I was in Fairbanks, Alaska most of August. I humped 3 lenses in my backpack the entire trip, but only got to use them on one of the days I was there. Most of the time we were working so free time became a bit limited. Only when it was a too late did I start thinking about some tours. Those will have to wait for another visit.
Saturday, Aug. 18, however, 3 of us got unlimited use of a rental car. I was with Dave & Denny. If you want to see a picture of Dave you’ll have to look at my post from Neuschwanstein Castle. We were originally thinking of driving to the Arctic Circle to say we’ve been there. The rental car companies specifically prohibit taking their cars off road. A lot of the road from Fairbanks north is not paved, and mostly empty of people, buildings, gasoline, & other trappings of civilization. We felt it best to turn our sights elsewhere.
We chose Denali National Park, home to 6 million empty acres and one huge mountain. We left Fairbanks around 8 am & rolled into the park entrance area about 10:30 or 11:00 am.
We made a brief stop at the U.S. Post Office, which is my first photo. The building is really a trailer. It is interesting to me because the zip code is so high.
Denali, AK is definitely a tourist town. There are some high end hotels on one side of the road and inexpensive shops on the other side. A railroad station is nearby. The town & the hotels are open from May to the end of September. This far north winter begins early and lasts late. I’m told the town is pretty empty in the off season.
Park Headquarters, a little beyond the post office is the end of the road in winter.
In summer automobiles not allowed beyond the bridge at Savage River unless you were lucky enough to win a road lottery ticket. A winning ticket allows you to pay $25 for a one day pass. If the weather is clear the day you are there you can travel as much as 85 or 90 miles into the park. As we had no lottery ticket we could go as far as Savage River, about 15 miles in.
Along the way I got a series of photos of the mountain. Mt. McKinley also known as Denali (Koyukon Athabaskan meaning “The High One”) has a summit elevation of 20,320 feet, the tallest in North America. Most mountains are peaks within a mountain range. Think of the various peaks in the Rocky Mountains or the Himalayas.
Denali, on the other hand, stands almost alone. It is not part of a range and is barely surrounded by anything else. Measured from its base to its summit it is the tallest mountain on land anywhere on Earth rising 17,000 to 19,000 feet from its surrounding plateau.
The day we were there was clear & beautiful as you will see. It was the second time I’ve been in the park and the second time I’ve seen the mountain up close. I am told the mountain is usually covered in clouds, but you couldn’t prove that by me.
These are a series of shots taken from the road. They are not particularly good, but they are all taken from the same spot for a visual reference. The first is with the 100-400mm lens fully extended at 400mm. The second is with the same lens at 100mm. The third is with the 24-105 at a 60mm setting. The last is at the 24mm setting. For anyone who is interested you will see that as the view becomes less telephoto and more wide the color saturation and contrast improve greatly. From a personal point of view as someone who likes landscapes that is why I shoot mostly in the 24-105mm range or roughly .5 – 2x life size.
These are shot about 10 miles into the park. Nearby a herd of 5 or 6 moose crossed the road about 100 yards behind us. By the time we drove back to their crossing point they were well hidden in the brush so I got no photos.
In 1993 Fran and I were on a bus tour that went over 50 miles into the park. At our furthest point into the park I got this shot below. I remember being bothered that the bus & tourists stopped in front of me, but in retrospect I think it adds a bit of interest. If I recall correctly this photo is taken from Stony Hill. It was with a Hasselblad mounted on a tripod, probably with Velvia transparency film. The photo has been cropped to a more manageable size. The lens was probably an 80 or 100mm, those being considered normal or almost so for that larger format.
That same day I also got a slightly blurry shot of a Grizzly sow and her 2 cubs. If I ever find that photo I’ll post it here.
Back to the trip. At the end of the non lottery part of the road there is some parking at the bridge over Savage River. We got out there for a few photos.
Before I go further I should mention that Savage River and the Nenana River next to Denali, AK flow north. Rivers flowing north in North America are, perhaps, a little scarce so they deserve a mention.
This is a view of the bridge over the Savage River. The bus in the middle distance is at the ranger station that checks for your lottery ticket.
Looking east above the parking lot is this rock dome. It appears to be black volcanic basalt.
Here are 2 roughly identical views of the Savage River.
Driving back to the main highway & the park entrance I got this colorful shot of the mountains to our north.
The last photo is a view of the Alaskan Railway bridge over the Nenana River just south of town. This is at 92mm on the 24-105mm lens, 1/250th of a second, f/11, hand held and at my preferred ISO of 640.
The next posts will be Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, & Mt. St. Helens from the air.