Aurora Borealis Hunting

The Land of Ice and Fire - Aurora Hunters

Duration: 8 days, 7 nights
Location: Iceland
Budget: โ‚ฌ1500
Kilometers Travelled: 3300

A short week to head over to Iceland and do some sight seeing and look for the Aurora Borealias – or Northern Lights as they are better known as.

The weather is January is not the best but the plus side is that accommodation is cheap and if you get lucky, you can have an amazing time in Iceland.

 

Day 1 – So it was an early start… something that is akin to all Epic Trips at one point or another. I could not really sleep anyways so I got up at 03:30 instead of 04:00. I got some something to eat and then finished packing my bag and headed into Limerick to collect Paddy at 05:00. He was finishing his lunch for later in the day and then we were out of there. We drove through Limerick and made it out to Shannon for just after 05:30 and parked up. The weather was fine and there was not a lot of cold in the air – it was showing 10 degrees C on the car on the way out. We dropped off our bags at the Aer Lingus desks and then headed up through security. Here was something strange – in order to get through security we had to take everything out of our camera bags – I have never seen the likes of it before. Luckily we were in no rush but it was really wierd to be asked to remove all the cameras and lenses. Anyways, we got through security and then we headed to the waiting area for flight EI380 to London Heathrow at 07:30. It was only 06:00 when we got there so we relaxed for a bit and chatted and got something to eat. We headed down to gate 06 at 06:45 and got a seat and waited for them to call us by row number. We were in row 10 so we were near the end before we got called. We got onto the plane and got our gear up into the overhead bins and settled down for a snooze on the way across to London. The crossing was nice and short with a bit of a delay around London due to congestion. We had to circle for around 10 minutes. We slept for 40 odd minutes and were on the ground around 08:50 then in Heathrow.
We grabbed our gear and headed into the terminal – we had to collect our bags and check them again at the Iceland Air desk when we were going through. There was no one at the desk when we got there so we got some breakfast – round two – and then the desk was open shortly after 10:00. We dropped off the big bags ok and then had to weigh in the carry on items. This was the first time that I actually had to weigh in the gear before going on the plane and when you have cameras and lenses your bag tends to be a bit heavier than the standard bag. Mine was coming in at around 16kg seemingly but the nice lady on the desk let it go this time – but it was a concern. The flight was not full so we were ok today but I would have hated to see what would have happened if the flight was full and they wanted me to check something. Anyways we headed through security – not having to take anything out of the bags this time apart from laptops etc – and then headed into the holding area. Pa bought a point and shoot camera in Dixons and charged up that for the trip and we waited around then till the flight information was updated on the screens. It was around 12:20 before they updated the information for us and told us to go to gate 5A for the onward flight. We refilled our water bottles at the water fountains near the toilets and then boarded the flight and headed to Reykjavik. Again I slept on the flight for 20 minutes and then got something to eat and watched some of the videos promoting the country and capital. The flight time was 2 hours and 35 minutes. We collected our bags and headed outside the airport and got the bus into town. Flybus was the operator and it took approximately 45 minutes to get to the train station. We grabbed our gear and walked the 1km to the accommodation for the night – Apartment K. We checked in and dropped our bags and got the gear and went out for a walk to get our bearings and get some air. We walked around the shopping street and up to the church Hallgrimskikrja – there were still some christmas lights on the streets also. We walked along the main shopping street – Laugavegur – and then down by the harbour before heading back to the apartment and getting something to eat and watching some tv and going to bed. It was pretty cloudy now tonight so there was not much point in us trying for some Northern Lights viewing – plus we did not have a car. It was dark from around 17:00 and would remain that way till 10:00 the following morning

Day 2 – So we got up after a good nights sleep – the apartment was nice and we got up and grabbed a shower before heading out to a local supermarket and grabbing a few bits and piece for breakfast. At 10:00 we were back at the apartment and cooking some breakfast. We finished up there at 11:00 and instead of getting a taxi to the car rental place – the original plan – we called them from the accommodation and asked them to come and get us. They said No Problem and were there a few minutes later. We headed over to Herzt and got our car at 11:30 and were on the road at 11:45 for the South Easy and Vik. We got a VW Tiguan – plate KD Y66. The jeep was well equipped now – Sat Nav, heated seats, full electrics, cruise control and only 1200km on the clock so new to boot. We headed out of Reykjavik and started driving through the rain and wind to our destination for the night – some 400 odd km from where we were. We drove through all sorts of weather from heavy rain downpours to clear days and nice light – the temperature never got into double digits though and went as low as 2.5 degrees C at some stages and we could clearly see snow and ice on the hills and mountains that we were driving through. We were on Highway 1 for the main part of this journey – first heading to Hella which is located about 90km away and across the inlet and on towards Vik – about 180km from Reykjavik. Hella is a much bigger place compared to Vik – where we stopped around 14:15 and got some food in the grocery store. We were back on the road then at 14:30 and heading towards Guesthouse Hali which was located about 12km on the far side of the Glacial Lagoon. We passed by some other glacier formations about 70km from the final destination – Skaftafell being the main one – but the weather was really bad so we said that we would stop on the return leg – and it was getting dark besides. The overall journey was 390km from where we collected the car that morning and we arrived at 17:15 in the evening – it was well and truly dark at that stage but we had arrived at Jokulsarlon safe and sound. This area is part of the Vatnajokull National Park. We checked into our room for the night – room 16 – and then cooked something in the kitchen area and watched some tv. The plan then was to chill out for a bit and get some sleep and head out around midnight down to the lagoon to see if there was any Northern Lights activity about the place. There is definitely a need for the heavy winter gear here as there is a biting icy wind that blows throughout the area that drops the perceived temperatures by a few degrees.
We cooked in the kitchen area in the house later on and then chilled out a bit before deciding to head out for some aurora hunting later. Pa slept for a bit as he was tired from the days driving and I watched Taken 2 on the ipad with the headphones in before waking Pa and heading out around 11 back to the Glacial Lagoon. It was very dark out but there was a low lying cloud and mist in the air as well so we were at nothing in heading down there really. There was nothing to see apart from a few street lights and the odd truck heading to some far off destination. We headed back to the guesthouse and went to bed around 01:00. There was no point in getting up again later in the night as we were not going to be able to see anything.

Icelandic Horse

Day 3 – We got up this morning at 08:30 and got some breakfast in the canteen. It cost about 5 euro extra on top of the lodging bill but it was worth it. We got a continental breakfast and then headed back to the room to get our gear ready. The morning was really dirty and wet and not at all appealing for heading out to take some landscape shots. We left the area at 10:30 and headed east towards Hofn. The roads were really quiet and there was not a lot of cars on the road at that hour of the morning – or later on for that matter. We came upon some caribou on the road alright as we came around a bend on the way to Hofn – and tried to get some pictures of them but the light was so bad it was next to impossible. I was pushing 2500 ISO on the Mark IV and I could not get a decent shot unless the caribou were stopped. I used the 1D X with the 70-200 and had to push a similar ISO in order to get 1/200 @ f2.8 for a shot. We continued on towards Hofn and arrived there later on in or around 12:30. It looked like a fishing town for the most part with some wading bird locations on the outskirts of town. We parked up and walked around the place and then got some diesel for the jeep – cost was 256.9 ISK per litre. We headed back towards Hali and the weather seemed to be picking up. There was some nice landscape shots tentatively appearing through the clouded areas at stages but nothing really emerged. We got back to the accommodation without incident around 13:45 and I headed out for a run at 14:00 with the sheepdog. We did 10 miles and he even had the energy to chase some cars in between. I got back to the room and grabbed a shower just after 15:00 and the sun was setting at 15:30 when we were getting a late lunch. It did not look like there was anyone else in the house with us for the night at this stage. We grabbed our gear and ran outside and got a few shots before the sun finally disappeared – it was the most sun we had seen since we got here on Tuesday. We headed back inside and I slept for an hour and got up around 18:00 and then started to look at getting some food. There was no one else in the place with us so we cooked something and watched some tv and chatted. We headed out around 21:00 and the weather was dry – we went back down towards the Glacial Lagoon – still having not seen it in daylight since we arrived. We arrived there but there was cloud and rain and nothing to see so we headed back in the Hofn direction. Unfortunately the rain was following us around the place tonight so we did not get anything useful this night either. It was back to the room and watched something on tv and went to bed around midnight.

Glacial Lagoon

Day 4 – So we got up around 08:00 this morning and grabbed a shower and headed up to get some breakfast. The place was really quiet and there was only one other couple in there before us. We got our food and headed back to the room to finish packing and get on the road. It was 10:00 when we checked out and headed back towards the Glacial Lagoon – the sun was starting to show through some breaks in the clouds so we were hopeful that we might see something nice this morning. We got up to the Lagoon and drove in but there was a heavy mist hanging over the mountains behind them. We drove back across the road to the beach, parked up and headed down to the waters edge. There was biting wind out but overall it was not too bad. We did get caught in one or two showers – where we headed back to the jeep to let them blow off – and then resume our photography. Once piece of gear that I forgot was my camera cover – when the rain came it got quite wet.I know that some cameras are weather sealed and the Canon 1D series are one of them but I still did not like leaving it out in the rain. We continued shooting and the wind broke up the clouds some more before we left the place so we got some nice images of the glaciers on the black beach before heading west back towards Reykjavik. The lagoon itself is impressive and we saw some chunks of ice floating out to sea from the channel but it would look a lot more impressive just before the start of spring or summer I think when the mist and could are not so prominent. We also saw a seal swimming up and down outside the lagoon outlet at one point. We packed up and hit the road at 12:00 and then headed for Skaftafell which was some 70km away from us. The roads were quiet and the weather was actually quite nice – compared to when we headed out this way a few days ago. We could actually see breaks in the clouds and blue skies and the sun on the tops of the mountain peaks covered in snow and ice. We stopped at the glaciers and took some more images before continuing on towards Vik – another 130km from us. We got there without incident – the only issue being that the sun was blinding us as we drove into it. The land and area through which we drove is really impressive and flat – stretching on for miles and miles. There are huge sections of black sand or ash and there was other sections where the land is covered with a soft covering of some sort of green moss type substance. We got down to Vik and posted some postcards and then headed onto Hella which was another 90km away. We got there just after 16:00 or sunset. We found the hotel and check it – the place was small and quiet where we were staying – so is the town. We bought some food in the local Supermarket and cooked that in the cabin – Number 14 – and then chilled out for a bit. It is a nice place for Northern Lights viewing but unfortunately the weather or the forecast for it were not set to be a high number tonight. We said that we would check anyways when we were going to bed and see if there is any activity in the night sky – the cabin is remote enough that the only light is from us and there was no one else staying in the area that we could see.
Approximately once an hour we would head out and have a look – the easiest way to test was to take an exposure and see if there is anything in the sky. It was not until 21:00 that we thought we saw something with the naked eye. There was a faint hint on the horizon behind Hella. We confirmed it with an exposure and then headed for the jeep and started driving. We headed out of town towards Vik on Road number 1 and about 2km out we turned off to the left and started to climb. It seemed perfect – a nice quiet road, gaining altitude and leaving the town and its light pollution behind. We stopped a few miles up this road and set up our gear and started to take some photos. They say that you need the three C’s when looking for the Northern Lights – Cold, Crisp and Clear or Cloudless – well tonight fit all those requirements. The sky was covered with stars, the roads were freezing and it was freezing when we left the cabin. We started testing shots and exposures and tried to get the best setting for the images – ranging from 15 sec to 30 sec exposures. Once we got our night vision it was amazing to see the Northern Lights low to the north of our position dancing across the sky. We moved up and down the road and across to another road and down to Hotel Ranga to see what the views were like. There was a low lying cloud over Hella and it was casting an orange glow over the sky – the Northern Lights moved across that way at one point so it was hard not to get it into the images. We headed back to the cabin around 00:30 when a bank of cloud had started to move it. All in all we were really happy and had gotten some nice clear images from earlier in the night. Time for bed.

Hella Aurora View

Day 5 – Today we got up to be greeted by cold and rain – the temperatures were hovering around 0 degrees C and the rain was falling as sleet or rain at time – a bit like Ireland for the way it was changing its mind – weather wise. We packed up the car and headed off towards Selfoss and the Golden Circle. Selfoss was about 30km from our position and we passed one or two cars that were off the road due to ice so we took it easy as we headed over towards our first point of interest – Skalholt church. We turned off road 1 and headed North on road 30 and turned left up there onto 31 and Skalholt church. We passed by some greenhouses on the way that were heating several large vegetation farms as well as some geothermal plants. We took some images at the church and headed on then to Reyholt and then on to Geysir. This is a geothermal area that is quite active and has several geysirs that are displayed all day long . The main attraction at this area is a geysir called Strokkur that – according to the information is active every 7-8 minutes. When we were there however it was more like 2-3 minutes and it was erupt. Pretty impressive. Just bring some rain gear for your camera etc. It is reported to shoot hot water into the air between 25 and 25 metres tall. Geysir is said to erupt and shoot streams of hot water 70-80m into the air however it did not erupt when we were there. We headed on from there another 10km down the road to Gulfoss and the waterfalls. We took some images here and then headed back towards Selfoss – approximately 71km away. From there we went back to the accommodation and got something to eat. The rain was back in on the way home and the temperature was dropping again . We got back and ate and then watched a show and checked the sky every hour or so. However tonight we saw nothing – back to cloud and no rain . We went to bed and checked the sky during the night when we woke – to find that it was snowing but still no clear skies.

Day 6 – So a light fall of snow was on the ground and the place was white – everywhere. Looked really nice now and there was no real cold there – no wind chill effect in place. We packed up the car and headed down to check the internet for the forecast tonight and get on our way. There was no one in the restaurant so we left the key in the room and headed off around 10:30 in the hope that we might see a bit of sunrise somewhere along the road to Selfoss. Alas that was not meant to be – the roads were fine even though they were covered in snow and ice – there is a lot to be said for Winter Tyres over here. We took it handy on the drive up to Selfoss – about 30 minutes – and then turned off onto the 34 and down towards the coast – about 10km away. The roads were less travelled here but overall not too slick. We were on a scouting mission for tonight in the hopes that the sky would remain clear and we would get some Aurora activity. We headed south along the coast road and stopped off in a few places as potentials for later on – there was a definite increase in the wind chill due to being so close to the waters edge. We found one or two locations but they were a bit far to travel from Reykjavik but we marked them in the GPS on the car just in case. We drove up to Grindavik and got some fuel for the car and something to eat ourselves and headed out the road to a local pitch and putt location and had some lunch around 14:00. We had driven out of the cloud cover at this stage and were in the sunlight now – even though it was still cold out – something like -1 degree. We meandered our way back around to the 44 Keflavik Airport for around 15:30 hours and decided to head out the 45 coast road to a town called Gardor – north of Keflavik Airport by about 10km. It was the northern most point on the headland and hopefully there would be no light pollution later on if we ended up there. We scoped out the area and headed out to the lighthouse and looked around . The place reminded me a bit like Kilkee in Ireland – lots of mobile homes around the place and small and quaint. We headed back to Keflavik and saw a sign for Stafnes lighthouse – I had noticed some nice images of the lighthouse there on 500px earlier in the year so I mentally noted the turn off and we headed back to the capital and found our accommodation. It was around 60km from where we were and the journey time was about 1 hour. It was Sunday so there was not too much traffic on the road thankfully. We got in and checked in without any delay to the apartment and dropped off our bags. We headed up to the local Bonus store and got something to eat and came back and cooked it and watched a movie. Then we checked the gear for later on and the weather at http://en.vedur.is and relaxed. The weather is great for showing the cloud cover and the Aurora forecast and the rain prediction for the coming hours and days. Generally we found it really accurate with a 24 hour window and tonight it was predicting clear skies and good Aurora activity. We headed out from the apartment at 20:30 and drove back to Gardor about 1 hour away. We could see the Aurora out the window on the way out – even with the strong light pollution. It was hard to keep going and not pull over and take some photos but there was too much light pollution in the area. We got up to the lighthouse and we happily taking images at 21:30 when a huge Aurora activity came over the lighthouse where we were. We only needed the shutter open for 5 seconds here and we were getting some great activity on the images. Unfortunately the lighthouse is active and very strong and throws a lot of spill light into the shots. We stayed here till 22:00 and then decided to try and find Stafnes and see if that was any better. We drove down the coast road and headed to Stafnes – about 8km from the turn off so probably 10km from where we were shooting. The road was nice and quiet – remote – and we were searching for some foreground interest in our journey down towards the lighthouse. We could see it lighting up the place at times but it did not seem as strong as Gardor. We nearly missed the turn off to the place but the GPS and keeping an eye out for places to shoot saved the day and we were down at the lighthouse with 20 minutes of leaving the other place. We set up our gear again and realised that this lighthouse was active was three sweeps and then went dormant for about 5 seconds and then active again for three sweeps. This allowed us a big of time to expose and time our shots to get the lighthouse in the images but not emitting light. All in all now we were happy. We were shooting with a 24-70 f2.8 Mark I lens, a 16-35 f2.8 Mark II lens and a 50mm f1.4. We had another spike in activity at around 23:00 when we were at the lighthouse and it was pretty spectacular. There was a small church about 2km back up the road and I wanted to shoot there so we headed there shortly after 23:10 but the light was too strong in the surrounding area of the church. There was however an old farm shed nearby that we availed off for the next hour as we took some more images of the Aurora Borealis. We were both running off adrenaline at this stage from the viewing but decided to make a call and head back to the apartment. We were happy with the images on the cards according to the camera’s LCDs so we drove back and headed to bed – tomorrow was the last night and we had some sightseeing of the capital yet to do. We got back to the apartment shortly at 01:00 and called it a night.

Day 7 – We got up at 09:00 and headed up to the Hallgrimskirkja Church which was 5 minutes walk from our location . The symbol of Reykjavik was designed by Guojon Samuelsson – one of Iceland’s greatest architects. Its construction began in 1945 and the church was hallowed in 1986. You can enjoy a magnificent view from the 73m high tower for the low cost of 600kr – approx 4 euro. We headed up there around 10:10 to the tower – got the elevator to the 8th floor and headed out to look out over the snow covered capital. The view was impressive but be warned – the ice is biting and will cut through you. We decided to wait till sunrise cleared the mountains behind the capital – with was around 11:10 that morning. I setup my tripod early and got a good spot and waited. There are bars over the windows but no glass so once you can get your camera in close enough and have a wide angle lens, you can take some nice images of the place. I chatted to some other like minded travellers about the Aurora show the previous night and then all of a sudden the place was packed with tourists for the sunrise. I grabbed my shots and packed away my gear as my finger tips were frozen from taking shots in the biting wind – definitely bring a cable release with you if you are going up there. We headed back down and walked back to the center and the apartment and got something to eat. After lunch we headed out walked down to the Austurvollur Square – from this square you can visit the Icelandic Parliament and Reykjavik Cathedral. We walked around and took some images and then headed over to the Pond. Most visitors pass along its shore as it is situated in the city centre next to the City Hall. Tjornin has long been a favourite spot for bringing young children to see and feed the ducks, seagulls, swans and geese that reside here. During winter, the lake usually freezes over but hot geothermal waters are pumped in to defrost an area for water birds. We headed back to the apartment via the souvenir shop and got some trinkets for the journey home and then called it a day. We got some fuel for the car, a pizza and a movie and called it a night as we were up early the following day to head home. Overall a quite successful trip now.

Stafnes Lighthouse with Aurora

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Duration: 10 days, 9 nights
Location: ALASKA
Budget: โ‚ฌ2,800
Miles Travelled: 1,800

The start of the trip sees us arrive in Anchorage from an early morning flight up from Seattle. Then we head down to Homer for the eagles and some bear watching out in Hallo Bay.

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Day 14 – So this is a follow on from my previous weeks on the trip to date – starting off in Hawaii and then driving up the West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle. Now we are after departing Seattle early on Sunday morning at 06:00 and flying up to Anchorage in Alaska – a flight that took approximately 2h 40 minutes. We slept on the plane for a bit and just rested after the early start. We had had a nice time in Seattle and the West Coast for the past week so we were looking forward to getting off the beaten track a bit in Alaska and seeing what was out there. Now I have to say, of all the places that we were going to travel to on this trip, Alaska was the most unpredictable weather wise. I had done the research and you could expect just about anything from one day to the next. Luckily for us, we are from Ireland and that is your typical weather situation they’re going from one day to the next. When we landed that morning we got a snack at the airport and picked up some brochures and other information leaflets before heading to collect our car. We had toyed with the idea of an RV for the time that we were here but it would be wasted when we were out on Hallo Bay looking for the bears etc so we decided against it. Also there was the cost of fuel for it etc and all in all I think that it was working out at around the same cost – maybe even a bit cheaper depending on where you stay at night hotel wise.

Anyways we collected our car at the airport and got a map off the lady behind the counter and got directions to a local supermarket. The weather was a bit colder and wetter than we had expected so we decided to stop off and get some clothes and food before the journey down to Homer. The weather was not in it to walk around the city doing sight-seeing so we were both in agreement to head off towards Homer and get that much of the journey under our belt and out-of-the-way. We headed to a local Safeway store and looked around inside and made our purchases. It was the likes of a Dunnes Stores or Tesco at home for us so we browsed around the place and made some purchases. The one thing that they have here in Alaska – and the States – is a Club or Members Card – much like back home. We did not bother getting one until later in the trip and we should have got it here. There are some great offers to be had in the place for buying food for lunch and meals and they have some great discounts with the card. We got it later on and used it plenty of times before we flew onto Chicago. Anyways we got some jackets and a jumper and some hats as we were sure they were going to get destroyed with mosquito repellant spray and deet so we did not want to have to damage our good hiking clothes too much. We checked out the clearance rack in the clothes section of the store and got a few pieces for relatively cheap and then loaded up the car and started to drive South towards Seward. There were a few over taking lanes and a lot of the landmarks on the way were familiar to me as I had been there back in 2006 with the lads. I was telling Tracey of the different locations along the way that I could recall and pointing out where we stopped for photos or turned off in order to visit a local attraction or something like that. When we were about 30-40 minutes from Seward we turned off to the right and headed for Homer – I think that we were around 90km from Anchorage and it was a major junction so kinda hard to miss. We turned off there and had around 2h30 minutes to go to get to Homer according to the GPS and the road signs. We were now on the Sterling Highway or Highway 1 South. All we had to do now was kept on moving till we ran out of road – then we would be in Homer. Overall journey time was 4 hours according to the research and data that we collected online. We drove along and chatted and looked at the different views of the countryside as we made our way along in a south-westerly direction towards Homer.

We were looking for somewhere to eat along the way and there were several towns and villages in which to stop and eat but because we had an early start the last thing we wanted was a large meal – it would only make the driver tired and then it would be hard to get back on the road. The main town along the route was Soldotna – pretty much due South of Anchorage but you have to go around a spit and coast road in order to get to it. It has a local airport as well in case people wanted to fly into it and rent vehicles from there – but Homer has the same so it would probably be better to fly all the way to Homer and drive back up. We did not opt to stop here for food but keep on moving – we had some bread and lettuce and cheese and honey mustard in the car from Safeway so we got sandwiches of those as we were driving along. The tasted great and we ate and kept clocking the milage off piece by piece. It was approximately 75 miles from here to Homer or 90 minutes drive time. We stopped at a few stages to get some images of different views and locations and I saw some eagles flying over head as we were driving also but they were either high up or just crossing the road and moving on towards the tree lines or another destination. We approached the view point just outside of Homer later on that day and pulled in to take some images. Unfortunately it was quite foggy and there was low lying cloud hanging over the Kachemak Bay area so there was not a lot to see. We got back into the car and drove on into town to see the place. According to Wikepedia, Homer is a city located in Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to the 2010 Census, the population is 5,003. One of Homer’s nicknames is “the cosmic hamlet by the sea”; another is “the end of the road”. You will see where the latter comes from when you drive down to here from Anchorage or Seward. Homer is located at 59ยฐ38’35” North, 151ยฐ31’33” West (59.643059, -151.525900). Homer is on the shore of Kachemak Bay on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its most distinguishing feature is the Homer Spit, a narrow 4.5 mile (7 km) long gravel bar that extends into the bay, on which is located the Homer Harbor. Much of the coastline as well as the Homer Spit sank dramatically during the Good Friday Earthquake in March 1964. After the earthquake, very little vegetation was able to survive on the Homer Spit. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 22.4 square miles (58 square km), of which, 10.6 square miles (27 square km) is land and 11.9 square miles (31 square km) is water. The total area is 52.83% water.

Juvenile Eagle

We drove into town and passed another Safeway on the left hand side and just up the road we saw a photographer out taking pictures in the middle of the road ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course, being a fellow like-minded photographer, instead of blowing the horn at him or yelling to get off the road, I rolled down the window and looked out to see what had caught his interest. I immediately spotted an eagle in the tree surveying the local area. Suffice it to say that I got my camera and lens out and threw on the hazard lights and started getting some safety shots. The bird was sky lite so it was throwing off the camera with metering but once I put in some exposure compensation I was getting some nice images. The photographer was Dan was Switzerland and he had been in Alaska for a few days with his wife and was leaving that day from Homer. They had an RV and were pulled in to a lay by near the eagle nest. The female was on the nest with the chicks and feeding then – assume that the male brought back something but I missed that part. Anyways I stayed there and moved around the nest for different views and angles and took some more pictures of these magnificent birds before the male flew off – either for peace or more food for the fledgling chicks. I was really happy to have seen Dan and met him for that brief moment. We chatted about camera, lenses and things to see and do in the area – cant beat a bit of local knowledge :-). Anyways, after this, we drove down along the spit to check out the place and get our bearings for the morning as well as see what sort of place Homer is. We crossed over the bridge and found the collection point for the morning for the Hallo Bay Tour and it was currently closed. We said that we would call them later on to confirm tomorrow’s flight and the time for the pick up. We then headed to the end of the Spit and saw several more eagles along the route – mainly on top of lamp posts or flag masts. We returned the way we had come and made our way to the B&B for the night – the Pioneer Inn. It was a nice place to stay and the family were very friendly to us when we got there. We called the Hallo Bay tour office and told them we were in town and they informed us that they were away from the office for the moment and to call down in the morning at 09:00 for the departure. We looked around the town some more and then went up to a store to try get some rain clothes in case it was wet for the walk tomorrow. Unfortunately there was nothing really cheap or convenient to get so we chanced it and said we would bring an extra change of clothes for the trip and hope we were lucky. We got back to the Inn and got something to eat and decided to get an early night as we had an early start that morning from Seattle and tomorrow was going to be no different. Batman Begins was on tv so I watched that – or most of it – for the evening and then fell asleep once it was over.

Float Plane

Day 15 – So we got up and got some breakfast and headed down to the offices for our pick up and meeting. There was no one there so we walked across the road to a coffee shop and got a cup of coffee there and asked the girl to call the Office number. She did this and they said they were running late and would be along in 20 minutes. We waited and finished our coffee and walked across to the office when the car arrived. Our phones had sketchy service when we were out and about so we could not rely on them in order to be contactable. Email was the best option. Unfortunately the weather was not co-operating with us this day – the people in the office did not know what was going to happen so we sat down and watched a DVD documentary on the bears in Hallo Bay. Clint, their pilot – arrived in around 11:00 and said that at the moment they were not flying out to the island. They said it might clear and we could head away but check in again in about 90 minutes. It was very informal to say the least and not really professional – but what could we do. We had found out the night before that there might be some eagles up around the dump so we were going to head up to there and see if we could find anything. We left the office and headed back out of toward towards Anchorage and turned off to the right before the look out point – the dump was about a mile out-of-town. I went into the office there when I arrived and asked if I could go in and see if there were any eagles about – the manager was helpful and said work away and told me where to look out for them – and we drove on in and started to scan the tree line and behind the fence. The weather started to turn pretty crap at this point and there was no point in trying to get out of the car as the place was a mess and I did not know how much the birds were used to humans. I got some shots of a Juvenile Eagle on a pile of rubbish alright in the rain and then we headed back to Homer as it was getting close to our check in time for the office. We stopped into the Safeway to get something to eat for lunch and when we were there we made a call to the office – still no change in the weather front and they said to check back again in another two hours. I did not know what this would mean re our trip – we had paid for two days and two nights out on the island looking for bears – even if we got out later on today we would have missed the whole day out there looking for bears – though it was bright till close to 21:00 hours. Anyways we took our lunch down to the Spit and sat out and ate it while looking at the locals and tourists moving around the place. We looked into some of the shops along here also and got some wet pants and coats in case we needed them for her or Seward later on in the trip. At around 16:00 we headed back to the Office and they were still reluctant to tell us what the plan was for the day – extremely indecisive. I said that it was unlikely that we were going to go out now as it was so late but they said it might clear and we might get out by 17:00. We waited just in case but when I asked about our trip and what we paid for and what we were going to get the people in there were reluctant to give me any idea of refund or compensation etc. Eventually we were told that the flight was not going so we called the Pioneer Inn again to see if they had any rooms for the night. Unfortunately they were booked out as well so we stayed in another place for the night – one that was recommended by the office. It was small and cozy and cost us another 100 dollars – a question that should have been answered by the Office re who was paying for it as we were supposed to be out on the Island so we did not have anything booked for today. However they were not willing to say what the story was with that so we headed back to the hotel and dropped off our bags. We got some nice shots of Float Planes landing on the way to the hotel the first time as well – a bit of luck really as they were coming in to land from a trip that they could get out and do that day – seemed like we were the only ones that were grounded.

We decided to go for a run along the Spit as there was not a lot else to do about the place and the whole day had been a disaster as the bears and trip went. We drove into town and ran out to the end of the Spit and back in again – seeing some eagles along the way and chatting. We saw some cyclists also and one or two other runners. We headed back to the hotel and showered and changed and then we got something to eat at Safeway and took it down to the Spit to enjoy the evening light and breeze across the bay. We walked around a bit and headed backed to the room then to check the weather online and our emails in case the Office was in touch. There was nothing from the Office and the local weather seemed ok for the morning but who can tell. We went to bed and watched a movie and hoped that the morning was going to be a bit better than today.

Day 16 โ€“ So we got up and checked out of the hotel. Today was our last chance to make it out to the Island to see the bears as we had to drive over to Seward tomorrow for the trips we had booked there. I had made the others aware of this as well in our conversations yesterday but the weather is the weather and there is very little that one can do about it. We got down to the office and were told that we were going to be heading out today alright โ€“ the conditions had improved a lot and we should be able to make it out without too much trouble. We were leaving the bulk of our clothes in the car and just taking some hiking gear and some camera gear and a change of clothes in case we got wet when we were out there. You had to weigh in at the office as well to determine what your overall weight was for the flight โ€“ ie you and your camera gear and you bag โ€“ so that they could determine the weight that would be loaded onto the plane. I think that you were limited to 200lbs per person โ€“ so if you are travelling with a small group you could accumulate the combined weights in case one person was bringing more gear that the others. So between myself and Tracey we had a 400lbs allowance and all was good with regards coming close to that. We loaded up our gear bag and took the camera bag onto the plane with us. There was another family travelling out for the day trip โ€“ they were from the Netherlands I think and there was 7 in their party overall. We flew to Hallo Bay first to drop off supplies for the camp and also to pick up the guide for the day โ€“ his name was Dwayne. He ran us through the safety briefing and then we were loaded up again and heading off to a small bay a few minutes flight away. As we were taking off we saw a wolf and bear on the beach hunting for salmon and clams. It was nice to see them and hopefully we were going to see a lot more bears in the coming hours. We landed down on the other beach and then said goodbye to Clint โ€“ our pilot. He was heading back to Homer with different material from camp and was going to be out later on to collect the family after their half day trip. As part of the trip, we had a packed lunch organised by the tour operators and we had some snacks of our own with us just in case. We started off walking around the area following Dwayne and his directions as we started looking for bears. After a few minutes walk we could see some of them in the meadows around the place. Even though it was late July at this time of the year the bears were still feeding on the protein rich sow grass in the meadows as well as digging for clams. The salmon had not started to fully run yet so there was little activity along the coast line โ€“ unfortunately. There was a TV crew from the BBC there as well-doing some recording for an upcoming movie release for 2014 โ€“ or so we were told by our guide. We will have to wait and see if that is right now or not. We saluted them and moved on to see our first bear and get in close and get some pictures. I had my 500mm on the 1D Mark IV and I also had a 5D Mark II full frame with a 70-200mm lens attached. At times I could use the 70-200 mm to take shots โ€“ the bears were that close. Other times I used the Mark IV as it was better able to neutralise the movements in my handholding. I did not have a tripod or monopod on the trip โ€“ or not for this part at least. In hindsight I could have used a monopod here alright and it would not have been any extra weight to carry. A tripod would have been wasted I think .We moved around the meadows and Dwayne positioned us such that we had nice background interest in the shots with the bears โ€“ glaciers, trees etc. It was very interesting to listen to him explain the natures of certain bears based on his recognition of them โ€œhe is a bullyโ€ or โ€œshe is fine and nothing to worry aboutโ€. In the 25 years that they have been running guided tours throughout the area, there have only been 4 instances where they have had to use flares to ward off the bears โ€“ guns are not allowed or permitted on the excursions. It is a pretty impressive statistic. We saw a fox off in the distance as well when we were walking around the place. It was hidden in the tall glass but Dwayne had a good pair of binoculars and I had the 500mm that was about the same with field of view.I did not get any usable shots unfortunately as I could not hold the lens still enough for the shot. We walked on and decided to have lunch shortly after the fox sighting. We all sat down in the middle of the meadow and took out or food โ€“ sandwiches, crisps and a drink. The bears have no concept of human food so they donโ€™t know what it is like or how it tastes โ€“ and that is how the Park Service want to keep it. So you carry out what you carry in โ€“ nothing is left behind. We were eating lunch with no less than 10 bears in sight of us at all times โ€“ truly an epic moment. The only thing that was annoying were the mosquitos โ€“ they were everywhere. It did not seem to matter how much spray and repellant you had on you โ€“ they just kept on coming. We had bought some face nets before coming out to the island and they were a god send. I had a wide-brimmed hat that I wore all the time โ€“ for sun protection as well as keeping the net out of my eyes. Tracey had a peaked hat that she wore and it also worked well โ€“ we may have looked silly but at least we did not have any bites on our neck or the back of the head etc. We wore a light pair of gloves to keep the mosquitos off the hands when we were shooting the cameras or walking etc and that also worked again โ€“ again these were sprayed with mosquito repellant and citrus scented water to help keep the bugs away. We did not need gaitors or wet pants but you do need a pair of wellies or waterproof boots for crossing the river โ€“ as we did at times. The company provides these also so you do not need to bring your own โ€“ unless you are planning to do a lot of walking out there and stay just for the bears. Their wellies are ok but they are not the best for long walks โ€“ as we were doing. After about 3 hours we were changing direction and angling back towards the beach โ€“ where the plane was going to collect us. We got back to the pick up location and then Dwayne got a radio call that the plane was going to be delayed by about 90 minutes. We could sit there and wait for it or go off walking in search of more bears. Of course we went off walking again โ€“ out along the coast this time โ€“ to see if we could spot anything new. The day was warm and hot but we were trying to keep as much skin covered as possible in order to keep the mosquitos from biting us. The bite aint the worst part โ€“ it is the stinging and itching that occurs afterwards. We captured some images of yearling bears out on the coast and one walked right in past us towards to the meadows. We walked around a different route and captured some more images before heading back to the beach again for the plane. All in all it was am amazing experience and one that is truly awe inspiring โ€“ to come so close to untamed, wild Grizzly bears and be as close as 5m from them in their natural environment โ€“ lets just say you have to be there to understand!!
The others loaded up and we flew back to the Hallo Bay camp and dropped off our stuff in our cabin โ€“ a kevlar type construction that was setup there year round and could sleep 3-4 people comfortably. We met the camp cook โ€“ Tanya โ€“ who was going to be feeding us for the next day โ€“ and some geologists who were staying in the camp area and doing some research on rock formations in the area for the coming month. Normally food is at 17:00 hours each day and we were back around 16:00 in order to settle in and get the food when it is served. However there were some problems this day with food and preparations etc so it was going to be close to 20:00 hours before food was ready. So we were going to head out with Dwayne and a another traveler from Seattle for a few hours. We dropped off our bags in the cabin and got our gear ready and re-filled the water bottles. It was still really warm so there was no need for a lot of gear. We headed back down to the beach and walked up the beach towards a flowing stream where the salmon were running back towards their spawning grounds. We saw some juvenile eagles, belted kingfishers, mergaser and chicks and of course a few bears. Suffice it to say, the mosquitoes were everywhere โ€“ they were all over the place and because we were near a tree line this time, they tended to be a lot more of them about the place. We captured some nice images and videos of the bears when we saw them on the hike and got back to the camp for around 19:30 โ€“ just in time to freshen up before the meal at 20:00 hours. Tanya had meatloaf on the menu tonight โ€“ something that we had never had before so it was nice to try it out. We were quite hungry and it went down well. The guys were a good sort and we chatted and ate our meal and dessert without too much delay. Dwayne wanted to head out again with us towards the marshes if we want but we politely declined โ€“ it was a long day of walking with the gear and we did not get to drink a lot of fluid so we were a bit run down. We said that we would take it easy and rest up. We chatted to the Office inside and they told us that they could offer us a refund on our two-day trip โ€“ even though we only availed of one day due to inclement weather. We could stay out tomorrow and do a half day with the bears we were told and come in the afternoon but we were nervous as to whether the plane would fly in the afternoon due to weather. We already had plans for Seward and we had to get over there so we declined and said we would go in in the morning and get back to the office and get on the road to Seward before too long. We went to bed and watched The Big Year on the ipad that night and then fell asleep. The sleeping bags were huge and not mummy sacs so during the night we woke up cold โ€“ even though there was a heater in the cabins. So if I was going out there again I would probably bring a small light mummy sac type bag to sleep inside their bag โ€“ this would solve the problem of the heat escaping and us getting cold.

Day 17 – We got up around 07:00 and got dressed – we had been awake for a while so there was no point in waiting any longer as far as we were concerned. We repacked what we needed to and then headed into the cabin to get some breakfast. Clint was there around 09:00 and we were loaded up and in the air by 09:15 and back inside in Homer for 10:00. Tracey slept on the way in and I chatted to Clint around flying and this and that. We got back to the office for 10:30 and worked on sorting out our refund policy. Sarah – the girl behind the desk – could not really commit to anything – so we asked them to get in touch with us via email and try get it sorted before too long. It ended up taking about two months but we finally got some money back out of them re the cancellation so it did not work out too bad – it was just annoying not having anything definitely and have to wait so long for a correspondence from them. We left Homer around 11:00 and headed up towards Seward. We stopped at the view-point on the way out-of-town and the fog bank was cleared and we had a semi nice clear view of Homer, the Spit, the Bay and the surrounding areas. We continued on up the road then on the Sterling Highway to the junction that would take us to Anchorage or Seward. We ate in the car again and kept driving through out lunch. We stopped in Soldotna to get some fuel for the car alright and then get some sweets and snacks for the onward journey. We got up to Seward around 15:30 and checked into the apartment that we were staying in for the coming few days. It was called the Harbourview Inn and we were in the C street apartment. We were a little early but the room was ready so we checked in. We dropped off our bags, put the food in the fridge and then decided to go out for a walk around the place and see what it was like. We had also spotted some food stores for dinner for later so we would go back there and get something for cooking in the apartment.
After getting some groceries, we left the car at the apartment and headed out for a walk around the downtown area. We walked into town and then looked at the signs for the museum and the local shops. We walked back out towards the harbour and passed through the camp grounds. There was a little bit of activity around the place but not a lot. We saw some boats coming back in from their fishing excursions for the day and a few heading out also. The air was nice and fresh and when the sun started to set behind the mountains, the area on the other side of the water was lit up a golden orange. I took some panoramic photos of the area and then we walked up towards the harbour – where we were going to meet our captain in the morning. Once we knew where we were going for the morning we headed back to the apartment and got some dinner. Then I backed up some cards and got my bags ready for the morning. Then it was a case of watching some tv and heading to bed so that we could get an early start in the morning.

Alaskian Brown Bear

Day 18 – We got up and did a short run around the town and out the other side – walking it takes a bit of time but running you cover the distance a lot quicker. We did around 5 miles and then we were back to the apartment for a shower and some breakfast. I got my gear ready and headed down to the meeting place for the 09:00 start. We were there with plenty of time and relaxed then for a bit before the crew came to collect us for the boat ride for the day. Our captain today was going to be Tanya and we were heading out on a wildlife excursion around the area. We booked online for the trip and it cost us 200$ per person for the full day trip. There are other boat trips out there and excursions that one can do but I did some research and this one is nicely limited to smaller numbers and focuses on the photography aspect a bit more – or so I was told online at least. Lunch was also included in the price for the day so that helped. Details on their website state the following :

Our full day Small Group Whale Watching, Wildlife, Natural History, and Glacier Tour ventures deep into Kenai Fjords National Park. With over 25 years experience, we will show you the Fjords’ best kept secrets. This is a photographer’s paradise where you will see the Harding Icefield, calving glaciers, seals, Steller sea lions, porpoises, and sea otters. We will stop for lunch in front of a calving glacier, giving us ample time to witness and photograph the face of the glacier as mammoth pieces of ice thunder into the sea. A majority of the time we see whales on these wildlife and glacier tours.
During spring we are likely to spot grey whales on their annual migration to the arctic. In the summer we often encounter humpbacks, minke, and fin whales which have traveled thousands of miles to feed in the rich waters of the fjords. Orcas, also known as “killer whales”, are present in our waters throughout the year.
Most tour operators conduct their wildlife and glacier tours with groups of 100 or even 200 or more passengers. We are more interested in quality than quantity and therefore limit our group size to 15 or fewer and can arrange for tours with as few as 2 people. With smaller groups we can position the boat so everyone gets a perfect view. We take extra effort so you will never miss that photo opportunity of a lifetime.

I have to say that the crew were professional and detailed in their jobs. .There were books on the boat in case you wanted to read up on what sort of wildlife you would see out there as well as framed prints of whales and other animals. The tour was really good and not too long – even though we started just after 09:00 and did not get back till close to 17:00 that evening. When we were out there, the guys went above and beyond the call of duty to get us a view of something different – going so far as to even head out to sea in order to view male, female and baby Orca whale… – very impressive. We saw Sea Otter, Humpbacks, Daal porpices flying along in front of the boat and on the way back into the harbour, the sun came out and we caught sight of a humpback breaching. You can see some more about that here and here. It was really cool and a great high to finish off the day on. We disembarked shortly after 17:00 and headed back up to the apartment. We went and got something to eat then in the supermarket and cooked back in the apartment. In the morning we were doing a similar excursion except that this time we were going fishing. We re-packed our bags as we were heading off to Anchorage tomorrow evening and had to check out in the morning before we left on the trip.

Day 19 – We got up and did another short run before we headed out to the harbour again. We loaded up the car and checked out in the reception before going down to go fishing for the day. There was a slight fog out when we left with our new Captain – Chris – who is from San Francisco originally. We were salmon fishing today and had bought our licenses before we got on the boat. This was something that we had to do first before we left in order to cover the cost of fishing in the area and be covered in case we were boarded and inspected by the rangers in the area when we were out there. According to the website the trip was something along the following lines.

This package combines the Full Day Tour with a saltwater fishing experience. There are several places along our route where a short stop guarantees catching fish. Whales, salmon, halibut, bass, along with puffins and other auklets congregate in the same area to feed on herring and needle fish. It is not unusual to have whales circling our boat and to see puffins diving while we catch fish. This package is a favorite for visitors who are interested in seeing the Kenai Fjords’ wildlife and glaciers and would also like a taste of Alaska’s famous saltwater fishing.

They were not wrong – we had a humpback circling up in one of the sheltered bay areas and there were a lot of puffins in another location on the way back in after the day. We caught several Salmon and our quota of Black SeaBass. Several people who come over to solely fish the waters have them filletted and dry frozen and shipped home when they are leaving. There are some companies that offer this service as well as others that ship it for you – but it can be expensive so be willing to pay for it. All in all it would be worth it – I think that it was working out at 250$ to ship 50lbs of fish back to Ireland – but that would be a lot of fish and flash frozen as well so it would keep for several days on the journey home.

We were on the boat with a family from Hawaii that were up for a few days to do a bit of fishing – you could tell that they were comfortable with the water, rods, gear etc. We learned pretty quick though ๐Ÿ™‚ We had a packed lunch with us for today’s trip and ate that when we were hungry later on. We traveled around to several different locations depending on how the fish were biting and then around 16:00 we headed back to the harbour and Chris kindly offered to fillet some fish for us. He told us of a nice restaurant down town where they would cook it for us if we wanted. We decided to take him up on his offer and took in some salmon and sea bass and got it cooked for us. It took around 30 minutes for us to get our meal that day but it was lovely – and we had caught it ourselves. We then started to drive back towards Anchorage as we were staying there that night.
We stopped off about 30 minutes outside of Anchorage and took some photos of kite surfers on the water – I spotted them from a ways away and the sun was nice and low in the sky and I needed some fresh air to wake up from the driving. You can see some of the images hereย  and here in other article that I wrote. After this, we got back into the car and headed to Anchorage. We got in and found our hotel for the night – the Ramada Inn. There was a nice Scottish fella working behind the counter when we got there – Ken – and we had a good chat with him before we checked in. We got a map of the place and got our bearings before we got something to eat and walked around the main streets for a bit of air and window shopping. We headed back to the hotel and watched some tv and went to bed then as we were heading to Denali the following morning.

Day 20 – We got up early and headed out for a run – there was a bike trail near the hotel called the Tony Knowles Coastal Bike Trail and we got down onto that and headed up to the lake and bore left back towards downtown. We returned to the hotel and grabbed a shower and got something to eat before we headed down to the Saturday Market. It was just starting and we were in no mad rush so we looked around a little before we left. There were some nice stalls here with trinkets and little knick knacks and other touristy pieces. There was also an aerial display on this morning that a lot of people were heading to so the market was a bit quieter than normal. We bought some stuff for a few friends at home and then we got into the car and started to drive towards Denali. We could see the long traffic tail backs of people going to the air show as we headed North. We did not get stuck in any traffic really as we were heading along. We stopped at the Mt. McKinley viewpoint further on up the road but the cloud was covering the peaks and there was nothing there to see really. Besides there were some mosquitoes about the area so we did not stick around for too long. We headed up to Denali NP or close to it – we were staying at Carlo Creek lodge for the few nights so they were located at mile marker 224 on the highway. We stayed there back in 2006 and it was a nice place. We checked in and dropped our bags and relaxed for a little while before we headed out and down towards Denali visitor centre. We got something to eat in here and looked around the display area before we headed North towards Healy and where we were going to do some Horse Back Riding. We got up there at 16:00 hours and headed out on horse back with Alana for a few hours – and Matzo the dog. He was there to warn us of bears that might be in the area. The whole area is a coal mining area or based around that – there are some exhausted mines and some that are still active. We rode to a small cabin in the woods and had a break there and a small snack and a chat. It was nice and quiet and very relaxing – and thankfully not a lot of mosquitos. We headed back towards Carlo Creek and stopped off on the way to look in some shops and buy some souvenirs. We got something to eat and then went back to the accommodation. We stopped off a beaver lake on the way – from 2006 – but there was no activity there when we had out dinner so we headed into the cabin and chilled out. We saw a Goshawk outside alright that evening before we went to bed but there was no other activity that we could hear or see. We went to bed and got ready for the Heli Hike the following day.

Day 21 – So we got up this morning and went into the Visitor centre to look around and do some shopping. We were heading off in the afternoon for a heli hike trip up the mountains. We trekked through the wild Alaskan backcountry with an experienced local naturalist at our side. We got to explore remote areas that are normally a full day’s hike away. We were flown in via helicopter and then the four hour tour began with a helicopter flight that took us to a ridge overlooking the Yanert and Moody river valleys where spectacular vistas of the Alaska Range dominate the landscape. On our hike down the ridge, Mt. McKinley towered on the western horizon and Mt. Deborah provided an impressive backdrop to the east. Our naturalist-guide paused frequently to explain the flora and fauna and teach us how to track animals. There were three of us in the group. You can see a variety of wildlife including Dall sheep, caribou, moose and bear, as well as hoary marmots, pikas, and birds. We saw golden plovers, ptarmigan, pika, hoary marmots and of course the ever trusty Caribou. Our guide used his tripod as a set of antlers to try to trick the Caribou into thinking that we were a herd of Caribou and come closer to us – unfortunately that did not work out too well and all we saw of the Caribou was them heading in the opposite direction. We saw a golden eagle on the ridge line also and it took off and soared overhead. I spotted a hawk owl off in the distance also, quartering the land in search of food – but it was too far away for any decent shots. We walked around to a new ridge line and sat down and had a nice cup of hot chocolate and some homemade cookies that wife had made. The helicopter came to get us around 19:45 and we were back down around 20:00 and heading to the cabin for an early night after grabbing a subway.

Day 22 – We were up early this morning and finished packing our bags before we were collected for our Jeep Safari tour. Details from their website state the following:

You and your fellow adventurers will take the wheel of 4-WD Jeep Wranglers and follow your guide on a spectacular off-road journey into Denaliโ€™s backcountry. Your adventure begins near the entrance to Denali National Park where you meet your guide, receive your orientation and Jeep assignment, then head North a short distance on the George Parks Highway toward the town of Healy. Your destination is the Stampede Road. Once called the Stampede Trail, and not shown on most Alaska maps, this road was carved out of the wilderness by early miners working the areaโ€™s Kantishna gold fields and antimony mine. The Stampede Road gained notoriety recently in the motion picture, Into The Wild, directed by Sean Penn. This is the very same road that young Christopher McCandless, subject of the book, took to enter the wild. The first few miles of the Stampede Road are paved, but beyond this point your guide will lead you along some very primitive roadway providing you with plenty of bumps and dips and sways. Your Jeep Wranglerยฎ carries four guests, and there will be ample opportunity to switch drivers so everyone can enjoy the thrill of maneuvering along this Wilderness Road. Interactive two-way radios allow your guide to explain the areaโ€™s rich history, point out interesting sights along the way, plus provide tips on the condition of the road ahead! Throughout the trip, youโ€™ll be able to ask the guide questions and share the experience with your fellow drivers.

At the start of the trip we were lucky enough to come across a moose in the undergrowth. Our guide was not the best at stopping or allowing us to take pictures of the moose – we literally had to tell her to stop and let us get out and take the images. It was nice to see though and the area was safe. We got back into the jeeps and continued on on our journey. We got to the camp where we had a cup of coffee and some cookies and chatted with a company chef who was working there for the week. There were a lot of mosquitos around when we got there – there was a lot of tree cover for them. We stayed here for 20 minutes and then headed back the way we came. I stopped and got out of the lead jeep at Bobblehead Canyon – where the road was pretty bumpy. I captured some video footage of the other drives as they came through this war zone as well as further up the road at a river crossing. Click on the links before or email me if you want to get your hands on them ๐Ÿ™‚ We got back to the cabin at 11:45 – a bit later than predicted as we were supposed to check out at 11:00. We had a quick shower and change and then checked out and left for Anchorage. It took close to 5 hours to get back down to Anchorage and we stopped for fuel along the way as well as one or two view points. We were staying in the same hotel as the other night so we knew where we were going. We checked in and decided to go for a walk. We got directions to a TGI – it was only about an hours walk away ๐Ÿ™‚ – but the night was nice and warm and we needed some fresh air after the car ride down that day. We got some food and walked back to downtown and did some window shopping and then headed upstairs to our upgraded room – we got a suite instead of the standard room that we had originally booked – fair play Ken. There was a great sunset this night as we looked out across the train station and docks.

Day 23 – We got another run in this morning on the bike trail – a bit longer than the last day. We were back to the hotel within the hour and got a shower and some breakfast before we checked out. We had to have the car back to the airport before 10:30 so that we did not have to pay an additional charge. Our flight was delayed by approximately 30 minutes so we had plenty of time at the airport to relax. We saw a lot of tourists with flash frozen boxes that were full of salmon and other fish heading home also – the fruits of their labour for the week. We checked in and went through security and then headed to the gate and go on our plane to Vancouver, British Columbia. The flight time was around 3 hours so it would not take too long for us to get there in the end. And so end this leg of the journey… and the next one begins…. in Canada!

Recent Travels

Be sure to check out our recent reports from the other trips that we have done around the world.

Morocco, Casablance and the Sahara

Morocco, Casablance and the Sahara

Duration: 10 days, 9 nights Location: Morocco, Africa Budget: $1750 Miles Travelled: 1970KMDays: 10Dates: 22nd March 2018 to 31 March 2018Tour Company: Morocco Round TripsCurrency: Dirham (10.7:1 exchange rate)Time Zone Difference : NoneMorocco Driving Distance :...

Tunisia

Tunisia

So this trip came about because the Tokyo marathon and Japan excursion was cancelled due to the Covid-19 or Corona Virus pandemic. We got notice approximately two weeks before we were due to travel that the marathon was cancelled so we set about looking planning an alternative destination – and that destination was Tunisia.

Jedi Transition – aka Rainbow Canyon 2015

Jedi Transition – aka Rainbow Canyon 2015

The Jedi Transition starts just west of Owens Lake at 36.403047,-118.01239. From here aircraft hug the desert floor and pull up just before the canyon to clear higher levels. From there they enter the Canyon at Father Crowley Point, and continue through the Valley and exit the valley 3 miles from Father Crowley point.