Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alaska : Aerial Photos Of Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in North America. At just over 20,000 feet, it is not much of a competition to even the top 25 peaks in Himalaya. But it boasts a majestic view in Denali National Park. Incidentally, Denali is the native name of the mountain.

Photos of the mountain are ubiquitous in Alaska brochures, especially with its reflection in Wonder Lake. I would say that's false advertizing. Because very few people ever gets to see that ! When we visited the park, we took the only allowed mode of transportation - the shuttle bus - as far as it takes you - all the way to the wonder lake. The bus driver told us that only 10-15 % people get to see the full view of the mountain. The "Great One"  (that's what Denali means) is quite moody and makes its own weather, and likes to hide behind clouds on most days. Add to that there has to be no wind, else the lake will have ripples and reflection won't be that good.

Even with the slim chance of seeing the mountain in its full glory, the park is on the must-visit list for many other reasons. We got to see a glimpse of the peak of the mountain for just few minutes. So no photos from the ground. But we did get to see the mountain and its glaciers from the air ! The sight fills you with awe.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Alaskan Humor

I have heard this kind of joke before, but never seen/heard anyone actually make the mistake.

Just last week in Alaska, we needed to carry food with us for the whole day. So I went to a Subway and ordered a few footlong sandwiches. I requested them to cut each in 4 pieces and wrap it as two 6 inch subs, and put a label in every bag.

When I went to pick up my order, every bag was labeled, and on the back of each label were these notes.

They were really nice people and obviously not native English speakers. So I don't want to publicly embarrass them and hence I won't reveal which town this was in. But I can answer one question right away that many of you might have. No, they were not of Indian origin.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Alaska !

Alaska ! The great land. The last frontier.

Over last many years, I have watched numerous nature related shows on PBS/Discovery channel. Some of them multiple times, especially if they are about Alaska or Africa. The calving of tidewater glaciers making thunderous sounds. Cute Sea Otters playing on the floating broken ice. Thousands of Kittiwake living in a colony on a sheer vertical cliff. Bald Eagles smoothly gliding across the sky. Endless forests of Spruce and Birch trees. The giant Mount McKinley towering in the harsh Denali National Park. Dall Sheep standing on slopes that seem impossible to navigate. Migrating birds. The unbelievable life cycle of Salmon who come back to their birthplace to spawn and die. And of course the bears. Alaska is bear country, and I am totally fascinated by bears. I can watch them all day, especially if they are fishing.

I have watched these scenes over and over again. Dreaming, that one day I will be able to experience all this. And now I can say that I have. I watched the glaciers calving, heard the thunder. Observed the otters playing in ice cold water. Watched the Kittiwake colony in amazement. Saw the majestic Bald Eagle taking off from the peak of a tall tree. Saw the migrated Sandhill Cranes. Took aerial shots of Mount McKinley and its glaciers. Saw the Dall Sheep moving around the scary slopes. I was lucky enough to see one of those few wolves in Denali and the illusive lynx. Saw how the salmon turn crimson at the end of their life cycle.

Yes, and to top it all, I saw the bears. Saw them sprinting across the fields. Saw them digging up roots. Was thrilled by seeing a sow and her two cubs. Watched them taking their signature stroll. And I saw one fishing and eating a salmon in the Kenai river. That was a sight I will never forget.

This was a dream come true. And I still want more. I have yet to see the two largest land carnivores in the wild. The polar bear and the Kodiak bear.

I came back less than 24 hours ago. And I am already missing Alaska. At least I have the photos. Hundreds of them. I will upload them as soon as I am done sorting.

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