Posted by: kerryl29 | February 18, 2019

Alaska: The Dalton Highway – Finale

Our final full day in Alaska was an entirely overcast one.  With no possibility of a sunrise, we didn’t bother to get up particularly early.  The main goal on this day was to return to Fairbanks before it got too late.  (Our flight out the next morning was due to take off at 5:30 AM; that meant leaving for the airport at around 4, which meant getting up at roughly 3.  It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway–no one was looking forward to this.)

I should note that, in my experience, when the primary goal is to get from Point A to Point B, photography, unsurprisingly, typically suffers.  Creativity and deadlines have a tendency to clash, after all.

Given the length of the drive–we got a good sense of how much time it would take on the drive to Wiseman a few days earlier–the number of stops would necessarily be limited.  But that didn’t mean that there would be no photo opportunities.  We made four principal stops, all but one of them well to the south of the Brooks Range.  We hadn’t seen these areas since the drive in, when just about everything was still almost entirely green.  A dramatic change had taken place and our return trip showed the full range of peak fall color in this part of Alaska.  It was unfortunate that we didn’t have more time available to us because there were an innumerable number of attractive scenes alongside the highway that appeared worthy of exploration, but we were on the clock.

Our first stop was at the meadow location we’d photographed late on the previous day.  As it was on our way, and was only about ten minutes south of the turn-off to Wiseman on the Dalton Highway, I’d asked if I could take a second crack at this spot.  (The wind on the prior day had been a real nuisance.  There was some wind today as well, but not quite as much.)

Autumn Meadow, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Brooks Range, Alaska

We stopped, ostensibly for lunch, at the Yukon River Crossing.  I spotted a couple of tight compositions that caught my eye that I was able to take advantage of.

Birch Trees Intimate, Dalton Highway, Yukon River Crossing, Alaska

Autumn Meadow, Dalton Highway, Yukon River Crossing, Alaska

Autumn Meadow Black & White, Dalton Highway, Yukon River Crossing, Alaska

Farther south on the drive, after passing some fairly colorful meadows, we hit an area that caused everyone, I think, to audibly gasp; David, who was driving slammed on the breaks so we could all get a better look.  There was universal agreement that, clock be damned, we simply had to photograph this scene.  We drove ahead perhaps 1/8 of a mile up a hill until we found a turnout.  The question was posed–could we just as productively photograph what we had seen from this spot (i.e. the pullout atop the hill) or did we need to walk back on the side of the road to the specific location that had caught everyone’s attention in the first place?  I volunteered to check and venture an opinion, so I jumped out of the vehicle and ran to the edge of an unofficial overlook.  I concluded, more or less instantly, that this perspective was nowhere near as appealing as what we’d seen earlier, so we everyone got out and we made our way back down the road, ever vigilant for possible truck traffic.

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

In addition to the breathtaking colors provided by the birch, aspens, poplars, spruces and tundra, what made this location so phenomenal that there were scenes on both sides of the road that were begging for attention.  I decided to concentrate on the east side first.

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Then I turned my attention to the west side…

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

My only regret about this area is that we didn’t have more time to explore it.  We probably spent something like 30 minutes on the ground as it was.

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Tundra, Dalton Highway, Alaska

We did make one final stop, at a rise along the highway, with some marvelous views.  The mountainsides were covered with yellowing deciduous specimens and deep green conifers.  I relentlessly worked both wide-angle and telephoto opportunities as this location.

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Foggy Mountainside, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Someone spotted a moose back up the road.  Dave, Ellen and Debbie went off in the car to chase that opportunity, but I was having too much fun at this spot; I told them to take their time, that I’d wait here for them to return.  I crossed the highway to get a better look at a scene that I found attractive to the northeast of my shooting location.  The moose chase ended relatively quickly (and had been unsuccessful, unfortunately).  It had, however, enabled me to spend a few more minutes photographing than might otherwise have been the case.

Autumn Splendor, Dalton Highway, Alaska

Autumn Splendor, Dalton Highway, Alaska

It was well into the afternoon by now and we still had the better part of three hours of driving before we’d be back in Fairbanks.  There was rented photo equipment to be returned to the camera store in Fairbanks and we still had to pack and otherwise prepare for the ridiculously early morning we’d be facing the next day, so this was the termination of the photographic portion of our Alaska journey.

This is the end of the set of chronological posts covering the Alaska trip; I hope you enjoyed taking it with us, albeit vicariously.  I may put together an Alaska retrospective at some point in the relatively near future, but otherwise I’ll be returning to more thematic musings here on the blog.

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Responses

  1. Good you got a chance to take a last few shots. Those spectacular colors would ‘ve been too hard to pass up.

    My friend who lives in Alaska, says a lot flights leave ridiculously early to make the morning connecting flights out of SeaTac. Leave too late in the day from Alaska, you end up spending the night at SeaTac. Deb did that once; ended up walking the concourse all night long and drawing the attention of TSA who was watching her window shop the overpriced stores. After producing two forms of photo ID (her Alaska DL and military ID), a TSA agent followed her for the remainder of the night. She said at least the Starbuck’s was the first to open.

    • Thanks. It was a remarkable sight. Seldom, if ever, do I hear anyone describe Alaska as a worthy fall color destination; I’ll let people judge for themselves whether the evidence supports such a conclusion.

      You make a good point about the early morning flight times. You’re losing time as you fly from Alaska to the West (e.g. Seattle); that 5:30 flight from Anchorage arrived at Sea-Tac at something like 10 AM. I still had a four-plus hour flight back to Chicago (involving the loss of two more hours due to time zone changes); with the layover and the two-hour time zone adjustment, my flight was due in a bit after 6 PM CDT. Unfortunately for me, bad weather in the Midwest caused my flight out of Seattle to be delayed by something approaching three hours (turning a two-hour layover into five hours). But the point is still valid–in theory, I was into Seattle early enough to make it just about anywhere else in the U.S. with a connecting flight by mid-evening at the latest. Had the flight departed Fairbanks at a more “reasonable” hour (say 9 AM), I probably couldn’t have had a flight that was even due into O’Hare until something like 9 or 10 PM local time.

  2. Gorgeous color! Must have been so hard to leave…

    • Thanks–yes it was. Another couple of days would have been great.

  3. Wonderful photos–thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks very much!

  4. I really like what happened with Autumn Meadow, especially the color version. For me, I think it’s the contrast between the fine detail on the grasses in the foreground and the soft, rounded gray clouds in the distance. The warm vs. cooler colors add to it and the skeleton trees bring it all together…beautiful!

  5. Lovely photography! Hope to someday get to Alaska!


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