Spent the last week roaming a loop from Anchorage. My dad, Norm, came up from Spokane, WA and we headed north towards Fairbanks through Windy Pass. Denali was visible from the North side and it was quite warm. Above is Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy, the state's only operating coal mine, sitting on a ton of coal--100 million tons to be more accurate – and is the largest open pit mine with the largest earth mover that exists. Check out the size of the trucks next to the mover.
Getting late in the day and time for camp. Sitting here on the sandbar for the night, tent up and admiring the glow.
I've had a few emails asking what camera I use. I'm using a Canon 20D with 3 lenses. 16-35 f2.8, 28-105, and 70-210 f2.8. The latter lens belongs to James Christianson of James Christianson Photographer, seen in my links section. Check out his site for any friends that may be getting married. He's an extremely talented and sought after wedding photographer.
It's 1AM and I'm too energized to sleep. Went up for a quick tour of the area, checked out a nearby cabin, and coming back in to the sandbar for good. Dad snaps a pic of a little sunset waterskiing back to home base.
The next morning, my canvas bag became a metamorphic stage for this transition from crawl to wing sprawl. The old shell is in the foreground.
Fairbanks was a little too much concrete, so it was north to Bettles, permanent population of 25. Located 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Bettles offers some of the best Aurora viewing in Alaska. According to the National Weather Service, Bettles has the most cloud free days of any town in Alaska, increasing the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Of course, without any nighttime, we weren't going to see the lights anyway. The Arctic circle changes with a complex pattern, but as of 2000, was at 66 degrees and 33 minutes. Anything above that line has at least one full day of sun and one full day without sun every year. If one gets technical though, there's twilight-- civil, nautical, and astronomical-- each progressively darker. Bettles this time of year has full civil twilight, which is enough to carry on any usual task all "night."
Above photo is the sandbar chosen for the night in the Brooks Range. The plan was for Barrow and Prudhoe Bay, but the weather didn't permit passage beyond Anaktuvik Pass at the northern-most point of the Brooks Range. Leaving here, a large grizzly stood on its haunches and sniffed the air as the airplane passed over. I've been using a portable electric fence lately, and I like to think I sleep better in griz country. Duckbills anchor the plane for a storm that passed over during the night-- love sleepin when it's stormy out-
Beach off southern side of Seward Peninsula 30 miles outside of Nome. Good sleeping spot, and with a tide that only rose 1.5 feet from low to high tide, quite safe.
The next morning it turned a little nasty. I love all kinds of weather, so I guess "nasty" is a relative term. Nonetheless, the 30 mile trip into Nome for fuel turned into a 3 hour trip. The beach was a great landing spot, which was good since my shortest leg was 2 miles before I had to set down once again and wait for enough visibility to see beyond prop. Hey, it's the Bering Sea.
Fueled up at Nome and off to Serpentine Hot Springs. Beautiful cabin with natural hot springs flowing through. Good sleepin'
Serpentine Hot Springs lies in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, which is one of the most remote and least-visited areas in the National Park system. It's western border is 42 miles from the Bering Strait and International Date LIne. No roads to access this park. Where are all the Winnebagos...?!?
Flying the coastline eastward with Kotzebue off the left wing. Kotzebue Sound, Arctic Ocean.
Gotta stretch the legs and this hilltop was just the ticket.
This huge expanse of island is dwarfed only by the water that surrounds it. The Yukon.
Entrance to Rainy Pass on the northwestern side of the Alaska Range.
Landed for the night at Rohn Roadhouse which sits near the gates of Rainy Pass. The Iditarod Sled Dog race is from Anchorage to Nome, each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher cover over 1150 miles in 10 to 17 days. Rohn is a checkpoint along the way, and a nice one at that. The entire route from Nome back to Anchorage in the supercub nearly traced the Iditarod Trail. It's tough to comprehend the distance that is raced with dogs in such unforgiving weather. The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in. The mushers and their dogs saved the day.
Stopped by Rainy Pass Lodge before exiting the mountains, and met Dick and Sharon at the lodge, who caretake through the wintertime. What a job! Sharon helps out with the Iditarod (which passes by the lodge) every year. She makes the best cookies of anyone I've met that totes around a .44 Magnum. The only other airplane at the lodge's airstrip belonged to George and Dorothia Murphy. George is well-known throughout Alaska as a bush pilot. Their Aeronca stood proud as witness to many hours of flying. Dorothia is 81 years old and has more spunk than you'd imagine. She was a passenger in a car accident last year, breaking her back. That didn't stop her from hiking a nearby mountain while at the lodge on this visit. About 3 years prior, she had decided it was time to kick the caffeine habit. The plan was to avoid caffeine. She had George fly her out and drop her off in a remote camp by herself, and told him not to pick her up for a few days. When George returned 3 days later, Dorothia was ready to load a caribou she had shot, dressed and packed back to the camp by herself. George and Dorothia live 5 miles north of Willow, Alaska.