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09/15/18 - Anchorage to Seattle

We had great seats on the flight from Anchorage to Seattle. Here are some photos, including some of the glaciers in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, some mountains and coastline and then our approach to Seattle.

Far north

Glaciers below

Another great glacier

Another view



More of the same, yawn

More mountains, closer to home

Much closer to home


Mount Rainier

Keywords: alaska, seattle, mount rainier

09/14/18 - Anchorage Sunset

The evening light in Anchorage was beautiful for our last evening in town.

Sunset in Anchorage

Keywords: alaska

09/13/18 - Byron Glacier

To be honest, we never got that close to the Byron Glacier. We followed the trail to the clutter of rocks that the glacier left in its track. We made our way along the rocks. Then, we came to a wall of rocks, perhaps 15-20 feet high, and we decided that we had seen plenty of glaciers and that it just wasn't worth climbing that many rocks to see yet another one. Maybe we were getting jaded. More likely, we realized that this was a bit more climbing than we were good for.

The trail to Byron Glacier

Some snow en route

A field of rocks, then a wall of rocks, kind of rough going

Still, a pretty hike

A lovely river

Keywords: alaska

09/12/18 - Kenai Fjords - Part 2

There were other glaciers to stare at in amazement, and there were sea birds - puffins, cormorants and others. Our route back took us to some of the little islands full of birds and sea lions and mystery.

It was a perfect day to be on the water.

The seals on ice, again


More scenery, mountains, ice and clouds

There's a little glacier peeking out there.

A tiny, little baby glacier

Mountains and ice

There was a bit more haze in the afternoon.

There was also a bit of cloud.

Even more scenery

Near and far

Birds on the rocks

A dramatic cliff

Sunning Steller sea lions

More sea lions

Another view

Yet another look

Yet another glacier

A closer look

Keywords: alaska

09/11/18 - Kenai Fjords - Part 1

Having spent some time on ice and some time on land, we spent the next day on the water. We took a Major Marine tour, and while we had an indoor table available to us, we spent almost the entire trip out on the deck.

The scenery was spectacular. The harbor itself was beautiful, blue water surrounded by mountains and glaciers. We headed south towards more spectacular scenery. We took a detour to visit an orca, then headed into the next fjord over and made our way to a spectacular glacier.

The ice was covered with seals, and we lucked out and saw a few chunks of ice break off of the glacier and plunge into the icy water.

Seward harbor

A mountain with a minor glacier

More mountains, more snow and ice

A major ice field

More water, mountains and ice

Rock formations

Another bit of water

An orca, exhaling

Approaching the big glacier

More scenic islands

More scenery; Alaska has no shortage of scenery

Rock formations

The big glacier

Seals on the ice

The glacier and sea ice

Blue ice

Caves to explore another time

The glacier again

Another view of the seals

Keywords: alaska

09/10/18 - Exit Glacier and the Seward Aquarium

Our first day in Seward we hiked towards the Exit Glacier. We followed the trail along the river bed up towards the glacier melt line. We walked out on the river bed a bit and enjoyed the bright day and wonderful views.

Then we started climbing the trail that leads up the valley and, if one can climb the necessary 3,000 feet, offers more views of the glacier. We didn't get all that far, but we did enjoy the forest and the streams and the occasional glimpses through the trees.

We returned to the ranger station and marveled at some of the reported wildlife sightings.

Back in Seward, we visited the aquarium and checked out the sea lions, fish, puffins and other sea birds. It was feeding time for the animals, and then it was feeding time for us. We ate dinner across the street from the Best Western at the Cookery which is a seriously good restaurant.

The river flowing from the glacier

Our first peek at the glacier

The river bed

Another view across the river bed

Another view of the glacier

And yet another

A view on our way up

The forest and sunlight

Trees, sunlight, variation on a theme

More trees and sunlight

The trail climbing through trees and sunlight

Wildlife sightings - Click the image for a better view.

A sea otter

Feeding time for the birds

One of the puffins

One of the enclosures at the aquarium

More feeding time

Keywords: alaska

09/09/18 - On to Seward

The view from our luxury lodge was lovely, but despite our love of luxury, it wasn't for us. We left and made our way to Seward where we checked into a Best Western, and a very nice one at that.

The view from our luxury lodge

The view from Seward

Along the Seward waterfront

Another view of Kenai Fjord

The marina at Seward

Keywords: alaska

09/08/18 - Alaskan Glacier Adventure

We couldn't take the smoke from the forest fires in BC anymore, so we headed up north to Alaska. Our trip started with a bit of a misadventure, but we also got to walk on a glacier well past anywhere, somewhere north and east of Anchorage. It was one of those Alaska adventures with an airplane flight across miles of flat land and mountains and then another flight in a helicopter onto a glacier. There air was fresh and clear, and the scenery was spectacular.

We wonder who lives here and how they get here.

Power lines across the rolling flatlands

Mountains and the glacier

Looking across the gray ice

A crevasse

View of the glacier

The first flower we saw

Another view

And yet another as we cross the rubble field and climbed

Life among the stones

The big picture

Fractured rock, like an ancient wall

More life

More stone works

More life as we descended away from the glacier

One of the corn lilies, our first corn lily picture of the year

The fallen castle

Lupines of Alaska doing well

Ice in the water

Keywords: alaska

09/23/17 - Our Ultimate Day at Ultima Thule - Part 4

We had one more stop before McCarthy. We had flown far through the hills. Our pilot circled, testing the winds. Then we landed on a high ridge. It was wide open. We were scared to get too close to the edge. For some reason, flying what seemed inches from a mountainside thousands of feet above an active glacier wasn't a problem, but walking across a meadow towards the edge of a cliff turned our legs to jelly. Go figure. Then again, our pilots seemed to be more competent in the air than we are on the ground.

It was icy up on the ledge. We broke into our bags and brought out another layer. Ultima Thule suggests packing layer after layer and bringing the whole kit with one every day. With landings like this, it only seems sensible.

Then we took off again, leaping over the edge of the cliff and into the sky. Off to McCarthy. Our bags were waiting for us. Our connecting flight had not arrived. Our pilots departed after assuring us that there was a plane heading out our way. We waited patiently. Our plane arrived. Amazingly, though, the incoming flight was carrying take out pizza for the staff at Ultima Thule. Luckily, McCarthy has good Verizon coverage, so we made a quick call to the lodge. They would send a plane for it ASAP.

We left the pizza in what we hoped was a safe place and headed off for Alaska. Apparently ordering take out pizza is different in Alaska.


Alaskan hills

Dall sheep

The sheep again

The view from one of the landing strips

High country - It was cold.

Seen on the ground

Seen en route to McCarthy

Goodbye to the glaciers

More glacial melt

Another glacial pond

Keywords: alaska

09/23/17 - Our Ultimate Day at Ultima Thule - Part 3

We explored some more and found some wolverine tracks. Then, it was getting on. We had a four o'clock flight back to Anchorage, so we started making our way back to McCarthy.

Wolverine tracks

Yup, wolverine tracks

Clear water meets milky water

A glacial melt water channel

Cracked rock

Autumn color - There was a lot of that.

Over the river

Over the river bed

Another river

The painted hills

Yet another river

Keywords: alaska

09/23/17 - Our Ultimate Day at Ultima Thule - Part 2

Then we flew downriver and landed to explore clear water pools, almost amazingly blue, and brown milky river channels. We were regretting that this was our last day by the Chitina.

Clear water meets milky glacier water

Along the channel

Wonderful color

Autumn again

Cracked ground

Melting ice covered with soil

Our airplane at the terminal

More autumn color


Another bit of clear water

Another reflection

Keywords: alaska

09/22/17 - Our Ultimate Day at Ultima Thule - Part 1

Ultima Thule is extremely organized. On the last day, we packed all our goods and chattels and went out on a final adventure. Our bags would be waiting for us in McCarthy where we would get the plane to Anchorage.

Our goodbye tour took us over one of the great glaciers and into the connecting canyons where other glaciers flowed down mountain sides to join it. There were a lot of glaciers and a lot of canyons, so our pilot took us about past steep rock walls and over the rivers of ice.

We landed on the river bed, and stretched our legs. There was a little waterfall in a side canyon, and then the wide open river bed.

The view from the lodge

Bison as seen from above

A glacier view

Another glacier view

Yet another glacier view

Seen awfully close to our plane

Down to the glacier

Ice covered with soil


A little waterfall

Back to the river bed

Keywords: alaska

09/21/17 - Our Third Day at Ultima Thule - Part 4

This wasn't an eventful hike. So much of it was about being out there in an impossible place and taking in both the broad expanse and the little details. Details like the silverberry plants or the shattered rocks that looks as if they were sliced at a deli. There was the feel of the air and the sense of wide open space. We were rewarded for looking up and afar as much as for looking down and up close.

We spent the entire day walking the river bed, but we have no idea of how far we had traveled. We could only note our progress in terms of the unfamiliar ground or distant landmarks which barely seemed to change as we walked and wandered. Gibraltar, that island to the east, grew only slightly smaller as we headed west, and the great mountains seemed as distant as ever.

Then came our ride. A Piper Super Cub appeared from nowhere and found a landing strip. There were lots of landing strips. Then we were airborne. The river looked different from the sky.

Color on the mountain

We took a lot of pictures of those mountains.

Silverberry plant with berries

A worn and broken rock

More color

Dried flowers

Seen on the river bed

Our ride back to the lodge

A view from above

It looks different from the sky.

Complex channels

Keywords: alaska

09/21/17 - Our Third Day at Ultima Thule - Part 3

As we wandered east along the river bed, we paid attention to the ground. There were signs of running water everywhere. At the base of one small plant we saw small marks on the soil. We thought they might be small animal tracks, but they were drip marks from a recent rain.

The sand in the river bed is extremely fine. Glacial rivers carry very fine sand as we noted earlier. A light kick could send up a cloud of dust. In the spring, the river bed spawns dust devils, whirling clouds of fine dust. As the winds get more powerful, the entire river bed is almost hidden by the clouds of fine dust, the same dust that gives the river its milkiness.

River bed plants, either that or from Mars

Local color

Gibraltar and the mountains

The ridge we had followed the day before

Another look at Gibraltar as we headed away

The far bank

Water drops

Nature's harvest season

Another set of prints

A dry river bed, almost like the ones on Mars

Another pretty view

Keywords: alaska

09/21/17 - Our Third Day at Ultima Thule - Part 2

We hadn't expected autumn foliage in Alaska. I suppose we imagined that the trees would go from green to barren in one single powerful blast of cold air coming off the slopes of the Brooks Range if not from the Arctic. We seem to have arrived at its peak. The forest were golden in contrast to the pale blue color scheme of the distant mountains.

One of the more interesting plants we found was the silverberry. It had white berries, the size of olives. They almost looked as if they were made of plastic. The outer skin almost dissolved in one's hand, but the inner green berry was hard. These were popular with the local bears.

Wide open country

We saw a squirrel, but no moose

More autumn color

Silverberries - bears love them

Mountains and autumn


Down on the river bed

More signs of autumn

That island is Gibraltar

River bed


Keywords: alaska

09/20/17 - Our Third Day at Ultima Thule - Part 1

On our third day, we explored the river bed. We flew upstream a way and found a landing strip on one of the banks. Our guide was waiting for us. We started exploring the low bank forested area, then made our way towards the river channel proper.

We were looking for bison. There was a herd of them nearby. We could even see their hoof prints, so we explored some of their likely hangouts. We didn't find any.

As we approached the river bed proper we got a real sense of just how big the river valley was. It was miles across and seemed to run forever in either direction.

The river

Autumn color

A close look at the ground

A broader view

Heading towards the river

Bison tracks

Approaching the river bed

Mountains in view

Another close up

More tracks

Green life

Keywords: alaska

09/19/17 - Our Second Day at Ultima Thule - Part 4

To our north were the painted hills. Our guide explained that they were full of gold ore. That's what we called them. They were a spill of layered minerals forming a row of hills, or more likely mountains, given the scale of things. They reminded us of the John Day Painted Hills in Oregon, but were larger and formed differently. The hills in Oregon were volcanic. Here we could see the differently colored sedimentary layers that comprised the range.

We continued east and were soon overlooking the high valley where we would get our return ride. It looked so close. We started down the slope. This was possibly the roughest part of the walk. The slope was steep; then we entered an area of what had appeared to be small bushes between us and our landing strip. These small bushes were small trees, taller than we were. There was no real trail, though our guide found a path through.

There was a small tent with survival gear. Our return flight was right on time. Again, flying in Alaska was different. A Piper Super Cub landed and we clambered aboard, grabbing at support rods and trying not to damage the side panels. We took off for another view of the ridge, river and the valley. It had been an amazing journey, and we would be back at the lodge in time for a hot shower and delightful dinner.

We were fascinated by the river

The painted hills, maybe next visit

Looking down

The painted hills again

Our ride home; Lift, not Lyft

Autumn color on the hill sides

The ridge we had followed

Another view with autumn color

Forest meets river

The river from a lower altitude

Our landing strip; home sweet home

Keywords: alaska

09/18/17 - Our Second Day at Ultima Thule - Part 3

We spent most of the day hiking. We were dropped off around ten o'clock and would not be picked up until four, so we covered the rolling ground at a leisurely pace, stopping often to absorb the surrounding beauty.

The river in the valley below followed the usual glacial pattern. It photographs as blue, but appears a milky brown to the naked eye. It is so full of glacial sediment that it looks like chocolate milk or horchata. As the river flows and turns, it drops some of its sediment load, so its course is braided, twisting and turning, splitting and rejoining as sprawls across five miles of the valley floor.

The Chitina River, looking towards its sources

Another look

Glacial rivers flow in braids, not channels

One of the great glaciers

Exotic hills

A distant glacier to the north

There are two moose by this distant lake

More exotic hills

Another glacier

Those painted hills

Rock formations of the ridge

Keywords: alaska

09/17/17 - Our Second Day at Ultima Thule - Part 2

We left our muttons and continued our hike to the east. One thing about being in such big, wide open country is that one can do a lot of walking while the scenery changes only slowly. Alaska is a big country, which is one reason we chose an air based tour. There is just so much of it.

We loosely followed the ridge, now and then heading towards the edge towards fantastic views of the Chitina River. That name means "copper river". The "na" suffix means river and appears in a lot of Alaskan river names. The "chit" part refers to copper. This region was known from time immemorial for its copper ore, and one of the biggest copper mines in the world, the Kennecott mine, was in the area.

As we progressed the land folded and revealed new, distant forms. We had a tantalizing look at some distant painted hills and glacier covered mountains. We marched on.

Leaving our muttons behind ...

Enjoying a rest

Open country

Mountain and river views

Autumn color on the mountains

Another view

Fields of dried flowers

Another distant mountain

Mountain goats; they are a bit blockier.

The painted hills

Another view of mountains and the river

Keywords: alaska

09/16/17 - Our Second Day at Ultima Thule - Part 1

Our second day was a hiking adventure. We took a short flight to the ridge that followed the river. It was just north of the lodge and offered views of the Chitina River and distant mountains. It was three thousand and some feet higher than the valley floor, so we circled for a bit before heading north. We set down on yet another impossibly short landing strip where our guide was waiting for us with supplies and a high powered rifle, just in case.

We arranged to be picked up later in the day and started heading east, following the ridge. It was wild, open country, barren of trees. We were in our own isolated world. Depending on the lay of the land, we could see for miles in every direction.

We could see the herd of Dall sheep from quite a distance, tiny white forms dotting the hills. Our binoculars revealed more detail, and as we approached we could see an entire herd of sheep all busy doing the usual sheep things, mainly eating. As we drew nearer, a bunch of them got skittish and bolted up the far hillside. Then they settled down and returned to their meal.

Autumn color at the lodge

The view from our landing strip

Autumn color on the trail

Dried grasses and flowers

Dall sheep

Here's what they eat. Yummy?

Alpine foliage

More sheep

Skittish sheep; we spooked them.

Safety in numbers

It was quite a herd.

Keywords: alaska

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