Tag Archives: wildlife
“All over Alaska, moose are sucking in new leaves like whales inhaling plankton.”
—The Juneau Empire
With the warmer weather and midnight sun comes the arrival of another summer anomaly: The Tourist. In March and April, we shared the roads with new tour bus drivers, who were learning how to drive while sharing Alaska tidbits over the bus loudspeaker.
Last week, I spotted the first full tour bus in Fairbanks. The bus had traveled the Parks Highway from Denali National Park. The swans, geese and cranes have been here for a few weeks, and now the tourists join the gaggle.
To add insult to injury, for those of us who are accustomed to seeing moose along the roadside, Sunday was National Tourist Day. Where did that celebration come from? Or, is that day, considered a warning? Time to prepare for the inevitable sudden stops for wildlife viewing.
As much as I love having them around, they are still just a moose! Alaska Tip: Pull off the roadway completely before stopping to gawk. The resident behind you will appreciate the effort.
There is a lot of snow on the ground still. Anywhere from 12-18″ of depth, but the 50F degrees this past weekend has put the melt on. Lots of sun right now too:
Length of day: 16 hrs, 53 mins
Length of visible light: 19 hrs, 17 mins
Today will be 6 mins and 59 secs longer than yesterday.
The beavers have open water in front of their lodge, which happens for two reasons. Their swimming back and forth helps to keep the ice thinner, but there is also a methane release point in the same location, which helps to do the same thing. In fact, the circles of diminished ice in the background, are also methane pockets.
It’s National Parks Week!
My visit to the Gila Wilderness and its cliff dwellings happened early on in the Original Beetle Roadtrip. In many ways it was in the Gila, that a 24 year old Aldo Leopold found his footing. As someone who really enjoyed Leopold’s writing, it was only a matter of time for me to visit the wilderness he proposed and the very first Federally recognized wilderness in the United States.
I found a nice place to camp in the national forest, driving the Beetle across a stream to limit my neighbors, and from that campsite, I explored the Gila.
Theodore Roosevelt designated the cliff dwellings a national monument in 1907. The monument is 533 acres, and had just over 41,000 visitors in 2016. To me, there seemed to be almost that many people there when I visited. It became a challenge to get a picture taken without a person in the frame, but I worked at it.
The dwellings are located in an absolutely beautiful part of New Mexico. It was easy for me to see why the Mogollon people settled here, and I wondered why they abandoned it years later.
Hiking the trail early in the morning, I was lucky enough to come across a black bear on its morning excursion. Later in the day, I met up with a couple who had seen a mountain lion. I was not at all surprised by either in this beautiful, rugged terrain.
It’s National Park Week!
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is located approximately 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. Originally designated a National Monument in 1978, the area was named a national park by Congress in 1980 via the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
The park itself is roughly 2.6 million acres, with an additional 1.4 million set aside as preserve, putting the total size at just over 4 million acres. In 2018, the park saw 14,000 visitors.
The Lake Clark area gained some degree of fame through the adventures of Dick Proenneke, who documented his homestead life at Twin Lakes before the area became a park. Proenneke not only kept detailed journals, but filmed his world in a documentary style. Alone in the Wilderness, the book about his life at Twin Lakes, and the PBS documentary of the same name were extremely well received by Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike. Not an easy thing to accomplish!
Lake Clark is a vital salmon hatchery for Bristol Bay, and is Alaska’s sixth largest lake at 42 miles long and a maximum depth of just over 1000 feet.
Lake Clark NP&P is also home to two active volcanoes. The ever rumbling Mount Redoubt and Iliamna volcano, which has been quiet of late.
Lake Clark NP&P is not road accessible. One can get to the park via floatplane or via boat from Cook Inlet.
This is the Florida I really like. On my only off day in Orlando, not counting the day I flew in, I went out to Lake Kissimmee State Park in search of their 13 miles of trails. Luckily, not one of them had a TRAIL CLOSED sign at the trailhead.
Kissimmee is a 5900+ acre park with an incredible variety of terrain: From forest to floodplain and flatwoods to hammock, Kissimmee had it all.
At the trailhead was a fishing hole that had a lot of attention. Mostly parents with kids were fishing from raised platforms. It wasn’t hard to see why they were fishing from above the shoreline: I immediately spotted two alligators floating offshore, with only the top of their heads out of the water. I could see fish everywhere, practically begging just below the water’s surface. I was told they were Florida Largemouth Bass, although they looked like a bunch of pet carp.
I didn’t hang out long enough to see one caught. I had just spent the past several days immersed in a sea of humanity, with a second round coming the next day, so I was looking for solitude on the trails. I found it too. The only company I had once I left the trailhead was several deer that I hiked past.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, with temps in the low 70’s F, not a cloud in the sky, and I had those 13 miles of trail to hike.
This remnant of Florida fascinates me. I honestly love hiking through the flatwoods and hammocks. It’s so different from what is in Alaska. It’s also kind of enjoyable to be hiking in a t-shirt in March and without mukluks.
They very recently had a controlled burn in the park, and one of the trails went right through one of the burns. The scent of burnt vegetation hung in the air. The burn was so recent, that I would occasionally walk through a pocket of air where I could smell the heat itself. I’m not sure if it was a hot pocket or just an area where the sun beat down in such a way as to amplify the scent, but it was intense.
A perfect way to close out my time in Orlando.
I had never been to Orlando, which shocked the hotel manager. In fact, I even received a head shake when I confessed that this was my first visit to the city. I did not add that I would not have visited at all if it wasn’t a business trip.
It’s an interesting town, and I enjoyed the 80F degrees, but I’d prefer the Everglades or Dry Tortugas. I’m more of an orca in the wild than an orca in a pool, kind of guy.
Still, I did enjoy the trip, and the food was decent, although prices easily surpassed Fairbanks, which took me by surprise. Car rental prices were relatively inexpensive, but gas prices varied wider than I have ever seen. They were all over the map, with a difference of 60 cents a gallon around the city. The cheaper ones are not around the airport, by the way.
Last week, I had a 10 day business trip down under, as in the Lower 48. Orlando was Part One of the excursion. I landed at their airport at 5:30 am. Since I was not going to be allowed to check into the hotel until 3pm, I had some time to kill. After breakfast, I picked up a few things that I forgot to bring and then searched for a park with a trail to hike.
I picked one out and headed down the highway. This was my first time to Orlando, and after spending the past 12 hours traveling, I just wasn’t in the mood for the intense traffic. It’s pretty nasty in Orlando. Shout out to I-4!
After arriving at the park, I walked about a bit then came across the trailhead:
There were three trails, and a TRAIL CLOSED sign at the start of each trail. An hour fighting traffic to go twenty miles, and the trails are closed. I was not impressed. There was no explanation. I’m not overly familiar with trails being closed. In Fairbanks, it’s usually because the trail is going through an active wildfire zone, and in Anchorage I remember warning signs highly discouraging of the use of a trail due to a grizzly killed moose carcass just down wind a bit, and one never knows when that grizzly will return to chow down some more. I was hoping to at least find a sign saying “Trail Closed due to Alligator Eating Wayward Tourist”, but there was no such sign, and I started to assume it was probably due to the trail getting a bit muddy, or something equally hazardous.
In the end, I found what I thought was a small hardly used trail along a creek, but eventually I was told off by a woman in a canoe who said that I was not on an official trail and I needed to go back.
I almost told her to go soak herself, but in the end, I just pointed to the opposite shore, and asked, “Is that an alligator?” Then I walked back to the car.