Forget-me-nots on Alaska Day (observed)

Today is (observed) Alaska Day. The official Alaska Day is Oct. 18 and recognizes the U.S. flag raising at Fort Sitka on Oct. 18, 1867. 

The U.S. flag replaced its Russian counterpart following the purchase of Alaska for roughly $7 million. Alaska Day is being observed a day late this year because it is a paid holiday for state employees. 

Since I didn’t post about it yesterday the observance also gives me another opportunity. It’s impossible to find one photo, or even a group, to represent all Alaska has to offer. Instead I chose Alaska’s state flower: the forget-me-not. 

The tiny blue and orange flower is hard to spot, and equally difficult to photograph.

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Fog lifts from a hayfield

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”

 

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My happy place is a state of being — the culmination of numerous factors. A breath of fresh air in sun or snow. Freedom to run through the woods, twisting along a skinny trail. A beer and a dance floor with great live music, or a slow sunday with a cup of hot coffee.

Of course looking through a viewfinder is often a happy activity for me.

Catch of the day

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Above: Expect more of a “fishing perch” than a “fishing hole” when dip-netting the Copper River in southeast Alaska. Spirit Mountain pokes above the big and fast glacial-fed river that’s full of silt and very cold. Copper River Reds, the salmon in the net, are some of the most sought after in the world. 

The river is also an excellent of the Weekly Photo Challenge of boundaries. Rivers are some of Earth’s most common boundaries. For the fish in my net it is a boundary of left and death, or for a person if they fall in. 

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Sometimes sweeping is necessary — a time- and labor-intensive technique during which the fisher sweeps the net with the current, resets and repeats.

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Even when fishing is done much work is left to be done. Here a king salmon is butchered. 

Fall around Fairbanks

Above: The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, with a satellite-receiving dish on the roof, sits tucked among trees as a runner makes her away along trails far below, visibly only by a bright blue jacket. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the boreal forest, that which is found around Interior Alaska, is largest terrestrial ecosystem on earth. 

Interior Alaska’s fall comes fast, and leaves even faster. With only a small variety deciduous trees we don’t get a large variety of color, but the bright yellow leaves among dark green spruce still make dramatic scenes. It can take less than one week for trees to shed their leaves if a hard frost is followed by a strong wind or rain. 

Scenery and a sandpiper

Above: The Eastern Alaska Range backdrops the Delta Clear Water, a spring-fed river in Interior Alaska. A small canoe can be seen in the lower third of the photo,

The Delta Clearwater is an Interior Alaska river true to its name: clearwater. An early summer float trip provided astounding views and some small wildlife.

Night hike of Granite Tors

Earlier this summer three friends and I took advantage of Alaska’s 24-hour daylight to night hike Granite Tors in the Chena River State Recreation Area.

We started aaround 8:30 p.m. and finished the 15-mile loop trail around 3 a.m. We ran as much as possible of the challenging trail and took one or two snack breaks.

Two benefits are immediately noticeable when night hiking. Catching spectacular sunsets and avoiding scorching mid-day heat.

Skiing World Class Thompson Pass

Above: Mt. Diamond backdrops Eli Sturm as he skies down a couloir in Thompson Pass, where the scenery and snow are world class. 

The 2,805 foot Thompson Pass pass is outside the coastal town of Valdez, and averages more than 550 inches of snow per year. Skiers and snowboarders travel from all over the world to make turns in Thompson. Copious runs are accessible right off the road, while endless mountains provide the potential for extended excursions. 

My friend Eli and myself made the six hour drive south from Fairbanks last Saturday for two very full days of riding. We mostly used climbing skins — directional skins you attach to the bottom of your skies to ascend mountains.

On the first day we skinned about 4.5 hours, climbing roughly 4,000 feet, to the top of a couloir, a steep narrow gully on a mountain. The result was some of the best and most scenic riding of my life. 

Descending towards Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass with spectacular snow.

Descending towards Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass with spectacular snow.

A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.

A skier traverses towards shade on the Diamond Glacier in Thompson Pass.