Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Caution - Photo of A Bear Behind In This Post

I wonder how many more visitors I'll get to my blog with that title?  Kind of grabs your attention, doesn't it?

This day June and I took one of the buses from our lodge down the Denali Park Road to the Eielson Visitor Center.   We had heard about a good hike in the hills above the visitor center and wanted to give it a try.   It was foggy and rainy most of the way and the windows on the bus were caked with mud and water.  Occasionally someone on the bus would yell out that they saw something and the bus driver will stop, windows are lowered and we see what we can see.   On one of our stops we could see a Grizzly Bear on the ridge maybe 1/2 a mile away.

Ridge Top Grizzly

I hadn't brought my longest lens and made due with a 70-200mm with a 1.4 teleconverter, giving me an effective focal length of 280mm.   At this point it was still raining and foggy so I wasn't sure what kind of photo I could make from that far under those conditions.   These photos are cropped down to make the bear a reasonable size in the frame.

A Bear Behind
After a while we could see what looked like retaining walls holding the road up on the side of the mountain.  Most of the road is on the side of the mountain so this didn't seem unusual.   As we got closer the driver announced that we were arriving at the Eielson Visitor Center.  

The visitor center was built from 2004 - 2008, replacing an older facility.  A main goal of the project was to design a low-profile building that blends into the landscape. The steep slope enabled the designers to partially bury the building, which visually screens the structure from the Park Road. The roof is literally "green," as tundra mats salvaged from the construction of the site were relocated to planters dispersed on the roof terrace. These camouflage the roof deck, helping it blend into the landscape. The green roof also assists in storm water run-off reduction and thermal energy conservation.

The planning and construction of Eielson included strategies such as maximizing natural daylighting, selecting energy-efficient heating / venting systems, the use of renewable energies to power the building and thoughtful selection of recycled and locally produced.

The park implemented various renewable energy strategies at the site, including a hybrid generator system with photo-voltaic panels and a battery bank, installing a solar hot-water heating system for the restrooms, and constructing a small hydroelectric system in a nearby stream.   The end result is a beautiful building that blends into the landscape and uses as much renewable resources as possible.

Looking For Lunch
There was this yearling Caribou wandering around below the visitor center.  He seemed to be having a hard time knowing where to go.   Unlike his male human counterparts, he did read the map and asked for directions.  Eventually he went off down the hill and was gone.

Which path do I take to lunch?

Can you help me?  I can't seem to find lunch
We did do the Alpine hike we came to do.  It's a strenuous one mile up to the top of the ridge, gaining about 1,000 feet from the visitor center to the top.   Hint - photography is a good excuse to stop and catch your breath.

View From The Top
In the photo above you can see the visitor center from the top of the ridge.  Be sure to click the picture for a larger view.   It wasn't raining when we got to the top and the clouds were still above us so things were pretty pleasant.

June had packed us lunch for the day and we sat down behind some rocks, ate and enjoyed the view.

The terrain up there is similar to what we had seen before.  Rounded mountain tops with nothing growing over a couple inches high.  Without trees and bushes the fall colors show up in the ground cover making the hills appear to be painted.  

A closer look reveals an abundance of plants covering the ground.  Walking on this is like walking on a soft bed.

Painted Hills

Colorful Tapestry

Even the rocks were colorful
Before we finished lunch it started to rain, the fog rolled in and the wind picked up.   Time to head down the trail for the visitor center.

Where's The Mountain?
There is this window in the visitor center where you can look out and see the mountains, including Denali.   No luck this day.  

Past Weather
People keep a record of the mountain visibility by coloring in a picture of what it looked like each day.   There were a few nice days.  Remember, on average you can see Mount Denali 25% of the time.
Beauty in Rain
Even in cold miserable rain there is beauty.  This was grass growing along the side of one of the footpaths at the center.   Just have to look for beauty where you are.

I'm heading to a photography workshop this weekend and will have to take a break from the daily bogging.  I know, I just got home.  I've only got 1,700 photos from Alaska left to go through so I better get out and take some more.   I'll be back with a new blog on Monday.

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