Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 4

July 12th, 2010 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

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 3.”)

Part Four: Ketchikan to Wrangell, Alaska

Forest of Snags, Chichagof Island, Alaska, 1971 by Philip Hyde.

June 24, 1971: I woke up at 7 am and announced sunshine, our first since Victoria six days ago. Philip broke out his 4X5 for the first time on the trip and headed out towards Ward Lake on the nature trail. He was happy to get the ground dogwood on 4X5. From there we retraced our route, stopping at the Lilly Pad lakes for a photograph with the mountain background reflected. Back to town for food shopping while David and Philip scrambled along the rocks of the rip-rap.  Drove up the hill to a small community college where the Bald Eagles were abundant. Went to the Ferry landing to check in at 12 noon.

(Note: The photographs mentioned have not yet been drum scanned for fine are digital printing or to appear here or on the Philip Hyde website.)

We had a long wait before boarding. Finally we drove onto the Ferry but it didn’t get underway until about 3:15 pm. Skies were still clear with clouds in streaks across the heavens but not in the way of the brilliant sun. The ferry this time was called the Matanuska, smaller than the Wickersham and easy to find our way around in with a central stairwell next to which the camper was parked. The ferry was late starting and late to arrive in Wrangell, Alaska. David found a boy his age to play paper airplane with. While I took a pay shower, Philip made 2 ¼ pictures of the route. Totem Bight Park was visible in the distance.

The scenery became more interesting as we entered Stikine Strait. As we approached Chichagof Pass, part of Wrangell was visible with the highest mountains yet, visible on the skyline. Some were smooth white domes of snow. One in particular was a jagged rock crest, probably Castle Mountain. We rounded Wronski Island and the mountains almost ringed the horizon in nearly every direction, with their splendid white summits. It was beginning to really look like Alaska. Philip took a 120 photograph of Boundary Peaks.

After docking around 8:45 pm, we backed off of the Ferry among the first. The light was low and mellow and it was warm and beautiful as we drove off. Philip made the first photograph at Shakes Island. His composition contained another Indian Ceremonial House surrounded by flowering trees and Totem poles. At low tide then, mud flats surrounded the island. Bright fishing boats crowded the harbor docks. The town seems tiny with many older frame houses retaining some degree of charm. Heavy moss grew on some shingle roofs. Totem poles erected here and there around town. New looking Stikine Lodge on filled ground at the water’s edge. Two lumber mills operating in town and another south of town. Proceeded out south to Pat Creek Campground. Houses occasionally all the way, forests cleared on the water side, logging stumps on the other. Not much hint of wilderness left.

June 25, 1971: We woke up late at 7:45 am. Rain again after only one day of sunshine. The gloomy skies lifted by 1:30 pm, though. We spent the morning leisurely doing chores, Philip packing film to mail, David building a Lego chainsaw and logging. Then he changed to being captain of the Wickersham with his raincoat and billed hat on, passing out “waterproof tickets” that were pieces of his raincoat material found in his pocket. We had popcorn and hot chocolate for lunch. After pulling out of this logged-over Forest Service Campground, we stopped at the roadside to look at tiny flowers. Philip made close-ups with his 35 mm camera of a heather-like plant, lichen, fern fronds, and other ground cover. We made more stops on the route back to town. David was asleep and the rain stopped. Then we stopped at the water’s edge where the forest curtain is still intact. We walked out on the beach to discover it was very different from Ketchikan. Here large boulders of fine grain granite are imbedded in a ground of small rounded rocks that are white, grey and dark slate. At this spot Philip took pictures of the beach rocks and their backdrop of forest, which is an abrupt wall that begins at the high tide mark. At the next picture stop, Philip caught some light, wispy waterfalls at the road edge.

A brief stop for groceries in town after we looked in vain for petroglyphs a mile south of the city park as stated in Milepost. No trouble finding the petroglyphs at the north end of town location at the end of the boardwalk. We had help from a neighborhood boy, Lance Koenig, who came up to the car and asked, “May I be of service?” He took us right to the petroglyph rocks. Then he and David had a marvelous time throwing rocks at tin cans they set up on boulders, knocking them into the incoming tide. This tide had covered we didn’t know how many of the petroglyphs, but Philip took photographs of those still out. An old rusty carpenter’s plane was resting on a drift log. David brought it back to the camper and set about at dinner to plane everything around. He was also absorbed in being the captain of a cruise ship, Philip and I being his crew. He got himself all decked out in navy blue jeans, raincoat and Davy’s old ski hat. (Davy refers to David Lee Hyde who was Philip Hyde’s brother and David Leland Hyde’s namesake. He was killed in the Korean War.) After petroglyphs, we drove out airport road as far as we could for more photographs of the dwarf forest with ponds in the foreground and peaks behind. At the Ferry dock we found out we couldn’t board the next Ferry because it was the Wickersham, which was too large to load vehicles at Wrangell. We walked around the docks, put David down, then walked some more. We heard the high school band coming from somewhere. Turned out they were escorting and welcoming the cruise ship Arcadia that was circling the outer harbor because it was too big to land. A very festive and lively scene with assorted small craft maneuvering across the horizon as well. Tried to wake up David but not possible. Philip made more photographs around the breakwater and as we went through a dripping jungle of thimble berries.

June 26, 1971: Glad to see some breaks in the sky and faint sunlight early in the day. Bought a half pound of fresh pink shrimp from the cannery right from the man loading them into cans to be frozen…

CONTINUED IN THE BLOG POST, “Denali National Park, Alaska Travel Log 5.”



  1. Richard Wong says:

    Hey David. The amount of detail in regards to your father’s travels is stunning. It sort of reminds me of how my grandfather used to tell me stories about his life. As much as I’d like to, I’m not sure if I’d be capable of sharing such vivid details to my grandkids some day. Storytelling is an under-appreciated talent.

  2. Hi Richard, thank you for reading. You may recall that this series on Alaska was written by my mother on location, usually the same day or within a day or two of the events or observations. More and more in my reading and listening on CD to memoirs, essays and other non-fiction, I am finding confirmation that keeping journals or logs is how most of the best writers obtain and retain excellent detail. I was also just recently going through some of my photographs, naming and identifying their locations. I was reminded of how Ansel Adams and Minor White taught the students at CSFA to be rigorous about keeping notes on their photographs. Dad and the others had an assigned pre-printed half-page that they were expected to fill out on each photograph. This good habit stayed with Dad his whole career, though he customized the form, and he didn’t always fill out every category. For the most part I live a fast-paced life and make photographs willy-nilly as spotted if there is time. I intend to become more disciplined about carrying a tripod, taking notes, filling in my meta-data and hopefully making photography more of a serious hobby. I could probably do better journaling for writing purposes too. There is just so much to do. It strikes me that those who are able to slow down enough to be mindful of the details are often the most successful in any endeavor. My father had incredible presence, concentration and diligence in chasing details, as did my mother as can be observed in her writings, gardening, putting up of food and household maintenance.

  3. I have been too tied down with the business side of photography lately to really dive into a shoot. Your adventures always inspire me. I so enjoy these entries.


  4. Hi Sharon, thank you for the comment and the compliment to my mother’s great writing, which is quite inspiring on many levels. I understand what you say about being tied down by the business side of photography. That is my life, albeit intentionally, though I would rather just write. Someday, if and when there is enough momentum to hire someone to run the photography business, then I may be able to focus on writing more exclusively. Right now I am on a steep learning curve, enmeshed in planning and development, which will all be in support of the book(s), but is greatly lengthening the process of any book becoming a reality. Well, this is my life and my juggling act. I am really very fortunate to have the choices I do, though if I could do it over again I might have approached differently one of the biggest distractions that I can’t go into here yet.

  5. Pablo Sagaser says:

    I recently came across your blog. I like this series on Alaska. I thought I would leave my first comment.

  6. Hi Pablo, thank you for reading. There will be a lot more on Alaska and other travel logs to come.

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