Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Four Nights on Kenai Lake

Cabin on Kenai Lake

After a few days off to visit our son in Michigan, I'm back to blogging about our recent Alaska vacation.   I hope you get something out of these posts.   If you want to know more about the places we visited just drop me a note at

You can view the photos full size by clicking on them.
Kenai Lake

During the second half of our vacation we were blessed to be able to spend four nights on the shore of Kenai Lake at Renfros Lakeside Retreat.  With the Kenai mountains as a backdrop it was beautiful place to spend some relaxing times in the mornings and evenings. Our cabin was situated right on the lake shore with only a handful of other cabins for neighbors.   Most of the time the only sound was water lapping on the rocks and drift wood just outside.  But there were a few times with some excitement.

One day a float plane pilot was practicing takeoffs and landings on the lake just outside our door.  We sat in the chairs with hot coffee in one hand and a camera in the other.  We watched as he made several passes landing on the surface of the lake then taking off again.  It was almost as if we had our own (very) little airshow right there on the lake.

Touch and Go

A couple times we saw a Bald Eagle at the lake flying by just above the tree tops.  I didn't have my camera ready either time.  Later when I went outside to wait and watch for an Eagle, there were none in sight.   I didn't get any Eagle shots but we both have great memories for those magnificent birds flying over our heads.

Renfros Lakeside Retreat is on the main highway between Anchorage and Seward.  In fact, Seward Highway Scenic Byway is the only road between these to cities.   The Alaska Railroad also passed by on the run between Anchorage and Seward.  One day June was outside with my camera watching for the Eagle and captured the train as it passed by on the far side of the lake.

Alaska Railroad
Stars Starting To Come Out

The last day there we noticed the lake level seemed to be higher than it had been.   What had happened is a glacier that had dammed up the Snow River released and all that water that had built up behind the glacier was flowing down the Snow River into Kenai Lake.   This is a naturally occurring process.  In the headwaters of the Snow River the Snow Glacier creates a lake.  Over time precipitation and melting glacial ice cause the lake level to raise.  When the lake is sufficiently filled it causes a small part of the Glacier to lift, thus draining the lake.  It never reached flood stage but it was interesting to see the water rise so quickly.

When we made our travel plans I was excited about being able to photograph the stars out away from light pollution created by city lights.  I even rented a special lens just to take star photos while in Alaska.   I knew I was going to get spectacular shots of the Milky Way and a dark star filled sky!  The anticipation and expectations were running pretty high.

The first half of the trip in Denali National Park was cloudy and I never had a clear night.  When we were on Kenai Lake the skies were clear with only a few passing clouds.  Now's my chance for that Milky Way photo.  An hour or so after sunset I set up my camera, figured out where the Milky Way was going to appear and prepared to make some spectacular photos of the stars.

I had neglected to take the moon into account and within a short few minutes a very bright full moon popped up above the mountains and illuminated everything in sight.  All but the brightest stars became invisible in the glare of the full moon.  After a while it was bright enough to read a newspaper by moonlight.

The Moonlight Scene photo below had a 4 minute exposure time.  You can see the few bright stars became streaks of light as they traveled across the sky in those 4 minutes.   If it wasn't for the stars, this could pass for a daytime scene. It was that bright.

Moonlight Scene
Milky Way in Tennessee
I carried that lens around for almost 2 weeks and never did get the stars or Milky Way photos I dreamed of while we were in Alaska.   After I got home and the day before I had to ship the lens back I took it up to Beauty Spot on Unaka Mountain and got this shot.  I made my Milky Way photo about 30 miles from home instead of 4,268 miles and four time zones away.

The Milky Way and trying to find a Bald Eagle were just two more examples of me making plans for things I have no control over.   I'm sure God was chuckling and shaking his head saying "Here he goes again with his master plan."   I couldn't do anything about the eagles, clouds or the moon, but I got some completely unplanned photos that I'm just as excited about.

It's a good thing I'm not in charge.

Tomorrow we climb a glacier!

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