Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fall comes to the Matsu.

A few days ago I went back to Goose Creek where my friend Dan is building a cabin. Fall was in it's prime colors, and I enjoyed photographing the scenery while Dan worked on his cabin. There are a few of those photos here, plus some other Autumn photos taken in past years in other parts of the Matsu Valley.
The Matsu Valley is not really a valley, it's the name of a large area that surrounds the Matanuska, and Susitna River valleys. This is Sarah Palin country. I'm not very political myself. I get too cynical with politics, and I dont like that. The Matsu Valley starts about 30 miles, northeast of Anchorage, and stretches for many miles into interior Alaska.

The road to Goose Creek. I saw a Goshawk nearby that day, but it would'nt stick around for a photo.
Typical Fall scenery.

Highbush Cranberry leaves.

Mushrooms stacked on top of one another with spider webs.

More mushrooms, taken earlier in the season.

The creek still had plenty of rotting salmon.

Stinking Salmon and fallen leaves.

This photo is full of forboding, warning of the coming winter. It's a photo of the water with trees and clouds in reflection. The actual sky was not nearly so dramatic, it turned into a sunny day. This is my favorite photo of the day. I shot 160 photos at Goose Creek that day.

This photo was taken last year on the Knik River.

Another photo of the Knik River. The dusting of snow on the mountains is called Termination Dust. It signals the end of summer. People like me dread the appearance of Termination Dust. Others welcome the snow because they love winter sports.

Black Cottonwoods and a small creek along the river bottom. Black Cottonwoods are the largest trees in Southcentral Alaska.

A tributary of the Knik Rive

Notice the swans on this pond near the river.

The Matanuska River near the town of Palmer. The mountains are part of the Chugach Mountains.

Many miles upriver from Palmer. The river narrows in the canyon next to the Glen Highway.

This is another view of the Matanuska River, just out of Palmer.

The river and King Mountain on the left.

Back on the other side of Palmer, going toward Anchorage. These are the Palmer Hay Flats with Pioneer Peak, and Goat Mountain in the background.
Palmer Hay Flats are an important stopover for migrating waterfowl. Many of them stay, and breed here. These are Sandhill Cranes, and a few Mew Gulls.

Palmer is a good place to see Lesser Sandhill Cranes. They are easily seen in fields around town in Spring, and Fall.

The Matanuska River, and Pioneer Peak. Dramatic Pioneer Peak looms over the town and even blocks the winter sun from parts of Palmer. The small hill in front of the mountain is called The Butte.

A farm house near Pioneer Peak. Palmer has the best farmland in Alaska.

The Parks Highway and Mount Mckinley. The Great One looms over all in the Matsu.

Most of the homes along the Parks Highway are vacation homes, but many people live full time, scattered in the forest. Winters here are brutal in my opinion. Many people love the lifestyle. I wonder about their sanity.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Day on the River.

On Saturday, September 5th, I spent the day canoeing down the North Fork of Eagle River with my good friends, Sandy and Bart Quimby. The day was unseasonably warm for Alaska. It was a perfect day.

The Eagle River Valley at the base of the Chugach Mountains. There are homes on the side where I took this photo, all along this part of the river. Thankfully they are not on both sides of the river. I hope it always stays that way.
This is the view looking upriver from the Eagle River Nature Center, with Eagle Peak, and Polar Bear Peak, and it's hanging glacier in the distance.

At the North Fork, canoes and rafts put into the water in this side slough.

Parts of the slough are very shallow. Bart and Sandy did all the work on this trip. I just went along for the ride

Fall colors are just starting on the hillsides. The leaves turn yellow up high, and work downhill. These hills are covered in snow most of the year.
Most Belted Kingfishers are too wary to pose for a photo. All my previous photos of them were merely distant specks. I was delighted by how cooperative this kingfisher was.

We stopped to rest at the confluence of the North, and South Forks of the river.

We had a nice lunch. Here Sandy pauses for a photo.

After lunch, it was nap time in the sunshine.

We had a leaky, aluminum canoe. Somehow this little Sculpin got into the bottom of the canoe. It got released back into the river several miles downstream.

The river's namesake, a Bald Eagle. The first year I canoed the river, I neglected to bring a camera. I was in the front of the canoe, my nephew Danny and his wife were in the back and middle respectively. I saw a Bald Eagle perched on a sweeper about five feet ubove the river. I aimed the canoe directly at the eagle to see how close it would allow us to approach. We passed directly beneath it, and it never flew. We could have reached up to grab it, if we had been insane.
This is another view of our lunch stop.

Highbush Cranberries. Too tart to eat raw.

Thare's bears in them thare hills. We saw numerous bear tracks, along with other animals, all along the riverbanks.

Sandy compares her hand to the bear's paw.

This was by far the biggest bear footprint I have ever come across. This is for real. Bigfoot has nothing on this bearpaw.

Bart checks out a spawned out salmon that swam up to the canoe upside down.

Still alive, but it's white as a ghost. These salmon are what draws the bears. It is incredible how you can find the wilderness right on the outskirts of town. There are some places where developers have built homes and condos much too close to the river. Many bears have been unjustly shot because the city father's failed to create a wildlife corridor along the entire length of the river. Thank goodness there is still a lot of good habitat along most of the river.