Tuesday, August 23, 2011


And now just some pictures from Kenai Fjords National Park - we hiked a cool trail up to Harding Icefield and enjoyed camping on the beach...

This guy was landing just at our tent in the morning - what a sight!

Fires from other campers.

Hiking up along Exit Glacier to Harding Ice Field.

Mountain Goat on our way up

And up there is a huuuuge ice field;

A marmot.

Denali Highway - Wrangell-St.Elias

I still have to do a few things in Anchorage - but here just some more pictures without nasty text from the destinations after Denali: Denali highway, Wrangell-St.Elias National park (which is very, very fine) and Kenai Fjords National Park (awesome).

Click on the pictures to go to the whole gallery - and remember: all pictures without any post-processing, I can't do that right at the moment ;)

Denali Highway

An almost ghost town in Wrangell St.Elias


There were pretty fresh bear footprints besides our tent...

Went there for a walk:

And that's an old mining town (Kennecott):

Denali National Park - the beauty and the perverse

Keep close to Nature's heart...
and break clear away, once in awhile,
and climb a mountain
or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.
John Muir

After leaving Anchorage (for good) we spent a rainy night in the Chugach Mountains and then headed straight to Denali National Park. And it was kind of a shock: in Katmai, we had wilderness for us alone. You could walk there without seeing anybody for days. Then we came to the Denali Wilderness Access Center and there were nearly hundreds of people! All of them keen on experiencing the wild. For a short moment I was really thinking of driving away as fast as we came because that had nothing to do with nature for me. But I was wrong. You just need a while to get an idea of how the system in Denali works - and it's a lot of organizing and paper work, getting reservations and permits... and you often have to wait for several days unless you can go into the park on your own. Basically, you need a backcountry permit for one of the wilderness units - and you have to talk to the rangers etc. regarding bear etiquette and survival outdoors, or you have one of the rare and strictly limited reservations for one of the dedicated tent areas in the park. Then you just have to catch a ride on one of the Shuttle busses (usually there are no private vehicles allowed in the park) that will bring you to the destination you want to go and explore. Just be sure you have everything you need, including a bear resistant food canister and maybe the drinking water that you need - depending on your destination. The bus will then drop you off and pick you up again after your adventure.

In our case, we were quite lucky in getting a permit for one of the most favored tent areas: at Wonder Lake - that's almost at the end of the road, nearly 80 miles into the park.

The bus into the park is a shuttle bus, meaning there is no tourist guide on board, but the bus stops whenever there is an animal somewhere - may it be a grizzly, a Dall sheep, moose, caribou or whatever.

And now, let me show you some pictures!

So this is Mount Denali. (click on the pictures to get to the whole Blog-Gallery)

And that's already in the park.


This guy was eating berries...

And this one is too busy in gaining enough food for the winter...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Valley of 10,000 Smokes - Katmai Ntp

I'm posting this from an I Pod, so please forgive it will not be too informative at the moment ;)

The Valley of 10,000 Smokes is a region within Katmai National Park. It is filled wirh ash flow from an eruption of Novarupta in the year 1912. It was the by far largest eruption by volume in the 20th century, and it was a plinian eruption with massive ash flows and a pyroclastic eruption. The ash layers in the Valley reach a thickness of up to 210 meters and the most impressive sight is that the rivers lee and knife creek have already cut deep canyons into the soft ash.

The valley was - after it's first exploration by the National Geographic Society in 1916 - an unreachable and exotic destination, like a cold and arctic Shangri La. The 10,000 smokes were fumaroles steaming almost everywhere in the valley and that must have been an truly incredible sight. Today there are no more fumaroles, but the colors, the ash layers and canyons are really impressive. Most parts of the valley can only be reached by foot and there are not a lot of shelters so you better bring your tent with you. And it's also a valley without water, there are some snowfields where you get water, but mainly you have to carry the water that you need for several days with you. And gear and water is heavy, so be prepared to carry a heavy load. The valley is not thatunreachable any more, most backpackers come by plane via Anchorage, fly - as we did - to King Salmon, watch bears and then take this cool valley bus to the trailhead where you get dropped off in the bush.

So now just a few pictures from the Valley...

That's what the trailhead looks like - you notice the bug net: really essential gear.

The first mile you walk through quite dense vegetation and you always have to mind you're in bear country, so if you're not willing to face a brown bear behind every bend of the trail, make noise. Besides: there is no marked route into the valley, but there are plenty of footpaths you can follow.

When hiking into the Valley, most trekkers follow the Buttress Range which is the mountain range to the right of the picture, and then head to 6 Miles Camp (which is not a 'camp' at all, just a place where you get some melting water from snow fields in the mountains above).

Then the dense vegetation suddenly disappears, you cross a river and there it is: a valley full of ash.

Quite a windy and rainy night in the middle of nowhere.

But it's an amazing valley, with lots of opportunities for pictures!

And a last picture: this guy was just around our tent at night - at day we heard him hauling in the dark, dense wood on the trail... which was a bit scaring indeed... he even came closer in the wood and stories where told of a wolf even following the people...

First shower after 8 days

So folks, I just had my first heavenly shower after 8 quite strenuous days and still have to do some cleaning and washing of dirty clothes... it's in the middle of the night in Anchorage, and this is just a teaser of what I will post tomorrow... the VALLEY OF 10,000 SMOKES!

We went there for a four day backpacking trip and we can say: it was AMAZING! Full of wonderful landscapes and wildlife!

Good night by now, see you!

Katmai National Park

To start with - Alaska is huuuuge and if you want to go just anywhere, you'll probably have to take a plane that brings you to your destination. In our case, we were heading to Katmai National Park from Anchorage. You have to fly to King Salmon first - what a funny name for a "city", isn't it? - and then a bush pilot will pick you up and bring you into the wild. These planes that operate are built in the Golden 60ies and look like this:

A real beauty, isn't it? With a radial engine. Pretty cool. Flying almost like riding a motorbike... :)

Arriving at our final destination Brooks Camp at the Naknek Lake we first got an introduction to bear etiquette, covering such things as what to do when you encounter a bear, how close you can get them and so on. It good to know - believe me! We had several close encounters!

But since it's now already nearly one at night and our clothes should be washed and dried, I show you just a few pictures of how close you come to the bears - and a few pictures of what our camp and the view from the camp looked like.

So this was the view from the tent...

And sometimes the view was like this:

The tentground itself - in lush green wood... a bit humid indeed


Fishing again - this time in the waterfalls of Brooks River

In the grasslands.

Note: all pictures without post-processing, so please forgive dust and dirt on the sensor, I still have to clean it (by soft- and hardware)