Saturday, May 2, 2009

Denali-First Report

Hard to believe that I'm here. The scenery is surreal. The weather has been incredible. The photo ventures have been awesome. In the photo above you can see Denali in the background and a Willow Ptarmigan in the foreground. What are the chances, one the mountain be in view so clear, two that a ptarmigan be there and then then that the ptarmigan be up in a willow in the same frame with Mt. McKinley!

For those of you who don't know anything about park, Denali National Park and Preserve is located 240 miles north of Anchorage within the interior of Alaska and contains Mount McKinley (Denali), the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 ft. The word "Denali" means "the great one" according to the native Athabaskan language. The mountain was named after president William McKinley of Ohio in 1897. The photo above is of Denali from the road with a telephoto lens.

The park is 6 million acres large and bigger than Massachusetts. The park is only accessible by an 80 mile road which runs east to west, north of and parallel of the Alaska Range. Only a small portion of the road is paved due to permafrost and the freeze-thaw cycle. Only the first 15 miles of the road are available to private vehicles. To see the rest of the park you have to take one of the concessionary buses. To get to Wonder Lake at MP 80, you have to take a six hour bus ride from the Wilderness Access Center. Right now during the spring shoulder season you can drive to Milepost 30. During the few days I have been here it has taken me about 4.5 hours to do a round trip to MP 30.

After park arrival and orientation, I got settled rather quickly because I was so anxious to drive the road. You can see my living quarters above. The little cabin has has a fridge, heater, kitchen and desk area. Will not have running water until sometime in mid-June, after the freeze date. The bonus is that my cabin is close to the rec hall where there is a wifi, so I can use the internet from my room. I will be sharing with someone who has not arrived yet. Everyone starts a two week training period on Monday. The park begins bus tours on May 19th.

I have driven the road to MP 30, 4 times. I have seen lynx, caribou, moose, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares and red & ground squirrels. The weather has been unseasonably mild during the days up to the mid-60s and when I start in the mornings it has been in the mid-20s. Friday morning I woke up before 5:00 AM due to hearing a wolf pack crying out. Snow is still along the road at heights above my truck in the higher elevations. The above photo is a scene in the lower elevations at approximately 2,000 feet.

Well that is a quick update. My next post will feature some images of the Willow Ptarmigan in winter plumage.

Blue Skies.


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You realize of course that I am green with envy don't you? :) How fantastic Ken. To have seen all that game sofar is wonderful. The pics are marvelous and the post is informative as usual. I am so pleased that you have a internet connection as it will mean we will have a lot of post from you in that fantastic place.

Enjoy the training and have a terrific summer. Well in that wonderful place, who wouldn't. :)

Tim Rucci said...

Wow, Ken. Sweet scenery for sure. I'm sure you are delighted to have internet access, since I know that is one thing you wondered about. After you figure out exactly what your job will be, I would love to hear all the details. I'm sure you'll find enough opportunities to get out with the camera during your downtime, and I'm looking forward to seeing the images. I'm sure you will have a blast.

koand said...

Ślicznie tam jest , można tylko pozazdrościć pobytu. Góry wyglądają cudnie, nie mogę się napatrzeć , pozdrawiam , Andrzej :)

Twisted Fencepost said...

Amazing shots, Ken. Can't wait to see what you haven't posted yet.

Bradley Myers said...

It looks as if the trip is starting out great. With all the different wildlife you have seen so far and for you to get such a great shot of Denali already. When we were there, Denali showed its face once for seconds and it was gone.

This should make for a fun summer following your blog from Alaska.

Willard said...


I have been following your progress with interest and am glad you arrived safely. It sounds like you had quite an adventure. The photography is as impressive as always and I look forward to many more great shots.

Juan C. Aguero said...

Congratulations. Denali is amazing.
I wait for your photos.

Andor Marton said...

that place looks fantastic and very wild. It's a little bit strange - you don't have running water but wifi yes. I hope you will have enough free time for photography.

The Birdlady said...

I'd say that since you were there with your camera, the chances were pretty good. Beautiful!

Stacey Huston said...

OK, now I am envious.. thanks for the update. glad you made it safely

gidje said...

Very inspiring! The pictures are amazing. I really like the shot that shows the landspcape leading up to the mountains with the pine trees and the water. Ah...I'm so envious.