Alaskan Flowers and Berries

August 6th, 2010

I’ve finally been able to process a few more of our photographs from our trip to Juneau. It was amazing to go there during their spring when so many flowers and berries were abundant. Every trail we hiked on had a near unlimited supply of wild berries, be it salmon berries (below), nagoon berries, blueberries, or even watermelon berries to snack on. Ferns like alum abounded, as did the prickly medicinal plant, devil’s club, which had spines you definitely wanted to avoid. Fireweed fields made fantastic foregrounds to glacier mountain backdrops, while spruce and alder cones were also in no shortage. Huge stands of skunk cabbage had impressive flower stalks, while smaller sundews in the higher elevations proved varying habitats in the area. My favorite wild-flower there was the columbine flower, with a very unique and intricate construction. There are several thumbnails below that I cannot ID, so if there are any Alaskan plant experts out there, please leave a comment on this post or on the corresponding Flickr page.

Salmon Berries

Salmon Berries. (Mouse over thumbnails for titles)

IMG_2639.jpg Columbine Alum Fern Flower IMG_2630.jpg Watermelon Berries Skunk Cabbage Fireweed IMG_2372.jpg Ferns! Sundew Flower from Bog Wild Blueberries Devil's Club IMG_2156.jpg Alder Cones Spruce Cones Lupine IMG_2628.jpg

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Alaskan Waterfalls

July 28th, 2010

Below are a number of waterfall pictures that I took while in Juneau, Alaska. Comments welcome!

Nugget Falls at Mendenhall Glacier

Click on photo for gallery

Waterfall Waterfall Waterfall Waterfall Waterfall

Waterfall Nugget Falls at Mendenhall Glacier Waterfall Waterfall

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Alaskan Glaciers

July 22nd, 2010

On our trip to Juneau, we had the good fortune to see several glaciers for the very first time. The most famous glacier in Juneau is the Mendenhall Glacier, which the Forest Service maintains several trails to, as well as, a visitor center.

Mendenhall Glacier

We hiked the trail to the glacier, passing a tremendous waterfall, Nugget Falls, and were able to get within 50 yards of the ice block. We were told that the Mendenhall Glacier has been receding for many years, where several decades ago we would have been able to touch it from where we were standing.

Mendenhall Glacier

Huge blocks of ice drifted slowly through the water away from the glacier, gradually melting away into the channel. The range of color from bright white to dark blue was amazing, with the darkest colors being where the most recent chunk of ice separated from the larger mass.

Ice Drift from Mendenhall Glacier

Later in the week we got to see the same glacier in the distance over a field of purple fire-weed. Fire-weed flowers from the bottom up, and the locals told us that they know summer is almost over once the top of the plant is flowering.

Glacier in Background

On a short boat excursion we passed by Herbert Glacier (below), which was quite impressive. This glacier is part of the same Juneau Icefield as the Mendenhall Glacer, with the Mendenhall on the west side of the icefield, and Herbert north of that.

Herbert Glacier

Someday I would love to revisit the Juneau Icefield, and actually hike up to and onto the glacier to explore the various ice caves and habitat. Comments welcome!

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Whale Watching

July 16th, 2010

Yesterday, we were fortunate enough to have a friend take us out on their boat to do some whale watching. We left Auke Bay in the afternoon, and headed out looking for whales coming up for air.

Humpback Whale Blowing

The best way to spot them is to look for their spouts when they clear their blow-holes so that they can breath.

Humpback Whale

We only saw a small portion of the humongous mammals, but even their humped backs (hence the name, humpback whale) were large enough to appreciate their size.

Humpback Whale

During every surfacing, we always hoped that they would bring up their tail and splash it down in the water. We never got any huge splashes, but we did see several tails rise up out of the water.

Humpback Whale Tail

In addition to the tails, we saw one whale who was rolling in the water a little bit, stretching and waving one of its flippers up out of the water.

Humpback Whale

The highlight of the trip for me was probably when we saw a mother cow with her calf. We watched the pair swim together for a few moments before they vanished from sight under the water.

Humpback Cow and Calf

In total, we probably spotted 5-6 whales during our two hour trip, but combined with the excitement of the sightings and the beauty of the mountainous surroundings, it was a wonderful excursion.

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Just Another Bald Eagle…

July 12th, 2010

This morning when I woke up, my wife and I noticed that several dozen bald eagles were outside of our place on the algae flats exposed by the low tide. Several times a day, as the tide comes and goes, a rather large area of land sinks and rises from the water line, which leaves several tidal pools that the birds are interested in. Up until this morning, the most eagles that congregating here was about 5 or 6, but the salmon migration should start very soon, so we surmised that they may have sensed this and were waiting at the creek that flows into the channel here.

Bald Eagle, Juneau, AK

Regardless of there motives, I threw on my boots and headed out the door to try and get close enough to photograph the eagles. I took a wide swinging cautious approach so I wouldn’t startle the birds, and eventually got within 50 feet of this particular eagle. I love the mist in the background, and the brown macroalgae underneath this log. Shortly after taking this photograph, I was navigating the algae and found a particularly soft spot, which left me calf-deep in the mud. Eventually, after removing my boot, I managed to free myself and my footwear, but the birds had flown another 100 feet down the beach. It was time for my morning coffee anyways!

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