Our Last Denali Day

So on our final day in Denali NP for 2014, what did we wake up to?  You guessed it … another bluebird day.  🙂  After a restful morning (the only one on our entire trip – LOL), we set out to “troll” again for wildlife and try our luck at Savage River.  As you can see the fall colors were already beginning to pass, though still evident and colorful, their vibrant peak of explosive color was already a thing of the past.

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Savage River is a wonderful place for taking a leisurely hike around the Savage Loop Trail along the river, as it meanders its way.  The cold fresh air, the sounds of the water rushing by and the birds calling out overhead, and those clear beautiful skies made for the perfect day to end with in our week long stay at Denali.

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It’s just so picturesque.  Knowing that this would be more of a landscape walk-about, I carried my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my D800 camera body.  Tom outfitted himself with his 70-200mm f/2.8 lens onto his D7000 … just in case we encountered wildlife.  See, in years past, we’ve gotten amazing shots of the marmot sunning themselves on the rocks along the trail.  So, we were really scouting hard to find some.  Unfortunately, we never did find any and admittedly, I felt a bit dejected.  😦  But I reminded myself that we had an amazing stay in Denali already and certainly in Alaska as well.

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At some point, I saw a photographer shooting something on the hillside.  Of course, I had to know what it was.  Armed with a pair of binoculars, Tom was still unable to ascertain what it was.  Perhaps he was just shooting the landscape, but he had a longer lens.  Curiosity got the best of me and I inquired with another person who had spotted him as well.  To my surprise, he said that there was … wait for it … a LYNX!  I surge of excitement ran through my body as I set off uphill with my … wait for it … 24-70mm lens.  Sweet!  Quickly I realized that I had like… no chance … so I commandeered Tom’s 70-200mm and pursued that lynx.  🙂

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OK, now I’ll admit that this are not the stellar shots that I was hoping for, but I’ll take them!

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This lynx was intent on observing something … perhaps even more intent than we were on observing the lynx.  LOL  We photographed it for quite some time … just 3 of us … and I was thrilled beyond belief.

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Finally, the lynx got up and began to retreat from us, but not before giving us that “vogue” look.  It reminded me of the first lynx that I ever tried to photograph … only that time I missed for 2 reasons:  1. Our shuttle windows were frozen shut and therefore we couldn’t get the windows down.  2.  Once our windows finally were successfully lowered and the lynx gave me that same “vogue” look over the shoulder, I clicked and my shutter, only to realize that I had the shutter speed set to “bulb” from trying to photograph the aurora the night before.  Ugh … don’t you just hate when you’re not prepared?

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I vowed to never make that mistake again … you know, heading out without a wildlife lens … just in case!  After encountering and photographing this lynx though, I felt on top of the world again.  See, the lynx was seldom seen in Denali in 2014, since the snowshoe hare have declined in numbers lately, as they run in 7 year cycles in their plentiful numbers – just as the lynx do.  Nature at work again.

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So short of the marmot, our wildlife sightings this year were amazing and plentiful.  As we headed to return to the RV, we’re once again treated to this expansive sight.

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The colors have finally arrived towards the lower elevations of the park … aka the first few miles within the park boundaries.

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Before we leave Denali NP, we opt to take one last hike in the Riley Creek area.  The trees are showing off beautifully against the skies covered in patchy clouds.

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No trip to Alaska, or just about anywhere away from home, is ever complete without our trademark cairn building and an image of our creation.  Built out of river rocks along the Riley Creek waters, Tom and build our cairn … one rock at a time … each representing a year that we’ve been together … united by our love for each other and for nature and the outdoors.  17 rocks in all … & counting  ❤

DSC_9487Here’s to 2015!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

 

It Just Keeps Getting Better (Denali NP-Part 3)

Well, it’s another day in paradise for sure … as we’re greeted to an amazing bluebird day!  Nothing like viewing Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from such a distance away and seeing it without being shrouded in the clouds.

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Of course that was the telephoto view, while the below image was the “eye’s view” taken with a traditional landscape lens near the Mountain Vista Trailhead parking lot.  Either way, the beauty is apparent.

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New to us in 2014 was the Savage Alpine Trail, which was conveniently located adjacent to the Mountain Vista Trailhead parking lot, near the Savage River Campground.  We decided to give it a shot.  I was immediately pleased when I came across a sign warning of bear activity in the area.  I remember thinking that this was going to be a great hike!

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Designated trails in Denali NP are a rare sight to see, as most of this vast wilderness makes only for its own DIY (Do It Yourself) trails.  In the past, one could hike here, but being that it ventured close to the moose rut closure in the fall, it wasn’t generally accessed frequently.  In the beginning of the trail, some boards were used to designate the trail and keep it in good condition.  It was so beautiful as we made our way about 1/4 up the mountain.

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About 1/3 of the way up, we were treated to views like this.  Oh yeah!

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Before long, the views behind us, actually all around us were increasingly spectacular with our climbing elevation.

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Upon reaching near the summit of the climb, Tom took in the view from all around.

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It was one of the most breathtaking views … I’m talking 360 degrees … I’ve ever witnessed.  Didn’t matter which way you looked.  I didn’t ever want to leave as I tried desperately to soak it all in … essentially trying to imprint it into my soul … to draw upon in future days when I would once again long for this solitude and immense beauty.

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But alas, we eventually had to descend … happily the beauty remained all around us.

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And when the mountain views had eluded us, we still had running creek waters to call upon our senses, as the water made its way down the mountain.

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In the finale, we were treated to a beautiful gravel path back down to the park road and our RV waiting for us.

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We never see those bears that were “frequenting the area” :-(, but we were treated some wildlife sightings, mainly birds, such as this lovely grouse seen almost immediately as it scurried off the path in front of us as we explored.  🙂

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Every day and night, we would “troll” those first 15 miles of accessible park road for any wildlife that might be in the area.  Usually it was a moose on the loose, but many have  seen wolf, lynx, bear, porcupine, a variety of squirrels, and other sightings.

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On this evening we made our way back to Savage River to try our chance at finding a bear, lynx, dall sheep, wolf, or whatever might be passing through the area, but only moose were found.  Hard to beat the scene though as the sun began to set on the landscape.

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Then when we turned around to leave for the night, I saw this amazing moon beginning to rise on the landscape.  Being that it was still low, it looked amazingly big … and definitely beautiful.  “Pull the RV over right now”, which was a request usually reserved for wildlife sightings – LOL.

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After a few shots, Tom thought that I was done, but no … for I knew that the light would be changing again and that the image might become more interesting and beautiful.  As we were waiting for the moon to continue to rise and the colors to emerge, we were entertained by this cute little guy … flying into our RV grill … in search of bugs!  We watched as he repeatedly fly in and out.  It was quite interesting and most definitely entertaining to watch.

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Sure enough, the colors began to pop and all I could think was that this was the perfect ending to a perfect day!

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We did however have another day waiting for us to explore the wonders of Denali.  I did a mental checklist of the Big 5 … all sightings were accomplished of the moose, bear, caribou, dall sheep, and the wolf.  Denali in its full glory was also accomplished (30% club inductees once again – even better since we viewed it without a hint of a cloud).  Lots of bird sightings … variety of smaller animals … But I was missing a lynx  ;-).  I was still pleased with my luck so far, as lynx sightings in 2014 were scarce due to the decline of the snowshoe hares in the park … a favorite food of the lynx.

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Stay tuned for the remaining stories and images from Denali NP.

© 2014 TNWA Photography

2012 Review: Part 4 – Denali National Park & Other AK Areas

Off to Denali we went for another week or so – actually we loved it so much that we returned to Denali for another 4 day stint when Kelli & Mitchell flew out to join us in Anchorage.  Hoping to see the moose rut, it seems that we were still a bit too early to see the real jostling that goes on, but we did see some early “practice sessions”.  We did see many sightings of grizzly bears this year – many times they were sows and their cubs.  As they frolicked in the amazing autumn-kissed tundra or sometimes even in the snow covered landscape, they thrilled me to no end, as I clicked off images to my heart’s content.  Wolf sightings were achieved, as well as coyotes, caribou, golden eagles, harriers, dall sheep, just to name a few.  Conspicuously absent for us in 2012 was the lynx, though I tried really hard… new found friends of ours were successful in seeing one, so I lived vicariously through their sighting.

When we first arrived, we were treated to a vast array of autumn’s best colors.

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Autumn color changes were everywhere, as even the caribou has to stop to enjoy the view

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Young grizzly cubs frolicking at play

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Lone wolf cruising the tundra in search of a meal

Cow moose feeding

Cow moose feeding

Then the weather began to change, as the fog and rain rolled in
Where's the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Where’s the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow?

Then it happened ….. SNOW  (remember, we’re quite excited – being from FL and all)
The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The snowfall started in the afternoon and continued on through the evening

The next day, it was beautiful!  The snow had stopped, the skies were clear, the weather was cold, but plenty of sunshine to help warm us up.  Even the wildlife seemed to enjoy it.
Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

Grizzly bear stop in the snow flurry blanketed landscape

What a fabulous day!

What a fabulous day!

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

Taking in the view from Wonder Lake

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

The freshly fallen snow contrasts so beautifully on the mountains and against the sky

Not a cloud in the sky - viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Not a cloud in the sky – viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Having some fun along the way!

Having some fun along the way!

A mother-daughter moment of happiness  :-)

A mother-daughter moment of happiness 🙂

We also traveled to other areas of Alaska, of course, as we always do.  There’s never a shortage of experiences or sights/animals to see and photograph.  I encourage everyone out there that has never visited AK to do so … you won’t be disappointed.

Hatcher Pass vista

Hatcher Pass vista

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point - yes, we did see the belugas!

The newlyweds along the Turnagain Arm @ Beluga Point – yes, we did see the belugas!

And our most favorite of all sights, though very different viewing in 2012, is the spectacular aurora borealis.  First experienced by us in 2007 in Chena Hot Springs, outside of Fairbanks, it continues to be sought after by us when we visit AK in the later summer.  This year, the aurora didn’t “dance” across the sky like a blowing curtain, but rather made it’s presence know with an almost glow in the sky.  Not much movement at all, though still very beautiful.

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

Northern lights over Chena Hot Springs

What a wonderful place … ever-changing, awe-inspiring …. warms the heart and soul  🙂

Stay tuned for 2012 Review:  Part 5