Tag Archives: Fireweed

July 19, 2015 Wasilla, Alaska

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

A Gorgeous Day at Hatcher Pass

Yesterday I left Anchorage and travelled a short way north to Wasilla and set up in the Walmart parking lot. I am truly experiencing a real wilderness adventure the past week or so, boondocking first in Cabella’s parking lot and now at Walmart, but the truth of the matter is that I have yet to find a decent private campground in my Alaska travels. All have you packed in like sardines and seem very much overpriced for what they offer.

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

Three Rocks

Three Rocks

With nice weather predicted for today I was out and about before 7 AM and drove out the Wasilla-Fishhook Road heading for the Hatcher Pass. The Little Susitna River parallels the road as you gain elevation on the way up to the pass, so I had to stop for a few river shots.

Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River

Little Susitna River

The easily climbed paved road up to the State Historical Park at Hatcher Pass provides several great vantage points for photos as well as a couple of primitive campgrounds that would handle mid-sized rigs.

Hatcher Pass Mine State Historical Park

Hatcher Pass Mine State Historical Park

There are a few restored buildings at the State Park and some old mining facilities that have definitely suffered from years of abandonment.

Old Mine Works

Old Mine Works

Alaska Marmot Catching His Morning Rays

Alaska Marmot Catching His Morning Rays

There also was this Alaskan Marmot warming himself up in the early morning sun.

Alaska Marmot

Alaska Marmot

He appeared pretty used to human presence but kept a close eye on this photographer as I was capturing his image.

Hatcher Pass Road

Hatcher Pass Road

Hatcher Pass

Just before you reach the State Park, there is a gravel road that takes off to the left and heads up to Hatcher Pass itself. This is a little narrow and steep in a couple spots, and although it probably could be done in the motorhome, i wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass

The road climbs for a half mile or so to a small parking area at the very top where you can walk out a footpath for some pretty dramatic views of the valley below where the road then takes you eventually to Willow.

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Some of the high meadows up here have this weird mounded texture. These mounds are about a yard wide and rise up about a foot or so in the center and are covered in moss.

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

Hatcher Pass Moss Mounds

I have no idea how or why these exist, and can’t say as I have ever encountered anything like them before.

Hatcher Pass

Hatcher Pass

At times today, I literally did have my head in the clouds.

Hatcher Pass View From the Top

Hatcher Pass View From the Top

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

As you can see, you are well above treeline up here and the air is crisp and clean, the distant view just simply spectacular.

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

Hatcher Pass View From the Top of the Road to Willow

The narrow gravel road, in relatively good shape, leads you down from the pass and to the town of Willow, about thirty miles away.

Mine Tailings

Mine Tailings

Along the road there are a few active mining operations as well as some abandoned ventures.

Sounding the Alarm

Sounding the Alarm

All along this road, especially at the higher elevations, were these ground squirrels, some of whom were a little wary of me …

The Lookout

The Lookout

…and some that probably had discovered that some people will throw them some little treats if they look cute and approach your vehicle.

Ground Squirrel Portrait

Ground Squirrel Portrait

This guy was one of the latter.

All along this road, I was constantly scanning the meadows and mountain slopes looking for wildlife. I was sure I would have to see some sheep or bears somewhere along the way, but I never saw anything, even though I stopped every mile or so and glasssed all the slopes. Perhaps the weekend warriors scared evrything off? It just looks like there would have to be wildlife up here.

Descending to Treeline

Descending to Treeline

The road eventually descends back below treeline, where you start to encounter fireweed once again.

Road to Willow

Road to Willow

Roadside Fireweed

Roadside Fireweed

This was close to a ninety mile round trip and it took me about six hours to make it around with all the stops for photographs. The Willow side of the mountains appears to be a very popular spot for the local ATV crowd.  THere were several pulloffs for camping along that section of the road and on this Sunday afternoon, almost all of them were occupied by campers with ATV’s. The State Park land doesn’t allow ATV’s.

If you are ever in the Wasilla area and have some decent weather, this is a must do trip.

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July 14, 2015 Anchor Point, Alaska

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

Last Days on the Kenai Peninsula

Today will be my last day here at the Halibut Cove CG at Anchor Point, thus the end of my time on the Kenai Peninsula. My week in this campground has been a welcome respite from the cramped, noisy conditions I have experienced in most of the places I have camped here on the Kanai. Adequate spacing of sites makes quite the difference.

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

Scavengers

Scavengers

I’ve spent the last several days checking on the eagles on the beach right here at the campground, as well as watching the fishing charters come home and had the opportunity a couple of days ago of seeing up close and personal what a 380 pound halibut looks like. BIG! The huge fish was stretched across the deck of the charter boat and was easily six feet plus long. I can’t imagine what it must take to fight something that size up through 200 feet of water, I’m not sure I would enjoy the experience, sounds like an awful lot of work to me. I am told that once they reach this size, they are not that great to eat so bringing in something this size is mostly for the bragging rights, I suppose, and $$$ if the angler is entered in one of the lucrative halibut derbies conducted around here.

Scavengers

Scavengers

Giving Up on the Fireweed Shots

Mount Lliamna

Mount Lliamna

The image above is of Mount Lliamna on the far shore of Cook Inlet, taken on one of the few blue sky moments I have encountered here in the past few weeks. This inactive volcano tops out at over 10,000 feet in elevation and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The prevailing weather patterns here make days like this quite rare. Most of my month and a half down here around Seward and Homer have consisted of gray, dense cloud cover with rain showers almost every day. Never any heavy rain, just overcast conditions almost daily, not prime weather for any great landscape shots.

Fireweed Above Homer, 1993

Fireweed Above Homer, 1993

Notice the fields full of fireweed in bloom in the distant background ( as well as in the foreground ) of the image above, one I took twenty-two years ago on one of the back roads above Homer. I was really hoping to see this again on this trip, but alas, it was not to be.

After fruitlessly roaming hundreds of miles on all the back roads down here on the tip of the peninsula searching for fields of blooming fireweed, I am forced to give up and head north for my camping reservations in Denali National Park. Here and there I am finding small patches of fireweed in bloom but nowhere am I finding the solid pink fields that I remember from my previous trip here. In another week or two, I am sure they will be here in profusion, but I will be several hundred miles north by then.

Roadside Grazers

Roadside Grazers

Moose, Moose, Moose

One thing I have been quite sucessful at finding around here has been moose!

Mom and Calf

Mom and Calf

That is, cows and calves, but absolutely no bulls, at least not around here.

Roadside Grazers

Roadside Grazers

Roadblock

Roadblock

Roaming all the back roads in my fruitless search for fireweed landscapes has put me in close quarters with many moose mamas and their offspring.

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

Moose Calf

And it isn’t just out in the boonies that I encounter these guys, I had quite a bit of luck near town on Skyline Drive as well as at the end of East End Road. I imagine that the moms are clever enough to realize that the close proximity to humans and their dwellings, rather than being a bad thing, is actually a much safer spot for their offspring because of the lower incidence of predators this close to humans.

Posing

Posing

Curious Moose Calf

Curious Moose Calf

Curious Moose Calf

Curious Moose Calf

Today, on my last trip into Homer, I encountered this mom and calf grazing along the very end of Skyline Drive. With no traffic, and thus no disturbance, I was able to shoot a ton of images from the car without disturbing this duo. The calf, at first very unsure of what to make of my presence, was particularly endearing. Twice during the half hour I spent with them, the calf approached my vehicle to a distance of only twenty feet or so, staring and sniffing, trying to figure out what I was. Mama fed contentedly and unalarmed just a little farther back.

Staying in your vehicle, not getting out and trying to get closer, is one of the best ways to get some closeup shots of these guys, not to mention safer, since mother moose can be quite protective of their youngsters.

A Painful Lesson?

A Painful Lesson?

Junior was experimenting with various types of plants, to see just what was palatable, here sampling Cow Parsnip, not sure this is something that they actually do eat,

I'll Try Anything Once

I’ll Try Anything Once

here trying a bit of metal, heck, how do you know if you don’t try,

Too Far to Reach

Too Far to Reach

and here trying to sample some short mowed grasses, but their long legs make it difficult to graze anything that low to the ground, so …

Getting Down to Business

Getting Down to Business

he has to kneel down to partake, something you also see that they have to do when drinking from a shallow water source.

Scratching an Itch

Scratching an Itch

These calves are a delight to observe as they go about discovering their new world, but as I head farther north I hope I can can locate some of these guys Dads.

And so I depart the Kenai Peninsula, heading first to Anchorage, and the Toyota dealersip there for my 40,000 mile routine maintenance service, then a little farther north to the Wasilla area for a few days of exploration, before continuing north to Denali National Park and my reservations within the park at the Telanika Campground at the end of the month.

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July 12 & 13, 2014 Forks, Washington

Roadside Fireweed

Roadside Fireweed

Fog and Fireweed

Out at 7 AM in fairly dense fog and ventured out Route 29 again to try and do wildflowers.

Fireweed

Fireweed

Took lots of fireweed shots in the fog on the way out to the clear cut where I had seen the bright fields of wildflowers two days ago. Several people were out in that clearcut picking blackberries, but the bright yellow flowers that cover the area were still closed this morning due to the absence of the sun.

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

FireweedFireweed

Foxglove

Foxglove

Foxglove

Foxglove

Took a few shots of the close to spent foxglove and roadside daisies. The foxglove must have been pretty impressive a few weeks ago, as it is fairly dense in these clear cuts.

Daisies

Daisies

Sunday, July 13

I waited until 11 AM to drive the 37 miles down to the South Beach Campground to check out when to show up next week for the best chance to snag a spot along the beach. Probably should make it there around 10 AM and wait for people to move out. At noon most spots along the beach were taken. This place really looks a little chaotic but at $10/night ( $5 with pass ), a great place to wile away a few more days waiting for the summer heat wave inland to pass. Spoke with a camper there and he said fog covered the campground all day every day but Saturday. Temps were in the 50’s at noon here while just 6 miles up Route 101 and back in Forks, it was around 80. Temperatures inland still are hanging in the 90’s so I decided to sign up for 6 more days here in Forks.

Back woes, unfortunately, continue, and severely limit my ability to get out and shoot so posts are few and far between these days.

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Roadside Fireweed

Roadside Fireweed