June 20, 2015 Homer, Alaska

Cottongrass
Cottongrass

Wildflowers and Wildlife

Cottongrass
Cottongrass

Driving all the back roads above the city of Homer, I run across patches of wildflowers here and there, nothing like the fields of wildflowers you may find in the west, in the lower forty-eight, but still a visual treat when you do discover them. This is a particularly dense patch of cotton grass growing alongside the road, a very neat plant I was able to get some nice shots of very early in the morning before the breeze came up.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Cottongrass
Cottongrass
Columbine
Columbine

I really haven’t come across much Columbine, just a couple of plants here and there, again nothing like in the mountainside meadows of Colorado for instance.

Jacob's Ladder
Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium is starting to appear more frequently.

Impossibly Blue
Impossibly Blue

And this is not a wildflower, but some form of perennial that caught my eye in a bed next to East End Road. I am not sure what this impossibly blue flower is as I have never seen it before, and I used to pour theough all the perennial flower catalogs back when I managed almost a half acre of perennials at my art gallery.

Impossibly Blue
Impossibly Blue
Homer Perennial Bed
Homer Perennial Bed

Gorgeous flower in a very nicely designed perennial bed.

Lupines
Lupines
Lupines
Lupines

And then there is the lupine … everywhere it seems. Unlike back in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, here there is only one color, this blue, or perhaps purple. At least I have yet to find any other color here.

Boatyard Lupine
Boatyard Lupine

As I said, lupine, everywhere.

Virginis
Virginis
Fireweed Road
Fireweed Road

What I am patiently waiting for, here in Homer, is for the fireweed to start blooming. I think it is a real shame this wonderful plant is labeled as a weed because it is just a beautiful flower that fills the fields and roadsides here above Homer.

Fireweed Farm
Fireweed Farm

Thes two images kind of illustrate that point quite well, and just happen to be images taken on the back roads above Homer some twenty two years ago on my last visit here. I have actually been able to locate the fireweed farm location and would like to get an image to show the penalties of progress. That wonderful scene is now bisected with dirt roads leading to not so scenic homes breaking up the previous expanse of fireweed, and though I’m sure a lot of the plant still survives, the beauty of that particular landscape has fallen victim to progress.

Angry Beach Eagle
Angry Beach Eagle
Takeoff
Takeoff

I enjoy watching the antics of the bald eagles on the beach every morning while I have my coffee. This guy was doing his angry eagle walk up the beach heading directly at me until my neighbor came out and slammed his door only thirty feet from the eagle and scared him off. There used to be a woman who fed the eagles here on the Homer Spit for many years so a lot of these birds probably are somewhat accustomed to approaching humans looking for handouts, though now it is illegal to feed them.

Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls
Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls
Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls
Homer Spit Breakwater Gulls

As I walked around the boat harbor very early in the AM I was startled by the number of gulls on the breakwater there.

Ring-necked Pheasant and Chicks
Ring-necked Pheasant and Chicks

And this one really suprised me, what I am quite sure has to be a Ring-necked Pheasant mom and chicks feeding along the dirt road at the end of East End Road. I had no idea these birds could survive this far north.

Ring-necked Pheasant Chick
Ring-necked Pheasant Chick
Moose and Calf
Moose and Calf
Moose Calf
Moose Calf

And finally my daily dose of moose. This mom was feeding along the edge of the road and when I stopped to watch, her calf came struggling up through the deep grass behind her. As the cow continued to move forward and browse, her calf was having a really hard time trying to keep up with her movements. At first I thought maybe the tall grass and bushes were just so thick, and tall, that perhaps that was it’s problem.

Mom and Injured Calf
Mom and Injured Calf

But when they finally crossed the road, it became quite clear that the poor little guy had somehow broken, or severely injured his left hind leg and was hobbling along on three legs.

Moose Calf
Moose Calf

Barely one in three moose calves survive their first summer, most here on the Kenai fall victim to black bears or grizzlies, although there is also a growing presence of wolves in the area. Not being able to run or keep up with a protective mom probably will mean a short life for this guy. Mother Nature is cruel.

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June 9, 2015 Seward, Alaska

Sea Otters
Sea Otters

Eight Soggy Days

Well, it’s been a week since my last post, a longer than usual pause caused by a couple of factors, a lack of internet availability and a lack of any kind of activity worthy of posting. Eight straight days of rain and leaden gray skies have put my Alaska adventures on hold. Without an internet connection, I am not sure just how long this bad weather streak is going to continue, but the long range forecast, back when I was in Anchorage, was calling for two weeks of this wet stuff, so I suppose I’m only half way there.

I left Cabella’s parking lot/campsite last Wednesday at noon, but only made it about 25 miles south on the Seward Highway, deciding to pull off and camp at the turnoff at MM 92.5. The strong wind from the south and heavy rain was making driving a little uncomfortable and I knew I was in no rush to get anywhere, so better safe than sorry.

I awoke the next morning to rain … and the odd sight of two individuals on paddle boards working their way seaward at 5:30 AM in just horrible weather conditions. For the life of me, I just couldn’t figure what was going on there. And about five minutes later, it became clear just what these two were up to as the infamous Turnagain Arm tidal bore came rushing in. This was the first time I had ever seen anything like this, a wall of rushing water, pushing a wave of perhaps five of 6 feet in height, moving at an incredible speed down the waterway. And these two guys had been paddling out to meet it and ride it back in. Both had fallen behind the crest and were paddling furiously to catch back up with the front of the surge, but never were able to get there.

Five minutes later, once again through my rain streaked windows, I saw what I at first thought were some white caps racing in the direction of the surge, only 30 feet from the shoreline, at least I assumed that must be what I was seeing. It took a few seconds to realize that what I was looking at was a pod of Beluga Whales racing in with the tide. They were gone in just a few seconds and the sighting was not as spectacular as one might think since Turnagain Arms waters are a cloudy, silt laden gray and all you actually see of the whales is a quick glimpse of their backs as they roll along with the tide, no head, fins, or tails, just a three or four foot section of back. Still kind of neat to finally actually see at least a part of these creatures.

So Thursday morning, I continued on south to Seward on what probably is a beautiful drive along the water and through the mountains, but with the rain and low lying clouds, there wasn’t much to see today. I will have to hope my return on this road coincides with some clearer weather. I arrived in Seward and was able to snag a waterfront campsite with electric and water. I had decided to forego boondocking because of the inclement weather that was forecast for the next couple of weeks, weather conditions not terribly favorable for generating electricity with my solar setup.

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Right
Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Right

Seward Waterfront Campground

The Seward waterfront campsites are $30 for utilities and $15 for primitive. The sites are flat, stone surfaced and really tightly spaced.

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Left
Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Left

I had to actually ask my neighbor to move his truck so that I could access my basement storage doors the other day … now that is what I call very tight spacing. So I have constant rain, absolutely no privacy, no satellite TV ( too far north ), no over the air TV, no phone, and no internet signal. And there may well be another week of this to endure.

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View out Front
Seward Waterfront Campsite, View out Front

The one redeeming, life saving, feature of this particular site is the view out the front windshield. So far, through the rain streaked windshield, I have seen a humpback whale semi breach only a hundred yards out, sea lions snagging fish close to shore, bald eagles flying overhead, and my favorite entertainers, a pair of sea otters that hunt near the shoreline every day, plucking mussels from the rocks just offshore then surfacing and devouring their catch while floating on their backs, no more than a hundred feet away. The red arrow in the image above is pointing to one of them out there when I happened to take this shot. Unlike me, I suppose  they don’t really mind the rain.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sea Otter
Sea Otter

 

The Rain Stops ! ( but only for five hours )

Two days ago, the rain actually stopped for a couple of hours and I was able to get my long lens and tripod out and get a few shots of these guys, actually, probably gals, as I think, from their interactions, that they may be a mom and last years offspring, though I don’t know that for sure.

As always, click any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sea Otter
Sea Otter
Sea Otter
Sea Otter
Sea Otters
Sea Otters

 

Sea Otter
Sea Otter
Mew Gull
Mew Gull
Mew Gull
Mew Gull

During this short break in the weather I also got a couple shots of the Mew Gulls when they came close to get a drink of fresh water in the puddles in front of the motorhome.

Seward Waterfall
Seward Waterfall

While the rain held off for a few hours I drove north a couple of miles and took the Nash Road around to the other side of the sound to explore a little and ran across a beautiful waterfall on the side of the road.

Seward Waterfall
Seward Waterfall

SewardDetail5

SewardDetail3

Seward Waterfall
Seward Waterfall
Seward Waterfall
Seward Waterfall

At the end of Nash Road there is a large gravel parking area where I found several folks camping, despite an older sign on a bulletin board there stating that the campground was closed. There had to be at least twenty Rvs and tenters set up there though, so obviously, no one is stopping people from camping there. A definite boondocking possibility for the Seward area.

Well, I am off to the Seward Library in hopes of being able to post this blog entry, if you are reading this, then I guess I must have had some success there. Once again, it may well be a while until the rain ends and I have reason to do another post, but stay tuned.

 

June 1, 2015 Anchorage, Alaska

Moose Calf
Moose Calf

Looking for Moose Around Anchorage

After reaching my four day stay limit at Eagle River Campground, I drove down Route 1 to the southern edge of Anchorage and west on O’Malley Road to Cabella’s, the sporting goods store. Here they have a dedicated parking area for overnight guests, complete with dump station even. Since I needed a few small items for my binoculars and backpack, I decided to take advantage of their hospitality and stayed there a couple of nights while continuing to look around Anchorage for wildlife. If you don’t mind parking lot aesthetics, this is a convenient, and safe place to overnight in this area. And don’t forget to thank the store by making a purchase or two while there.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Arctic Tern with Minnow
Arctic Tern with Minnow

I have made a few stops at Potter’s Marsh without a lot of luck, but did get a couple of first timers for my list, an Arctic Tern, posing with lunch …

Mew Gull
Mew Gull

and a Mew Gull, neither exactly difficult to find, but they were the first I had seen.

Finally Some Moose

Moose Family
Moose Family

Just off the Seward Highway, south of Anchorage, is the Alyeska Ski Resort, and today, I just happened to luck out and find some moose there. From the ski area parking lot, I headed down the side road toward the Alyeska Lodge. Rounding a corner of this road I spotted a sign that said ” Moose Meadows”, and thought to myself, well, where are the moose? And, lo and behold, up from the side of the bike path along the road, pops up Mama Moose, with twins in tow. That’s them in the image above, the two sets of reddish ears behind mom.

Moose Family
Moose Family
Moose Family
Moose Family

This is a road smart mom, as she did actually look both ways before leading her family quickly across the road.

Moose Family
Moose Family
Moose Family
Moose Family

I had pulled off the road as soon as I saw them coming up the bank, so I was quite safe being this close to a mother moose and her calves, since I was still inside my car. I can’t imagine what would have happened if someone came bombing down the bike path at the same time that mom popped up from the meadow.

Nasty Weapons
Nasty Weapons

Moose mothers are known to be very protective of their calves and there are more moose attacks in Alaska than bear attacks. And their sharp hooves, as well as the half ton of flesh behind them, can inflict some serious damage on anyone foolish, or unfortunate, enough to come between Mom and her calves.

Twins
Twins
Twins
Twins

Kinda cute at this stage, aren’t they?

After they crossed the road, I could see a house through the trees in the direction they were headed, so turned around and backtracked hoping I could intercept them again and get more shots of the calves. Though I did eventually locate them again, they were already headed off into the woods and I didn’t get any more shots of them.

Lunch Interrupted
Lunch Interrupted

So I headed back to where they had crossed … and there, at the very same spot, stood what looked like Mama Moose’s twin sister, without any calves, munching away on a roadside bush, here studying something, or someone behind her, back in Moose Meadow.

Female Moose
Female Moose
Female Moose
Female Moose

These images were not taken with one of my long lens, but with my 18-200mm zoom. You would normally never want to be this close to any wild creature of this size, and especially with the kind of reputation for unpredictability that these guys have.

Female Moose
Female Moose
Female Moose
Female Moose

I really liked the angle of these shots, as if I were right under her nose while she browsed, but I really was across the road from her in the relative safety of my car. Since the road sloped away from her and I was seated in my no clearance, thus very low, Prius, I was able to get this nice perspective of a moose munching away at some tender young poplar leaves.

A Change in the Weather

My plans were/still are, sort of, to head down the Kenai Peninsula and spend the month of June between Seward and Homer, maybe taking a few day cruises out on the sound and scouting both areas for wildlife. Unfortunately, my two year run of just unbelievably good weather, almost anywhere I have gone, has now come to a horrible end. And I had to go 5000 miles out of my way to get here. The extended forecast for the area calls for two solid weeks of rain! And there appears to be no where I can go to avoid it.

I really hate the prospect of just sitting out two weeks of bad weather in a campground somewhere on the peninsula, but guess I just don’t have much choice in the matter. So I am giving fair warning here, there probably will be little to post the next few weeks unless the weatherman has made a big mistake, and that doesn’t appear to be the case as I am listening to the rain drops bouncing off the roof as I write this. On well, all good winning streaks come to an end eventually.

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July 10, 2014 Forks, Washington

Climbing a fallen giant
Climbing a fallen giant

Sun and Fog Around Forks

Because of the heat building inland, I decided to extend my stay here in Forks through the weekend and take advantage of the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean here along the coast. Whenever possible, I will always try to avoid temps in the 90’s!

Warm and sunny when I set out this morning to go and explore the rain forest out Route 29. Lots of fireweed growing along the side of the road that I will have to come back for when the sun isn’t shining so brightly.

Continued on into the rain forest but couldn’t get any decent shots, once again, because of the intense sunlight, damn this great weather! Finally turned around and decided to drive back to the coast and check out Rialto Beach again where I assumed it would be a little cooler. And did that ever turn out to be the case. In the distance of ten miles, the temperature dropped from 78 degrees to 58 degrees as I entered the fog bank hovering over the coast stretching about 4 miles inland.

The fog prevented any photo ops along the beach, so I headed over to the small Indian village of La Push to see if there might be anything happening there.

Herring Gull pair
Herring Gull pair

In the parking lot at the water’s edge on the south side of the village I came upon a pair of herring gulls on a large piece of driftwood, and they were very cooperative subjects for some closeups of this large, and very common bird.

Herring Gull
Herring Gull

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull

 

Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Crow on log
Crow

While I was shooting the gulls, a crow dropped in to see if I was perhaps dispensing food as well as taking photos.

Crw on rocks
Crow

As you can probably guess, there really isn’t that much action out here because of the weather, and yes, it has come to this, I am roaming around looking for anything to shoot, even common gulls and crows will do.

Climbing a fallen giant
Climbing a fallen giant

I parked at the end of the lot and just sat in the car for a while watching the surf, when a woman and small child walked down the beach in front of me and climbed up on a giant tree that had washed ashore here, probably many, many years ago. There are stacks of driftwood everywhere on the beaches and riverbanks all along the coast of Washington, and I wondered when I was staying at Salt Creek Rec Area how all the small boats with their salmon anglers managed to safely negotiate the waters of Puget Sound with all the submerged logs floating around. But this piece of “driftwood” is immense, as you can see with the people walking its trunk.

Climbing a fallen giant
Climbing a fallen giant

Returned home and was working on images when I had a knock on the door and received an invite from my neighbors in the “ Island Girl” to join them for cocktail hour. Having already met Hector, it was a pleasure to meet the accomplished writer behind the Island Girl Blog, Hector’s significant other, Brenda. They fulltime in a 40 foot 2004 Class A that looks, inside and out, like it just drove off the showroom floor last week, what a gorgeous home. Really enjoyed meeting these wonderful folks, and their very well mannered pooch, Angel.

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