"Gale-force Aurora" - One winter afternoon, I set off for a high tarn in Alaska's Chugach Mountains. The tarn has a Northern view, and the Aurora was forecast to be exceptional. I was hoping for Aurora reflections in the ice on the tarn, with surrounding mountains for context. I arrived here about 6:30 pm on a Saturday night. A freezing gale was roaring through this high mountain pass, and though I was bundled in six layers top, and five below, I shivered all night and kept wishing I'd brought one more layer, and warmer gloves and boots. No sooner had I arrived, and the Aurora came out. It was quite a spectacular first wave, but it was over before I could set up for photography. Worse, an overcast drifted in, blanketing out the whole sky at my location. I stayed awake all night long, buffeted behind a boulder to stay out of the hurricane most of the night while overcast prevailed. All night I could see a glow through the overcast, and knew that a spectacular display was going on overhead, but out of sight. Every time a break in the clouds presented itself, I'd clamber across the boulder field in the dark, trying not to get blown over (and not always succeeding) and racing to find a composition that worked for each hole in the clouds I was given, before it too disappeared. Finally, at around 6:30 am Sunday morning, this view opened up for me, which worked for the composition I'd envisioned in my climb up here. After all, I was only given a more subtle Aurora display, but I still loved how the mysterious light played on the tortured ice of that high, gale-swept mountain tarn.
"Grizzly Bear Lake" --- This is Grizzly Bear Lake, tucked away deep in the heart of Alaska's Chugach Mountains. I feel very fortunate to have visited this special place in the wilds. Very few will ever have the opportunity, because motor vehicles (including aircraft landings) aren't allowed anywhere near here, so it's a grueling two-day hike/climb to get in, then of course another two-day hike/climb to get out! If you're going to make such an investment to get here, then it just doesn't make sense not to stay awhile. So the upshot is you have to carry at least a five-day pack to this spot, or more if you can swing it. By now, this wild, enchanted place is etched permanently on my psyche, both for it's sheer, rugged beauty, and the beating my old bones have endured getting here and back! :-)
"Chugach Midsummer" --- Here, fireweed blooms on an idyllic midsummer day, deep in the heart of Alaska's Chugach Mountains. Fireweed is a flower as lovely, in my eyes, as any flower not having "weed" in its name. It's one of my very favorite things about summer in Alaska. In this high valley, some of the fireweed plants have already turned fiery in early anticipation of the coming autumn.
"Wolverine Aurora" --- Here is Wolverine mountain (center) in Alaska's Chugach Mountains, seen one very frosty moonless midnight (-17 F) in January, 2017. The Aurora Borealis appears over the mountain tops. This scene is rendered with very course film-like grain. I wasn't expecting to get two shots I'd like so well. My intention this night was merely to test whether I had finally devised a tripod and shooting setup I could entirely manage without removing my gloves. This test proved I had done so. Yay! But I really just wanted to stay huddled in my layers and shuffle back down the mountain to the trailhead.
"Fields of Indian Summer" --- This is Indian Pass in Alaska's Chugach Mountains. I usually visit here several times each summer and fall. It's one of my favorite spots on the planet. It has no particularly spectacular feature such as a high craggy peak or towering waterfall, but just a simple, verdant valley protected by rolling mountainsides. This image has been the screensaver on my computer since I captured the photo late August, 2009!
"Glacial Lake In Spring" --- This is a personal favorite among my own images. It's a glacial lake in the headwaters of Falls Creek, late springtime in Alaska's Chugach Mountains. A nearby volcano - Mount Redoubt - had erupted over the winter, and left the dark ash covering all the snow. It gave the melting snow this interesting texture which kept capturing my attention all that spring.
"Devil's Club in Fall" --- Here is an autumn scene on the mountainside above the Turnagain Arm of Alaska's Cook Inlet, just West of McHugh Creek. Devil's club is a beautiful plant, but VERY prickly!! It has thorns all up and down its club-like stems, and on the underside of its leaves. As you negotiate carefully past them, they have a truly 'devilish' way of serving notice of your trespass. If you get angry as a result, be certain not to let yourself stoop to taking out your frustration on the plant (regrettably, I've succummed to that temptation on occasion). If you do, almost certainly some other part of the plant you didn't realized was attached to the part you are punishing, will make you pay for your indiscretion! Since surviving my youth, I've learned to just accept its beauty, and keep my distance! :-)
"Haiku Forest" --- I happened upon this small, lonely forest in miniature, high above the tree-line, in the heart of Alaska's Chugach Mountains. These particular trees were of a type which I haven't noticed much around here. We have lots of black spruce, and then hemlock higher up. But this was neither of those ubiquitous types. The bark was smooth and light tan, while the trunks were very straight and uniform thickness. Nothing like it nearby, that I have seen.
"Chugach in the Autumn Rain" -- Here is a typical scene of a mountainside in Alaska's Chugach Mountain backcountry. The trees are Hemlock, which remain dwarfed this high up, rarely getting more than 10 feet tall, kept low to the ground by wind and snow loads. I have a special fondness for them, because as a child I could easily walk under their protective canopy, and imagine whole worlds of cubby holes to explore. At lower elevations nearby, the very same species grow to 50 ft or so. Colored by various forms of lichen, the rocks are black with variegated pastel patches. Then white lichen and moss cover most of the soil, with tufts of grass. Of course, this time of year, the mountains are accumulating their ever-deepening frosting of snow. As this photo was taken, it was raining at this elevation, and snowing just a bit higher up. If you zoom in, you can see beads of rainwater hanging on the grass.
"Frosty False O'Malley" --- Here is False O'Malley mountain (center) in Alaska's Chugach Mountains, seen one very frosty moonless midnight (-17F) in January, 2017. To the right of the peak, you can just make out the snowy spindrift being lofted back into the sky by the North wind. I had to keep every square centimeter of skin covered, to avoid frostbite. Only two tiny slits in my facemask were left to see through, and I was wishing I could make them narrower still! I wasn't expecting to get two shots I'd like so well. My intention this night was merely to test whether I had finally devised a tripod and shooting setup I could entirely manage without removing my gloves. This test proved I had done so. Yay! But I really just wanted to stay huddled in my layers and shuffle back down the mountain to the trailhead.
"Tarns of Nagoon 172" - Here is a tarn beneath Nagoon Mountain, in Alaska's Chugach Mountains, 4th of July, 2017. We were intending to climb Nagoon (in the background of this photo) but finding it clouded over, we decided instead to explore the many tarns beneath. These are mostly melt-water, I think, held at the surface by this beautiful granite.
"Sunset Eagle" --- An eagle perches in front of Mt. Susitna, by all appearances taking in the sunset view. Mt. Susitna, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage Alaska, is known in this area as "Sleeping Lady", because her profile looks like, well, a sleeping lady! That's her long hair trailing off to the left, and her legs to the right. My grandmother homesteaded by herself just this side of Sleeping Lady's ankles, where she had a small cabin and kept a dog sledding team.
"Winter Descending" --- This photograph was taken in October in Alaska's Chugach Mountain backcountry. Photography was sandwiched in-between rain and snow squalls, with small accumulations of snow getting rinsed away by ensuing rains. Winter was descending to ever lower and lower elevations, here at about 3,000 ft. A few days later, this area was covered in a foot of snow.
"Any Patch of Rock will Do" --- It always amazes me how these garden galaxies thrive in myriad unseen nooks, scattered across our globe. So utterly beautiful, yet mostly never laid eyes on. I photographed this one alongside the 300 feet of cascading waterfalls descending from Grizzly Bear Lake. Just one rock garden arrangement out of millions. What a beautiful world!!
"Thriving in Adversity" --- This photo was taken at the summit of Grey Jay Peak, in Alaska's Chugach Mountains. It always amazes me that mountain flowers can bloom and thrive in the almost barren rocks, surrounded by snow, glaciers, and mountain peaks in every direction! The afternoon this photo was taken, I think I actually rolled my sleeves up for a few minutes while recovering from the climb. Perhaps I was the only visitor to this remote mountain peak all this year, and maybe this was its warmest moment of the summer. It didn't last long. The flowers and I made the most of our sunny interlude! :-)
"Promise of Winter" --- This photograph was taken in Alaska's Chugach Mountain backcountry. Photography was sandwiched in-between rain and snow squalls, with small accumulations of snow getting rinsed away by ensuing rains. To visit this area soon after this photo was captured would require the use of skis or snowshoes.