Friday, June 29, 2018

First Week Back in Alaska: The Wildlife

Stellar Sea Lions and the Safari Quest
Sea Lion in flight
Fluffy Sea Otter saying hello
Brown bear eating some grass

 Sea otters, moose, and bears, oh my! My first week back in southeast Alaska, and my first time on the new Petersburg to Petersburg itinerary provided a blast of Alaskan wildlife. And as amazing as the wildlife show was this week, it wasn't even the guests' favorite part of the trip! (See next post for more on that)

Regal Eagle on its perch
   Our wildlife list quickly grew over the week as the sightings and encounters rolled in. We had humpback whales and cute little sea otters, plus an orca encounter before breakfast on the first full day onboard. Lots more sea otters followed at the Bay of Pillars, including new moms with tiny fluff balls riding on their stomach.

Pigeon Guillemot
Playful orca encounter
Orca and Iceberg
  Not only did we have a beautiful sunset orca encounter with a lone big male on night one, but later in the week we ran across a pod of five very playful orca. I was able to get a few pictures of them in front of icebergs which i like for showing a sense of place. And a few other pictures I managed with the orca playing slapping their tails and putting their heads up out of the water.

   Eagle encounters were uncountable this week. They seem to be gathering for the upcoming salmon run feast. And the bear encounters encompassed both black and brown, albiet from quite far away every time. The wildest encounter of them all was when our captain spotted a large brown object moving along a shoreline. It turned out to be a moose, which is quite a rare sighting for SE Alaska. That marks the fifth one that I've seen in four years here in Southeast.

   I'm looking forward to more and more humpbacks showing up as their numbers seem a bit light so far but one can't complain about the sheer amount of wildlife that you can see here in Alaska. 

Moose on the shoreline near Baird Glacier

Friday, June 22, 2018

Back in Alaska, 2018

Brown Bear on Admiralty Island
  I'm back in Alaska after almost a year to be expedition leader for UnCruise's newest itinerary: Bears, Bergs, and Bushwhacking. This itinerary is only run by our smallest boat, the 22 passenger Safari Quest. With wilderness management protections in place here in the Tongass National Forest, the Safari Quest is able to take passengers into highly protected areas where only two groups of 12 hikers can step foot onto ground each day. The amazing Admiralty Island, or what the local Tlingit people call the island "Kootznoowoo" or Fortress of the Bear, because it has the highest concentration of brown bears in the world.

  The trip ends up doing a round trip back to Petersburg, which means that most of the time out on the water we are in prime humpback whale feeding grounds. Frederick Sound has been a hot spot for humpback whales spending the summer months here in Southeast Alaska. Calm waters of the Inside Passage mixed with snow capped mountains in the background provide stunning locals for whale encounters.

The Safari Quest
Bubble net feeding up close
  I have my hopes up that over the next four weeks we will find humpback whales bubble net feeding. Take a look at this encounter from last year! Once the herring start forming big schools the intelligent humpbacks use this feeding method to trap the elusive small fish. Having the ability to fit everyone into our two skiffs makes the possibility of witnessing this behavior from a small boat almost a definite.

Kayaking in a salmon stream
  The wildlife of Alaska is always an amazing part of the trip. But it is often the glaciers that leave a lasting impression of the guests and the crew alike. Waking up to see giant pieces of ice floating by, made up of impossibly blue color is only the beginning of the wonder of these glaciers. Seeing a 200ft tall wall of ice, that sometimes breaks off apartment building size chunks is an experience no one can ever forget. The landscapes here are stunning, from rivers of ice, to sunsets near 10pm, to a lone bald eagle perched atop a floating berg.

Ice Garden in Le Conte Bay

Glacier Calving at Dawes Glacier
  I am wrapping my mind around the fact that this is my job. There is certainly something very satisfying about working in a place like this and being able to share this experience with guests week in and week out. Season after season I can see this with fresh eyes through all the first time guests. Although after being away for almost a year I feel like my eye are fresh as well. The excitement certainly is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Catalina's First Visit to Stave Island

Heidi and Catalina on Stave Island
 One of the big bonuses for us splitting our time between Vermont and Maui is that we give young Catalina a chance to spend some quality time out on Stave Island. June 11th, 2018 she first visited the island and from the picture here she looks pretty jazzed about it. I don't blame her, it is a pretty amazing spot for a kid to explore.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Nate and Kelly Visit Vermont

  Miami is a few thousand miles away but the draw of baby Catalina is great. It had been too long since we had hung out with Nate and Kelly (read about their Oahu visit, and us visiting Miami).  I had just flown in from running trips off the coast of British Columbia and was ready for some friends and family time in Vermont.

   During the visit our good friends Mary and Jackson came over and brought along their dog Rolo to play with Neka. All of us had worked in Southern California and out in Maui, so it's great to reunite with some fun adventures around the world.

Proud Mama
   We spent the day hiking around Jeffersonville, VT, exploring waterfalls, and drinking, snacking, and birdwatching our way down the river in canoes. Catalina didn't come along for the canoe ride but she was up for some serious hikes. 

On the knife's edge
Rolo, Jackson, Mary, Me, Kelly & Nate
   The second day we hit the ground running with a stair steppin' hike up from Smugglers Notch to the picturesque Sterling Pond. Catalina got a lot of praise on the way as the youngest baby on the trail, I got a serious workout, and Kelly found a ton of trilliums which is one of her favorites.

   It was great to spend a little time with everyone, and it makes me wonder...where in the world our next adventure together will be!

Catalina's first Sterling Pond visit

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Taming the Snake River, Jackson, Wyoming

I'm in front in yellow
Air paddling
   I enjoy a good white water rafting ride. You can judge that by my exploits down the Zambezi River and the Nile in Africa. So when my dad mentioned the possibility of some early season high water rafting down the snake river here in Jackson I thought it sounded right up my alley.

  I didn't expect too much craziness from the way everyone was talking, especially since the entire trip takes less than an hour, but due to the high water caused by all the snow melt from the Grand Tetons it was a blast, and enough to get my nerves going!

About to get a face full of ice cold water
  I went with Lewis and Clark rafting company and the guide Aaron was great. He had just gotten back from a big rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and was gearing up for his 15th season on the Snake. He was really excited for the water to come down a little so the standing wave at Lunch Counter would start working for river surfing. He had just gotten a new board and was pretty jazzed to talk to another surfer about it.

  Lunch Counter is the big rapid and there were some massive waves that we hit, almost flipping the entire raft. After hitting the first big rapid which you can see in the pictures above, we were hit by a side wave which is the one which raised the safety kayaks eyebrows. I noticed he came close after and softy said, 'that was close' to our guide in the back. But Aaron was jazzed up as were we all. It may not be the Great Zambezi but this is what rafting is all about!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Landscape Photos from Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Famous Barn in front of the Tetons
Leading line to the Tetons
Landscape Photos from Jackson Hole, Wyoming

  It is a place of big skies, open plains, jagged snow capped peaks, and endless views. The landscape photo potential also seems endless here in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

  There are several famous photo spots and viewpoints here in Jackson Hole that have shown up in well known photographs over the years by legendary landscape photographers like Ansel Adams. But what I found is that there are still secret areas to find that provide everything you need for an incredible vista.

Springtime in Jackson
  There are three things I look for in a good landscape photos; an interesting background, a dramatic sky, and something in the foreground to give a little story to the landscape. If I can find a road or some other 'leading line' that draws the viewers eye deeper into the scene it is a definite bonus. Opportunities to combine all of these elements abound here in Jackson which is why it would be on my top destination for any photography itinerary....or if you just like beautiful views.