Alaska's Winter Horizon

Alaska's Winter Horizon

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thursday, December 17th

Wow, it's been quite a few days since we last posted! I guess we will finally wrap up the polar bear trip pictures. Probably the most exciting part of the trip was after we spotted a mother and her cub about 75 yards away. We made our way near the shore to get a closer look. The captain threw the anchor over into the water to help keep us near the shore and in a good spot to view mom and cub. The anchor somehow hit the side of the boat making a huge clanking noise.
 When the anchor hit that boat, the mother who had been paying us no attention suddenly rocketed toward us at full speed.
Sorry for the blurry pictures, but we were not prepared to photograph a charging and very protective polar bear mom!
It was quite thrilling and somewhat scary to be in that tiny boat and see her racing toward us.
Remember, we were anchored down about 15 feet off the shore and not going anywhere quickly.
 It was quite a bit of relief when her paws hit the water's edge and she then stopped.
As the beautiful cub joined its mom on the shoreline, it became apparent she wasn't going to come out after the boat, and everyone quickly realized just how lucky we were.
 We were literally feet away from such magnificent and rare animals that may not be around in 50 years.
This photo I took shows just how close we were! Greg's fancy lens wasn't needed for these shots.

We are headed to Tennessee for the holidays. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a great 2016.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Even more from our polar bear trip!

Here are a few more pictures from our polar bear trip to Kaktovik, Alaska.
 First, a little background on this village.
 It has a population of around 250 people.
 Kaktovik is an Inupiat village located on Barter Island.
 This island is found in the Northeast corner of Alaska near the Canadian border.
Kaktovik is a very isolated place!
 However, this remoteness allows the residents to maintain their Eskimo traditions.
These people are very dependent on the subsistence lifestyle with caribou and whale being the primary meats they rely upon for survival.
 Another interesting fact is that Kaktovik lies within the boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
ANWR contains nearly 20 million acres. It is the largest wildlife refuge in the country. Kaktovik is one of only two villages located within the refuge.

 Check out this big boy!

 Sometimes, we just floated along in the water as the bears walked along the shore.
 More pics to come!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

More from our polar bear adventure!

Kateel motored us along the shore in search of more bears. If we saw any close to shore, we just followed along quietly alongside them. When they seemed to be preoccupied with something, we would stop and anchor to allow us a chance to take some photos.
 It's hard to actually express how gigantic these bears really are. When standing on their hind feet, they can be up to 11 feet tall. They can weigh up to 1,500 pounds! You will notice in some of these pictures that many of the larger bears are not snow white like others. This is because as they get older their fur turns a creamy yellow color. In this photo, a mom and her cub keep their distance from a resting monster male. He was massive!
Mom and cub also walk near some other resting bears. These look as if they have been rolling in the dirt.
This lone bear was out for a stroll.
 He made some mean noises as he ambled along.
 We were able to get a few pictures of this bear as it walked right to the edge of the water near us.
 His fur was a beautiful clean white color.
 He scratched around a bit in the sand and then made his way over the little hill to the other side of the island.
 Many more pics to come!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Polar Bear Adventure Finally Continues Two Weeks Later!

Our first attempt to go see the polar bears during Labor Day weekend ended with the trip being cancelled due to dense fog in Kaktovik. In Alaska charter planes must have one mile of visibility to land. We got to the small plane airport at 7 am on Sunday morning, Sept. 6th, and sat and waited for weather updates until noon. The fog still had not lifted then, so we were able to reschedule for the next day. We returned on Monday morning, September 7th, to the small plane airport and sat until noon again. Alas, the fog would not lift that morning either. After returning home to Anchorage, we decided to give it one more shot. Luckily, we were able to get in on September 20th, which is right at the end of the viewing season. There is only about a six week time frame where you can fly up to see the bears. The bears come in near the village for these few weeks and then go out when the pack ice freezes. After flying back to Fairbanks on Saturday, we arrived back bright and early at the small plane airport Sunday morning. We both had a good feeling about the day and there were no glitches in our plans as the plane took off around 8 am. The first portion of the flight is a two and a half hour flight to Deadhorse. On the way up, we flew over the Brooks Range and millions of acres of Alaskan wilderness.
 These mountains just seem to stretch forever!
 If anyone in our small group was sleepy when we landed, they were quickly jolted awake by the high winds and low 20 temps at Prudhoe Bay when we stepped foot off the plane.
Our plane had to refuel at this work camp which actually has thousands of oil industry employees working here. We boarded the plane again and made our way along the coast of the Arctic Ocean on a 45 minute flight to the village of Kaktovik. It was quite spectacular! It is almost beyond belief that this body of water could freeze. We arrived around noon and as we landed and rolled down the runway, we were greeted with the sight of a sow polar bear and her cub swimming right off shore! We were really vigilant as we swapped our gear from the plane to a van while trying not to freeze in the meantime. We then headed over to the Marsh Creek Inn to eat lunch. By one p.m., we were on the water in this little boat and off to see bears.
 We soon learned that our Norwegian captain, Kateel, is also a dog musher and has run the Iditarod four times already. He will run in this great race in 2016. He has great knowledge of the polar bears and within five minutes had located some bears resting on the beach.
We anchored just a few feet off shore and started snapping away.
 One member of our group, John, counted twenty-six polar bears in this one area!

 The bears looked quite healthy, white, shaggy, and beautiful.
Majestic may be an overused word, but these creatures truly are majestic.
As we have so much more to tell and many more pictures to share, we will post again in a few days.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Polar Bear Adventure Begins!

Our one hour flight from Anchorage landed in Fairbanks around two on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. We made our way over to Sophie Station Suites and checked in to a very nice room. Our suite is actually larger than our apartment in Anchorage! After getting settled in, we got on a shuttle and headed downtown.
We ate way too much at the Alaska buffet so we decided to walk around a bit and take in the sights.
 The Chena River runs right through Fairbanks.
The river is a popular recreation hotspot and there are several riverboats that take passengers on tours of the area. This fence showing the riverboats is a nod to their importance in the history of Fairbanks.

The birch trees' leaves have started to change to glorious yellows and gold.

With everything here being so green and lush with beautiful flowers, it's hard to believe just how cold it gets here during the winter.
 Trying to rest tonight as we fly out early in the morning for Kaktovik and our polar bear adventure!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday, August 23rd

We have been enjoying some beautiful days here in Alaska. Our daytime temps are staying in the mid 60s and you really couldn't order weather more perfect. We decided to take advantage of the glorious sunshine and visit the Alaska Botanical Garden. (Thanks again, Scarbrough family!)
We had to stick to the paved path around the garden today.
 The nature trail was closed due to bear activity.
The attendant told us the bears had also made a visit to the Botanical Garden this morning. The trail that leads to Campbell Creek was closed due to high bear activity. It is fishing time for them.
 There were still plenty of beautiful blooms and foliage to enjoy.
 This Asiatic lily was a little tired, but still putting on a show.

 This interesting fungi on the tree reminded me of bells.

 The foxgloves were still in full bloom!
 There were many different species of apple and crabapple trees.
 All of the trees seemed to be loaded with fruit.

 This old curved tree added a natural architectural element to the forest.
 These snapdragons were such an intense dark color. They just popped up against the nasturtiums.
 The garden just has such a variety of plants and trees.
 Hopefully a bird family has been enjoying this log cabin birdhouse!