Archive for the alaska Category

Juneau ice caves

Posted in alaska, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 20, 2014 by polarguide

glacier-3The Mendenhall glacier spills off the Juneau ice field and snakes 12 miles down the Mendenhall valley to the Mendenhall lake, terminating in the back yard of Juneau’s neighborhoods.

Juneau has three glaciers within its city limits. The Eagle, The Herbert and the Mendenhall. All three originate from the Juneau ice field.  This large lake of ice lies east of the city and extends 87 miles north to south and 41 miles east to west covering an area of roughly 1,500 square miles, it is the fifth largest ice field in the western hemisphere and creates an icy border with British Columbia.

The Mendenhall glacier is the most accessible glacier in town with a parking lot and a network of hiking trails, one of which leads to the face of the glacier where you can walk on its atrophied ice terminus. It is the most popular recreation destination in Juneau. In the winter when the lake is frozen it offers ice skating, ice hockey and a three-mile groomed track for skate skiing and cross-country skiing. In the summer the network of hiking trails are popular with tourists and locals alike and the Ice free lake is a great place to kayak.

The Mendenhall river has a small run of sockeye salmon which attract bears. A few  paces from the parking lot gives a visitor one of the most accessible black bear viewing opportunities in the state, as bears wade up and down the small river snagging salmon and devouring them just a few feet from the boardwalk path that winds along the water’s edge.

The glacier has receded quite dramatically over the past few decades and a series of  ice caves have formed as a result of the massive amount of meltwater that flows from beneath the glacier. These caves are among the most beautiful of natural phenomena I have  been fortunate to see. From the parking lot one can hike about 3 miles to the glacier terminus and then walk directly into the glacier.

This weekend Sarah and I decided to kayak to the glacier. We paddled across the lake and landed our kayaks on the lateral moraine then hiked over a thinning tongue of ice and into an ice cave that lead us deep beneath the glacier. I’ll let the photos describe the beauty.



Sarah standing on the lateral edge of the glacier over looking the Mendenhall lake


Me, peering deep in to a “moulan”, NOT the way to get under the glacier


The amazing view underneath the glacier


Sarah cautiously inspecting a curious shape deep inside the ice cave


After our journey to the heart of the glacier we began our hike back to the kayaks. We stopped on a rock outcrop protruding from the ice, ducked out of the wind and treated ourselves to  a bottle of wine with a snack of cheese and pears. Then we enjoyed a sunset paddle back to the parking lot with the wind at our backs. As the wind pushed me along in my kayak I gazed around at the amazing scenery and contemplated my travels over the past year and came to a fantastic realization. Of all the places I have been, from Antarctica to the Arctic, I can honestly say my back yard is just as beautiful and full of adventure and wonder.


post adventure snack

After our paddle we went home, cooked an amazing dinner of wild caught salmon and watched a movie on net-flicks.


New photos of the day

Posted in alaska, photography, Uncategorized with tags , on January 21, 2014 by polarguide

I decided to get outside with my camera again today. side my last post the sun has not shown itself.  We have been hunching under the weight of low clouds and shouldering into the driving rain since christmas.

The wind and rain stopped today and the temperature floated at a balmy 45 degrees.

The tide was high late afternoon so I decided to take the camera to the beach and try to capture some reflections on the water with some motion blur. Here they are:



beach34-2I used a really slow shutter speed to give the ocean a ghostly appearance. I used a cable release but somehow still have motion blur on the still objects so they are all a little soft. Im going to go back out tomorrow and try to do them again. with a even a small amount of sun the water will glow with color but the added light might make a slow shutter speed impossible.


First photos of solstice

Posted in alaska, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 30, 2013 by polarguide

Some days are just not good for photography.  Today was one of those days.

It didn’t start out that way. The morning was cold and crisp with patches of blue sky peeking through the clouds.  Though solstice has passed the sun isn’t rising here until well after 8:30 am,  by 9 o’clock this morning the sun hung low above the Gastineau channel casting a warm orange glow over  the water, the mountains and the cold ice crystal trees. For the first time in months I picked up my camera, dusted it off (literally) and went out side to take some photos.

I walked across the street and snapped this shot of the stairs that lead into Town.  You can see Mt. Jumbo in the upper right hand corner of the frame. It’s only nine thirty in the morning and already the sun is about to duck behind the mountain.


I turned around and took these next two shots of my house and Mt. Juneau that rises up behind the street I live on. The sun was lighting up everything so nicely.


I was inspired.  I went inside and gathered my gear. I put on some warm clothes, gulped my coffee and gobbled some Vension stew for breakfast then headed to the Mendenhall Glacier. Knowing that in just a few hours  that warm winter sun would turn the cold blue ice a fiery orange.

Then the fog rolled in. Just as I arrived at the glacier the sun was struggling through the clouds, lighting up the glacier in a patch work of buttery light and blue shadows. I rushed to get my camera set up, but by the time I was ready the clouds had engulfed the glacier and the surrounding mountains.

I turned my attention to the forest and the streams that run through it, hoping with time the sky would open up.  The scenery was beautiful to the eye, but the grey clouds and lack of light made every photograph dull. I searched for contrasty compositions and interesting shapes, these were the best I could do.


I decided to head back out to the lake and shoot some photos of the glacier in the clouds.  The blues in the glacier become vibrant on cloudy days, I thought maybe I could get some dramatic shots in the fog.

I like the lines in this next photo. How the curve of the snow meeting the frozen lake matches the curve of the glacier flowing down the mountain.


I felt that I needed more contrast and foreground so I backed up and took these next two shots. I think it worked out well, the dark water and trees in the fore ground give the scene more depth  but the lack of light and shadow doesn’t allow anything to pop.



This is one of the last photos I took.  This ice berg is frozen into the middle of the lake in front of the glacier.  I liked the way the angle of the blue ice matched the angle of the gully on the hill side behind  the berg. The blue in the ice really glows against the monochromatic back ground. I waited there a while hoping a cloud would part and a ray of sun would lay some warm light and long shadows across this scene. But it didn’t happen.


Regardless I am thankful for the suns early morning appearance, even though it was short lived. It got me motivated and out of the house with my camera. That hasn’t happened for quite some time. It’s 3:30 pm now and the sky is already dark, the sun long gone.  But it will be back, maybe not tomorrow.  Now that my gear is warmed up I’ll be ready when light is right.

My job

Posted in alaska, antarctica, icebergs, photography, sea kayaking, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2013 by polarguide


I have a unique set of skills that don’t lend themselves to consistent employment.  As a result my life is diverse and adventurous. I can’t always predict what will come next and I like it that way. I flow from one season, one country, one job, to the next. Like the tide rushing in to meet land again, then retreating slowly, floating away every stick or stump that has been ditched on the beach by the tide before, for the sake of memory, then abandoning them again on some other distant shore.

Sometimes it feels very insecure.  I don’t make much money and I travel often. This strains my relationships and sometimes makes finding work more difficult. People are less willing to commit to me personally and professionally because they know within a few months I will be leaving. That lack of commitment goes both ways.

I have been a massage therapist for fifteen years.  Massage makes up at least fifty percent of my annual income.  I have worked at sports clubs, fitness centers and chiropractic offices from philadelphia to Alaska. I’ve done massage while sailing through Beaufort 9 storms on ships in the Norwegian Arctic, through the legendary northwest passage of the Canadian Arctic and Antarctica.  Surprisingly, massage has carried me across the sea to some of the most remote parts of the world.

I have been a wilderness expedition guide for almost as long as I have been a massage therapist. In the summer I guide mainly sea kayak expeditions into remote parts of south east Alaska.  Guiding has allowed me to experience and learn things about the natural world that I always dreamed of as a child and gives me the opportunity to share and teach. It allows me  to follow another one of my passions, wildlife photography.


Paddling below Mt. St. Elias. Wrangell St. Elias national park, Alaska


Wrangell St. Elias national park, Alaska


Me and co-guide Ken with our guests in front of the Guyot glacier.

I recently received my captains license. In between sea kayak expeditions  I captain a thirty foot aluminum boat named Taurus, that acts as a water taxi, delivering people to remote parts of south east Alaska.

The Taurus, loaded with kayaks and ready for a water taxi run.

The Taurus, loaded with kayaks and ready for a water taxi run.

My job working on a ship in Antarctica is the only place where all of my random skills, Massage therapist, kayak guide and boat captain, are unified. I suppose you could say I become complete, in a very narrow sense.

It takes two days for our ship to sail from Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica. During those days at sea I’m the massage therapist on board the ship.  I offer a variety of massage modalities to the passengers to meet their relaxation or pain therapy needs.   Arriving in Antarctica we offer two excursions off the ship each day to view amazing landscapes and exotic wildlife.  Passengers have the option of  going to shore via inflatable zodiac or going on a sea kayak excursion through the icebergs.  On these days I split my time between kayak guiding and zodiac pilot.

The Akademik Ioffee in Antarctica

The Akademik Ioffee in Antarctica


Kayaking through a snow storm in Antarctica


Zodiac cruising among giant ice bergs in Antarctica

Intertwined with all of this work and travel I am slowly building a home.  for years it’s been my dream to buy a piece of land and build a small home, myself.  Paid for out of pocket, no debt.  I have begun to realize that dream, all my spare time and money is dedicated to seeing it become a reality.


I’m feeling the need to consolidate my skills and contain them geographically. This gives me sense of peace and anxiety.  The thought of being less diverse and less mobile is unappealing.  Continuing on my current course seems unsustainable.  I’m at a cross road.

More than once in my life I’ve steered into what felt like a dead end, then navigated ninety degrees from everything and everyone in my life.  Its hard to do, but it has its rewards.    Im not looking for anything that drastic now.  Its time for a change, but not a sea change.

I have never been fully conscious of  exactly what motivates me, only that I am motivated.  My best  perspective of the past is found by exploring where I am today.  The consequence of my motivation is in league with coincidence.

I need to meditate on the genesis of my motivation. Distill all of this experience and crystalize it into what comes next.

Daily post: Too ambitious?

Posted in alaska, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 3, 2013 by polarguide

I decided to take the camera for a walk today.  I wanted to take some shots around Juneau.  I was looking for an excuse to take some photos and write a little something, nothing too exciting.

The sun was out for the first time in a couple weeks so I went for a short hike on the Perseverance trail. The trail begins just a short distance from my house.  The perseverance trail is an old mining road that once led to the perseverance gold mine, it also passes the the old AJ gold mine.


The temperatures dropped last night and we had fresh snow in the mountains and a granular frost covered the cold ground.



I ducked down a small trail off the main trail whereI thought I might get some interesting shots of the river.  I decided to practice some water motion blur photography.  I have always admired good photographs of motion blured water falls but I have never been very good at them. I like this series but I’m not even close to perfecting this technique.

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To fly or not to fly

Posted in alaska, antarctica, bears, guiding, icebergs, photography, Uncategorized, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , on November 1, 2013 by polarguide


I could be on a plane right now.   I could be on a plane flying south.  South to South America, to Uruguay and Argentina and then further south to Antarctica.  But I chose to stay in Alaska for the winter.

Alaska for the winter or Antarctica for the summer.  Or both, simultaneously. I feel indecisive about my decision. I feel like a paradox.

Work is slow, money is tickling in and flowing steadily out.  Heavy grey clouds,  good food and the company of friends make me feel at the same time comforted and discontent.  I have too much time.  My mind is too idle. The days are growing shorter. Lying on the couch, lying in bed, from the tin roof  the slow rain applauds my apathy.

Its the money.  And the work.  The work and the money, That’s what I fret about most.  Work keeps my mind busy, I would work for free if I had money.   I don’t give two shits about money, never have.  I just need to pay the rent and for food, and my teeth.  I broke two last week!

Winter is coming.

Summer is sweet in Alaska, with all its sun and whales and endless work.

Winter is slow and dark, its a vacation from summer.

I like fall best.

The fall wind and rain justify laziness.  Hunting and fishing and friends  I haven’t seen since spring because we were working all summer. Then a blanket of quiet dark lays across the top of the world as winter snuggles in for the season.

Still, It would have been nice to hop on that plane heading south to south america. By now, I would be in Montevideo eating octopus in the mercado del puerto.  A few days more I would be in Ushuaia stuffing my face with asado.

By this time next week I would be a sailor again, rolling over waves and fighting through storms on the drake passage heading to the  worlds most remote continent. I spent a few hours today mulling over my photographs of Alaska and Antarctica, trying to find a common feeling. Trying to somehow make sense of these two polar opposite portions of my life. Trying to find an emotional bridge or a rational connection.  It sounds strange but I couldn’t.  It’s as if I am two different people living one life or vice versa.

I Put together a few of the photographs I took this summer at home in Alaska, and a few from last season in Antarctica.  I chose pictures that were characteristic of each place, from my perspective.







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Large, small scale building projects 2

Posted in alaska, deer hunting, fishing, hunting, photography, sitka deer, travel, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , on October 25, 2013 by polarguide

The summer has ended and heavy sheets of rain have begun falling from the sky.  The strong winds of fall have blown me back to Juneau and I am finally getting to do a little writing.  I was hoping to write more about my building project but during the summer I don’t have electricity or access to the internet and so I wasn’t able to make regular posts.  Also, I was so busy working and trying to build that by the end of the day I was too exhausted to write.

I’m pleased with my progress.  Considering that we still have no road access and I carried nearly every board in on my back,  I am happy with the amount of work I was able to accomplish this past summer.

I completed the foundation, framed the walls, got most of them sheathed with plywood and the roof is on. I was able to get tar paper on the roof and battened down a couple of tarps.  Unless I get a windfall of money sometime soon, the tin roofing material will have to wait until next spring.

Before I button up the the project for the winter, I will have to finish sheathing all the walls with plywood and wrap the entire structure with Tyvek.  I hope to have this done by the first week in november.

Three framed walls

Three framed walls

The foundations took a long time and was alot of work.  Once I carried in all of the wood, the framing was much faster.


Building the loft took one afternoon and the front and back walls went up super fast.




Jeff and Katie enjoying the view from the loft.

My friend Katie helped get the roof on.  When it came time to start the roof construction I was under some pressure to get it done quickly.  The fall rain had arrived and I had to leave town.  I could have constructed the roof alone, but with Katies help it was done in half the time.


In between bouts of building I guided five, ten day sea kayak expeditions into remote parts of south east Alaska, then captained a small water taxi transporting people across the ocean from Gustavus to the remote destinations of their choice.  Now that summer is over and fall has arrived I have moved back to Juneau and will be making weekend visits to Gustavus to weatherize the cabin before the first snow. In the mean time its hunting and fishing to fill the freezer with fresh food from the sea and forest. here are a few photos from our most recent fishing outings for salmon halibut and black cod.

Hunting day turned into a rescue mission when we found this faun swimming the ocean.

Hunting day turned into a rescue mission when we found this faun swimming the ocean.

Cold and near drowning we pulled the little guy out of the frigid ocean and dropped him on the shore of Admiralty Island.

Cold and near drowning we pulled the little guy out of the frigid ocean and dropped him on the shore of Admiralty Island.


Jeffie and a big Halibut


Brocklie and a bucket of salmon


Amanda loves her some Coho salmon


Brock reels in a big black cod!


the big one!