Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

I would like to emphasize the importance of a travel and photo log in Alaska. For instance, had I kept a log during all of my road trips around the state, I would not be spending hours trying to label photographs from six years ago. Or even two years ago.  In an effort to help my husband with his flickr account, I've been uploading hundreds of pictures that have been sitting idle on a hard drive for years. Though I've taken some of the routes we've traveled numerous times, I am finding it difficult to recall which mountain is which in my husband's photos.  I've spent an hour on a hunch and thought for sure I had a glacier labeled correctly.  Then while researching another glacier, I discover I did not in fact label that previous glacier correctly.  I am currently in denial that I won't be able to identify every mountain or glacier in the pictures.

There are always particular mountains or landmarks for which we may stop for pictures on every single trip.  Some of these places are: Matanuska Glacier on the Glenn Highway, Denali viewpoints on the Parks Highway, Willow Lake on the Richardson for the Wrangells, Worthington Glacier and Keystone Canyon waterfalls near Valdez.  Different trips bring different weather and different light. However, there are a lot of other scenic viewpoints that may provide a striking photo op and we are compelled to pull over and snap away.  We may have ignored these viewpoints on all but one trip because the weather obscured the view.  This makes it easy to pass by a mountain fifty times and never see it.  So I can't be blamed for being unable to recall which glacier or mountain peak my husband photographed the one time we saw it unobscured.
Matanuska Glacier in the Fall
Matanuska Glacier in the Summer
I am still trying to figure out the best way to log photos as we take them.  One way that may work for me is to place a bookmark in a book called "The Milepost" and use the bookmark to write a note every time we take a photo. The Milepost is a wonderful resource for anyone driving Alaska.  Every scenic viewpoint and its milepost are listed for every highway, and special sections are included for towns. Most of the time you will know what you are taking a picture of if you are keeping track of your journey in the milepost and making a note when you take the picture.  I'm kicking myself now for not doing this sooner.  I had too much confidence in my knowledge of Alaska mountains and thought I was actually capable of remembering the one time we took a picture of Gulkana Glacier.

I'm also meticulous in my picture identification research and ignore most websites unless they are official.  I read a lot of reports available online from the USGS or NPS and also any leads a chamber of commerce website may provide.  At one point I read through twenty pages of a Wrangell-St. Elias glacier survey that included the surveys from the late 1800's to 2000 just so I could ID one glacier.  I use google earth to check routes and viewpoints but I don't use publicly posted photos.  These are usually mislabeled or misplaced. It's amazing how many people visit Alaska and think they got a picture of Denali.  Newsflash- you didn't. You didn't even see it, let alone get a picture. I've sat at Denali viewpoints on cloudy days and amused myself by eavesdropping on tourists. I watch them as they snap their pictures and say they think they got a shot of McKinley.  A little tip for people who think they are taking photos of Denali: If you "think" it's Denali, it isn't.  There is no comparison.  It's stunning, breathtaking and magnificent.  The only thing out of your mouth when you really truly see McKinley is a gasp of wonder.
Wrangell Mountain viewpoint at Willow Lake.  Only 12.011' Mt. Drum is visible.  Mt. Sanford and Mt. Wrangell have clouded themselves over.

Wrangell Mountain viewpoint at Willow Lake.  A large cloud grows upwards as 16,237' Mt. Sanford and 14,163' Mt. Wrangell obscure the entire mountain range with their own weather system on a clear day. 

Many people perhaps don't realize their photos of the state are being used for identification methods by others online.  It's important to be accurate for this reason when posting online.  We may be able to expand our knowledge of the state if photographers accurately document their pictures.  And for goodness' sake, please stop labeling "little" mountains as Denali.  Especially when the mountain in question is part of an entirely different mountain range.  I've had someone ask me if they are looking at Denali (Alaska Range) while standing directly in front of an informational sign that says "Wrangell Mountains."  The only mountain in this range which was visible at the time was 12,011' Mt. Drum.

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