July 24, 2015 Wasilla to Cantwell, Alaska

Rainbow Over the Parks Highway
Rainbow Over the Parks Highway

A Few Surprises Heading North to Denali

Spotted Horse
Spotted Horse

Since I awoke to rain at my wonderful boondocking spot in the Wasilla Walmart parking lot, I decided to forego loading the Prius and getting soaked and so decided to make a final drive along some of the back roads in the area. I found this neat horse along the Farm Loop Road, grazing alone amongst the fireweed and knee high grasses.

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

Spotted Horse
Spotted Horse
Moss Abstract
Moss Abstract

These colorful mosses along the roadside also caught my eye and I managed to snap a couple shots as the sun was starting to poke through the rain clouds here and there.

Moss Abstract
Moss Abstract

By 10 o’clock the rain had stopped and the sun was drying things out so I returned to camp and loaded up the Prius, did my last minute stocking up on groceries for Denali at Walmart, and headed north on the Parks Highway.

Rainbow Over the Parks Highway
Rainbow Over the Parks Highway

North to Denali

About an hour or two into my drive north, the skies clouded over once again and I ran through some intermitant showers. As I passed the Mount McKinley Viewing Areas, both South and North, all I could see were low hanging clouds, clinging to the mountains to the west, no possible sighting of McKinley.

Pot of Gold ?
Pot of Gold ?

As the rain became a little more serious, I decided to pull off the highway around MM 203.5, a little south of Cantwell, and make camp for the night. I knew that the intersection with the Denali Highway was just a few more miles north of here and I figured this pulloff would be a good place to unload the Prius and explore the road conditions on the Denali Highway to see if I wanted to take the motorhome in there to boondock.

It turned out to be a bit of good fortune that I stopped at this particular spot as a rainbow appeared not long after I got myself setup. I wish I could have gotten some better shots of it, but I was really struggling trying to keep my equipment from getting too wet as this particular rainbow presented itself accompanied by the heaviest rains I have encountered so far here in Alaska. And when the rains subsided, the rainbow disappeared. Oh well, nice to see one after a long dry spell between rainbows for me. Though quite unexpected, I managed to pick up a pretty good Verizon data signal here and was able to do some blog posts from this location.

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

Finally, Mount McKinley Appears !

The very next morning, I was up a little late, for me, and when I went outside with the dogs at 7 AM, I was stunned by this view back south along the Parks Highway … Mount McKinley ! Absolutely clear blue sky and not even any mountain created clouds starting to show around the base or the peak of the mountain.

Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell
Mount McKinley from My Pulloff Campsite South of Cantwell

This was shot from my campsite with my 600mm lens from about 40 or 50 miles away. So since I never even saw the mountain in my two weeks in the area back on my last trip to Alaska, and since the extended weather forecast for my time here this year does not look too promising, I had no choice but to unload the Prius and backtrack 70 miles to try and get some shots of the mountain.

Mount McKinley from the North Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the North Viewing Area

This is a shot of the tip of McKinley taken afrom the North Viewing Area along the Parks Highway at MM 162.7. Not the best place to get a shot of the mountain as other shorter mountains block the view. There is a large parking lot with side by side camping here, not my cup of tea for sure.

From the North Viewing Area
From the North Viewing Area

These are some of the mountains south of McKinley shot from the North Viewing Area.

MM 134.8 Denali Viewpoint South

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area

Finally, a shot of Mount McKinley, 22 years in the making for me! This shot was taken from the parking area of this turnoff. Simply a spectacular sight.

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area

To the right of the parking lot viewing area, there is a trail that takes you up a hill to another, even better viewing area, overlooking the Chulitna River. If you get here on a day when the mountain is visible, BE SURE to take the short walk up to this second viewpoint, it should not be missed. ( Also, be sure to click on some of these images to see the larger, sharper version )

Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
Mount McKinley from the South Viewing Area
View From South Viewing Area
View From South Viewing Area

The jagged peaks of the mountains surrounding McKinley are quite impressive in their own right.

Jagged Peaks
Jagged Peaks

After spending an hour or so here ( I even put the camera down for a bit, sat back and just drank in the grandeur of the scene in front of me, something I often forget to do ), I turned around and headed the 70 miles back to my roadside campsite.

Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway
Along the Parks Highway

What a difference a day can make! These three images above are of just one of the multi-colored mountainsides that were completely concealed along the Parks Highway by yesterdays inclement weather. They were passed by yesterday without even a second glance, and today, just breathtaking.

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September 18, 2013 Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

Lamar Valley rainbow
Lamar Valley rainbow

Woke up to more rain and threatening skies this morning. Off to the southeast, towards Lamar Valley, there appeared to be a somewhat lighter sky, so, suffering from a little cabin fever from yesterday’s rainout, I decided to chance it and head to Lamar Valley. As I drove through town in the rain, I noticed they had all kinds of traffic barricades up and “elk” control rangers and volunteers all around the common, where there were several cows and calves bedded down on the lawn, with one bull wandering the sidelines. Things apparently are continuing to heat up, elkwise.

The turn in the weather may be what is prompting the elk to move into town in greater numbers. As I headed toward Lamar Valley in the rain, I noticed that the peaks of the higher mountains now had a mantle of white.

No wildlife to be seen on the way to Lamar, with the exception of a few bison herds, bedded down in the meadows. Nothing in the way of wildlife in Lamar either, again except for the bison.

Lamar Valley hilltop
Lamar Valley hilltop

The sun flirted with dark, threatening skies and there was a dramatic bit of lighting on the hills above the valley.

Lamar Valley hilltop
Lamar Valley hilltop
Lamar Valley hillside
Lamar Valley hillside

 

 

 

 

 

Then the skies opened up and it poured for half an hour or so, then broke just enough to reveal a rainbow. It attempted to form a double rainbow, but didn’t quite make it. This is the third rainbow I have had the opportunity to photograph here in my two weeks in Yellowstone, if only I could have gotten a bison or elk instead of the car for a focal point.

 

Lamar Valley rainbow
Lamar Valley rainbow
Lamar Valley rainbow
Lamar Valley rainbow
Lamar Valley rainbow
Lamar Valley rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

Lamar Valley hilltop
Lamar Valley hilltop
Lamar Valley hilltop
Lamar Valley hilltop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 13, 2013 Glacier National park

Osprey young testing flight muscles
Osprey young testing flight muscles

 

Just to the side of route 89 where the road to Many Glacier turns off, there is an osprey nest on a nesting platform right alongside the road. I had seen a head or two popping up on other days, but this morning there was a young osprey exercising its flight muscles, probably preparing for its first venture from the nest.

 

Early morning colors on mountainside
Early morning color
Early morning colors on mountainside
Early morning color

 

The early sunlight was producing some great colors on the mountains as well as this partial rainbow.

Rainbow over Many Glacier
Rainbow over Many Glacier

Continued into Many Glacier early morning and soon spotted the blonde grizzly from last night in pretty much the same area as before. Still being before 7 AM, there was only one other vehicle stopped and I had a chance for some great shots as she was no more than 20 feet off the road eating berries, and there were not yet enough other vehicles around, or rangers, to drive her off. This really is a very good looking bear.

Blonde grizzly getting a better look
Blonde grizzly getting a better look

 

Blonde grizzly on the other side of the berry patch
Blonde grizzly on the other side of the berry patch
Blonde grizzly watching people
Blonde grizzly watching people

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did some computer work during the day and then made the mistake of thinking I could venture into the park and up to Logan Pass around 7 PM ( figured the crowds would be gone by then and I might catch some wildlife out ).

Going to the Sun traffic
Going to the Sun traffic

Big mistake. It took 45 minutes to go the first eight miles up Going to the Sun Road. Waited almost 15 minutes at the portion of road construction where they had a pilot vehicle guiding one way traffic through a work area. This of course bunches traffic up in both directions and I ended up in the midst of about a 50 vehicle convoy going up the rest of the way to Logan Pass.

Going to the Sun traffic
Going to the Sun traffic

 

One of the convoys coming down in the opposite direction exceeded 100 vehicles. And this was at 8 o’clock at night!     Madness!   Almost needless to say, I didn’t see anything and really looked forward to getting back to the peace and quiet of the campground.

 

 

Grizzly searching for berries
Grizzly searching for berries
Blonde grizzly standing
Blonde grizzly standing
Checking me out
Checking me out

 

Blonde grizzly crossing the road
Blonde grizzly crossing the road

 

Blonde grizzly crossing the road
Blonde grizzly crossing the road

 

Blonde grizzly crossing the road
Blonde grizzly crossing the road

 

Blonde grizzly crossing the road
Blonde grizzly crossing the road