Posted by: kerryl29 | January 21, 2019

Alaska: The Brooks Range – Return from Atigun Pass

In the last post, I detailed the trip up to Atigun Pass, more than 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle.  We reached our turnaround point, near Galbraith Lake, just beyond the northern edge of the Brooks Mountain Range, by mid-afternoon and began the return trip to Wiseman.  We made numerous stops on the way back as we were no longer fighting the clock.  We paused at Holden Creek–a tumbling stream in a treeless setting surrounded by snowy peaks–to photograph.  Use of a neutral density filter was called for to slow the shutter speed in open sunlight conditions.

Holden Creek, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Holden Creek Black & White, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

We stopped several times while recrossing Atigun Pass, and photographed a mix of open tundra and snowy mountainsides.

Snowy Mountains Black & White, Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Snowy Mountains Black & White, Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Snowy Mountains, Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Snowy Mountains, Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

At one point, alongside the Chandelar Shelf–the wide open plain just south of Atigun Pass–we caught sight of a grizzly bear moving through the tundra.  He was a long way off, so the images were, shall we say, less than inspiring (see below).  We also spotted a fox, but it was while we were driving; it took off and there was no opportunity to photograph it.

Grizzly Bear, Chandelar Shelf, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

At a high point in the road, overlooking a part of the Shelf several miles to the south of where the bear was spotted, I made the image you see below that reveals this immense area of open tundra.

Chandelar Shelf, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Roughly halfway back to Wiseman we stopped at a spot alongside the Dietrich River.  The ostensible motivation for doing so was a wetland with some interesting reflections on the opposite (i.e. east) side of the highway from the river, which was running along the west side of the road.  I spent a lot of time looking at the wetland but couldn’t come up with any compositions that I liked; there was always something unappealing protruding into the viewfinder.  So, without making a single image at the wetland, I wandered across the road to look at the river and ended up finding several compositions that I liked.

Dietrich River Evening, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

It was early evening by this point and the light quality reflected how much later in the day it was.

Dietrich River, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Dietrich River, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Further down the road we reached the lake we had photographed that morning–the one with the moose in it, alongside Sukakpak Mountain and Dillon Mountain.  The light, at this point, was exquisite and the sky, for the first time all day, had some interesting clouds present.  The moose had moved on, unfortunately (but unsurprisingly).

Dillon Mountain Reflections, Brooks Range, Alaska

Dillon Mountain Evening, Brooks Range, Alaska

Evening Light, Dillon Mountain, Brooks Range, Alaska

Sukakpak Mountain and Dillon Mountain, Brooks Range, Alaska

Sukakpak Mountain Evening, Brooks Range, Alaska

Dillon Mountain Evening, Brooks Range, Alaska

We raced up the road, in an attempt to photograph Sukakpak from the small pools located on the west side of the mountain that we’d used as a foreground the previous day under cloudy skies.  (The perspective of Sukakpak from the above series is essentially south-facing.)  A gap in the mountains to the west allowed full-throated, angled sunlight to bathe the entire edifice, with pink-purple clouds forming a backdrop (and foreground reflection).

Sukakpak Mountain Evening, Brooks Range, Alaska

We were most of the way back to Wiseman at this point, but we did make one more stop along the Dalton Highway, as the sun set.  It was a location near part of the exposed oil pipeline, but we were able to work around the encumbrance.  I tried both sides of the highway:  an area of tundra backed by foothills to the east; and looking toward the teeth of the Brooks Range and the Koyukuk River to the north and west.

Tundra Evening, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Brooks Range Evening, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Meadow Sunset, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Tundra Evening, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Brooks Range Evening, Dalton Highway, Alaska

What had been a crystal clear day throughout was rapidly turning into a partly to mostly cloudy end of day.  When we got back to Wiseman, I made a quick run by myself down to the bank of the Koyukuk to produce one final image on this extremely long, exceptionally productive day.

Koyukuk River Evening, Brooks Range, Alaska

There was one full day left on our Brooks Range itinerary and we’d spend most of it revisiting some spots we’d only started to explore two days earlier.

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Responses

  1. Just wonderful, Kerry….I love the shots alongside the river….

    • Thanks, Scott!

      • You are most welcome!

  2. Beautiful Series of images! Enjoyed seeing them!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. A lot of beautiful country that way. The riverbank shots, like those plenty. (I like fishing.)

    • The river areas were among my favorites, and we spent quite a bit of time alongside them. This was true on the final full day as well, which I’ll chronicle in a forthcoming post.

  4. I was stationed in Alaska while in the United States Army. Fort Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. I have never seen this Alsaka! Amazing! Yes, I did get outside. All training was done in the fields and hills. These photos are stunning!

    • Thanks very much!

      We never got as far south as Anchorage, or even particularly close, for that matter. On this trip, we flew in and out of Fairbanks and never got any further south than Denali State Park, about 2 1/2 hours north of Anchorage. The part featured in this post–the Brooks Range region along the Dalton Highway–is a solid 600+ miles north of Anchorage. It’s a reminder of just how vast Alaska is.

      Thanks for stopping by; it’s much appreciated.


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