Denali NP … Until Next Time

All aboard the train back into Denali NP!  DSC_7298As the new day begins, the promise of great things ahead initiates with this beautiful sunrise.DSC_7179Even this moose cow stops what she’s doing to check out the fabulous sights and sounds of Denali.DSC_3026No matter the weather that you are greeted by, just wait a few moments or hours, it’s bound to change.  Though the misty, low clouds make this a gorgeous atmosphere as seen by a vista at the Savage River overlook pullout.DSC_7243Usually we head out early for a few runs along the park road looking for wildlife opportunities and friends to catch up with.  By mid-day, Tom has one thing on his mind … Bean Cloud coffee shake from The Black Bear, a delicious coffee house located across the street from the entrance to Denali NP.  Our good friend Rebecca knows that this is a required stop when she rides along with us.  🙂IMG_1055A usual hike, one of only a few established trails in Denali NP, is the Horseshoe Lake Trail.  Crossing over the railroad tracks I can’t help but stop, get low, and snap off a few images. Railroad tracks have always fascinated me.DSC_7327The water on this mornings hike was exceptionally still, which provided for wonderful reflections.  DSC_7346Along the way, while exploring the shore along the river, we heard the train whistle blow.  How lucky to get a second train sighting!  That deep blue and yellow train, set against the greens and yellows of the early transition period into the fall colors towards the front of the park, made it all that more special.DSC_7386Well, until a rainbow come out and topped it.  How lucky we had been with our travels and the weather this year in Alaska!DSC_7407Tom is quite fascinated by beaver dens, lodges, and activity, so it didn’t surprise us when he decided to ham it up for the camera.DSC_7430During the late afternoons and early evenings, we would “troll” for wildlife along the park road.  Of course, being in the midst of the beginnings of the moose rut, encountering bull moose gathering about was the prime target of our quest.  Usually, it wouldn’t be long before we got those encounters that we desired.DSC_3505This particular bull moose was one of only a few that still had traces of velvet on their antler paddles.  It was so amazing to see it hanging off the tines, like unraveling threads hanging down.DSC_3814Sometimes, while pleading your case for an additional night at the campground during a holiday weekend, you come across the unexpected.  I could hear another gal doing the same right next to me, then heard, “Hey lady”.  To my surprise, my good friend Renee was standing there, after just arriving to Denali without a reservation.  Well, neither one of us could get the extra night in demand, but we had our campsite for the night already, so we just had them join us!  How much fun we had sitting around the campfire, dropping our droopy marshmallows into the fire, enjoying a bottle of wine, and catching up with other, something we didn’t think that we would get to do until we returned to Anchorage.  So much fun that we ended up talking and laughing it up … right through the fabulous display of northern lights!  Ugh!  Oh well …. it was worth it.  🙂DSC_7435On our last day in Denali, the mountain was still out, though just a tad covered mid-section by a thin layer of clouds.  I think that those clouds add a bit of character to the mountain view._DSC3816When breaking during the day within Denali, I always take the time to see what their information signs have to offer for the day.  I was so struck by this quote by Margaret Murie – “Beauty is a resource in and of itself … I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by or so poor she cannot afford to keep them”.  So eloquently spoken and never so true as today.DSC_7485Yes, we truly LOVE Denali and this amazing vast environment of wilderness, wildlife, adventure opportunities, and views that take your breath away!IMG_1107DSC_7487More dall sheep sightings along the way.  These two guys were consistently there each day that we passed by.DSC_4036One last thought when experiencing Alaska to remember:  “Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary in life” – Rachel CarsonDSC_7469With that in mind, we made our way towards Anchorage to begin our journey home, somewhere along the Denali Highway.  I was restless that night and peeked outside around midnight or so.   Something was outside wanting to bid us farewell … until next time.  It was the aurora, once more, though behind some sporadic clouds.  Of course, I had to snap a few shots.  🙂  My spirit was refueled with energy and excitement.DSC_7550DSC_7553So, until next time … adieu Denali … as Arnold says … “I’ll be back”!DSC_7472IMG_1059Hope that you enjoyed our images and stories from Alaska 2015!

Next Up:  Think White ~~~~

©2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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2015 Year In Review – Part 2

I hope that everyone enjoyed Part 1 of the 2015 Year In Review … but the year wasn’t over where we left off … oh no, far from it.  So make yourself comfortable and enjoy the ride of June through December.

“Road Trip!”  Not just any road trip, but a cycling one with friends across country and back.  First stop, Virgina.  There Tom, Todd, and John had the honor to represent Team USA in the 2015 World Police & Firefighter Games.  They were competing in the mountain biking and road cycling events.  I know that it was quite an honor to march in the Opening Ceremonies Parade of Countries, featuring these skilled athletes from all over the world.DSC_4724Tom competed in the road criterium race and was awarded 3rd Place.  Not bad for a guy who doesn’t ever compete in road cycling events.  🙂  Shout out to his sponsor Tune Cycles in Boca Raton, FL.  DSC_3753In the mountain biking event, Tom took top honors and was awarded the Gold Medal for his effort.  A nice repeat from his last appearance at the World Games in Indianapolis, where he also finished first.  So proud of my World Champion hubby!  Yes, he’s my sherpa, but also quite the athlete.DSC_4812I never made it to the road race, since I had something even more important to do.  See, my daughter Kelli was having her “White Coat Ceremony” for her Physician Assistant program, so off I went to Jacksonville to support her honor.  Such a proud momma.  :-)MIMG_2677The guys continued on their way out west, stopping to ride the trails along the way.  I met back up with them in Park City, with much anticipation for some photo shoots, but the weather had other ideas.  Either way, it was gorgeous.DSC_4862No trip to Utah is ever complete with visiting the Moab area, especially if you’re with 3 cycling fanatics.  No worries, Arches NP and Canyonlands were just down the street for me.DSC_4886

While in Canyonlands NP, the guys mountain biked the Shafer Overlook Trail, a place Tom & I had visited before and I told him “no way, no how would I drive down that thing”.  Well, you guessed it, that’s just what I did … well, not me driving … thanks Rachel.DSC_5059On our way east again, we stopped at Grand Junction & Fruita, CO – also a mecca for cyclists.  For me, there was the beauty of the Grand Mesa area, as well as Colorado National Monument.  I have a feeling that we might be seeing more of this area again.DSC_5184DSC_5346-HDRMy only request on this road trip was Mt. Evans and those mountaintop mountain goats.  Couldn’t believe my eyes when we arrived to a closed sign for some major road repairs lasting months.  Since this was a cycling trip, Tom took one for the team and road the 15 mile winding road, in the high winds and cold, with about 4500 foot vertical elevation climb, all in an effort to get me those mountain goats.  What a guy!  IMG_2799-2IMG_0898The World Champion not only made it to the top, but got some world class images to prove it!  So grateful to him.DSC_5550Not having enough mountain climbing, Tom and his buddies decided to give Pikes Peak a try.  As you can see, the weather was threatening … wind, rain, sleet, snow … they had it all.DSC_5292Back in Colorado Springs, of course The Garden Of The Gods is a must.DSC_5351Along the way, we stopped along the Bourbon Trail, and I learned more about bourbon than I ever thought was possible!  Such an amazing process and beautiful countryside.DSC_5784When we returned home, it wasn’t long before our 9th return trip to … you guessed it … Alaska.  _DSC5938Katmai National Park & Preserve is always a MUST when making the journey out there and the bears didn’t disappoint.  Dave of AK Adventures and Wes of Beluga Air once again treated us to some spectacular inflight views and amazing bear encounters.DSC_6195DSC_7677DSC_8370Each visit to Alaska is so different from any other, so it always makes the trip exciting.  This year we were treated to very nice weather.  By that I mean, cold, but for the most part sunny._DSC3327Though we generally see the sea otters, seals, and sea lions while there, no previous encounters were of this level.  I mean, the marine life practically presented themselves to us… with their salmon offering as well.  🙂_DSC6332Now that I don’t “stalk” the aurora like I used to, I find that it presents itself more readily!  Probably the most spiritual phenomenon that I have ever witnessed, there’s nothing like witnessing the northern lights.  Sure, it’s frigid cold while out there, but honestly, I get carried away by natures light show and I don’t even feel it.  If I could wish something for everyone to witness, it would be the aurora borealis!DSC_6995We’re usually pretty lucky when it comes to seeing “the mountain” out in its full glory, this year was even more special.  See, we were there for the official return of the name “Denali” to the mountain (previously known as Mt. McKinley, though previously to that, Denali).  I felt so proud to be a part of that history and as you can see, the mountain was proud too and really showed off as if in graditude._DSC3553The moose rut season was getting close, as the bulls were almost shed of their velvet and congregating with the other bulls, all following the ladies.DSC_381413 days after returning home from Alaska, I had a special treat for myself in store … a return to Alaska.  This time, Kaktovik was my destination and the stars of my trip were the amazing polar bears of the arctic.  It was a dream of a lifetime and I had to pinch myself often to be sure that I was actually living that dream._DSC6749_DSC1471_DSC9445_DSC7514If I had two more wishes, I would have wished that Tom was there with me.  No, not to carry my gear, but to experience their beauty, silly antics, and share in the awe of it all.  The other wish would be that everyone could also see the polar bears of the arctic and judge for themselves the importance of preserving their home for them and us as well.  Hey, you can, as we did, see the northern lights there too, so it could be just one trip!  🙂_DSC0014OK, now I’m feeling a bit spoiled … but we also treated ourselves to some autumn glory, as seen off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ashesville, NC area.  Such a treat to this Florida girl._DSC4161_DSC4136Yes, 2015 was a dream come true on all levels.  Now that I have more time to fully enjoy travel, photography, and personal business pursuits, who knows where the road will lead.  Life is such a journey … its path is often unknown … its duration is even more unsure.  The only thing that I know for certain is that I will live life to the fullest and challenge myself with new experiences and adventures along the way.  It will be hard to top 2015, but … “challenge accepted”.  Thanks to all who made 2015 possible and shared moments with us along the way … especially Jen, Liz, Jess, Amy M, Cris, Kathleen, Kim, Kelli & Mitchell, Nicole, Violet, Bob, Maria, Todd, John, Rachel, Amy H, Rick, Dave, Phil, Rebecca, Renee & Al, Alex & the gang from Kaktovik, Kem & John, my mom & Murray, and of course, Tom.

Here’s to 2016!

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Next Up:  More from Alaska

© 2015  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy     (www.tnwaphotography.com)

“Sail Away” With Me

In the last blog post, “Who’s Afraid of the Denali Highway?”, I shared our experience crossing the Denali Highway for the first time.  It was quite exciting, but before we crossed we arrived in Paxson and drove to the first pull off to get our bearings and grab a quick bite in the RV.  It was the evening of our 6th wedding anniversary and I began to think about 7 years ago when we witnessed the aurora for the first time.  The “highway” was going to be quite secluded from any city lights.  I ran outside to assess whether or not we had a chance to repeat our luck.  The sky was beautiful, but heavily scattered with wispy clouds.  Normally, I would be tickled pink, but I was hoping for clear skies.  We proceeded to fix dinner and got to sleep a bit earlier than normal … setting the alarm for 11:30 pm.

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When the alarm rang, I got dressed for the cold and the wind, which I could hear howling outside.  Is everything ready?  Camera with proper night shooting settings? Tripod set up? Remote shutter connected?  Fresh memory card?  Fresh battery?  Proper wide angle lens attached?  All systems seemed like … GO.  The stars were brightly lit and that’s when I realized that the skies had indeed cleared.  Yippee!

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In & out of the RV I went, trying to get warm from that wicked wind.  On one particular run outside, we saw it … the aurora, also referred to as the northern lights.  It was stretched out on the vast landscape before us.  At this point it was relatively stagnant … just fabulous light which would intensify and then retreat.

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Composition … I searched my surroundings for something that I incorporate into the frame to make the shot more interesting.  OK, secret be told, this is actually a really nice outhouse in the lot that we were parked in.  LOL.  I know, quite romantic, but who cares, it was a structure and served the purpose I was looking for.  Now the light was beginning to include a hint of purple hue as well.

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It was then that the lights began to float across the night’s dark sky.  I distinctly remember hearing the wind, feeling it against my face, and I became quite thrilled.  Yes, my senses went back to that first night on August 30th, 2007 … Chena Hot Springs – Tom & I snuggled up under multiple blankets, freezing, as we laid down on top of a picnic table and watched the northern lights as they danced across the sky.  Of course, I would run over to my tripod on occasion to try to capture the experience.

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As the aurora intensified and other colors appeared, I no longer felt the cold.  All I felt was the sensory overload that I was experiencing and the endorphins or whatever flowing through my body … touching my soul like only the aurora can.

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In some cultures, witnessing the aurora is considered to be one of the most prized events in their lifetime.  Some say that the experience bestows good relationships and fortune on its lucky observers.  We never expected to see it the first time we did, so it was quite the pleasant surprise.  It totally moved us spiritually, as the lights fell like curtains dancing in the wind.

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At this point, I thought it was dwindling and I figured that I would be satisfied with what I had already witnessed.  I retreated into the RV and put my PJs on for the night.  Before I got under the covers, I took one my shot at the night skies.  This is what I saw … and all bets were off … in my bare feet and PJs (I’m talking single layered), I ran out with my tripod in hand and began shooting in awe again.  In actuality, it was even colder than before, but it didn’t matter.

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Point is, I didn’t even feel it.  Tom stayed inside for a bit, then finally joined me, with proper clothing on, of course.  Oh, and he offered me my jacket.  Always the sherpa.  ❤

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On August 30, 2008, we got married in Chena Hot Springs in honor of our 1st aurora experience.  Seemed appropriate that we would once again see them on August 30th, some 6 years later.  Sort of like renewing our vows.  🙂  Each year, on our anniversary, we go out into nature and present each other with a gift from nature.  I don’t think we could have asked for a better one.

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Reminds me of the David Gray song “Sail Away”.

Lyrics:                                                                                                                                           “Crazy skies all wild above me now
Winter howling at my face
And everything I held so dear
Disappeared without a trace”

I’m sure that wasn’t the actual meaning of the lyrics, but it was to us.  I couldn’t say anything better to describe the experience.  You totally get lost in the experience.  I still get all emotional when I hear that song … ask Tom.  LOL

Coming Up:  A Week in Denali National Park.  Stay tuned.  🙂

© 2014 TNWA Photography