pond, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks

Here’s a quick shot from my recent few weeks in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I’m leaving in the morning for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and will return in 2 weeks. I’ll try to post something from that trip then. Until that time, I hope you enjoy this scene.

This photo was taken maybe an hour after dawn – around 4:30 am.

Cheers

Carl

Male Pine Grosbeak photo, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.


Male Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) perched on a spruce tree, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A male Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), perched on a small spruce tree in Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Here’s a photo I took last spring of a male Pine Grosbeak. I had set up a couple of feeders around the Shack and these gorgeous birds would come in every day and have a good ole time. Other regular visitors to the buffet were Black-capped and Boreal Chickadees, Common Redpolls, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Gray Jays and, of course, the effervescent Red Squirrel. Ravens came by, from time to time, but rarely dropped down to the feeder.  The Pine Grosbeaks were my favorite though.

The grosbeaks are actually a finch, the largest of the boreal finches. A group of these birds together is called, wait for it, a ‘gross’ of grosbeaks. They’re such a cool bird, and very tolerant of my puttering around the cabin; they’d generally ignore my comings and goings.

I grabbed a small white spruce sapling that some snow-machiners had run over and destroyed, and used it to set up the perch. For a background I hung a fleece blanket up and positioned it for a nice clean background. It’s a little bit ‘contrived’, but hopefully it works OK. Continue reading

Facebook is now bigger than Yahoo.

Ross Green Lake, fall, Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Pr

Miles from Facebook; Ross Green Lake, fall, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Remember this post a few months ago, comparing Facebook with Walmart? In that post I pointed out that Facebook had  more than 300 million registered users. Well, now, just 4 months later, Facebook has over 400 million registered users, and in January apparently surpassed Yahoo in traffic numbers, making Facebook the 2nd most heavily visited website in the US. Google, of course, is #1 (Skolai Images is #5 or 6, depending on if update the blog or not). But yes, that’s right, Facebook is now bigger than Yahoo. Until 2008, Yahoo was the #1 website in the world. News article here.

Google apparently love their #1 ranking, and have just released Google Buzz – if you haven’t already, you might want to click on my Buzz profile, Continue reading

Cross country skiing photo – Wrangell St. Elias.

Backcountry cross country skiing (XC skiing), Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

Backcountry cross country skiing (XC skiing), Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey folks,

In honor of my ambitious plan to go skiing tomorrow, tuesday, I thought I’d post this scene from last spring – cross country skiing in Wrangell St. Elias National Park. It seemed like every day for the entire month of April was like this last year, and this is pretty much how I spent each morning – gliding over a nice crust of snow, surrounded by snow-covered mountain ranges, wide open spaces, blue skies and wildness.

I’m enjoying my time in Anchorage this year, but am OH SO wishing I were over in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park again. There is no place quite like it. Continue reading