Many of these photos will seem to be much alike. That may be because of all the snow. But much of the scenery in Alaska is spectacular and begs to be photographed. So I did.
A cold snap had come in Sunday night so the temperatures dropped from a cool mid 20’s to a cooler low teens. Otherwise the weather was great and the sun was out all day.
Sam, Dave, James (who goes by J.) & myself got together to do some sight seeing. This is the same foursome from my last post. We made some quick stops at a couple of stores in downtown Anchorage before getting on our way. The direction we headed was south out of town along the Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet.
I was thinking to myself a visit to Whittier & the Portage Glacier would be nice. Sam had his heart set on the food at the Discovery Café in Hope on the Kenai Peninsula. As the day moved on our desires and expectations became hopeless.
Our first stop was the Chugach State Park Headquarters south of Anchorage. The headquarters seemed closed, but there is a permanent railroad car exhibit next to the parking lot. I had passed it a number of times in the past, but never stopped. This time I got to see it. The exhibit turned out to be a retired snow blower mounted on the front of an engine.
Our next stop was Beluga Point further down the coast. A few miles across the water is the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. I also show this in a prior post. This photo is shot before midday and shows pretty good color.
This photo is a 90 degree left from the frame above and is shot into the sun. It looks down the Turnagain Arm and gives a good idea of the weather.
Remember it is about 15 degrees F. or colder out. I was in and out of the car shooting photos all day. When my feet finally warmed up late that night it was when I was falling asleep. J. was a lot warmer. He made it a point of honor to get out of the car if only absolutely necessary.
Much further south near the end of the arm I found this interesting reward sign. Something close to this may be posted in the lower 48, but I’d be surprised if is.
I took a few overlapping shots to make two slightly different panoramas.
The first one is from near the ‘Beluga’ reward sign. The second is shot about an hour later from inside the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Area. Both of these are near the extreme southern end of the Turnagain Arm.
The mountain at the right of the first pano shows (from a different angle) at the left of the second pano.
This is Portage Creek as the Seward Highway (Hwy. 1) crosses over it near the entrance of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Area.
Our next stop was the aforementioned conservation area. It has operated since 1993 and has been a non-profit for a few years now. A home for orphaned and injured wildlife, many animals are apparently reintroduced into the wild after a recuperative visit. We saw a number of different animals in either cages or open pens.
Orphaned Musk Ox
Deer or Reindeer. The big male has a 13 or 14 point rack.
About the time I got the second pano I shot this single at the end of Turnagain Arm.
When we left the Conservation Area we headed inland toward Hope, inside the Kenai Peninsula along the southern shore of the Turnagain Arm. It is some 30 miles from the end of the Turnagain Arm and faces Beluga Point from across the water.
In case you haven’t gotten an idea of the distances then here are a few facts. If you are flying from Anchorage to Hope you cover maybe 20-25 miles in a straight line. If you drive they are almost 90 miles apart.
The Kenai Peninsula where Hope resides is just a small part of Alaska. On its own the Kenai Peninsula is larger than the smallest 10 states of the Union. The peninsula covers over 25,000 square miles. If I got the facts right roughly 10,000 of those square miles are permanently under ice.
Even on a holiday the roads were being cleared. After clearing many of them were still covered in a thin layer of snow.
This should give you some idea of the area. It is near Turnagain Pass, about 900 feet elevation. Don’t think much of that elevation. The snow level was the high tide sea level. I was glad it wasn’t snowing. The trip would have been brutal otherwise.
Near the pass some hardy souls had parked their vehicles on the turnouts. They were climbing to the ridges to ski back down to the highway. I am told an average round trip takes 2 hours and 10 minutes. The 2 hour part is the climb.
A few people were on snowmobiles. These travel faster, of course, but not as high up the slopes because of fear of avalanche.
This is still on the Seward Highway, but near our turnoff onto the Hope Road.
Under snow the Hope Road is barely 2 lanes wide, and over 16 miles long. It is a very quiet 16 miles. Almost all you see are trees covered in snow, which in turn crowd the road. The going is slow. In these conditions anything much above 20 mph makes it very hard to stop a vehicle if something jumps into the road such as a moose or a blind curve.
About 5 miles down the Hope Road we passed a parked snow blower truck. About a mile further on the trees began to open on my right. The road then was on a slope. To the right the slope dropped off to a frozen stream well below the road grade. I could see this scene was going to appear and asked to stop.
It is true I try to be aware of the position of the sun and the moon, and it is true that I look for landscapes to take advantage of these relative positions. But it is also true that this is a photograph of opportunity.
We could have been in this place an hour earlier, or later in the afternoon, or not at all. It turns out I was in the right place at the right time with a camera and got an excellent shot.
A photographer should not expect to be in the right place at the right time. It is not always possible. It is best to scout locations then come back to shoot during optimal conditions.
That being said, this is f/16, 1/800th of a second exposure, ISO 640, 99mm focal length on the 24-105mm f/4 zoom lens. The mode is Aperture Priority and the metering is Evaluative. In other words the camera did all the work and did it well. I’ve cropped it somewhat at the top & slightly at left.
On scene I knew it would probably be a memorable photograph. I shot 8 frames when Sam suddenly gunned the motor and off we flew. The snow blower had appeared in the rear mirror bearing down on us at a fearsome speed! The faster Sam drove the more the snow blower seemed to gain on us. It is not comfortable traveling over 35 on a narrow snow covered road in the middle of the forest. It is less so with a monster truck chasing you. The road widened and Sam pulled off to the left. The snow blower blew on by us never missing a beat.
After more driving the water came into view. These are shot about an hour apart driving to and from the village.
These signs aren’t too far from each other. Remember the Airport sign!
Near the end of the road I caught this portrait of a resident in deep slumber.
The village or town of Hope is probably a great get away in the summer season. Most of it looks to be pretty rustic, but I’m sure there are modern conveniences. This afternoon it was pretty quiet, at least for a while.
These are shot from the harbor at water’s edge, or where the road ends. If it is the water’s edge the water is frozen or covered in snow.
Some of the vacation cabins are seen in this southerly view.
This is across the Turnagain Arm looking more or less east.
This is more northeast. Anchorage lies invisible beyond the edge of the hill in the left distance.
As of this time we were the only vehicle on the main drag, a ¼ mile long strip of road.
This is a café in historic downtown. They weren’t open. Neither was Sam’s destination, the Discovery Café back on the road. Sam’s batting average was now 1000. He had taken us to the King’s Mountain Lodge two days before to find it closed. He fared no better this day. Only one place was opened in the entire town, the general store. Everyplace else, lodges, restaurants, fishing charters, etc. were closed.
This is an old house next door to the café above. By now there were 4 vehicles jockeying for position on the narrow street. The building to the right of the old house is the community center and it was getting ready for a party that night.
We got around the traffic jam and headed off to the airport. The airport consists of a hanger or two and a few single engine planes covered in snow. These are equal opportunity airplanes. If they are stored outside they are covered in snow. If they are stored under cover they are also covered in snow.
Despite its remoteness the area is pricey. We happened to see an undeveloped 8+ acre lot being offered for $150,000. It was near the airport, but over a mile from the water.
This is the end of the runway. It has two sets of those signs. Landing strips are taken very seriously in Alaska. The Alaska Channel on TV says 20% of the state’s residents have flying licenses. Sometimes an airplane is the only way to reach people.
It was late in the afternoon by now and we had driven around Hope for quite a while. It was time to return to our hotel in Anchorage so we began our ride back. I shot a few more photos, but not many.
On our drive back to Anchorage we heard a radio commercial for the Alyeska Ski Resort. They said they had over 300 inches of snow this season with more to come! No kidding. I offer this one as the last of the Monday trip. Just look at the cornices on the edges of the peaks.