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Ken and I visited Alaska in June 2004 to celebrate our 24-1/2 wedding anniversary (I don't think we would have seen quite so much if we had gone 6 months later!). This plant is the lead-in for the Alaska site because it required a tremendous amount of effort to find it. I have never worked so hard to see a flower in my life! When we were told it was "just a short way" up the Skyline trail in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge I was anxious do the hike to find it. However, the lady at the Refuge Information desk didn't tell us that the trail went STRAIGHT UP! I found the wilted flowers at about 3/4th mile up the trail. Later, at my cousin's house in Kenai, he told me that the flowers grow in his neighborhood! I found this plant growing across the street on the bank of the Kenai River! When people ask me if the flowers smell like chocolate, my answer is, "Not like it does when it goes in!" The other common name, "Outhouse Lily", is pretty descriptive of their distinctive fecal odor! These stinky flowers are pollinated by flies and beetles. (story)
We later learned that the Skyline Trail is one of the steepest trails on the Kenai Peninsula with an elevation gain of 2000 feet in 3/4 mile! Thank goodness it wasn't wet! The bluish-green color in the upper right corner is a small lake. The purple flowers are Wild Geraniums. We made sure to make a lot of noise by talking or whistling to let our presence be known to any moose or bears that might be nearby.
|3||This photo was taken about 5:00 p.m. as we were flying over the Chugash Mountains on our descent into Anchorage. Note the glaciers, the one in the middle is a tidewater glacier. Glaciers move slowly but constantly, the ice at their base grinds the bedrock into a powder as fine as flour, in fact, it is called "glacier flour".||2011|
Hanging basket in Anchorage
The downtown part of the city of Anchorage is bursting with colorful flowers. Hanging baskets with gold Marigolds and blue Lobelias reflect the colors of the state flag, gold stars in the shape of the Big Dipper and the North Star on a dark blue field.
|5||Anchorage has the largest seaplane port in the world at Lake Hood. At the busiest times of the summer there are 800 flights per day flying in and out. Since Alaska is such a large state and there are so few roads, private planes are a popular form of transportation.||2378|
|6||Flat Top Mountain in the Chugach State Park is a very popular trail among the Anchorage locals and tourists alike. The day we hiked it was the first clear weekend of the summer and it was packed with hikers and mountain bikers! Park rangers closed the parking lot when it filled with 250 cars!||2602|
|7||The view from Flat Top Mountain is worth the long, rocky hike. On a clear day Denali (a.k.a. Mt. McKinley) and Mt. Foraker can be seen from about 250 miles away! Note the two white mountains on the horizon in the middle of this picture, Denali is on the right. "Denali" is the Athabaskan Indian name meaning "The Great One", it is well-named! The white rectangle below the Blueberry Loop trail on the middle hillside is the parking lot for the trail. map...||2711|
|8||There were nearly as many dogs on the trail as people going up to Flattop Mountain! I'm checking out another tiny wildflower along the trail. photo by Kenny Light||1822|
Flat Top Mountain towers above Anchorage offering fabulous views both on the trailsides and far in the distance. We saw 52 different wildflowers on the trail, including these beautiful little Alpine Azaleas. Many alpine wildflowers grow close to the ground. From the higher parts of the trail we could see the snow-capped volcanoes Mts. Spurr, Iliamna, and Redoubt across Cook Inlet, and the Alaska Range.
I found these bright yellow flowers blooming on Flat Top Mountain. These and other Cinquefoils are in the Rose Family. Nivea means "snow".
|11||Snow Potentilla growing in a crack in a rock on Flattop Mountain. Alpine plants are amazing in their ability to grow in hostile habitats!||2041|
When I visited a friend in Norway in 1995 I ate a delicious fruit preserve made from the berries of this plant, called "molte". I brought a jar of it home with me, but none of my family or friends here liked it. It is very good when mixed with whipped cream. The berries are called "Salmonberry" because of their pale orange color. They look like raspberries.
These are tiny alpine plants, the flowers are much larger than the leaves. I found these blooming in a crack between two rocks on Flat Top Mountain.
These pretty white flowers were blooming along the Flat Top Mountain trail. "Anemone" means "wind flower".
These are beautiful white flowers that bloom in alpine areas. The species name alludes to the 8 petals of the flowers. The seed heads are as interesting as the flowers are pretty (see following photographs).
|16||These unripe Mountain Avens seeds are swirled until they ripen and dry out, then they look very different... (see next picture)||1912|
|17||When the seeds of Mountain Avens dry and ripen they stick straight out like a kid with a bad haircut! The little fringes help the seeds spread by the wind when they loosen.||1957|
This tiny pink flower was blooming along the Flat Top Mountain trail, I also saw it in the higher elevations of Kenai Fjords National Park.
Dwarf Dogwood; Bunchberry
This plant is a pint-sized relative of our southern Dogwood tree. These pretty white flowers bloom on small herbaceous (non-woody) plants, not trees. The other name alludes to the cluster of red berries that ripen in the fall. The white "petals" are actually bracts, the true flowers are found in the center.
Swedish Dwarf Cornel
The leaves of the Swedish Dwarf Cornel are smaller and a bit more round. I found these blooming on Flat Top Mountain.
Beautiful Jacob's Ladder
"Pulcherrimum" means beautiful. I saw two types of Jacob's Ladder, the "beautiful" kind and the "Tall" kind. I photographed these flowers on the Flat Top Mountain trail.
Myosotis alpestris, subspecies asiatica
I was happy to find the Alaska State Flower blooming at the overlook on Flat Top Mountain.
The color of this flower was one that I have never seen in a flower before, it was a greenish-blue. The plant was about 3 inches tall growing among the rocks on Flat Top Mountain.
Ledum palustris ssp. groenlandicum
These flowers were one of the first that I saw when we went to Flat Top Mountain. They were fairly common in alpine areas. These flowers are in the Heath Family.
I was delighted to see these beautiful little white lilies blooming on Flat Top Mountain on June 20. It was our first hike in Alaska.
This pretty pink flower was blooming along the trail to Flat Top Mountain. Later in the season it will produce an edible raspberry-like fruit.
These plants were blooming on Flat Top Mountain in the Chugach Mountains outside Anchorage. Spireas often have an unpleasant odor, which is probably why there are flies on these flowers instead of bees!
Alaska has 4 species of Louseworts. I found this one on Flat Top Mountain.
Bluebells; Languid Lady; Chiming Bells
Flat Top Mountain proved to be a great area for wildflowers; I identified 52 different species along that trail!
|30||Beluga Point is a nice pullout spot along the Seward Highway. We hiked on a "secret" trail to get to this point. At certain times of the year the white whales, for which the point is named, can be seen in the water. The current in Turnagain Arm is incredibly strong during the change of tides. During a full or new moon, a 6-foot high bore tide can be seen roaring up the large inlet. The inlet gets its name from Captain Cook's explorations; when he went up the inlet he learned it came to a dead end and he had to turn around again. The gray color of the water comes from the mud ground from the mountain by nearby glaciers.||2231|
|31||We took the tram up to the slopes of Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood. We enjoyed watching the parasailers as they took off and slowly drifted down to the valley below. The view of Turnagain Arm from up here was spectacular!||1824|
Geum macrophyllum spp. macrophyllum
I found this plant growing in Girdwood the town below the Aleska ski resort south of Anchorage.
Yellow Mountain Heather
There were many of these tiny plants blooming near the mountain lodge at Alyeska Ski Resort near Girdwood.
|34||Portage glacier can be seen in the distance. It is interesting to see the small icebergs floating in the lake. Note the "U" shaped valleys that have been cut by the glaciers.||1889|
|35||There is a small worm that can survive in the surface ice of glaciers. The Ice worm has a very narrow range of temperatures that it can live in. The warmth of a human hand will kill it! These interesting little animals eat single-celled algae and pollen grains that get trapped in the ice. This picture was taken at the Portage Glacier Visitors Center.||2164|
|36||This Skeleton Forest can be seen along Highway 1 near Portage. The dead trees have stood here since the 1964 Good Friday 9.2 magnitude earthquake. The land near the Turnagain Arm sunk causing salt water to inundate the forest. Because of the cold weather, decomposition of the trees has been very slow.||2329|
These tiny alpine plants grow in low, thick mats high in the mountains above the tree line. In Alaska, the tree line can be as low as 2000 feet above sea level. These flowers are in the Heath family.
Lathyrus maritimus maritimus
This plant grows on the beaches. I found it on the Kenai Peninsula. Note how the flowers change color as they age.
|39||A view of our Bed and Breakfast on Resurrection Bay in Seward.||1656|
|40||It was a bit unnerving to see Tsunami evacuation signs along the main street of Seward. A tsunami from the 1964 earthquake devastated homes and businesses in Seward.||2138|
|41||We wondered if this ornate, old radiator we found on the beach in Seward was a relic from the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake.||1645|
|42||Ken enjoys the view of low tide at Resurection Bay south of Seward. We hiked on the Caines Head trail. Signs at the trailhead warn hikers of the dangers of the rapidly changing tides. Tides in this part of Alaska are very high, unwary hikers can get caught in the rising water and drown.||1762|
|43||Seaweed-covered Rocks at low tide in Ressurection Bay. The tides in this part of the state are quite dramatic.||1779|
These blue flowers are common roadside plants. I found these growing in a field of a "Skeleton Forest," which is a remnant of the 1964 magnitude 9.2 Alaska Earthquake. The town of Seward was devastated by a tremendous tidal wave. The land in many coastal areas sunk up to six feet, drowning the trees in saltwater, leaving behind the "Skeleton Forests."
|45||This was the boat that we took out of Seward to see the Holgate Glacier. It was owned by the man who owned the bed and breakfast where we stayed. It was nice to have only 2 other guests and the 2-person crew on board (until we picked up the 12 kayakers)!||1717|
|46||Kenny and Kris on the whale/glacier tour boat. This day was our 24-1/2 anniversary! :) What a memorable day we had seeing orcas, porpoises, a humpback whale, Stellar sea lions, a mountain goat and puffins!||1628|
|47||Resurrection Bay is home to many Sea Otters. When the Exxon Valdez tanker accident occured, many otters and other animals died.||1492|
|48||We were excited to see a group of Puffins swimming in Ressurection Bay when we went out on the boat.||1482|
|49||I cheated on this picture by taking it through the glass at the Seward Aquarium. It would be very difficult to get this close to a Horned Puffin in the wild!||1556|
|50||Dall's porpoises Phocoenoides dalli Most people expect to see orcas and humpback whales when they are cruising in Alaska, but we got the added treat of seeing these Dall's porpoises swimming near the boat! These little porpoises are only found it the cold Arctic waters near Alaska, Japan and Russia.||1706|
|51||Orcas Orcinus orca We enjoyed watching three pods of orcas (killer whales)in Resurrection Bay on a 10-hour nature cruise out of Seward. There are two females and a calf in this picture. Adult female orcas have a shorter dorsal fin than the males. The captain of our boat put a hydrophone in the water so we could eavesdrop on the whale communication. It was incredible to hear the squeals and whistles of the Orca chatter! We saw these whales on our 24-1/2 year wedding anniversary!||4402|
A Male Orca in Resurrection Bay
Note the tall fin of this lone male killer whale.
|53||Sealions (Eumetopias jubatus) on the rocks can be smelled before they are seen! The large bull has a harem of cows and his pups. We were on a small boat that could get closer to animals than the larger boats, but not close enough to disturb them. Sealions and seals eat fish.||1691|
|54||Steller Sea Lion Eumetopias jubatus This huge Steller Sea Lion was warming himself on the rocks. These spectacular animals were listed as a threatened species in 1990||1999|
|55||The Holgate glacier ends in the Holgate Fjord in Kenai Fjords National Park. It is considered a "tidewater" glacier. Note the "U"- shaped valley. Icebergs calve, or break off, from the end of the glacier.||2964|
|56||Mountain Goat Oreamnos americanus We were delighted and amazed to see this mountain goat carefully picking his way along the edge of the cliffside above the Holgate Fjord. He is certainly safe from any predators here! This picture was taken from a boat with the maximum telephoto capability on my Nikon Coolpix 5700, so it is a bit blurry!||2387|
|57||Our whale/glacier tour boat was also used as a "water taxi". We picked up these kayakers (and their kayaks!) who had just completed a 3-day paddle/camp trip. The people talked of bears that visited their campsites and how the glacier sounded like a cannon shot when the ice broke off the end.||1573|
|58||Approaching the Holgate glacier it is hard to appreciate how large it is. To give some scale to this scene, look for the small black rectangle in the water just below the glacier... that is a boat!||1615|
|59||Alaska's cold ocean waters teem with sea animals such as these anemones, gastropods and sea stars I photographed in a tank at the Seward Aquarium.||2092|
|60||Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus This Bald Eagle, nicknamed "Chatty Charlie", sat in a tree outside our bed and breakfast in Seward; he lived up to his name, calling loudly each morning. Eagles are very common in Alaska, we saw one try to steal a fish from a seagull. The species name, leucocephalus, means "white head".||1877|
|61||I was amazed one morning to look out the window of our room at the bed and breakfast in Seward to see this blanket of fog hanging over Resurrection Bay. In 1964 this tranquil bay was the scene of a tragic and devastating tsunami due to the Good Friday earthquake.||1633|
|62||Seward and Homer are 2 very popular fishing areas in Alaska. We enjoyed going out on the dock and seeing the many catches of the day. The large white fish are halibut. It is a very tasty fish, the cheeks are a delicacy in Alaska restaurants. Yum!||1587|
|63||Another load of fish are pushed up the dock late in the afternoon at Seward. These guys will clean the fish for the customers who caught them.||1452|
|64||Seward was the orginal starting place for the serum run to Nome, AK. The Iditarod race commemorates that historic and life-saving wintertime run.||1744|
|65||This dog sled is in the Iditarod park in Seward.||1582|
Twisted-stalk; Watermelon Berry
This member of the Lily Family has interesting blooms. Note how the flower stalk grows below each leaf. The ripe berries are used to make syrups and jellies. I found this plant growing on a trail above the Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park.
These bright red and yellow flowers add a splash of color along the woodland trails. I found these on the Harding Ice Field Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park. I have seen these beautiful flowers blooming in Olympic National Park in Washington.
These flowers were blooming along the trail to the Harding Ice Field at Kenai Fjords National Park. They are related to the Bishop's Cap or Miterwort (Mitella) of our area.
These smaller Lupines have hairy seed pods. The seeds of lupines are poisonous to goats and cattle. The toxins contained in the seeds are lupinine, anagyrine, sparteine, and hydroxylupanine. The big names are almost bigger than the seeds themselves!
These pretty Lupines were common on the Kenai Peninsula. It is a taller plant than the Nootka Lupine. Many arctic plants have wooly leaves and stems as an adaptation to help the plants survive the cold and wind. The seeds of lupines are poisonous to goats and cattle. The toxins contained in the seeds are lupinine, anagyrine, sparteine, and hydroxylupanine. The big names are almost bigger than the seeds themselves!
Kris with wildflowers at Kenai Fjords National Park
The wildflowers along the Harding Ice Field trail were quite varied depending on the terrain. I enjoyed seeing these blue Lupines, red Western Columbine and yellow Paintbrush flowers. We were really surprised to be able to wear shorts in Alaska! The area was suffering through a heat wave when we were there, it got up to 90 degrees on the Kenai Peninsula. The locals were miserable!
|72||This sign in Kenai Fjords NP shows how much the Exit Glacier has retreated since 1978. You can't see this and not believe that there is something to global warming!||1611|
|73||The blue ice of the Exit glacier in Kenai Fjord National Park.||1615|
|74||Exit Glacier at Kenai Fjord NP from the overlook on the Harding Icefield Trail. The glacier has been receeding up the valley over the decades. Many of Alaska's glaciers are suffering the same fate. map...||1950|
Exit Glacier's cravasses at Kenai Fjords NP
This glacier is just a small part of the massive Harding Ice Field. Cravasses form because the ice is moving slowly, causing cracks.
|76||It may look like an animal has died here and spilled blood, but this is actually a type of red algae that grows in the snow. We saw this at Kenai Fjords National Park.||1489|
|77||I photographed this mother Moose and her young twins late the first evening that we were in Kenai. My cousin's daughter took us on a "moose hunt" at 10:30 that night. I took the photo from the truck window, cow moose are extremely protective of their young and could easily kill a person. They didn't seem to notice a big red pick-up truck stopped a few feet away!||1651|
|78||Moose droppings are found nearly everywhere in Alaska. Winter droppings look like balls of sawdust because the moose have to eat more woody plants during that season. In the summer the droppings are black and more "pasty" (sorry to be so gross!). Winter droppings can be used as emergency fuel since it burns easily. I'm not so sure I'd want to roast hot dogs or marshmallows over a fire from moose droppings! :-0||2665|
|79||Tern Lake on the Kenai Peninsula is a nice stopping place along the highway going to Kenai and Homer. This picture was taken just a few hours before a large thunderstorm hit.||1579|
|80||The man on the left worked part time as a Fish Counter for the Fish and Wildlife Service to estimate the number of salmon that are migrating up the river. The weir in the background stops the fish, a few times a day a gate in the box is opened which allows a few fish at time to swim through to be counted. The number of fish counted will help determine how many salmon can be caught by fishermen (and women!) downstream.||1374|
|81||Salmon swimming upstream to spawn.||1647|
|82||This was my first time on a Mountain bike! My cousin Jim and his wife Debbie took Kenny and me on this trail to go see the salmon jumping up the rapids on the Russian River.||1451|
|83||When the salmon start to run in June, the fishermen (and a few ladies) line the bank of the Kenai River. This type of sport is called "combat fishing" by the locals. Needless to say, with so many flying hooks at such close proximity there are many accidents. Doctors at the local hospital have plywood cutouts of a fisherman and fisherwoman in the emergency room, they put fish hooks they pull out of the patients into the appropriate area of the cutouts! The cord in the middle of this photo is the line for the flat-bottomed ferry that takes the fishermen across the river. The milky color of the water is due to the "glacier flour" from the nearby mountains.||1656|
|84||I spotted this seagull sitting on the roof of the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer. The red spot on the lower beak is the area where the chicks peck to induce their parents to regurgitate a meal.||1827|
The Kenai Peninsula was heavily populated with Goatsbeard. It has hundreds of tiny cream-colored flowers on the flower stalk. It was pretty to see it with Cow Parsnip. This was photographed near the town of Homer.
This pretty pink rose has a lovely aroma but very prickly stems. It is very common on the Kenai Peninsula.
|87||Bud of the Prickly Rose||1809|
|88||This orange fungus was common on rosehips.||1869|
Rock Harlequin or Pale Corydalis
This beautiful pink and yellow plant is not native to Alaska. I found this blooming in my cousin's neighborhood in Kenai.
This strange-looking yellow flower is in the Figwort Family. It gets its name from the way the seeds rattle in the ovary when they ripen. I found this plant blooming along the lake at our bed and breakfast in Wasilla.
This large flower, which I found blooming at the Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik, was a plant that we learned to avoid on our hikes. It has irritating hairs that can cause severe rashes and photosensitivity. Cow Parsnip grew everywhere that we visited in Alaska! The plant can grow to be over 5 feet tall!
I always enjoy looking for these pretty little double flowers when I go to the forests of northern latitudes. I've seen it in Yellowstone National Park and the forests of Norway. These were blooming along the Skyline Trail where we hiked to find the Chocolate Lilies.
This unusual plant is related to the Squawroot that we have here in the eastern forests. Squawroot is parasitic on oak tree roots, Ground Cone is parasitic on Mountain Alder roots. I found it climbing up the Skyline Trail on my quest for the Chocolate Lily. These plants were the only ones I saw during our 2 week trip.
Arnica alpina angustifolia
Arnicas are always bright and pretty. They add a lot of color to the landscape. I found these blooming in Kenai.
|95||This picture was taken just before midnight as we watched the sun slide below the horizon across the Cook Inlet at Captain Cook Park on the Kenai Peninsula. Note the ever-present Cow Parsnip!||1713|
|96||There is a nice boardwalk that takes people over the saltmarsh at Potter Marsh. This is a protected area just south of Anchorage. It is a haven for all kinds of water birds.||1745|
|97||This mother duck was nearly attacked by a bald eagle. She escaped and the brood quickly scattered into the grasses at her loud "Quack!"||1752|
I wasn't thrilled with the way this photo came out, but it was the best of the ones I got. Most cinquefoils are yellow or white, so I was surprised to see one this color.
Potentilla egedii ssp. grandis
I found these plants growing along the shore of Potter Marsh south of Anchorage.
|100||Musk Ox Ovibos moschatus There is a Musk Ox Farm along the Glenn Highway in Palmer. Tours are given to introduce people to these fascinating animals. The shaggy fur called qiviut (pronounced kiv-ee-ute) is collected by the workers and sent to native villages to be spun into yard and knitted into beautiful garments. Qiviut is the warmest fiber on earth (and very expensive too!).||2373|
|101||The mighty Matanuska River roars down the valley on its way to the Knik Arm. Note the second stream above that is a lighter color. The gray color comes from the pulverized rock (called glacier flour) ground down by the heavy ice of the glaciers.||1904|
Eskimo Potato at Matanuska glacier
As the name Eskimo Potato implies, Native Alaskans once ate the roots of this plant. It is in the Pea Family. I photographed this one at the Matanuska Glacier along the Glenn Highway after we did a 3-hour glacier hike with the MICA Guides. Smoke from the wildfires obsured our views of the mountains. :(
This tiny wildflower was blooming near the Matanuska Glacier. It is in the Aster Family.
|104||Ken and Kris by a lake on the Matanuska glacier. We went on a guided 3-hour glacier walk with the MICA Guides. This was one of the small, hidden lakes found on the glacier.||1725|
|105||We had to wear crampons (ice spikes), a helmet, and carry walking poles to walk safely on the ice of the glacier.||1582|
|106||This "X" marks the spot on the Matanuska glacier where the more dense ice absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue; the less dense white ice, which contains more air, reflects the mixed colors as white. The black dots are tiny bits of rock on the surface of the ice.||1579|
|107||A small waterfall cascading over a sculpted ice shelf on the glacier.||1602|
|108||At the end of the hike I couldn't resist scooping up some water from the headwaters of the Matanuska river at the base of the glacier to share with my students back in Tennessee! The gray, ice-cold water roared from the vent at the end of the glacier. The gray color came from the powder-fine glacier dust which is ground from the rock below the glacier. That same glacier flour will eventually end up in the mudflats of Knik Arm near Anchorage. The "quickmud" becomes a deathtrap to unwary people who may walk out on it at low tide.||1713|
|109||My bootprint in the extrememly finely ground Glacier flour at the Matanuska Glacier.||1315|
|110||A Mudflat on the Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage. This mud can become a death trap for unwary folks who may wander out at low tide. This mud came from the glaciers of the distant Chugach mountains!||2003|
|111||Interesting designs appear in the Mudflat at low tide.||1551|
|112||Just outside Wasilla is the Iditarod Museum. We stopped there on the way to Denali NP. We knew it was popular cruise line stop when we drove up and saw numerous tour buses in the parking lot!||1470|
|113||Here I am holding a tiny Sled dog pup at the museum. We were surprised to see that not all sled dogs are Malamutes or Huskies.||1366|
|114||Tourists enjoy a popular, but very short (2 minutes) summer wheeled "sled" ride at the Iditarod museum.||1383|
|115||Caribou; Reindeer Rangifer tarandus We made an unexpected stop along the Parks Highway to see these Caribou (a.k.a. reindeer). The larger one, the male, was tame and would allow people to touch him. His antlers were in velvet, they were so soft to touch! Female Caribou have antlers too. They keep their antlers longer during the year than the males. Since Santa's reindeer still have their antlers when they pull his sleigh at Christmas, it is said that they have to be females! :) These caribou were grazing in the yard of a very unique store in the little community of Trapper Creek. The store is called "Wal-Mike's," which offers an incredible collection of Alaskan antiques and some other things that have to be seen to be believed!||2383|
|116||The one and only "Walmike's"! This was the type of experience we would have missed if we had not rented a car and gone on a "ship, train, bus" tour! Mike was quite a character and very interesting to talk to! Mike greeted us wearing a grizzly bear claw necklace and a hat made from a black bear pelt!||1732|
|117||"Walmike" and his friend, she is wearing a polar bear fur hat.||1695|
|118||When we arrived at Denali National Park most of the views were obscured by smoke from wildfires in Fairbanks. Over 1 million acres were on fire, much of the smoke had drifted south. For 3-1/2 of the 4 days we were in the park, the visibility was 1/4th to 1 mile. :(||1549|
Fireweed on the taiga
Tall Fireweed close-up
Fireweed is a very common roadside and trailside plant. It is often incorporated into Alaskan artwork. This plant frequently grows after a fire, giving it it's common name. It grows up to 3 feet tall. According to Native lore, when the last flowers on the top of the stalk finish blooming, autumn will be 2 weeks away. Fall begins in late August or early September in much of Alaska!
Dwarf Fireweed on Toklat river in Denali NP
Dwarf Fireweed is much smaller than its taller relative, about a foot tall. It is often found growing along river banks and on islands. One lovely scene I saw was a large group of these pink flowers interspersed with Yellow Monkeyflower on an island in a snowmelt-fed creek. Smoke from distant wildfires obscured our view in Denali for 3-1/2 of the 4 days that we were in the park.
Yellow Monkeyflower and Dwarf Fireweed
(Monkeyflower) I noticed these beautiful wildflowers blooming along a creek on the Kenai Peninsula.
|123||Dwarf Fireweed close-up||1573|
|124||This huge Gneiss boulder was in the Savage River. Note the swirls of white quartz. Gneiss is a metamorphosed form of granite, changed by extreme pressure and heat.||1591|
|125||This Male Ptarmigan is sporting his summer plumage. In the fall he will molt and grow in pure white feathers so he will be camouflaged in the winter snows. Note his feathered feet, they are adapted to work like snowshoes to allow him to walk on top of the snow. This photo was taken from the window of the tour bus. There is a town in Alaska called Chicken. It was originally called Ptarmigan, but the early inhabitants couldn't spell that, so they changed it to Chicken (which is what they called the Ptarmigan)!||1458|
|126||The Ptarmigan hen is much more camouflaged to help protect her chicks and herself from predators. We heard her before we saw her when she softly clucked to her chicks. Like the male, she will molt her brown feathers and become white in the winter.||1274|
|127||This Ptarmigan chick was so well camouflaged we almost didn't see it and it's siblings during a hike at Savage River.||1400|
I found this plant growing near the visitor center at Denali National Park. I'm not sure if it is a albino mutant or if it is a subspecies that was planted there.
|129||Due to the rough, narrow roads and the high number of summer tourists, the main road in Denali is closed to personal vehicles. The only way to travel past mile marker 13 is by foot or by park buses. There are 2 types of bus tours, the one we took in the green schoolbus was less expensive and they would allow riders to stop to get out and hike, then board another bus later. The more expensive tour had nicer buses, but riders had to stay with that bus for the duration of the tour. I took this photo looking out of one of the park's tour buses.||1360|
|130||The Denali tour bus drivers will stop when wildlife is spotted. Soon the camera shutters start clicking and there are a lot of "ooohs and aaahs" heard throughout the group. At the end of the trip a young man on another bus was becoming impatient, when a caribou was spotted and the bus stopped, he angrily said, "Oh, not ANOTHER Caribou!!!"||1535|
|131||A Caribou bull makes his way to the river. This photo was taken from the bus window on one of our many wildlife stops.||1362|
|132||This was the most nerve-wracking section of the road in Denali National Park. At one point, the road makes such a sharp curve, the driver had to stop in mid-curve and back up! Seeing the sheer drop-offs made many riders so nervous they shifted to the other side of the bus. It didn't bother me though! It was near this section that we saw the second grizzly bear sow and her 2 cubs.||1407|
|133||The Wildlife can get pretty "wild" as this bear-mangled sign can attest. Rangers have put large nails in the bottom of it to keep the bears from destroying it.||1332|
|134||We spotted this Grizzly sow from the tour bus along the road into Denali. She had 2 cubs. She was so far from the road it was hard to get a good photograph, but at least we got to see a grizzly!||1468|
As the name implies, this plant is a favorite food of bears when they emerge from their long winter sleep. It grows in Denali National Park. It is in the Saxifrage family. I was able to get this picture because I practically begged the driver of the Denali tour bus to stop. He commented (a bit preturbed!), "It's just a flower!" I said, "There's no such thing as just a flower!" To me, seeing these flowers was almost as exciting as seeing a grizzly bear or caribou, but the other people didn't quite share my enthusiasm! They groaned as I stepped off the bus along the side of the road, but I got my picture! Mission accomplished! :) (story)
|137||We took the 8-hour park bus tour to the Eilson Visitor Center. Unfortunately, while we were in the park, wildfires burning near Fairbanks filled the valley with thick smoke. We could not see more than 1/4th-mile 3 of the 4 days we were in Denali. An 11-hour trip would have taken us to Wonder Lake with a fabulous view of Denali (Mt. McKinley), however, we would not have seen it on our trip.||1743|
Alpine Meadow Bistort
These are common wildflowers along the trailsides, they are related to our Smartweeds. Some of my flower pictures are blurry because it was often very windy.
Bering Sea Chickweed
I found this plant blooming along the Savage River trail in Denali National Park in early July.
This little Harebell was blooming in a crack in a rock at 3400' on Mt. Healy in Denali National Park. The flower is quite large in comparison to the whole plant. I'm often amazed at the tenacity of plants to live in such seemingly impossible situations!
|141||Blueberry This was the only ripe blueberry we saw on our 2-week visit. Berries of all kinds are very prevalent in Alaska. Berry picking is a popular activity in the late summer and fall. We enjoyed eating preserves at the Big Bear Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in Anchorage. Our hostess served us the "fruits of her labor" with her delicious breakfasts!||1870|
Northern Green Bog Orchid
This little orchid is tricky to find because of its yellowish green color. It grows in low, damp areas. I found this one growing along the Savage River trail in Denali National Park, it is the farthest point that personal autos can be driven without a special park permit. It may seem strange to think of orchids growing in Alaska, but they grow in all types of ecosystems on every continent except Antarctica!
I was delighted to find these beautiful little yellow flowers blooming along the Savage River trail.
I found these strange-looking flowers, which are in the Rose family, blooming in the town of Kenai and in Denali National Park.
|145||Sitka Burnet group in Denali NP.||1870|
The bulb of this beautiful flower is deadly poisonous if eaten. It is in the Lily family. I found this one blooming along the Glenn Highway while we were stopped several minutes for construction work near the Matanuska Glacier. I never turn down an opportunity to look for flowers! :)
This plant lives up to its descriptive species name! It was very common on the Kenai Peninsula. It made hiking in the woods quite a challenge, along with the nettles and the Cow Parsnip, it has nasty thorns. We hiked in long pants despite the mid-80 to 90 degree "heat wave" in the area! The huge leaves were easy to spot, so we could avoid it fairly easily.
Paintbrushes are in the Snapdragon Family. They can be red, orange, yellow, or pink. I found these lovely flowers blooming on the trail above the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park.
I found this plant blooming at Denali NP along the Savage River Trail. The petals are supposed to open at the top of the flower, but I never saw that. Perhaps they have to have direct sunlight to cause them to open. The smoke from the fires above Fairbanks drifted in the Denali valley and kept the sun from shining, so the flowers may have stayed closed.
I found these blooming in the yard of our bed and breakfast in Healy, just outside of Denali. The host family had planted some interesting wildflowers along the roadside.
Grass of Parnassus
I had looked for 10 years to find the eastern version of this flower, then I go to Alaska and find it growing in many places!
Grass of Parnassus
The detail of the individual flowers is so pretty.
This is not a flowering plant, but it was so common in the areas of Alaska that we visited, I decided to add it to this site. In some areas it grew so thickly, few other plants could compete with them. The plant contains silica in the stem, which gives the plant a rough feeling, they were once used as pot scrubbers.
Tall Jacob's Ladder
These flowers were photographed in my cousin's neighborhood in Kenai. The plants grow up to 3 feet tall. They are a very lovely blue color.
The Larkspur was common on the Kenai Peninsula and at Denali NP. The buds look similiar to small dolphins, therefore the genus name, Delphinium. One of the park rangers told us not to eat any of the purple flowers (like I'd eat flowers in a national park anyway !) because the purple-flowered Larkspur and Monkshood are both deadly poisonous.
Aconitum delphinifolium paradoxum
The difference between this Monkshood and its relative is that this plant is much smaller and has only one or two flowers. It seems to like growing in alpine areas.
Aconitum delphinifolium delphinifolium
Monkshood is a highly poisonous plant if eaten by livestock or people. The flowers are very unusual. These are seen from the front and the side. The species name delphinifolium means "delphinium-leaved". Delphin means "dolphin" alluding to the dolphin-like bud of the larkspur, which is another delphinium.
It would be easy to overlook these tiny blue flowers, they are less than an inch tall!
|159||A Moss gentian with Kenny's finger as scale. This little plant was only 3/4th inch tall!||1630|
This plant was located in Wasilla, AK.
|162||The Mt. Healy trail in Denali started out pretty easy through a type of forest called "taiga", but it became steep and rocky before reaching the overlook. The view from the top was obscured by smoke from the wildfires. This area is frequented by moose, so we had to talk and make a lot of noise.||1525|
|163||While we were up at the top of Mt.Healy a thunderstorm was approaching, we had to rush back down the trail before the rain and lightning hit. As we neared the bottom we realized the storm had blown out all the smoke, we could see the spectacular views for the first time!||1229|
|164||The Savage River is as far as visitors can drive their personal vehicles in Denali National Park. This was the only day we got to see the spectacular views, 3-1/2 days of the 4 days we were in the park we couldn't see any of this view due to the smoke from the wildfires northeast of Fairbanks.||1380|
|166||Kenny donned his Mosquito net during one of our hikes in Denali. For such a cold place, Alaska has some really BIG mosquitoes. We were still a bit too early for the Black Fly season, so we didn't get the "pleasure" of experiencing them too!||1619|
Note the little pink inchworm (geometer moth larva) on the upper right side of the plant. This plant is in the Buckwheat Family. I found this one blooming in Denali National Park.
This unusual plant was growing in Denali National Park. It has disk flowers, but no ray flowers.
I usually think of asters as being fall-blooming flowers, but this one was blooming in Denali National Park in early July.
You have to look closely to find these small flowers blooming on the forest floor! The flowers grow on one side of the stem, giving them their common name. The plant is only 4 or 5 inches tall. They are in the Wintergreen Family. I found these blooming on the Kenai Peninsula.
|171||Squirrel-tail grass is an invasive non-native grass that takes over areas where it grows. It has an attractive seed head that turns reddish upon ripening. I found out that it can't be picked to take home as an nice souvenir, it falls apart! We had seeds all over the rental car!||2966|
Trientalis europea arctica
This is a beautiful little plant that grows in only northern climates. I've seen a European relative in Norway. It is in the Primrose Family.
This odd-looking plant grew along the Savage River Trail in Denali National Park.
The flowers of this plant are two colors --- white petals, reddish-purple calyx. I found this blooming in Denali National Park.
Tall Sandwort often grows in the cracks of rocks. I found these blooming along the Savage River Trail in Denali National Park.
This member of the Parsley / Carrot Family was found in Denali National Park.
The park rangers at Denali said this flower was blooming 2 -3 weeks earlier than it usually does. It is an unusual flower. Yet another "victim" of global warming?!
These purplish-blue flowers are very common in Alaska, we saw them everywhere on our 2-week trip. The long, pointed fruits of the Geranium are interesting, the 5 seeds are located in small cups until they ripen. When the fruits mature they split from the bottom to the top point, throwing the seeds away from the plant. The mosquitoes just about ate me alive as I made this picture outside our bed and breakfast in Wasilla!
The fuzzy white seedheads of these plants are easily spotted along wet areas.
These unusual flowers were common on the Kenai Peninsula. I found these blooming on the "infamous" Skyline trail.
Yellow Spotted Saxifrage
Like many other Saxifrage flowers, these have tiny dots on the petals. I found these blooming on the Savage River Trail in Denali National Park.
I photographed this plant at Denali National Park. It is an example of a composite flower that does not have "petals" (ray flowers), just disk flowers.
This flower was blooming on the mountainside above the Eilson Visitor Center.
Frigid Arnica on the Tundra
These pretty yellow flowers seemed to spring from the tundra on the hillside above the Eielson Visitors Center in Denali National Park.
Aspen leafminer tracks
A moth larva made these squiggly lines on this aspen leaf. The dark spots are "frass," the droppings of the larva. The caterpillars eat the cells on the inside of the leaves. Many leaves of the trees at Denali National Park had been affected by the larvae.
|186||Moose and calf Alces alces This moose cow and her calf crossed the Parks Highway just north of Denali. They really were "traffic stoppers!" There are signs along the highway reminding people to "Give moose a brake" showing the number of moose that have been hit during the year.||1881|
|187||Hoary Marmot Marmota caligata This marmot was relaxing on the rocks along the Savage River Trail in Denail National Park. Marmots are sometimes called "Whistle Pigs" because of their shrill alarm calls.||1837|
|188||On our final full day in Alaska we drove from Denali to Anchorage. We got a special treat when we stopped in the little town of Talkeetna. We got to enjoy watching the 4th of July Parade. What they didn't have in large floats, bands or groups of people, they made up for in making noise! They had every piece of emergency equipment blaring sirens, bagpipes, and even the Alaska Railroad got in on the festivities by blasting the train horn! Here Uncle Sam waves to the crowd as he walks by on stilts! It was one of the most memorable 4th of July celebrations we've ever experienced!||1207|
|189||Talkeetna is the main starting point for climbers who hope to climb "The Great One". I took this plane out of the airport in Talkeetna to get a bird's eye view of Denali. I had to sit in the co-pilot's seat because there was only one seat left. It was an expensive flight at $250 for about 2 hours, but the views were worth every penny!||1159|
|190||We flew so high over Mt. McKinley we had to use oxygen masks!||1442|
Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park
On July 4 I flew out of Talkeetna in a twin engine plane to see Denali - Athabaskan word for "The Great One" (a.k.a. Mt. McKinley). At 20,320 feet, this beautiful mountain is the highest peak in North America. What a grande finale for our trip!
The Ruth Glacier on Mt. McKinley
It was so fascinating to fly over the glaciers on the mountain! Glaciers are "rivers" of ice that flow very slowly. The long black line in the middle of the glacier is a medial moraine, made up of ground up rock where 2 glaciers meet as they flow down from the mountains.
Cravasses and the medial moraine on Ruth glacier
The blue-tinted cracks are deep cravasses in the glacier. Cravasses form in quicker-moving areas of a glacier. Glaciers form when snow builds up faster than it can melt. Over time the snow compresses forcing the air out, creating very clear ice. This ice absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue which is reflected giving the glacier its beautiful blue hue.
|194||The small, brilliant blue lake was formed from meltwater on the Ruth glacier. The large black medial moraine looked like a paved road from the air! I was sitting in the co-pilot's seat, so I didn't have the best view on the plane. But, I was so thrilled to go up, I didn't complain! A flight over Denali is a must-do, however, be ready to pay dearly to do it! My flight was over $200 for 1-1/2 hours.||1309|
|195||A Mew Gull||1250|