Waterfall along the hike to Devil’s Punchbowl

Skagway is a small, touristy town in southeastern Alaska. It is a popular port for cruises to Alaska and can get a little overrun with tourists during the summer. While the most popular excursion visitors to Skagway take is a trip on the White Pass Scenic Railway, Skagway is also home to Klondike Gold Rush National Park and has hiking trails that start from the edge of town. One of those hikes is up to Devil’s Punchbowl, an 8.5 mile hike that involves an elevation gain of 3,700 feet. The middle third of the hike in particular is incredibly steep, perhaps the steepest extended stretch of trail I have hiked on. But the view from the top is well worth the effort. The trail follows a creek during the steep portion of the hike and the terrain is so steep that the creek is essentially one waterfall after another. This photo is of one of those waterfalls.

to Devil's Punchbowl just outside Skagway, Alaska.

If sunset fails you, turn around

This photo was taken on a beach in Cancun a couple months back, shortly after sunset. Unfortunately, it was one of those days with too many clouds on the horizon and the sun was not visible around the time it was supposed to set and the great sunset we were hoping for did not happen. So, we went to walk along the beach and a while after sunset the sky facing away from the direction the sun set in began to light up a brilliant orange color. With the large amount of clouds on the horizon, the water off in the distance was quite dark, giving the scene a rather dramatic look.

Dark clouds with a glowing orange sky over the water off the coast of Cancun.

Independence Mine

Independence Mine State Historical Park is located in Hatcher Pass, a beautiful region located in Alaska, north of Anchorage. What would become the mine was discovered by Robert Hatcher in 1906 and by the early 1940s the mine employed over 200 men, who lived at the mine complex with their families, producing over $1 million a year in gold. But as a result of World War II, a ban on gold mining was enacted and when mining was allowed to resume after the war, the price of gold was so low that the mine was forced to close permanently shortly thereafter. Today, what remains of the mine is part of a state park, with a self-guided tour of the rusted machinery and slowly decaying buildings of the mine nestled in a valley with mountain peaks dominating three of the four directions. The old mine and stunning scenery are in stark contrast to each other but somehow they fit together wonderfully. Despite the fact that we visited in August, the mountain peaks were already topped with snow.

Independence Mine State Historical Park in Hatcher Pass, Alaska with snow-capped mountains in the background.

The century plant

Agave americana, also known as the century plant, has a rather interesting life cycle. Contrary to its name, it does not live for 100 years, but instead commonly lives for between 10 and 30 years. In its final year of life, it sends up a tall stalk which blossoms with yellow flowers, and the plant dies shortly after flowering. In the foregrounds of this photo, you can see a century plant which has just died, its stalk lying on the rock behind the plant. Behind the rock is the stalk of another century plant, almost ready to flower. Agave americana is native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, though it is now found in many warm climates across the globe. The plants in this photo were located near the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Century plants in the Grand Canyon

Alluvial Fan

Alluvial Fan, in Rocky Mountain National Park, was created in 1982 when the water of Lawn Lake burst through the earthen Lawn Lake Dam. Millions upon millions of gallons of water rushed down towards the valley below, bringing trees and large boulders along for the ride. The large boulders within this waterfall are just a small sampling of the massive amount of boulders strewn about Alluvial Fan. The water which brought these boulders here on that July day in 1982 was so massive in volume and fast flowing that it left the nearby town of Estes Park flooded under six feet of water. Today the site is a popular attraction for visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park, easily accessible and a reminder of the powerful capabilities of nature.

Waterfall of Alluvial Fan in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorful Mount Healy

Denali National Park has relatively few developed trails. That isn’t to say that there is a lack of hiking opportunities in the park, but that most of the hiking involves forging your own path through undeveloped wilderness. This photo was taken from near the top of the Mount Healy Overlook Trail, a relatively steep trail with rewards those who put in the effort to reach the top with panoramic views in every direction, if the weather cooperates. The trail begins near the Visitor’s Center, making it a perfect hike for a part day in the park. In late August color was starting to appear at higher elevations, giving this photo a wonderful mix of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens.

View from near the top of Mount Healy in Denali National Park

Trains of Switzerland

Switzerland has a great public transportation system, highlighted be a great train system. The trains are clean, consistently on time, and make it easy to get to even small towns. This train is on its way down from Jungfraujoch and captures the essence of Switzerland perfectly: the colorful train, the glacier covered mountains, the cows grazing, and hikers enjoying the great outdoors.

Train in Switzerland.

The 30%

As I mentioned in a previous post, only 30% of visitors to Denali National Park get to see the mountain for which the park is named. We were lucky to see the mountain all 3 days we were there. Knowing how unpredictable the weather can be in Alaska and how uncommon it is for Denali to be visible, I took every opportunity to capture moments when Denali was in sight, not knowing if the clouds would roll in at any moment. This started in the morning from the deck of the B&B in Talkeetna where we had stayed the night before to break up the drive from Seward to Denali National Park. And continued when we arrived at the scenic overlook along the highway where this photo was taken from. And continued some more when we arrived at the park. My wife thought I was crazy, not believing Denali that being visible was that uncommon. It wasn’t until we were in one of the souvenir shops and she saw one of the “I was among the 30%” t-shirts that she actually believed me.

View of Denali off in the sunset from a scenic overlook along the highway.