Category Archives: Alaska

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K. Shubeck volunteers as a national park ranger at Upper Twin Lake in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. K.  has spent the last 11 summers at Spike’s cabin anong with her husband Monroe.  The two take care of three remote cabins on the lake and welcome visitors. The highlight of the area is Dick Proenneke’s cabin which was made famous by his books and films. Proenneke spent 30 years by himself before he became ill in 1999. Upper Twin Lake is so remote that the only way to reach it is by float plane.

Wolves are majestic.  All dogs have ancestry dating back to wolves who decided long ago to avoid humans. Some wolves came to sit by the fire with people thousands of years ago. In doing so, they became domesticated dogs.  Wolves stayed away and in doing so have remained the same. I have spent about 30 days in the back country of Denali National Park and to see a wolf or a wolf puppy is quite rare. They continue to avoid humans as much as possible.

A wolf pauses while searching for food just past the Toklat river in Denali National Park

We were photographing a grizzly bear and two cubs from a government vehicle when my student intern, Nate Kostegian shouted, “wolf!” I turned to see this one running down the side of a hill. It was amazing. A sow grizzly and two cubs on one side of the car and a wolf on the other.

A wolf puppy gives a bus load of tourists a thrill as it crossed the road about nine miles into the park in August of 2008.

I like to photograph just about anything that moves while in Alaska. Sure the big mammals are fun to shoot but there is so much more.

This arctic ground squirrel may have been alarmed by the presence of our vehicle in the back country of Denali National Park and Preserve. The hibernating rodent chirped every 5 seconds or so in a circle of about 180 degrees. Perhaps it was warning other ground squirrels in its colony. It turned and chirped. Turned and chirped. I took about 100 images to get this one. I timed his movement and chirping and just kept shooting until I got his mouth open. Arctic ground squirrels are always on the move and seem a bit nervous (for good reason). They stand up when they feel threatened to get a better look at the situation.

Arctic ground squirrels make underground dens with lots of tunnels and rooms. During the spring and summer they eat tundra plants, seeds and fruits to prepare for hibernation. They are quite jittery. They stand on their hind legs to get a better view of their surroundings. Their dens have several entrances and exits making it difficult for predators once they are inside their den.

A red squirrel perches on a tree at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park. Red squirrels are preyed upon by Lynx, Coyote, Great Horned Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, red fox and wolves.

Name this animal (the hint is in the title). – The photo at right shows the tail, Brian.

A harbor seal pops out of the water in Aialik Bay. “They look like bowling balls off in the distance and sometimes come closer to check us out,” said National Park Ranger Joshua.

Back to Michigan today after shooting over 20,000 photos for the National Park Service. I will keep posting about my experiences.

MTC

Visitors to Denali National Park travel by bus. Visitors to Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks travel by float plane. When you visit the Kenai Fjords back country you must travel by boat. Kenai Fjords National Park provides visitors the only means of accessing a glacier on foot. Exit glacier is a about a mile walk from the Exit Glacier Visitors Center. However, if you want to get to the “back country” you must go by boat.

Here, a sea kayak is held to a boat by national park rangers just before a photo shoot in front of one of the 38 glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park.

I have just spent three days in the back country of Kenai Fjords National Park. My contact, Ranger Jim has been an amazing guide as well as rangers Sara and Joshua. Kenai Fjords is one of the crown jewels of the national park system. You must come here!

I will travel back to Anchorage tomorrow and then fly back to Michigan on Monday. I am so glad to be going home to see my family! I will post tons more in the coming month or so. I have so much to share!

MTC

I wrote the following in my journal just after this experience Sunday evening June 13:

I must tell you what just happened. I was shooting photos of a magpie catching minnows (below). Suddenly something appeared in my viewfinder blocking my view. Confused, I looked over my camera. A large brown bear was staring up at me! After calming and collecting myself, I photographed the bear from a short distance upon the bear viewing platform by the falls at Brooks Camp in Katmai NP. I only had a few minutes before the he/she wandered into the woods – the very same woods I need to travel to get back to camp. I’m a bit frightened by the prospect but I’m fairly sure I will be OK…

The magpie. Notice the rock?

In this photo you can see the same rock. The bear walked into my frame here, walked back to where the magpie retreated and then came back through.

Here you can see the falls with a wide shot. The bear kept an eye on me the whole time. The falls provide bears a smorgasbord of sockeye salmon. Many bears wait for them to jump up stream and all they have to do is catch them in their mouths from above or below. Each fishing spot for bears is garnered by bear hierarchy with the largest males getting the mouth-catching spots above the falls. I am a bit early for the salmon run. It should start in the next couple of weeks. When the salmon come in there will be up to 30 bears congregating in this small area. While I am disappointed to miss this amazing opportunity, I am so happy about this experience.

Bears at Brooks Camp in Katmai, this time of year, eat just about anything to keep their energy up until the salmon come in.

Never make eye contact with a bear. Look elsewhere if confronted. Otherwise bears will see you as more of a threat and perhaps charge you out of fear or defense.

The mile and a half journey back to camp (above) by myself was a bit freaky. As taught by rangers, when in bear country it is important to make sure they are not surprised by you. Thus the title of the post, “Hey Bear!!!!” It really doesn’t matter what you say. If they are aware that you are human, they are more likely to stay away. You can also avoid surprising them (a very good thing). I spoke to them loudly, “Hey Bear! What’s up, bear! You are not interested in me. You just want to do bear things.” And so on…

HEY BEAR!!!!!!!

MTC