"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Road Trip! Denali Highway

Way up north of Anchorage, there is a road named the Denali Highway.  It is not part of the Denali National Park, formerly known as Mount McKinley National Park, but until the 1970s it was the only road access to the park.

For those who didn't care to chance the  137-mile-long Denali highway,  the Alaska Railroad delivered visitors to the park and it does today.   In the 1970s, the Parks highway opened offering a shorter and faster vehicle route to the park as well as to Fairbanks.


 Today, the old road (it's called a highway, but that's quite the reach) offers wilderness for those who want it.    People go there to canoe, hike, bicycle, fish, and hunt (in the autumn hunting season).   And bird, but don't tell anyone.

The first 22 miles from the east side at Paxson are paved and the last two-and-a-half miles on the west end at Cantwell are also paved.

The long and lonesome road is perfect for stopping anywhere to find birds.

In between, gravel, rocks, potholes, washboard--whatever conditions the weather dictates.   The Alaska Department of Transportation does maintain the road as best it can from mid-May to late autumn.    After that, the road closes to vehicles and the only access to the recreation and lodges is by snowmachine or skis.

Maclaren River Lodge, at Mile 42, has been catering to visitors since 1957 and is the only lodge that remains open year 'round.  That is where I stayed recently with my fellow birding/photographer friends.

Maclaren River Lodge

 This is a roadhouse in the style of famous Alaskan roadhouses that offer food and lodging to travelers.  Yes, it serves liquor but it is definitely not a roadhouse in that sense of the name.

Part of the dining room.

Rob is wondering what this "tuna melt" is all about on the menu.   Hot tuna?    


Our lodging was in a newly built cabin overlooking a small lake where swans and waterfowl swam, and a semi-palmated plover searched for insects along the shore.

The four of us were in the first cabin on the left, with Doug and Rob in the left room and Leilani and I in the right room.. 
I should have taken these photos before we moved all our stuff in.   My bed in the one that's almost "made."

A place for the laptop and a tea station.

And the en suite bathroom is thru that door.

The view from our balcony.

Here are some other cabins and views around the lodge grounds.

Bridge over the Maclaren RIver.   

And now, it's time to go find some birds to photograph!

"Go find birds?    Step out onto the balcony!    I'm right here!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Tranquility and Counterthrust

I made this video today, June 11, 2020, at Tern Lake, especially for Marg Wood in the hope that she might find comfort in the "peace of wild things."


Moving with elegant grace across the water, the resident trumpeter swans of Tern Lake paddle slowly so their three-day-old cygnet can keep up. Just before the swans move out of the frame, one swan is startled and bolts. The second swan spins around to face the attacker and angrily thrashes the water with its feet, perhaps hoping to dislodge the suspect.
I watch in puzzlement. What could have frightened the swans? There is much honking and bobbing of heads and I fear they might flee and abandon their youngster.
Fifty feet away, a red-necked grebe surfaces after his underwater attack on the swans. If a duck can look smug, there it is.   That grebe, by the way, is not in the video.
Really, grebe? The swans were 200 feet from the nest where your mate is incubating eggs. That green-winged teal was ten feet from you last night in YOUR pond. Why didn't you go after him?