Posts Tagged ‘Glacier Bay National Park’

Book Review – Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks

April 27th, 2018

Book Review

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong

The Ethics of Protecting and Promoting Our National Parks

Cover of Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks by Q. T. Luong. (Click to view large.)

Americans invented National Parks and in return, National Parks and other wild lands of the new continent shaped Americans. Yet the influence of cities and automobiles has eclipsed that of the national parks in all ways except through our collective imagination and grandest vision of all that makes up an ideal civilization. We must be careful to perpetuate these fragile image ties to our wilderness past, or forever lose our identity as part of nature. Maintaining this vision will also ensure our national parks remain wilderness untrammeled. Otherwise, we lose the piece of our core selves closest to our heart.

The age-old debate still rages over whether to invite more people out to enjoy nature and thus develop a larger fan base, or keep quiet and try to stop people from increasing the wear, tear, vandalism and man-made infrastructure necessary to simultaneously maintain access and protect our national treasures.

“For every place there will always be people that want to exploit it,” my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde said. “And, there will always be people—hopefully—that want to save it and keep it as it is. Even with the risk of inviting the crowds into paradise, better to publish your photographs and rally the troops. What’s in the frame of the photograph matters artistically, to be sure, but what’s outside the frame can destroy it.” Later in life, in the early years of the millennium, after hearing how overrun and trampled certain locations had become, Dad said he still wondered whether his books benefitted or harmed nature.

The Advantages of Large Format Film and of a Well-Written Text

Grand Teton from Schwabacher Landing, Midday, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see large.)

If this best in class large format book, Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks, with text and photography by Quang-Tuan Luong were a film, it would win multiple Academy Awards as one of the best efforts ever for recruiting new national park fans and encouraging old fans to renew themselves through new visits. My impression is that Mr. Luong accomplished such a masterpiece through sheer will, discipline and diligence.

When you open Treasured Lands for the first time you revel in the sublime realism and beauty that can only be achieved by large format film or a $40,000 digital camera rendered through the subtle, well-balanced color palette of a well reproduced photography book. To be fair, Tuan Luong informed me that the photographs in the book were not all made with a large format camera. Nonetheless, they all exhibit large format acumen by the photographer and they all have an unmistakeable large format aesthetic, portraying the full spectrum of nature, rather than nature dressed up only on her best day.

To accompany this colossal collection of effective and moving illustrations, Q. T. Luong wrote a text that flows and delivers just as well as the images. His punchy prose keeps your interest. It is loaded with facts, but not everyday facts, novel, captivating facts, figures and surprising observations that give you the feeling of having smartly and efficiently obtained the essence of each place. Just starting at page one and turning a few pages to the contents showing all the parks, I felt like I had already embarked on an adventure. I was learning, absorbing and celebrating our national heritage. I held in my hands all the parks in one monster volume.

Art, Propaganda and Photograph Location Disclosure

Cannonball and Badlands at Night, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

But is it art? Critics and others might ask. I would say the book itself is a work of art, the photographs are mainly documentary but contain artistic elements, some of them more than others. Some art critics might say the book is propaganda. They might perceive it as a kind of glorified guide book because Luong provides specific directions to each of his compositions in each park. Some art connoisseurs, gallerists and museum curators consider any art that is not solely for the sake of art itself is propaganda. This traces back to critics John Szarkowski and Nancy Newhall, as instigated by Ansel Adams and Beaumont Newhall around the time they co-founded the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ansel Adams in workshops and his student and teaching associate Philip Hyde in a number of places, both in writing and in interviews spoke against giving directions to image locations. Both photography mentors felt the practice inhibited student resourcefulness and creativity, as well as hobbling the development of individual vision. I usually tend to agree with Dad and Ansel and believe these details are a flaw in Treasured Lands.

However, times have changed and photography in many cases is self-taught or no longer taught with the same rigor. Many photographers today find location specifics an asset and have praised Treasured Lands most of all for this reason. Either way, still today the best guidebooks offer suggestions and ideas, but do not give exact specifics. Nonetheless, even for purists like me, Luong somehow gets away with providing specific directions because the sheer scope of his undertaking and achievement force us to take him seriously as more than a mere tour guide. To go with the directions, I would have liked to see an outdoor ethics statement, or the Leave No Trace Principles. However, between the photographs and text, Luong portrays and describes these natural places with such reverence and admiration that his readers will hopefully take on at least some of his tone and outlook, which will hopefully cause them to treat our amazing national treasures with respect.

With new adventures on every page turn, my resistance to location disclosure fell away almost immediately under the sheer power of what I was seeing and reading. Unfortunately, I did find the maps a bit hard to read due to their tiny type font. However, I enjoyed reading how to reach a smattering of the photo locations. Meanwhile for the most part I became caught up in reading other content, which while obviously extensive and geologically rich, came accessibly served up in one to two page bytes. These are rewarding and satisfying because each section acts in part like a mini-tour of the park it covers. The text is well thought out, well-organized, captivating, diverse and packed with actionable instructions and tips to make your travels more enjoyable and photographically productive.

The Many Reasons Treasured Lands Is Not Propaganda

Haleakala Crater from White Hill, Midday, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Regardless, I have other reasons not to dismiss Treasured Lands as mere propaganda. At face value, rather than feeling commercially viable at all, Treasured Lands feels so heavy in weight, so chock full of striking imagery and so bulging with smart information that once you have it in your hands you feel that you have made a great deal to have it for under $100. The publisher’s retail is $65 for an autographed copy from TreasuredLandsBooks.com. Currently you can even get it for as little as $44.19 with free shipping from Amazon.

Large two-page evening panoramas sprinkled across the pages bring the parks depicted into vivid awareness while taking us partially into abstraction with the extreme light and shadows of dusk. Sweeping vistas throughout the book give a sense of place and overwhelm us with the vastness and remoteness of wilderness. Luong visited many of the parks multiple times, which translates to years of hard work, days and nights of grinding travel in all conveyances and over all manner of terrain, which also translates into daunting logistics and planning.

By no means did Q. T. Luong make the expected photographs of each or even many of the national parks. In Lassen Volcanic National Park, as one example of many, he skipped the most popular views, especially of the mountain, but with the exquisite detail and texture of large format film he captured frames that showed the character of the park just as well without being cliché. In discussions with other photographers, I found most of them said that the book has a good balance between more innovative images and what some might call “the obvious shots” that are all but required to identify certain landmarks in some parks. Besides, in the visual arts people are drawn to at least a nuance, if not a good amount of familiarity, as Atlantic editor Derek Thompson points out in his book, Hit Makers. Hits are made from images that look new, but also remind us of other images before in some way.

Some of the Best Illustrative Landscape Photographs Ever Made

Cove of Arches and Cove Arch at night. Arches National Park, Utah by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Speaking of hits, in some of the national parks, Luong managed to make what I consider some of the best photographs ever made of certain areas. This was true in a number of unexpected places such as in Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite, where Luong shows us the only photograph I have ever seen that lives up to the early 1900s Bureau of Reclamation vision of what the reservoir would look like, as sold to the American public. Pinnacles National Park is challenging to photograph. Perhaps his many visits enabled Luong to do something extra special there by knowing the most striking compositions and capitalizing on the best possible light. In the Sierra, he photographed snow caked on Giant Sequoia trunks, but did it better than it has been done before, with more majesty and more mood. I love Luong’s photograph of Alabama Hills. It is more about the Sierra Crest and the terrain, than any gimmicky cliché pseudo-arch foreground window framing the distant peaks. Luong omits the Merced River altogether in Yosemite, except in the higher elevation roaring cascades below Vernal Falls.

The differences between documentary and art photography are blurring anyway, but Luong is perhaps one of those who push the two definitions inward toward each other. His photographs for Treasured Lands overall are documentary, but even the most representational and least creative works are artistically strong and well seen from a design perspective with luscious forms and beautiful lines. It is quite evident that Luong has studied the great works of photography and art and applied what he has observed. Documentary, almost standard issue images that essentially say, “Ok, here we are at Joshua Tree,” are the best working basis for a large book on all of the national parks. However, Luong keeps his book fresh by mixing in nighttime photographs, ridge silhouettes, a few wildly tilted horizons and other Pictorialist effects such as slow shutter speeds for silky water, movement blurs and wind blurs. Luong also puts in the extra effort and expense to provide variety in other ways by getting up in airplanes, scaling mountain peaks, climbing walls, swimming underwater, chartering various boats horses, burros and other unusual transportation. Meanwhile, he also mixes in enough expected imagery such as the lava dripping into the ocean in Hawaii, Tunnel View from Yosemite, the Teton Barn, Mt. Denali and Wonder Lake and the circular petroglyphs on Signal Hill near the Tucson Mountains in Saguaro National Park.

Realism, Hard Work, Diligence, Feedback, Revisions and Quality

Margerie Glacier from Tarr Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

Another significant reason large format film was the ideal medium for this national parks project lies in how the high fidelity gives reflections, textures and details a much more interesting and realistic look. With large format, a nature photographer can go after and make ordinary objects extraordinary. The resulting photographs also work better when they contain flaws and extra grit, rather than having to be sterilized by over retouching in Photoshop. For example: I love that Luong left the house in his Zion photograph of Towers of the Virgin. Many digital photographers take it out of their images of this iconic location. The large format color is also so lush and true without any false-rendering of tones or over-saturation.

Part of what lifted up the text and images to far above average, was the amount of advice and feedback Quang-Tuan Luong asked for along the way. He was wise to get Gary Crabbe to help him edit the photographs and to get advice from many other experts at each stage in the production process. The first time Tuan and I met in San Jose, he asked me for ideas on how he could come out with yet another national parks book and make it different from any that had been done before. This was a smart question to ask about such a book and a good place to start in attracting my interest and participation. My first answer was that we do not need another book on the national parks. However, as I began to think about how Tuan opened himself up to input and ideas, I felt I had to offer more. Besides, when he asked me about making it a guidebook for photographers as well as a picture book for everyone else, I told him I did not like guidebooks. Some help I was. Yet he patiently and gently persisted in asking more questions and asking me to read some of his text. I agreed to do so, somewhat reluctantly. It took me a long time to offer much feedback, but as I began to, I saw that Tuan had put a great deal of thought and effort into the project, the text no less than the photography. As the book took shape and began to emerge from the realm of ideas, the quiet strength of what he was doing became evident. Let this be a word of caution to all aspiring creative people out there: never give up on what you love or on your big idea just because it has been done before. Do it better. Q. T. Luong certainly did and the world and the field are far richer for it. However, he did it not by force of will or ego, but through good listening. Remember that too, above all else. He also did it with kindness and generosity. My copy of Treasured Lands is the limited edition version that Tuan personally sent me. He numbered it by hand 77 of 150, signed it and wrote me a personal note. How cool is that?

A Tribute to the American Land, the Art of Place and Our National Heritage That Will Live On

Cypress trees Reflected in Cedar Creek from Canoe, Congaree National Park, South Carolina by Q. T. Luong from Treasured Lands. (Click to see Large.)

It may be due to the large format camera, or perhaps Luong and his sensibilities, or all three, regardless an outstanding sense of place permeates every page of Treasured Lands. Many are close behind, but the national park depictions deserving the most recognition in establishing place in my opinion are Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Great Sand Dunes, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala and Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, Luong includes Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and a fairly unique framing of Yellowstone Falls, but also shows us many locations with which we are not familiar. In Death Valley, Luong gives us perhaps more of the usual images than in other places, but the additional images show us so much more as to render the place very well overall. Luong exhibits a certain flair for Alaska as his images in each of the parks there for the most part are both unexpected and extraordinary in the lexicon of all landscape photographs.

Q. T. Luong’s massive work consists of not so much a single unity of style, but of several style themes that run throughout the book. This cohesiveness is quite an accomplishment for a project that took so many years to complete. With all of the elements that went into making the book creating a synergy that lifts it above other work in the genre, it also transcends its minor shortcomings, or perceived structural flaws that we readers bring to it based on our own biases.

The sheer volume of work, in and of itself is impressive, but the consistent quality and exemplary execution make Treasured Lands a truly monumental achievement. Even as the son of Philip Hyde, or perhaps especially as the son of Philip Hyde, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Treasured Lands is one of the greatest large format landscape photography books ever published. It will live on and influence photographers for years and perhaps even generations to come. These statements, considering what has been accomplished in the genre before, hopefully transcend anything else I could say, or have said above, whether critical or supportive.

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 11

March 28th, 2011

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 10.”)

Part Eleven: Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Monument to Juneau, Alaska

Party Ashore, Boats Moored, Teacup Harbor, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde.

Monday, July 5, 1971: Sunny today. We will take a cruise to Plateau Glacier. We are up at 7 am and in a mad hurry to get packed and to the tour boat by 8:15 am. The tour boat had 29 aboard including crew of three plus National Park Service personnel of two. The surface of Glacier Bay is glassy and smooth. The Fairweather Range was out of the clouds. There was some low fog in the southern bay burning away fast. First point of interest was the marble islands, small rounded glaciated domes mid channel with low shrubby growth. Heavy concentration of nesting birds, gulls, pigeons, guillamats, Pelagic Cormorants, Tufted Puffin, Common Murre, Murrelets, Arctic Terns. We could see the cormorant nests in the rock crevice. We proceed into Muir Inlet but were turned back by the density of ice floating. We turned up Wachusetts Inlet. Wachusetts Inlet had much ice in it too but we proceeded thru with ice bergs bumping against the side occasionally.

The day continued dazzlingly clear and bright. The ice bergs were beautiful pastel shades of blue against the sparkling milky blue water. We saw some Eiderducks, showy black and white. We made it all the way to Plateau Glacier by lunch time. We ate the lunch provided by the cruise company for $3.00 plus the $25.00 cruise fare for each of us. Ice bergs as big as houses appear to be grounded underwater somewhere. The sunny side of the house sized ice bergs is pitted revealing the clear blue ice base. Arctic Terns are abundant, flying and feeding along the base of the glacier. I looked over the rail of the boat and saw the water teeming with tiny shrimp (krill?) Arctic Terns were also riding on small ice bergs around Wachusetts Inlet.

The cruise captain cut the motor and we floated in front of the glacier and up to the Arctic Terns. With the sunny and warm day, it was noticeably colder in proximity to the glacier. On our way out of Wachusetts Inlet we passed a patch of larger house sized ice bergs. One huge ice berg had a Golden Eagle perched on top. The cruise boat pulled near shore opposite Goose Cove to let Chuck Cox and his wife off in a rowboat. They would row ashore to be picked up by their Park Ranger friend who would take them to their tent raft in Goose Cove. Nearby we saw a cluster of Harlequin Ducks. More breeze on return trip but still a very mild day. David napped and was totally absorbed sitting in the pilot house across from the captain. He had a wooden microphone, wore the binoculars and made announcements to all. We passed close to an Eagle’s Nest in a cottonwood. An Adult Golden Eagle was visible on the nest.

As Mount Fairweather came into view again it was still absolutely clear, no cirrus that day, a few cumulous clouds over the Chilkat Range was all. Turned out to be the most perfect day possible for the cruise. As we approached the Marble Islands again a small rock was sticking out of the water because of low tide. The rock, covered with rock weed, also hosted at least eight seals basking in the sun. As we approached, they slid into the water. A whale had been sighted earlier but I didn’t get to see it. We all did see several porpoises however. On Marble Island we saw numerous birds. If only we could stick around…

I couldn’t identify bird species quickly enough. So I took the word of the Park Ranger, which was sometimes incomplete. A few of the bird species we saw for sure were:

+ Pelagic Cormorant

+ Canada Goose

+ Tufted Puffin

+ Common Murre

+ Murrelets

+ Arctic Terns

+ Harlequin Ducks

+ Glaucous Gulls

While chasing a whale that we never found, the choppy water and wind combined to make us late getting back to Bartlett Cove. Before we landed we found there were five others who wanted to have dinner at The Gustavus Inn. One of them was a friend of Sally and Jack Lesh who run Gustavus Inn. Sally Lesh said she would call for all of us from the Glacier Bay Lodge. This she did. Sally arranged everything including transportation to Gustavus Inn.  Jack Lesh appeared in a short while with his Volkswagen Bus. We all piled in leaving Bartlett Cove. The Gustavus Inn more than lived up to its advance recommendations. The Leshs were very hospitable and their table was bountiful in a truly home cooked family style dinner with Roast Beef, Halibut, potatoes, white radishes, spinach and lettuce salad from their garden, plus string beans and hollandaise, homemade bread, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. For dessert they served berry Danish , grasshopper pie and Governor Miller Pie. I had a small piece of each pie. Delish! The atmosphere of a country ranch house and friendliness of the Leshes all added up to a delightful experience, more than just a dinner for $6.00 a piece.

The only flaw in our trip to Gustavus Inn was our need to hurry to catch the plane, which we did. This time we traveled on a Grumman Goose. Though it is a sea plane, we took off and landed on wheels. This made our third type of plane we had traveled in during our visit to Glacier Bay. Philip, David and I returned to Juneau feeling we had a wonderful experience. We were glad we did it regardless of cost, which was plenty. Our return flight to Juneau was over a land route more than over water as had been the Twin Otter. We flew very close to the mountains. Close enough to see goats and the three glaciers to the north of Juneau. We landed about 8:20 pm and drove right to the Mendenhall Glacier campground. We sorted all of our stuff and tidied up before going to bed. Philip took a shower. It was a nice campground with private parking slots in dense foliage.

Continued in the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 12.”

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 9

January 12th, 2011

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 8.”)

Part Nine: Layover at Reid Inlet, Glacier Bay National Monument

 

Rocky Promontory, Early Morning, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde.

Friday, July 2, 1971: We heard the patter of rain all night and it was still raining when we left the tent late, Philip at 8:00 am and David and I at 9:00 am. Philip and I built a fire in the cabin, which heated up fast. We sat at the tiny table by the window for breakfast. Then with all of our rain suits over warm undergarments we started out for Reid Glacier at the upper end of Reid Inlet, following the water’s edge.

The going was very slow and painful to rubber booted feet over loose rocks and through runoff streams. At each crossing, David wanted to step in the deepest water. We went back to our system of ferrying him across to prevent him doing this and getting his feet soaked. The rock weed showed up brilliant orange as the tide receded. Stranded icebergs made good photographic subjects. Philip had his 4X5 view camera, I carried his 35 mm. It took 2 ½ hours to from 11 am to 1:30 pm to reach the high domed point of land near the glacier where we stopped for lunch. We saw a National Geographic Society marker here with a note that Reid Glacier is under study. Diane and Dave Bohne’s names were in the register. Looking toward the mouth of Reid Inlet, we saw a small craft in Glacier Bay nearing the inlet. We guessed it to be a National Park Service patrol boat. They didn’t land or pay any attention to our waving or signals. After just entering Reid Inlet, they headed back out again.

After lunch we walked right up to the glacier face and above it on a snow slope. It rained off and on all day. The cloud ceiling was very low and we never heard a single airplane go over. We turned back for the long walk home. We had to eat dinner inside the cabin tonight, as the rain was too frequent to eat outside. After dinner David went right to bed. I walked around bird watching. I made my way out to the water where I could identify Harlequin ducks. On my way back the gulls swooped on my. It is an intimidating experience. They give a fierce war cry as they dive very close. Suddenly I was being sprayed with a thin water jet from behind. To my surprise it was a gull shooting the water stream at me and hitting a bullseye. While Philip wiped off the water, I spotted the perpetrating female gull on her nest not too far from where I had been. David had talked about this happening to him the first day we were here, but we thought he was making it up. The rain increased again and we retreated to bed. It rained off and on during the night.

Saturday, July 3, 1971: There was no rain in the morning. So we got up earlier. We had breakfast in the cabin and finished by 9 am. It was time for me to write in the travel log. David played nearby and Philip took off with his 4X5 view camera up the side hill of the inlet after the views. Before Philip set off, we all watched the Mariposa steam past Reid Inlet toward Johns Hopkins Inlet. The Mariposa looked unusually large out on the water from water level. Two hours and 40 minutes later we watched it return. By then we had climbed above the side wall above and the ship looked much smaller from there. Philip went on about an hour ahead of David and I, to photograph with his 4X5 view camera up on the first step I described in an earlier log entry. David and I followed after eating some lunch and brought Philip his. We found him up the slope from the first step, surrounded by budding willows. As we climbed a little fledging chick came tumbling down across our path, while the mother Fox Sparrow fluttered nearby. David and I napped and waited for Philip. As we all descended David flushed another Fox Sparrow on her nest of eggs. The weather and visibility were improving. There was no question that Guildersleeve, our pilot, would be able to come for us as planned. We had an early dinner, our last in the cabin, struck the tent and were all ready to leave.

Our pilot showed up right on time. We decided with the cloud ceiling as high as it was that we would take some extra flying time to see more of Glacier Bay. Anticipating to see where this might be, we were delayed by the need to make two trips to bring all our duffel to the plane. Philip made a photograph of David there before we left. We flew over Johns Hopkins Glacier, Lamplugh Glacier and a number of others.

As we arrived back at the lodge dock, the sun began to shine in this area as it had in some others on our flight. At first the sun was faint, but it came on stronger until we had a real sunset with colors and a show that continued for several hours. We made the long haul from the dock to the campground down the beach about ¾ mile. The space for a tent was in the bordering spruce forest on moss. The National Park Service provided a bear proof box hoisted by pulley into the trees. It was not only provided, but apparently needed as we saw fresh bear tracks on the road. There was a kitchen and fireplace in an open space just outside the forest and above the beach.

We raised the tent and put David to bed. We walked to the Inn and visited until 11 pm. I had to shade my eyes from the sunset glare pouring in the windows. Our conversation was with Robert Howe, Park Superintendent and Howard Freiss, the Hotel Manager. We met Jack Calvin with his party of 10 Sierra Club group on two boat trips in the area and to the South to Chichagoff Island, a proposed wilderness area. We went to bed around midnight. We realized we did not bring a flashlight on this part of the trip, but we never missed it.

Birds Seen At Reid Inlet:

Oyster Catcher
Canada Geese
Harlequin duck
White winged Scoter
Semipalmated Plover
Herring Gull – nesting
Herring Tern – young and adults
Golden Crowned Sparrow
Fox Sparrow – with fledgling and another on a nest of four eggs
Snow Bunting
Barn Swallows on nests
Black Guillemot
Yellow Warbler

Book: Wild Flowers of Alaska by Christine Heller

Flowers at Reid Inlet:

Dryas Drummondi
Roses
Soapberry
Russet shrub leafing out

Continued in the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 10.”

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 8

December 8th, 2010

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 7.”)

Part Eight: Juneau to Glacier Bay National Monument (now National Park) and Reid Inlet

Looking Back At Johns Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde. This boat ride to Johns Hopkins Inlet will be featured in a future blog post. It comes up a little later on the same Alaska trip.

Thursday, July 1, 1971: Our alarm went off at 5:45 am. We had to get up in time to catch the 7:00 am Alaska Air Lines Twin Otter prop jet at the Juneau Municipal Airport where we had spent the night. We took our duffel and chute bag full of camping gear over at 6:30 am, ate a hurried breakfast and walked on the plane about 2 minutes before 7:00 am. Our prop jet flew nice and low, only about 2,000-3,000 feet up. In just 20 minutes we came in on an old military runway at Gustavus Airport on Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

The Glacier Bay Lodge van took us into Bartlett Cove where National Park Superintendent Howe greeted us. Philip and the Superintendent talked while David and I walked around. We were waiting for Mr. Guildersleeve, our pilot, to fly us to Reid Inlet out on Glacier Bay. David and I explored the interior of Glacier Bay Lodge, bought a wild edible plant book and took the nature trail through the forest of spruce carpeted with moss to Black Pond and out to the Beach near the dock. The spruce tree and moss carpet is distinctive following a glacier in the area, compared to dwarf muskeg forest in older non-glaciated areas. As we drove across the berm on the road into the lodge we crossed the dividing line between older and new forest. Succulent wild flowers flourished around Glacier Bay Lodge: Black lily, budding paintbrush, others, while at the airport there was a carpet of lupin, paintbrush and shooting star. Both the paintbrush and the shooting star were the same shade of magenta. Wintergreen bloomed on the moss carpet along the nature walk. At the beach Nagoonberry was also in magenta bloom and the wild strawberries were blooming too. David and I waited on the dock where two Park Service inboard motor boats were tied up, then we moved over to the beach.

We finally got away about 10:20 am from Bartlett Cove in a small single engine five passenger Cessna float plane. David was very impressed with having two plane rides in one day. We stayed about 1,000 feet above the water, which gave us a good view as the ceiling was not high enough to reveal all the peaks. We were told that this was good weather for Glacier Bay, especially with little or no wind and fair visibility. We could see miles of beautiful wild Glacier Bay shoreline, untouched forests, pond-dotted muskeg, raw glaciated terrain and a few glaciers. Reid Inlet looked the most desolate of all as we came into it. Very few icebergs in the inlet made it easy for Mr. Guildersleeve, our pilot, to set down on the inlet side. Mr. Guildersleeve paddled the pontoons close to shore and jumped across to dry land ferrying our duffel. We stepped ashore, over 40 miles from civilization in one direction and hundreds of miles in the other directions. We were three tiny dots on the glacial moraine, alone in the wilderness for what would be six days. After the float plane took off and its motor sound receded, an immense solitude settled in, except that we were surrounded by birds and their outcry at our invasion of their home. We landed a long way from the cabin and thus had a hauling job over large cobbled gravel “beach,” or more accurately glacial moraine. Large groups of birds whirled and roosted on the scrub covered headlands and water. A group of baby chicks, perhaps they were Tern young, down covered, waddled, careened, bumbled and baubled their way up the shore from us. We hauled our gear into the tumbled down miner’s cabin and set up our tent for sleeping quarters near a shrubby hummock. As it started to sprinkle, we all crawled into our cozy tent for a nap.

When we woke up we explored our glaciated environment. Reid Inlet is short as Glacier Bay inlets go, with Reid Glacier meeting the water at the upper end. The face of the glacier is perhaps two miles from the cabin at the mouth end where Reid Inlet meets Glacier Bay proper. The amount, size and color of the icebergs in our surroundings varied day to day. Sometimes the icebergs were black when they originated from the top and side margins of the glacier. The bluer and whiter icebergs came from deeper in the glacier. We heard the “groaning” of the glacier ice regularly. The tide left many of the icebergs stranded on the beaches. Everywhere there were marks of old beach lines as the land and water rose and fell in relation to the glaciers of the area. Philip Photographed the landing area in the late afternoon.

Most local flair and animation came from the birds which we saw in great variety, on land and sea, and at quite close range. It was nesting season. Terns and seagulls swooped in alarm over us and Semipalmated plovers put on a diversion act. The flora was in its early spring stage, some leafing beginning as well as some flower buds and a variety of willow catkins.

Debris from the previous mining operation included a big barge which David immediately dubbed his “jet.” He had a great time re-enacting his recent flights. We found a stack of peeled and rotting logs and cut up a few lengths for our fire. We ate a Weiner roast dinner outside between rain showers. After dinner we climbed up the steep bank of the inlet wall to the first shelf depression above. We found fascinating flora up there: ground cover of Yellow Dryad in the rose family, which matted over all the plucked rocks of the glaciated surface and made the going much easier. Philip took many 35 mm photographs of the various willow catkins and twisted, dwarfed trunks and branches near bursting with soon to bud new foliage. In the process, he flushed out a ptarmigan. Earlier I had surprised and flushed one or two grouse from a nest on the scrubby headland, revealing a feather lined nest with at least eight eggs in it that were buff color with no speckles. Beautiful small reflection ponds dotted the natural shelf. Philip said he wanted to return up there with his view camera. We descended about 9:30 pm and put David to bed. We did the same ourselves soon as the rain began again. We were snug and warm in our down bags in our little orange tent. We were glad we brought all of the gear we did. After the first day we knew we would need all our warm clothes and rain gear in this windswept wilderness on Glacier Bay.

Continued in the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 9.”

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 7

November 9th, 2010

Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log: June 14-September 14, 1971 by Ardis Hyde

(Ardis, David and Philip Hyde in Their Camper. Continued from the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 6.”)

Part Seven: Petersburg to Juneau

Mendenhall Glacier, Tongass National Forest, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Tuesday, June 29, 1971: The Alaska Ferry Matanuska departed Petersburg, Alaska at 1:00 am. We had all slept in our clothes in the camper, then transferred to the ferry sleeping lounge after boarding. It was hard for David to get back to sleep and he woke up about 5:15 am. I showered at 6:00 am and came out just as we passed a glacier and icebergs could be seen floating in the water. We ate breakfast at 7:00 am in the dining room. David ate his favorite cereal, Wheat Hearts. “Even better than your cereal, Mom,” he said. The young boy we met at the Wrangell Petroglyphs, Lance Koenig, (see the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 4.”) was on the Matanuska going to Juneau, Alaska to see his sister as he said previously. After awhile the amiability between Lance and David wore thin and they were into the hitting tag game.

Heavy overcast turned to rain again. The mountain tops at Juneau were veiled but we could see hints of the precipitous backdrop they provided to the clouds and mist. We were off the ferry and drove into town by 9:45 am. We went first to the ferry office to change our reservation from a two birth cabin to a four birth cabin for the return trip home. We picked up mail at the post office and read it. We ate lunch at the South Aurora Basin where there is also a sanitation station. Took care of that matter after lunch while David napped. Then a haircut for me and gasoline stop. We looked at the Indian Art exhibit on the third floor of the Federal Building, then on to the Alaska State Museum. The Alaska State Museum was displaying a stunning array of beautiful Indian and Eskimo objects on the first floor, which closed at 4:30 pm. I went grocery shopping and we ate dinner. Philip was working on arrangements to go to Glacier Bay. We went back to the Alaska State Museum to see more exhibits on the other floors and attend a wind quartet concert by the group from Westwood, California near home. David was eager and interested at least for the first half. We stayed to hear the second half, letting David wander about the museum. Afterward we drove over the bridge to Douglas Island to the end of the road where there was a parking lot next to a playground.

Wednesday, June 30, 1971: Rain and sun alternating today. In yesterday’s mail, the Kurtzes wrote to tell us they had a dog for us. Pat, Kit and Cornell Kurtz had already named the German Shorthair Pointer dog like their dog Kaiko. They named our dog Pad, short for Philip, Ardis, and David. We didn’t tell David yet of course. Keeping it a surprise for the return.

After breakfast David went out to play on the equipment, especially the swing. When I went over to him and commented on the beauty of the Juneau mountains across the Gastineau Channel, he said, “It’s prettier from the swing.” We drove in to Douglas to call for reservations to go to Glacier Bay tomorrow. Moved on to Glacier Village and the Juneau Airport north of town. I went shopping while Philip and David watched airport activity. Then we followed the road out to Mendenhall Glacier. We looked in at the Visitor’s Center, then after lunch spent the balance of the day after lunch, all around the environs of the glacier. We were often rained on, but the clouds broke up intermittently to let some sun through. It warmed some when the sun came out, but generally cold, around 47 F. degrees. Philip took photographs with the 4X5 view camera under the umbrella and with the 2 1/4 Hasselblad as well. The color of the moss on the mud flats and the blue of the interior glacial ice were the most vivid color features.

When I told David that Mendenhall Glacier was receding, he observed that most of the glaciers we had seen on the ferries were receding and only a few were advancing. He asked if more “of all glaciers” were receding or more advancing. I said more were receding. As usual, he asked why and I explained that scientists didn’t know why yet. All of us enjoyed walking around Mendenhall Lake up close to the face of the ice at the East End. We were thrilled to watch a big chunk break loose and crash into the water. David and I had apple pie up at the coffee shop while Philip photographed. We had roast pork dinner in the camper where we were parked. In the late afternoon we organized gear for the Glacier Bay trip tomorrow…

Continued in the blog post, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 8.”