Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse on Solstice Eve

It was a spectacular night in the Interior. The full moon lit up the surrounding landscape and little by little the earth snuck between the sun and the moon creating a total Lunar Eclipse on the Eve of Solstice 2010.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Swan Lake

This September I was lucky enough to get a trip in with a few great buddies in some of the most scenic country that Alaska has to offer. While we were planning for the excursion we had fishing, fun and goat hunting in mind. It looked like Swan Lake would provide us with all of the above and it certainly did. The soggy weather that Southeast Alaska is known for did not disappoint and served up rain that seemed almost biblical at times. We struggled with the wet weather for the first five days but on the sixth day the weather broke and gave us an opportunity to explore in much more comfort. All in all I would say that Swan Lake is a place that anyone who gets the chance should go and visit some day.

Luke casting for rainbows at the base of a waterfall leading into Upper Falls Lake. The countryside surrounding Swan Lake is littered with waterfalls shooting off of cliffs and spilling out of glaciers but this falls was absolutely spectacular.

A newish cabin is available for rent on the Lake.

We ate like back country kings. Here Luke is flipping a Mountain Huckleberry flapjack. Mighty tasty!

The water levels were up a bit from all of the rain. We had a few interesting river crossing in route to Upper Falls Lake.

Nathan and the nicest Rainbow of the trip.

We had plenty of boulders and different terrain to negotiate just to get into Mountain Goat habitat.
Luke pictured on a snowfield in the high country.

Looking out over Thomas Bay.

Brian descending with a half of a goat in his pack.

Nathan looking over some potential goat country.

Nathan and I with an un-named glacier in the background.

Brian on a snowfield next to the site of Luke's goat harvest.

Processing goat meat in the cabin.

Teriyaki goat kabobs...very, very good! We ate about a half of a goat during our time in the field.
Looking down on Swan Lake.

This is the only group picture. From left to right: Nathan, Brian, Myself and Luke. Cascade Creek is in the background.

And on the last day the weather broke and provided us with stunning views of the surrounding terrain. Pictured above are a couple low lying clouds and their reflections hang in the Swan Lake basin.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Summer 2010

Well the Summer of 2010 has already come and gone. As usual the Interior's long days had everybody working and playing at a frenetic pace. I have not made the time to enter any blog posts but figured that I would document some of the good times that were had.

Halibut fishing with Captain Al and the gang-

Pack rafting on Windy Creek-

Floating the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River with my dad and Brett-
Sheep Hunting with Bernie-

Fishing the Kenai with Magan-

Moose hunting the Chatanika River with Luke-

Ptarmagain hunting on the dome with Luke and Jeff-

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Princess Kathleen

In 1952 Princess Kathleen went aground on Point Lena, approximately 15 miles north of Juneau Alaska. Not long after grounding she flooded with the incoming tide and slid back into 120 feet of water. The vessel has been stationary for almost 60 years but there had been increased reports of tar balls on shore and sheen in the water off of Point Lena so the US Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation implemented a plan to extract the fuel oil from the cruise ship and mitigate the potential for a major release.

Global Diving and Salvage are the contracted diving company tasked with the underwater operations. They are a well travelled group with a ton of talent and a pretty interesting job.

This is the work platform that we are using to dive off of and house the oil that is being extracted from Princess Kathleen.

I had not done any work on marine responses before so everything was fairly new to me. The barge on the right will ultimately accept the old oil and haul it down to Seattle. When I left we had recovered over 10,000 gallons of oil and it looks like there could be as much as 50,000 more gallons to go.

This is one of the divers getting prepped to do some work on Kathleen.

This is one of the divers coming out of the water after working inside of the vessel.

We had deployed harbor boom and absorbent boom around the work platform in an attempt to catch the majority of the oil that escaped with the divers or from the fuel tanks.

The "Neka Bay" was one of the response vessels that was always on site prepared to assist if there was a major release while constantly assisting with booming operations.

Deploying boom away from the work site. This was a secondary layer of protection and picked up the remaining oil that escaped the first line.

After a long day of setting boom in the rain and wind we were treated to a rainbow pointing out our last anchor point. Overall this is a fairly technical operation that I was not exactly trained up on, but I certainly learned a lot about maritime operations and I think the Feds and the State are doing a real service to Alaskan waters by removing a large threat to the area.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Wilderness Classic (Act II)

The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic is, by most standards, a significant physical and mental challenge. Since I first became aware of the Wilderness Classic it has challenged me more than anything else to attain the skill set needed to successfully complete this race. My Midwestern agricultural background educated me about how to read a soil sample and how to calibrate a corn planter but I never knew what a climbing skin was and had never touched a crampon.
Two years ago Ed and I competed in our first Classic in the Wrangell Mountains. Prior to that the only real information I had came from Daily News Miner articles and from a few conversations with friends that had competed in the event. The 2008 Classic in the Wrangell Mountains was a great experience and afforded us the experience to prepare more adequately for the 2010 Classic. This year’s race started and ended at the same point that the race did four years ago but this traverse was longer and allowed the competitors more route choices. There was a checkpoint about 80 miles into the race at the Native Village of Aniktuvik Pass. This year I was fortunate to be a part of a four man team of friends. We have all skied and trained together for a handful of years and have the unique luxury of knowing that we all travel at a similar pace and really like spending a lot of time together in the backcountry. This race was much different than the route through the Wrangell’s but the challenge was just as significant. The unbelievable Glaciers and huge mountains that created an awe inspiring traverse in the Wrangell/St. Elias National Park were replaced by night skies filled with dancing northern lights while wolves howled in the naked mountain valley. We had spectacular views of the actual Gates of the Artic that Bob Marshall named during his early travels into the arctic on the Koyukuk River. In a nut shell this race was filled with challenges and fun, but most importantly it was filled with a week of enjoying the freedom of the hills and the spirit of the Classic!

Many of these images were taken by Ed Plumb or John Shook.

The field of racers is filled with a great group of adventures, athletes, and most importantly characters.
We were treated to some phenomenal visual entertainment for the first few nights after we set up camp. Apparently there was some extreme solar activity coinciding with the start of the race which made for some of the best Aurora displays that I have ever seen.

This is a series of pictures taken while we climbed Peregrine Pass. It proved to be the most difficult part of the race for me, but we enjoyed the short time we spent up high.
We spent hours a day melting snow to provide us with enough liquid water.

Ed had an ugly wipe out –which is very rare- and he bent his pole in the wreck. After a minute of retooling he had his gear back in order and powered through the rest of the course.

We made it to the check point in Aniktuvik Pass and enjoyed an hour and a half in the National Park Service building before skiing off into a fairly cold headwind.

We bumped into Dave Cramer and Rob Kerher on the “out and back” stretch of our route. Dave and Rob were bucking a stiff head wind but drove on to Aniktuvik Pass that night. Dave has been the race director for years and is a man that I truly respect. He homesteaded in bush Alaska years ago and has carved out a great life, family, and business since. His race organization is first class, and I hope he continues to be the director for years to come.

John skis down into the Valley of the Precipices. We had a blast ripping though the 3% grade and the twisting icy creek.

Dan skis down the Koyukuk on our way towards the finish.

We saw thousands of ptarmigan throughout the race. It was pretty awesome to see the huge coveys moving across the south slopes enjoying the open tundra after the long winter.

We hit a few patches of bare ground that forced us to drop our skis, but for the most part we were locked into our boards.

Four happy campers just skied into Wiseman after a tough twenty hour push; we covered about fifty miles to reach the finish and grabbed a quick self portrait to put an end the 2010 Classic. 5:30 A.M.

A member of the winning team, Luc Mehl created a fun video that gives a great feel for the Classic. That video can be viewed through the link below: