I had an awesome time in and around Banff, Lake Louise, and north up the Icefield Parkway with a photo workshop run by Kahli April and Nick Fitzhardinge. I learned a lot, but it's going to take awhile to practice and really make use of what I learned. I loved every minute of it. The photos below were my favourites from the hundres that I took. I made a mistake in not bringing a more suitable lens, my 18-55mm for my D7100 - I had something stuck in mind that I wanted only low aperature lenses, and ended up bringing my Sigma 24-70 which was a little tricky to wrangle as on the DX camera body 24mm is more like 36mm, and this just wasn't quite wide enough, and the lens itself is too soft for most of what I wanted to shoot. Lesson learned.
Since I've tried to learn and attempt to improve on my photography, I've been focussing over wider and sharper lenses. This day, I brought my Sigma 24-70 2.8 lens with me, which was the first lense I bought. There's something inherently soft about it, but I feel like it lends itself well to the light of Autumn and Spring, so I think I'll take it out more often as fall sweeps in. Now that I'm using a colour calibrated monitor as well, I need to pay closwer attention to these photos when they appear on the web. One of my monitors they look a little washed out, and the jpg compression when they're uploaded to the site also changes them a little. I'll have to put some more effort in to making a more professional gallery. Or maybe I shouldn't spend so much time on those little details and just get our more!
I've really been getting in to timelapse stuff. I wanted to capture a sunset and tried it with my Nikon J1, using a prime 10mm lense. I'm happy with the composition, and image quality, but I made quite a few mistakes. It was just a test though, to make those mistakes and learn from them. Watch full screen if you can and see if you can spot the cloud joining its friends at the beginning. At least I think it's a cloud...
I've been meaning to get a proper 4wd vehicle with high clearance for awhile. The time was right, and I picked up this 2012 XTerra. So far I've really enjoyed it. I haven't had an opportunity to really take it out much, but there's been some brutal snow in some areas and the 4wd with the tires it came with works well.
I'm not too sure about heavily modding it - I need to see what I run up against as I try to push further into the backcountry. I will definitely be adding skid plates in the short term. After that, if it's need it, I'll lift it. And light bars, when coming down trails at night ;)
This is my first attempt at trying to take better photos. My friend lent me a Nikon SLR body. I'm a little overwhelmed with the number of photos that I have taken, and the apparent necessity to edit the raw images to bring out what I had seen at the time. There is a definite need to practice an effective workflow!
Agamgik Bay to Morris Cove. I would like to have stayed in Agamgik another day or two. It had a really nice feel to it, and some interesting places to explore. A place very active with life, not just animal life, the place had a soul. The walk to Morris cove was like everything else - dense foliage until I went higher. I knew that this was a more frequently traveled trail, so I half expected to see people, but did not. I get the feeling that people tend to not hike here when the grass gets so long.
As I made my way from Agamgik and up, I eventually spotted a well beaten path down below - the first one I had seen. Fuck! I thought to myself - but being up high was for the best - who knows how long it would've taken to make it ot that path. And being up on the mountain again just felt better. It would allow me to shortcut to Morris cove as well, going over the mountain instead of arround. Morris cove is basically where I started from, where I started walking to get to Constantine bay. There was a road here.
People could come and go, and it showed, with garbage here and there. Typical drinking site apparently. I'd seen a tent there on my first day when I walked past it with a camp fire. There was nothing here now, only a freighter out in the bay. It was a good place to finish. On the other side in Constantine bay, were my dads ashes. Driftwood benches lined the beach. Sit and observe the ocean for hours. So much life again, tinged slightly with the industrial hand of humanity.
Lots of eagles. I saw a seal fishing, and eventually catching a fish, giving it a firm shake with its head before devouring it, coming back up again to give a satisfied snort. Whales were further out, I could see there spouts. I found out later they were likely humpbacks from Hawaii. I wondered how the changing ocean temperatures would affect their migration. On the mainland, Anchorage was suffering a heatwave. Here in Unalaska it was moderately cooler. It is only a matter of time before this place is affected. Maybe it already is.
I hiked from English bay to Agamgik bay. Came across another nice waterwall, and that was a nice but cold shower. Thought about waiting to wash again when I got to camp, but figured this was too good an opportunity to miss. I found that I had to keep going higher and higher to try to avoid the vegetation again - it was so much easier at a certain elevation. This part was also where I learned to really watch out for furns. Every time I saw them it meant there was a ditch carved out by the snow melt, and they usually covered it. Sometimes it was a few inches, sometimes a few feet. Sometimes empty, sometimes not.
This is a good time to note I only got 5 mosquito bites the whole trip. There were hardly any bugs, and the ones that were around were not annoying. This combined with not having to think about predators really made the trip relaxing. Getting close to Agamgik, I heard rustling in some bushes, and a bark like a dog - and a red fox jumped out of the bushes and ran up a hill to get a good look at me. Ahead, more rustling, and another fox popped it's head out. They were curious and funny to interact with. As I kept walking one of them was following me. I scared it away, not certain how easily they would be habituated to people. Agamgik was very pleasant, lots of sun and just a really nice relaxed feeling to it. Lots of eagles. I could see hoof prints and droppings from other wild cattle, but did not see them around anywhere.
I'd spotted what looked like a cow or bull (I'm going to say it was a bull) at English bay, so I opted to fall back a bit near the waterfall in the picture. Foliage as always was extremely dense. This was the first flow of water I'd think of as a river that I'd encountered. It was pretty nice.
I'd initially intended to hike from Kalekta bay to English bay. On the way, I realized that I really enjoyed being in these mountains, and I'd like to spend at least one night there. The going in the mountains is easier, as the vegetation is signifigantly less. It was incredibly fun, and refreshing being able to move so much faster. It was colder at night, which was to be expected. The one thing was my summer sleeping pad was not sufficient - it had been insulated from the ground by the foliage in the previous two places, but here it was basically damp earth because I was next to a stream.
It was really surreal, being up at 11:00 at night, and having the sun overhead. It really felt like being on a different planet in some respects. I really liked the freedom I've had as well of just choosing what I want to do, changing my plans in mid stride, not having to adhere to any person or groups whims. I usually hike alone, so I don't think I really missed the company of people. The feeling of being alone in a place like that is not lonely. It is invigorating. Like all your senses are turned up to 11. Yeah, it'd be nice to share it with people, but I think there are very few people who could truly appreciate being there.
My intent was to cross one valley and camp at the next after that. That did not happen. I did not hike far. It was slow going the whole way. The most distinct thing about this day, was walking down into the valley - it was steep. If it were not for the grass and moss and everything else catching my feet, I don't know if it would have been possible. There was a more gradual entrance further back, which I could have taken had I known just how intense this would be. All in all it was not bad - just careful footing and go.
This time I thought I would camp by the ocean - only there was a cabin on the far irght of the bay. I wasn't sure just how far that persons property might extend, so I opted to hang back at the lake. I really liked this place - it was quiet and peaceful. A part of me wanted to go explore up the mountains, but the dense vegetation put me off. And I was content to just enjoy being in one spot. Too often when backpacking, you run yourself ragged and don't get to really experience each place you go, and I think that is what I was able to do.
I'd planned to stay in Constantine bay for a day, and spread my dads ashes in the ocean, and just kind of acclimatize myself to the Island. I got up late, by camping standards, breakfast and coffee, and headed up. I was really happy the lid from my back pack converted to a day pack, instead of having to buy a new one. I wasnt sure just how far I was going to walk - I was going to walk until it felt right.
I found going close to the lake there was a rocky shore, which was easier to walk on than wade through the grass. Eventually I made it to the ocean, funny enough there was another lake on my right, though I could barely see it through the dense grass.
I walked, hopping along the rocks where the ocean came up between, warry that the tide might come in and Id have a problem coming back. Eventually I found a spot. A fishboat was out, leaving from Dutch Harbor. This seemed a good place. I took a moment, and then tried to spread my dads ashes as evenly as possible in the ocean.
I walked back, and sure enough the tide had come in somewhat. Some slight acrobatics and I was back on a firmer shore. There I decided to rest a bit and just be in this place. Looking out, I saw some otters playing, seemingly wrestling, surfing along the waves coming in. As I sat and just enjoyed this place, I saw something on the beach I thought was a fox. It was very still but I could not make out its details. When I looked again, it was smaller. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Walking back to camp, I saw it move - a head poking up. It was a fox! A black one! As I approached, it ran off the beach and I got a good look at it.
Walking back to camp was a chore through the grass. Was glad to get back and relax.
I thought about where I was going to go tomorrow - I had planned to go through two more valleys the next day. The sky had cleared though and I could see the mountains completely. The route I had planned on my GPS actually went right up and over a ridge that looked as sharp as a knife. Now that I had a bit more of a feel for the terrain, I knew it would be bloody steep going up, and slow going through the foliage. I opted instead to go back and around, with a much more gradual climb.
I flew from Vancouver to Seattle at 6:00 AM, and from Seattle to Anchorage, and from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, arriving about 2:30 PM Alaska time, 1 hour behind PST. My jaw dropped at the sight of the first mountain on exiting the plane.
I needed two things. To get fuel for my stove, and a taxi to take me to the start of my hike. My stove could use a variety of gas, including automotive gas, I wanted to use anything but that. I called a taxi from the airport first, hoping they might know where I could get white gas. They did not. In fact, english was a bit of an issue. There was a hardware store in dutch harbor I tried, but there were only propane canisters. Filled up my two 800ml bottles at the gas station.
The taxi dropped me off at summer bay - not quite where I was expecting - I wanted to be at Morris cove to start, but that was that. It wasnt much longer to walk.
The road was gravel, with summer bay on my left, and the green mountains on my right. Eagles were everywhere. Though summer bay was its name, the weather was anything but summer. Mist blew low around the mountains, and it was gray and windy. Morris cove came soon, along with some red roofed structures built into the hill from WW II. There was now a lake to my right, and a small stream to cross leading out to Morris Cove on my right. Once across I was in the grass that first seems pretty, but becomes tiresome stepping through.
There was a bit of a track to follow, which matched my GPS route well. Grass was getting denser, feeling like I was wading through it, and my pants were getting soaked, finally put my rain pants on.
Going up, eventually the track kind of disappeared, and I was left looking down on a valley, with a lake and then Constantine bay in the distance. The mountains on either side were enveloped in mist, deep green, vibrant from the moisture.
I'd planned on camping up against Constantine bay, but from Vancouver, Im always a little wary of light after 5 PM - and I was getting tired slogging through the foliage. It was only until the end of the trip I started to trust how long the light lasted in the day.
I ended up camping on a small hill just before the lake. There was a wonderful bed of juniper growing on it which made for a superb insulator from the ground when sleeping. There were some holes in the ground nearby and I wasnt sure if they were fox holes or ground hog holes. I didnt see anything using them. The whole area was basically a basin for the runoff of snow from the mountains - a hill was a necessity.
My Dad had a long journey with dementia, about 10 years. He passed away on July 23 2018. I wanted to do something meaningful for him. He had been a commercial fisherman for 16 years, an experience that shaped who he was. He loved Alaska and the Bering sea, and always wanted to share those experiences with my brother and I. Unalaska is home to the fishing community of Dutch Harbor and is positioned between the Bering and Pacific. This was the right place to go.
I could have stayed in a hotel, but I wanted to feel the land, so camping it was.Gear
Gear is gear, but I want to highlight a few things that made this trip as easy as it was.
I had planned a particular route, but ended up changing it quite a bit. The terrain was more challenging due to the dense foliage and steep hills / mountains. Honestly, it felt like snowshoes would have been an advantage sometimes.