Thursday, June 20, 2013


Galapagos, May 12th - 18th, 2013
Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Espanola & Floreana Islands

In May this year, I joined Geir, Morten and Helge on a 4 day live aboard cruise in the Galapagos.  Geir was checking out the Haugan Cruises catamaran Cormorant for his EcoExpeditions travel company portfolio and the rest of us tagged along for the experience.

Helge, Morten and Geir at the upper deck of the Cormorant.  The catamaran took 16 passengers and had a crew of 10.  Food and service onboard was excellent ... not exactly your typical back packers hostal.
Helge and Geir brought their big "guns".  This is not really necessary for wildlife photography in the Galapagos.  The wildlife is really up close.  All my photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 (above water) and a GoPro Hero 3 Silver (below water).  Here the guys are shooting nesting albatrosses ... each shooting across a trail at an albatross right next to the other guy.  Much of the wildlife is endemic to Galapagos and I have tried to give Wikipedia references for the more interested reader.

Pelican at the Santa Cruz fish market.  These pelicans and numerous sea lions come in with the fishing boats looking for goodies.

Galapagos is famous for the giant Galapagos Tortoise.
This particular tortoise was cooling of in the local mud hole.

Galapagos marine Iguana.

Pink Flamingos.  For some people, seeing these pink flamingos is worth the whole trip to Galapagos.  We saw these pink flamingos close to Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island.
The Galapagos Iguanas come in many different colors.  This one had a particularly pretty red head.  

Nesting Waved Albatross on Isla Espanola.

Masked Boobies on Isla Espanola.
Galapagos Sea Lion basking in the sun.

Sea Lion family.  The "families" stay close together when they are resting on the beach.  Whenever an unfamiliar sea lion would try to join the group there would be a wild uproar and it would be chased away.

Red rock crab (Grapsus grapsus) were plentiful along the beaches and made for fun and colorful photo objects.

Blue Footed Boobies on Isla Espanola.

My favorite beach.  Located on Isla Floreana; 5 minutes walk from Punta Cormorant.
Gordon Rocks ... fabulous dive site.  This is a good place to see Hammerhead Sharks.
Kicker Rock ... another good dive site.  We snorkeled here and saw lots of Eagle Rays and Galapagos sharks.

Devil's Crown ... beautiful looking dive site that we, unfortunately, never got to try.  Maybe next time?
While in the Galapagos I just had to do a bit of diving and snorkeling.  The water conditions are quite variable in the Galapagos, entirely dependent on currents and can change from day to day.  At Gordon Rocks, we had limited visibility (50-60 ft) but we saw numerous large Hammerheads, Eagle Rays, Sea Turtles, and loads of local tropical fish.

The ubiquitous Passer Angelfish
Enjoying life between dives ...

Sea lions were everywhere and they were extremely friendly and playful.



One of the main reasons to dive at Galapagos is the Hammerhead Shark.  We were fortunate enough to see Scalloped Hammerheads at Gordon Rocks.  The one in these pictures was about 10-12 ft (3-4 meters) long.  Farther north by Wolf and Darwin islands the get to be almost 20 ft!

My GoPro Hero 3 produced some stunning underwater video.  When I finish editing the videos they will be posted here, so stay tuned.
Having visited Galapagos left me wanting more (even though it takes 2 full days just to get there).  Perhaps my next trip will be to the Northern islands of Wolf and Darwin to see schools of Hammerheads and maybe even a Whale shark.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spencer Glacier Crust Ski

Placer Valley to Spencer Glacier
April 27th, 2013
44 kms (28 miles); 3 hrs 10 min.

For me this is a "Must Do" trip every year.  I had been watching the conditions for a while and Saturday, April 27th, promised the right conditions and great weather.  I started out at about 8:20 am.  The temperature was around 28 F (-2 C) and the crust had set up nicely.

The first few miles up the Placer Valley were hampered by heavy snow machine traffic earlier in the year.  But once I got past Skookum Creek, the conditions improved.  The conditions up valley did not disappoint, and the farther I went, the better the crust got.  Spencer Glacier was in great condition.  I was able to ski 2 miles up the glacier.  With a small detour I would have been able to gain the upper snowfield, but the time was getting late and I decided to turn around and get back to the car before the snow got too soft.

I got back at noon which was perfect timing because the crust was just beginning to break down.  On the return, I stayed on the west side of the railroad tracks all the way down to Skookum Creek.  The crust and snow conditions were better on the west side, and there were also fewer snow machine tracks to deal with on this side.

Once again the Placer Valley delivered a great crust ski opportunity. 

One of these years, I will start early enough to gain the main snow/ice-field and look down onto the Blackstone Glacier and Blackstone Bay.


8 am start from the Portage Hwy.  Still plenty of snow.

"No snow machine" signs don't seem to deter the snow machiners.
Looking down the Placer Valley with Blueberry Hill and Kinnikinnick Mnt in the center background.
Spencer Glacier.  The mountains in the background are unnamed.  They reach about 5200 ft elevation.  The snowfield in the mid-distance is at 1500-2500 ft. My turnaround point was just short of the far "ice-fall" at 1500 ft.

Lots of ice-blue lakes on the glacier

Crust-skiable glacier - not your everyday occurrence!  Coming back down, the crust surface was just starting to melt, allowing me to carve S-turns down the glacier ridges.

At the turn-around point.

Spencer Glacier terminus.
East to South panorama of the Spencer Glacier and surrounding (unnamed) mountains.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anchorage State Coastal Wildlife Refuge: Potter to Kincaid

Potter to Kincaid roundtrip along the Anchorage Coastal State Wildlife Refuge
39 kilometers (24  miles), 2 1/2 hours
Crust ski with Trond Flagstad, Brad Cruz, Matias Saari, Lasse Moelgaard - Nielsen & Davis Dunlap
We started out at 7:15 am from the Potter Marsh parking lot and was done before 10 am.  The crust was best right up against the bluff as well as close to the high tide mark.  In between it was punchy and inconsistent.
Note:  If you decide to ski below the Rabbit Creek shooting range, make sure you are long gone before the range opens.  Official hours are from 10 am to 5:45 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.
River crossings were easiest towards the high tide mark rather than closer to the bluff.
Wildlife: Canada geese, Snow geese, Coyotees, Moose, Mallards, Bald Eagles
Sunrise over the Chugach mountains

 Brad cruising westbound with Oceanview in the background

Crossing of Campbell Creek requires unclipping and balancing across on frozen mud and ice

Always a good sign of spring: the arrival of the geese

The crossing of Rabbit Creek

Crust cruising with Chugach mnts (left) and Kenai mnts (right) in the background

 Towards Pt. ampbell only a narrow tongue of snow remains between the bluff and the frozen mud and ice

Watch Lasse's youtube video:

Trond Flagstad cruising between the icebergs

Matias and Trond F below the bluff by Kincaid

Heading back towards Potter Marsh railroad depot

Done for today:  Crossing the Seward Hgwy at Potter Marsh