Great Kobuk Sand Dunes

After a brief weather delay in Kotzebue, we flew out to the sand dunes at Kobuk Valley National Park. The weather was bad at first, and we had to set up our tents in the wind and rain, but then clear. It seemed the weather changed by the hour up there.

Camp was great and the company was great. We had our guide, Jenna, Dale and Janet from Ohio and Rainer and Marianne from Switzerland. Jenna’s cooking was phenominal and everybody was up for hiking and exploring the area. We set up a base camp, and did day hikes from there. Our first hike that evening was short and rainy, but the next day we had some wonderful weather. We hiked for many hours around the dunes, which cover 25 square miles, like the Sahara, but in Alaska.

While out on our hike, the SOS signal went off on the point locator in Jenna’s backpack. Planes started to fly over head, and an Alaska state trooper actually landed his small plane out on the dunes to make sure we were okay. I have to admit, it was a little scary because we didn’t know what was going on at the time, all we could see was that this plane was circling us for no apparent reason. All seemed to be well, and the trooper flew off leaving just the 6 of us and three more people at another location being the only 9 people in the entire park.

We camped for our second night, hopeful that the plane would come get us the next morning. Well, more bad weather came in. ┬áIt never cleared where we were going, and didn’t clear at the dunes until late in the afternoon. We had spend an extra night there, but took the opportunity to do some more hiking. We even saw some very nice rainbows from all the rain we were getting as things cleared up.

Things cleared up very nicely on the third night, and I decided to stay up to watch the midnight sun. It actually set around 11:50 PM, just shy of midnight, but I still got to watch an amazing sunset at midnight up in the arctic.

On day 4, we were ready to move on to our next destination, Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Waiting for Flight to Kobuk Valley

It’s a foggy morning in Kotzebue, and that does not bode well for our bush flight into Kobuk Valley. We are having to wait around to see when or if the weather is going to clear up. I’m hoping to get out of here and land in Kobuk Valley sometime today. We’ll be staying there for 2 nights, followed by another 2 nights at Gates of the Arctic. That is, if the weather cooperates. Such is life in Alaska.

Cape Krusenstern

After waking up a 4 AM, and catching a flight from Anchorage to Kotzebue (crossing the Arctic Circle), I met up with my guide and another couple that arrived the previous evening for a day trip out to Cape Krusenstern National Monument. This is a site known for having 200 generations of human habitation, right where the natives crossed over the Bearing Land Bridge. It’s just north of Kotzebue and is just a short 30 minute bush flight over.

We saw some musk oxen from the air, and evidence of bears along the beach. We landed near the Anigaaq Ranger Station, and walked around that area for several hours. The scenery isn’t as incredible here as what I’m going to see later in the week, but it was nice to be able to see the Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean).

(Above: Bear Paw prints & scat)

The coolest thing I saw was a whale bone frame from a house from many years ago. Part of it was still intact, but slowly rotting away.

First Day in Alaska – Kenai Fjords National Park

After a very long day of flying to Anchorage, with a beautiful 2.5 hour drive down to Seward, I finally got to relax on board a tour boat into Kenai Fjords National Park.

This was about a 7 hour tour, starting from Seward, and going to the Holbrook Glacier, with some whale spotting on the way back. I did this about 10 years ago, and things seemed to be a little different this time. For starters, I saw a lot less wildlife. It seemed before that there were many otters and sea lions everywhere, but this time I only saw a few. Perhaps, it was just a different time of year.

It was nice to be out in some cooler weather at least. The highs were in the upper 50s and it was partly sunny, so no complaints about the weather!

The low point of my park visit was to the Exit Glacier. This is a glacier, accessible via road, just outside the town of Seward. You can hike up to it and see it up close. I went here 10 years ago, and couldn’t believe the change. The last time I was here it, seemed so massive and you could go right up to it. Now, it’s small, and hundreds of yards further back. There are signs showing where the extent was every 5 years. This pic is taken where the extent would have been roughly around 2007.

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog for my travels to the U.S. National Parks. Stay tuned for some spectacular posts for later this year as I finish up the last 5 and hopefully revisit some more. I’ve saved some of the best for last!