Posted by: kerryl29 | January 31, 2022

Alaska Revisited Day 7: Transitions

Day 7 of the Alaska trip was a transitional one, as we moved from the Brooks Range and the Dalton Highway more broadly toward our much anticipated time on the Denali Highway. In between, we had a couple of days to spend on the Richardson Highway, on the south side of the Alaska Range. We had to be at our lodgings on the Mclaren River–more than 40 miles west on the Denali Highway from its eastern terminus in Paxson–by the evening of Day 8. Day 7 involved a leisurely ride from Fairbanks to Delta Junction–only about a two-hour ride on the Richardson Highway–to the B&B we were staying at that evening.

Before we left Fairbanks we had some errands to run, which included getting the car washed (it was covered in mud following our time on the mostly unpaved and seemingly always wet Dalton Highway) and replenishing our food stocks. We also needed to fill up the gas tank. It was a cloudy morning and since we weren’t in a massive hurry we took our time. By late morning we were on our way, covering a route that we hadn’t traversed on the 2018 trip.

Partial clearing kicked in about an hour into the drive and we spent some time poking around at a few of the park-like public lands that dotted the highway as we moved along. We also stopped a couple of times to investigate some viewpoints along the Delta River, which we paralleled for some time once we were well into the drive.

The only spot where we took the time to make images was a roadside that is part of the Birch Lake State Recreation Area. In addition to restroom facilities and a picnic area there was shoreline access to Birch Lake itself. There was basically no wind, which made for glass-like reflections on the broad lake. The partial clearing mentioned above produced some interesting clouds.

Birch Lake Reflections, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska
Birch Lake Reflections, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska
Birch Lake, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska

These were fairly minimalist images–the first two above in particular–with limited color, and I recall thinking at the time that it would be interesting to see how they looked when converted to black and white.

Birch Lake Reflections Black & White, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska
Birch Lake Reflections Black & White, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska

While we were at Birch Lake, some mallards stopped by. The images I made of them were produced with the 24-70 mm lens.

Mallard, Birch Lake, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska
Mallard, Birch Lake, Birch Lake State Recreation Site, Alaska

After poking around at a variety of spots along the highway, we eventually made it to the Garden B&B in Delta Junction late in the afternoon. It had turned into a very pleasant day: partly cloudy, temperature in the low 60s (F) and almost no wind. Driving onto the property was quite an experience as we came face to face with a remarkable garden (hence the name of the place). Central Alaska was just about the last place I expected to see anything like this. When we checked in we asked if we could photograph the garden a bit and were told that we could do whatever we liked, including visiting the large greenhouse. I hadn’t anticipated doing any floral photography on this trip, but the opportunity was too good–and too easily accessible–to pass up.

Petunias, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Daisies, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Assorted Flowers, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Pansies, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Petunias, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Fern Closeup, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Fern Closeup Black & White, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Fern Closeup Black & White, Garden B&B, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska

It was early evening by the time we finished up at the garden and we decided to spend the couple of hours of remaining daylight heading south on the Richardson Highway, in the direction of the Alaska Range, to see what we could find. The mountains, fronted by the Delta River Valley, came into view about 30 minutes down the road and we drove around a bit to find the best viewpoint. We discovered a pullout near a bend at a high point on the road facing the north side of the range. The scene, we concluded pretty quickly, was probably best suited for morning, but we weren’t going to do any better without driving all the way around to the other side of the mountains; there was no way to do that before dark, so we decided to wait it out at this spot to see what would develop.

Alaska Range at Sunset, Richardson Highway, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Alaska Range at Sunset, Richardson Highway, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Alaska Range at Sunset, Richardson Highway, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Alaska Range at Sunset Panorama, Richardson Highway, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Alaska Range at Sunset Panorama, Richardson Highway, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska
Alaska Range at Sunset, Richardson Highway, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska

As we started to make the drive back to Delta Junction in the dark we had an interesting encounter with a doe and fawn who were basically standing in the middle of the road. This is a high speed road, and we were in a winding, hilly area. I saw the deer well before we got close to them and stopped, probably 150 feet or so short of their position, smack in in the center of the highway. I put my flashers on, hoping that if the deer didn’t move soon, that any oncoming vehicle would see my lights and slow down. That is in fact what happened; a vehicle coming the other direction did stop in time to avoid the deer, who ultimately appeared to get the message and, after a minute or two, made their way off the road, into the brush to safety.

We were to complete the transition to the Denali Highway the next day, but the bulk of the daylight hours were to be spent with local photo guide Stephen Miley. Though we didn’t know for certain until the morning of Day 8, the better part of the day was to be spent exploring a glacial ice cave.


Responses

  1. What wonderful serendipity finding the flower garden! It must have been fun to work with a completely different set of colors and comps after all the time spent with fall colors and landscapes. Nice light on the Alaska Range at sunset, too. Looking forward to next post!

    • Thanks, Steve.

      Yeah, it was quite a photographic palate cleanser to work with the flowers and ferns. There had been a few opportunities to work with closeup (ish) subjects in the Brooks Range (the reindeer lichen area on the Marion Creek Falls trail, for instance; there was also a bit of time spent with some backlit fireweed), but this unexpected trove required a complete perspective/compositional reboot, and I don’t think that was a bad thing at all. It really paid off during the Hatcher Pass part of the trip when we spent a good chunk of a morning on the Thunder Bird Falls Trail in the Chugach area, mostly working on intimates.

  2. It is nice to see flowers at this time of year. and always enjoy those reflections..

    • Thanks, Jane!

  3. Love the B&W images, Kerry – I’m always a fan of the form and texture that becomes apparent once color is subtracted. And flowers – wow! Flower gardens can be quite spectacular in Alaska – the extra long summer days support a lot of growth and flowering in a short time. The Alaska Range sunset photos – each one is such a different reflection of light, just beautiful!

    • Thanks, Lynn.

      I recall you telling me about the impact that the copious amount of summer daylight in far northern latitudes can have on plant growth–a point I hadn’t previously considered. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. […] jumping off point, we stopped briefly at the same Richardson Highway overlook that Ellen and I had photographed from at sunset the previous day. As we had discussed at the time, this was a much better morning than evening location; this […]


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