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Trying to Catch the Summer

By rumbleinthearctic 2014.09.06 in Nature

This year catching summer seemed hard. Now we are definitely into fall, and it snowed for the first time up on the North Slope a couple of weeks ago and in Denali the other day. This summer literally rained away and I almost feel cheated, is this it? We had our first frost the other day, and night temperatures are just around freezing. It will warm up a little bit next week but still.

Fall

Moose

This summer we actually didn’t have any (or almost) no fireweed. I love fireweed and its absolutely beautiful color. I did catch a few pics with fireweed while we were driving down south the other week.

Fireweed1

Fireweed

Last year was a really good fireweed year here, last summer was also extremely warm. I was worried that the streams in our watershed would completely dry out, and then this year with all this rain it has been completely the opposite.

Fireweed3

Last year was a smoky year. If you are not familiar with Alaska you might not know that the interior of Alaska is covered by Black Spruce. Black Spruce is extremely fire prone, and with the climate in the interior (cold winters and dry summers) the area burns a lot. A lot more than people think.

Spruce and Fire

For instance in 2004, which was one of the largest fire seasons in Alaska, about 27000 square Km was burned, that is almost the size of Dalarna in Sweden. And that is just in one year. But this year we have had almost no fires at all. Every summer before this one has always been smoky. The smoke creates this beautiful light in the summertime, so even though its bad for your airways I almost miss it. With the warm summer last year I grew a lot of cucumbers, and other vegetables. But this year was not as good for almost anything.

Olive

Gurkor

Anyway, now fall has arrived and frost is on the ground in the mornings. Better just make the best of it and enjoy the warmish weather before winter and below 40 arrives..

Fall

Hence they went wavering northward over icy Alaska, brave spruce and fir, poplar and birch, by the coasts and the rivers

By rumbleinthearctic 2014.08.16 in Adventures

Quite recently the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic of summer 2014 happened. Like any other race in Alaska this is one where you are on your own. There isn’t any life support and as most races you sign a liability form (or so I would think). Most parts of Alaska don’t have any cell service, because you are far out in the wilderness. Where self rescue, as stated on the wilderness classic blog mean:

Self-rescue means that you know how to stabilize serious injuries enough that you can walk (or crawl) dozens of miles to a possible fly-out zone. You are on your own and you have to take care of yourself. Most people will never acquire the experience necessary to run a Classic.

As W says, this is stupid and selfish, why would anyone ever do that? Well as a human we are born to challenge ourselves. Some people are of a “different breed” as the wilderness classic blog call it. Some humans want to experience the impossible, some people want to experience the wild, but you don’t need to do the wilderness classic to do that. In fact, you only need to take your hiking boots, backpack, tent and sleeping bag and venture off to some backcountry creek or alike and just start to hike. There are plenty of land to explore in Alaska, but there are also plenty of obstacles, or challenges that you might not have thought about prior to your wilderness experience.

wilderness

A couple of days ago one of the veterans in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic died. He died just after putting in into the Tana river which is described by the park ranger Peter Christian: “The Tana River is known for extremely cold, swift, large water and difficult rapids, when the water is high it’s big water. “As soon as Rob put in, he was swept into big, boiling hydraulic”. You can read the rest of the story in Alaska Dispatch which has a detailed article about it. We have had so much rain in large parts of the state, so a lot of rivers in the interior at leas are swelled. Our small streams are about 10 times as big as they usually are, I would for sure be scared putting into the big rivers now.

water

There are Bears in Denali part 2

By rumbleinthearctic 2014.05.26 in Uncategorized

April 26th 2014

I told the E(who I was going to go biking with): “well I don’t really think we will run into any bears”, just because I really didn’t think so. We met up with another friend of mine in Denali and drove out to Teklanika. Right now before the tourist season they have the road open to mile 30 for personal cars, which is Teklanika. When me and W went biking last year we went from Savage river to Teklanika, so I hadn’t been biking pass that point before.

We biked less than 0.5 miles until my friend said “it’s an animal, an animal, there” And I was thinking where, where is the animal, searching for a moose or something in the bushes. But further down in the river valley was a bear.

An Animal

I felt calm though, because this bear was so far down below that I didn’t feel that he/she was a threat. I half serious asked my friend so, what is the probability of actually running into a second bear, now when we already seen one, that must be pretty low right (and I knew right as I said this that, that is not how the statistical probability works..), She turned to me and said…eeh no i don’t think so.

We continued biking, across the river, continuing up, up, and up. Bear and wolf tracks on the side of the road. We talked about everything between the earth and heaven. Lynx-snowshoe hare cycles, musk-ox giving birth, reindeer calves, boys, long-term relationships with life, the park, and boys.

Biking

I was tired, but continued biking because I knew that we would have some kind of “reward” in the end. Our goal was only 9 miles in, but it was uphill and it was enough, for at least me to get really tired. We decided to leave the bikes and hike the rest of the way to Sable pass. After each corner another stunning view was visible,

The views

just like the whole bike ride had been so far. We were definitely not the only ones biking, a lot of people had the same idea.

Bikers

So finally we reached Sable pass, and it turned out that the more awesome view was even further away. We hiked a bit further until we could see Denali again, before we turned back to our bikes again.

Sable Pass

On the way back we ran into the bear technician, he told my friend that the bear is now closer to the road and he is sleeping, so we should keep our eyes open. GREAT, is exactly what I was thinking, a sleeping bear close to the road.

The rest of the way back was so easy, and that is when I actually really realized that we had been going uphill the WHOLE way to Sable pass. As we approached the bridge, right before the final uphill towards Teklanika, my friend said, ok are you guys ready, and I was like haha…yup ready to encounter the sleeping bear. We got to the bridge and I saw this other biker halfway across the bridge taking pictures. I looked out on the river bed, and thought to myself “what is that big thing, is that a Musk-ox?”, until I loudly said Oh my God it is the bear. I just don’t know why but it made me so scared.

The Bear

My blood was rushing and I could feel my heartbeat and my legs felt shaky. Now thinking back about it I think it is because I haven’t had that many bear encounters, so I haven’t had a chance to study the bears. This bear though was huge, and we all thought it was the same bear as we had seen earlier, until another pair of bikers came and I heard them in the background “Oh wow there is another bear”. Well there goes my little theory about probability statistics. This bear did not seem interested in anything else other than the stream bed, and he kept walking up and down, digging. He didn’t run per see, but bears are so big, especially this one, and it didn’t take long until he/she had moved from one side to another. My friends felt more calm, but said that if I didn’t feel comfortable we could wait a while longer and study him to see what he is doing. By that time lots of spectators of course gathered, on the other side, and also on “our” side. I am always so surprised how close people get. How close can you get? Sure, I love taking pictures of bears, but I rather be further away, and protected while I do that.

After a while we decided to bike, the bear had moved aways a bit from the bridge, but was still pretty close to the other side. As we biked uphill we passed several spectators, watching and admiring the bear. And all that I could think about how badly I wanted to get away, I couldn’t even get myself to shift gears because I felt worried that the bear was going to hear it an run for me. Which obviously probably would never happen, especially considering the amount of people in that area at that point. But it really made me think about my fear. Where exactly does it come from and why am I so afraid of things like this?

“Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear. Thus a feeling of utter unworthiness can be a source of courage” – Eric Hoffer

The bus from the movie

There are Bears in Denali part 1

By rumbleinthearctic 2014.05.18 in Adventures

May 26th 2013

Me and W had been planning for quite a while to go biking in Denali. Well not planning as such, but we had been saying “we need to go biking in Denali sometime”. The year before that our chance rained away. So when we stumbled upon some really great weather one of those days in May last year, we finally took the chance. Packed the car and drove off for an adventure. As the bear aware people we are, we brought bear spray along with us, and as always, I thought about different bear scenarios. What do we do if this happen, or this, or that. Always. That is how I am. As we drove towards Denali we had some incredible views of Denali, or the “Great One” as the word Denali mean. I always feel sad for all the tourist who happen to arrive on a cloudy/hazy or smoky day in the summertime. Because, how fun can it be to travel all the way to Alaska and the most famous mountain (ok one of the most famous mountains in the US) can’t even be seen. Even though I have seen “her” so many times by now, I always get happy. Sometimes you can see her sticking up in the far background from campus, and I always ask my friends: “did you see Denali, she’s out!!”

Denali

Denali is big enough to create its own weather system, and a lot of times she is hidden in those clouds.

Denali

I always call her Mighty Denali, because she is. That mountain also has a lot of deaths on her conscience. Not that it is her fault, but still, all those mountaineers who try to conquer her every year. In some way I guess its always just a chance, a chance that the day will not be in your favor, as it just is with everything. There is a chance for anything and everything. Similar to a chance of running into a bear while biking. I mean what are the chances? Denali National Park is so big. Unlike other parks you are not allowed to drive your car through it. So you are stuck with taking a bus, but if you have a bike you can be more on your own on the road. And of course, you can take the bus far far into the park and then just hike off the road system. I still haven’t done that but it’s on my bucket list. Your stars have to align in order to make things like this happen. Need nice weather (well ok you don’t but I would prefer), need to be able to be away from work for a couple of days, and preferably find someone who also have time to go with you.

Car packed

That day in May last year we started at Savage river. It is this parking spot, as “far” (because it is not that far, only 15 miles) in as you are allowed to drive in the summertime. That is, 15 miles from the highway. So in reality the park just starts right where Savage river is. We decided to do a roundtrip of 30 miles. 15 miles in and 15 miles back. The day was really nice, and after a while we were biking in shorts and short sleeves.

Biking

The views are always so spectacular, but you definitely do not feel alone when the big buses comes barging up behind you, full of amazed tourists who can’t believe why someone would bike when they can take the bus. Or maybe they are jealous, who knows. W biked and bike and biked, I could feel my muscles start to hurt. I guess I had been sitting around too much during the wintertime, not enough exercise. And as we got closer to Teklanika river, around 15 miles in I was so tired, and angry. My happy mood was washed away because now I was hurting. We arrived at the Teklanika river camping ground and decided to have lunch there, and it was not until this year I realized that the actual Teklanika river outlook was 1/2 mile further away. We ate, I was so hungry and tired and after that lunch my batteries were totally rebooted.

We started to go back, all those downhills we had, were now uphill, of course. As we were biking we were yelling and making noise, because that is what you should do, to keep the bears away. As we rounded a corner and started to go uphill this bus passed us. At this point we were pretty tired of those buses, and as the bus stopped at the top of the hill before the road turned around the corner we decided to wait it out. After a couple of minutes I got really eager to get moving and we were wondering why the bus was still standing there. Well, the view was pretty nice so maybe they were taking pictures. As a second bus approached and also stopped up the hill we decided to go. As we got closer to the bus the driver were doing some hand-motions out the window…which kind of looked like yeah you can pass…or so we thought. But when the bus started to reverse towards us we were thinking…hmm this could only mean one thing. At that point we saw the terrified looks of the tourists in the bus, waving with their hands. It actually looked pretty funny now when you think about it. And as we got side to side with the bus driver he opened the door and informed us that there was a grizzly just by the road….approximately 50 meters away from us. At that point your blood starts to rush. He also informed us that the bear was now too close to us (the rule is that you need to be at least 250 m away from wildlife), we were looking at each other and thought “No Shit” of course we know that, and yes we do understand that we can’t pass. All I could think about how do I get my bike on this bus, and in my imagination I could see the bear come running for us and totally chew up the bikes, we of course would jump on the bus. But that did not happen. Neither were we let on the bus. The driver told us that we needed to backtrack where we come from and bike at least 150 feet away from the bear. W and I looked at each other and thought “are you serious”. Because, you are not suppose to run let alone bike away from a bear that is that close. And with the buses there the bear didn’t seem to care at all…but you never know. He told us that we could catch a ride with green bus, to get pass the bear. Biking away from that bear was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Because I had no clue if the bear had seen us, if he would care or if he was behind us. We biked for a couple of minutes, and I turned to W and asked
-how far do you think we have biked
he replied – at least double the distance
I said, -well I think we should go further because I don’t feel safe at all
W agreed but right at that time we saw one of those green buses down the hill. We waited for it and stopped it an explained the situation. The driver was this really funny lady, she turned back to the other people in the bus and said, -well what do you guys think, should we let them on? As she helped us attach the bikes outside the bus she said:
-Well hurry up, we want to see the bear too.
We drove 5 minutes and sure enough, there it came, walking down the hill, and the driver said,
-Ohh that’s a big grizzly.
I looked at W and said:
-well, this was fun….but I don’t think I want to bike in Denali ever again

Bear

Until a couple of weeks ago. When me and two other friends decided to go biking in Denali.

Ann

I am a:
Photographer
Nature Lover,
Student
Traveler
Hiker
Adventurer

I currently live in Fairbanks, Alaska, and have lived here since August 2009. In this blog I will share my photographs from my life here, and of course stories about life in general in Alaska. So if you are as enthusiastic about an active outdoor life and love nature and photography as much as I do, you will probably like it.

Here you can follow me and my adventures, enjoy.

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