Sunday, August 21, 2011

In the Deep Silence of My MInd

In the deep silence of my mind 
Beyond the echoing of the birds 
The swaying of the trees
And the splashing of the blue ocean

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moose @ Denali National Park

While comfortably sitting inside the Green Bus of Denali National Park, I was whining deep inside what a disappointment it was at Wonder Lake because swarm of mosquitoes feasted on us :( while the mountains played hide and seek, covered with very thick clouds. 

Instead of focusing on the negative feelings of regretting the trip to Wonder Lake, I shifted to being thankful for what a beautiful day had it been!! I thanked the Lord for allowing us to see grizzly bears, caribou, moose, golden eagle, dall sheep, among others safely. Denali National Park has very rich wildlife, it was for that reason that the National Park was established, to protect the mammals that inhabit the place. But the vast and inspiring landscape of Denali, and the presence of Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 ft inspired so many who were able to experience the beauty of this immense place.     
Moose Swimming in the Pond and the Denali Mountains
(this is how far we were from the moose)
Now, on our way back to Eielson Visitor Center, I was looking far afar towards the mountains wishing the clouds to be lifted up, so I can at least see Mt. McKinley. Then, I shifted the direction of my eyesight to the many glacier-carved ponds of the tundra. I saw a huge brown ball kind of floating on the water. Pointing to that brown ball floating on the water, I shouted to the bus driver, "STOP! There's an animal down the water..a bear?..." And then, the moose head popped up, and those who were looking at where I was pointing, shouted, "MOOSE!!!" :)
Moose, Enjoying a Swim
And our very kind and friendly Green bus driver teased me while shaking his head: "Bear, huh?  How on Earth were you able to spot that moose far?" But I just gave him a smile back and just like everybody else in the bus, got busy with our camera following the moose. 
Moose, Why Are You Staring at the Ducks?
Thankfully, Moose is Vegetarian, he just wanted to challenge the ducks swimming
 Moose are excellent swimmers. They are not very social animals, and oftentimes find alone. They are the largest members of the deer family. Adult males can weigh 900-1400 pounds. Moose use their long legs to wade into bodies of water and eat plants off the bottom.
Sleepy Eyes?
While we were busy following the moose swim, someone from the group inside the bus shouted with excitement: "The clouds were moving higher, Mt. McKinley can now be seen, take picture! take picture! Before it disappears again!"
Moose Swimming on a Glacial Carved Pond and Denali Mountains
Thankfully, the clouds did not go down low so fast to hide Mt. McKinley! I may not have Mt. McKinley at Wonder Lake, but finally, happy to see part of its face. I'll share more about Mt. McKinley and Denali's immense landscape in a later post. 
Mt. McKinley in Partial Clouds
 On our way outside of the park, we saw this bull moose. We were really that close, and I did not have to use a zoom lens for this one, I only used 100mm focal length for this shot. Thankfully, we were inside the bus and safe, since the bull moose can be very aggressive when disturbed.

Though we may not have the best weather in Denali, but the moose sure went out to play with us :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Beloit Glacier

Beloit Glacier at Blackstone Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska
First, I hope you are not tired yet of another "icy" post. If you are, I will warn ahead that there will be more. However, as much as possible, I alternate my glaciers post with other non-icy post, they are my icebreakers :) These days, I am 100% taking advantage of summer enjoying the ocean's waves, where I shared a poem of what I feel like when I am "One With The Wave" in my 3 months old Breathe In...Breathe Out blog. I am taking advantage of my lack of taking photos these days by sharing photos from our summer trip in Alaska. 

Now, moving on to Beloit Glacier, another tidewater glacier in Blackstone Bay which is actually not that much farther from Blackstone Glacier which I shared in my previous post. How close are Blackstone Glacier and Beloit Glacier to each other? The answer is in the picture below. 
Beloit Glacier and Blackstone Glacier 
Beloit Glacier is on the left side while Blackstone Glacier is on the right side of the picture. I used an arrow to point to a waterfall in Blackstone glacier, hoping you would recognize it after seeing the up close picture of Beloit Glacier with the waterfall in my previous post. Our Major Marine Tours cruise ship took us up to about half a mile to the glacier, but for safety reasons, we could not come closer. Here are more pictures as we got closer to Beloit Glacier.
Valley Glacier
On our way to Beloit Glacier, we saw a lot of valley glacier and cirque glacier.A cirque glacier is a small glacier that occupies a bowl shaped depression between mountain valleys. Alaska has a lot of them, often unnamed. Valley glaciers, like the one above are also called hanging or alpine glaciers. They are glaciers that flow down out of mountain valleys, generally larger at the head and smaller at the base. The terminus of the valley glacier is above sea level. 
Floating Ice as we get closer to Beloit Glacier
Beloit glacier is a tidewater glacier or a fjord glacier, it is actually also a valley glacier but occupies a fjord and the terminus lie below sea level and has an almost vertical face often more than 1000 ft high. Tidewater glaciers shed off huge chunks of glacial age called calving. 
Beloit Glacier and Waterfalls
When we were closer to Beloit Glacier, the sound of the many waterfalls around it was so soothing. 
Some of the Waterfalls Up Close
The feeling of looking at the 1,700 ft tall glacier above us, and sometimes hearing the thunderous sound of calving was beyond words of describing. It was our first time to be that close (half a mile away) to a towering sea of ice and it was overwhelming. It is during this kind of moment usually that I fail to think properly how to take pictures, I just simply am immersed with the surroundings. How can we freeze and bring home the beauty of nature that we see? We can't! 
Nature's Ice Scuplture, Beloit Glacier Up Close
No pictures we have for me brought any justice to the majestic scenery. But I am glad at least I brought home some pictures to see again, to relive our experience of being there, and imagine the sounds we heard. As we left Beloit Glacier and headed back towards Whittier Port, we saw these two courageous kayakers who were approaching the glacier.
Kayakers Approaching Beloit Glacier
Perhaps it is a lot more different experience for them since they are really approaching the glacier much closer, however, after hearing the thunderous sound of calving, and seeing waterfall rushing underneath the glacier, 
Stream of water and ice rushing out underneath the glacier
I was glad I was in the safety of coast guard certified Emerald Sea with a National Park Ranger inside. I am not daring and adventurous enough to kayak very close to a tidewater glacier, where the glacier can send huge masses of ice down to you anytime. On our way back to Whittier Port, our sightseeing did not end, because everything we see was something different from what we normally see. 
With humpbacks and orca whales in the water, our camera did not get a chance to rest all, except when we wanted to have some foods!
Humpback whale( see the bird next to it?)
Kittiwakes and Waterfall
Kittiwakes are actually member of the gull family. Kittiwakes are coastal breeding birds that secure their nests to the sheer cliffs. This bird is common throughout Southcental Alaska.

Hope you had enjoyed my two posts on Blackstone Bay at Prince William Sound, Blackstone Glacier and today's post, Beloit Glacier.  

Happy weekend everyone.......

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blackstone Glacier

As the trip planner of the family, I wanted to start our Alaska adventure experiencing what we had known of Alaska from books and magazines. For our first full day in Alaska, we experienced towering masses of ice, icebergs, and whales up close but not personal. 
A Breathing Whale with Glacier and Mountains, Blackstone Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska
Whale Tale, Mountains and Glacier at Blackstone Bay
We watched glacial and wildlife activity from a safe distance in M/V Emerald Sea of Major Marine Tours which is accompanied by a Chugach National Forest Park Ranger. Somehow, I always feel safe with any activity that has a National Park or State Park Ranger in it, because they are the institutions who preserve our natural resources and keep people well informed about nature and science at the same time keeping people out of danger and bringing them to safety. 
Blackstone Glacier and Waterfalls
A Closer Look of Blackstone Glacier and Waterfall
From Anchorage, we drove to Whittier Port where we departed for the 5-hr Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier was supposed to be only an hour or less, but because there were so many scenic stops, it definitely took us 2 hours if not more :). Whittier alone and Portage Valley is pretty, even without taking the cruise it is still worth the 1 hour drive from Anchorage. 
Port of Whittier
I will share more photos of  the beautiful scenery between Anchorage and Whittier in my later posts. The 5-hr Prince William Sound Glacier cruise allowed us to see numerous waterfalls, a lot of humpback whales, killer whales, other wildlife and scenic rugged coastline of the sound bordered by glaciated mountains, valley glacier and tidewater glaciers that definitely awed us making us excited and look forward to the next days.
Glacier and Another Waterfall, Blackstone Glacier
A Closer Look of the Waterfall
There are so many waterfalls in Prince William Sound, that were produced from the melting of ice. 
A Closer Look of Glacier Ice above the waterfall
In my next post, I will share Beloit Glacier, another tidewater glacier in Blackstone Bay that is surrounded by huge and numerous waterfalls. There was just no way for me to document all the waterfalls and the grand beauty of Blackstone Bay in Prince William Sound, but seeing the dynamic changes of nature as close as this, reminds me of how everything here on Earth but love is temporary. Though we do not really need to travel to experience entropy up close since it lives in us everyday, but seeing the pages we learned from books coming into life makes me realize that there is still so much to learn for the Science of our world is so vast to be fully understood. When we go out, we do not only see the beauty of nature, but we open our minds and hearts to its wisdom. In its silence and beauty, we see and hear God's comforting words of love. Just as John Muir put it, "in going out, I find I was really going in."

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Seward, Alaska

Seward Harbor, Alaska
Before finally moving out from my series on Kenai Fjords National Park posts, let me share the place where we stayed for several days. Seward is a very picturesque small city of Alaska, and it is known to be the gateway of Kenai Fjords National Park. I have learned about this beautiful city from Wild Nature's Images Where to Photograph in Alaska. I am so glad we put this in our itinerary for my best Alaska experience has to be here in Seward. First, the hike to Harding Icefield, and second, experiencing glacier calving and the wildlife of Kenai Fjords. I have seen only very little of Kenai Fjords National Park, but I really love it. It's the park of my dreams where the ocean, mountains, glaciers, forests, and rich wildlife co-exist. The little town of Seward allows tourists to enjoy Kenai Fjords National Park in a variety of ways. We explored Kenai Fjords by foot through hiking Harding Icefield and experiencing Exit Glacier up close, and we explored Kenai Fjords by boat.
Me, While Waiting for our Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise
There are so many more ways to explore this park, but because of our curiosity to see more of Alaska, we left Seward after 3 days and moved North to Denali National Park, another amazing National Park in Alaska. Some of the common reactions I had been receiving since I shared our AK adventure is that AK is too cold for them. Actually, visiting AK in the summer is the most pleasant. Notice in the above picture, I was not dressed warm. In fact, after our day cruise in Kenai, when we got to our hotel, we felt warm we had to ask the front desk where is the A/C! Since the hotel has no A/C ( they have very few days with 70s temperature with an average summer temps in the 50s and 60s, understandably, buildings have no a/c), we cooled off with ice cream outside.
We were lucky and blessed with good weather when we were at Seward. I can get out from our room very early in the morning while waiting for others to be ready to take a me time-walk to the nearby harbor and Resurrection Bay without feeling cold. 
Resurrection Bay
Of course, it can get colder, like when we are approaching the peak of the hike at Harding Icefield, but our cruise had been very pleasantly warm and calm. It would probably be a lot different by September when AK becomes colder. Here are more pictures I have of Seward Harbor,
Freshly Caught Halibut
Seward Harbor

And because the city of Seward is small, rest assured, if you stay in Seward, these are some of the views you will get from your room and you will have abundance of sea food and other foods, only that, don't come later 10:00 pm, and you will find no restaurant to serve you. 

Start Them Young

A Little Kid Biking To Home After Surfing
While walking to our car after boogie boarding, I came across this kid who was beaming with happiness as he was riding his bike, with a backpack and a surfboard! I hurriedly took my cellphone to take a picture of this awesome moment, little kid enjoying the simple pleasures in life out of the doors. Why nature and outdoors are more therapeutic to me than shopping is because my memories of happy childhood were spent out of the doors, whether playing baseball with my cousins and other kids in the neighborhood, or swimming in the river or in the ocean, or playing hide and seek in the bushes, or running in the rain. I could not remember a time my mother showed me her indulgence to shop for herself and show off her new clothes, new bags and new shoes to her friends which is sadly the trend I see now in Facebook of younger parents, or a pity, even older and supposed to be already matured parents! The child looks up to us as their model, and early on, if they have no responsible models, I am afraid they will end up not knowing also the priorities in life but shopping irresponsibly and focus so much on looks and popularity rather than character. 
A Happy Dolphin for a Happy Child
When I was younger, eating out for us meant going to the river for a day of swimming and fishing, or going to the beach for a day of fun, or going to the mountains for a day of simply enjoying the mountain scenery. My father would always tell us that their priority is to send all of us to school so we can provide for ourselves when we are older. Dining out in restaurants was expensive for them and beyond their budget. When I was in elementary, I won in the regional spelling contest, and I got prize money! I was interviewed in the radio if what would I do with the money, and my response was, "I will ask my mother for advise how do I spend this." When I got home, I asked my mother what do I do with the money, and she told me we will go to the bank the next day. The next day, I opened my first savings account! My mother then explained to me that my money will grow slowly by earning interest. Then, she asked me, if I wanted to buy something from my prize money. Maybe, because early on, I was Math minded and enjoyed calculating, instead of thinking new things to buy, I was enjoying the thought of my money earning interest through the years. I shook my head. Funny, every month, I would ask my mother that we would go the bank so I can deposit some money left from my allowance and I wanted to see how much interest my money had earned, those were one of my real time Math problems. Those were my childhood joys, playing in the field, running outdoors, swimming, and seeing my savings account grow. In college when I got more allowance from the scholarship, though I admit I would buy new shoes that would match my new  blouses and skirts, but it was always after a careful partitioning of my allowance. I always saw to it that I save at least 20% of my allowance. Now that I am older, these childhood joys remained, my love for nature and outdoors, and for saving for the future! I do believe in enjoying life and making the most out of what we have now, but at the same time, I do believe in responsible spending and saving, of striking a balance between luxury and necessity. And for me, saving for our future and the rainy days is one of life's necessities. Like when I was a child, I find joy checking my bank. These days, I find joy in checking how much my bank and IRA Accounts  have grown. I do read a lot of updates on market growths, and update myself on Stock Trading, Mobile Trading and Stock Trading to keep myself current with today's financial trends. Though I consider myself more on the conservative side of trading, but there are some funds I feel safe trading because I know I will not be withdrawing them in 20+ years. This so far has helped me earn more than my more conservative funds! However, I do not want to put all eggs in one basket, that is why I love to diversify funds. I subscribe to financial magazines so I can learn more. What I like about online financial sites such as  Online Trading, are the tools that make it easier for me to study the market, making investment decisions a lot easier. 
If probably my mom trained me early to focus on shopping and delight on physical appearance with new clothes and new shoes, I probably would be one of those who would be saying, "life is short, you only live once, enjoy" yet at the very deep core of their heart live in fears because they are totally drowned in DEBT! Happily, that is not what I grew up with, my mom and dad would always tell us, "life is short, you only live once, ENJOY on priceless things that will last a lifetime!"   

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife Part 2

In my previous post, Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife Part 1, I shared some wildlife that we were lucky enough to see and experience during our visit at the fjords, which is shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and ocean storms. This rich assemblage of wildlife habitat is home to whales, bears, sea otters, seals, sea lions, and many more. In addition to whales, sea otters, sea lions and marmots, here are some more wildlife we saw and experienced at Kenai Fjords National Park,
Dall's porpoise are often called by visitors as "little orcas". They are considered on the the fastest of the smaller cetaceans, they reach speeds close to 35 miles per hour.
Dall's Porpoise
Similar to dolphins, we saw them playing and riding on the bow waves of the small ship we took for the 6-hr Kenai Fjords National Park Glacier and Wildlife Cruise. 
Seal on Ice
Seal Inspecting This Ice
Harbor seals haul out on boulders near shore at high tide and on ice flows in front of tidewater glaciers. Transient orcas, bears and large sharks feed on seals, however, orcas and bears do not hunt on ice, thus the floating ice and icebergs are a safe haul out for the seals. The ice also serves as their viewing platform for fishes they can hunt. 
Flock of Murre and Puffin (both murre and puffin belong to alcid family)
Birds at Kenai Fjords National Park are known to be probably better in diving and swimming than flying. Murres are especially abundant in Alaska, but they can be found South in Northern California. Murres are mid-water feeders that can dive up to 600 ft and swallow their prey under water. 
Puffins, like murre, belong to the alcid family. Alcids are group of diving birds that swim underwater using their wings for propulsion and their feet for steering.  Both bald eagles and peregrine falcons feed on puffins and murres,  to protect themselves from puffin attack, puffins and murres fly in large groups forming a wheel which is called wheeling, making it difficult for eagles and falcons to prey on them. 
Bald Eagle
Bald eagles are unique to North America, and has been the United State's national bird since 1782 symbolizing wilderness, power and freedom.  
For more about Kenai Fjords National Park, a park dominated by ice that is entwined with the sea, please visit the park's website, Kenai Fjords

Friday, August 05, 2011

If Life's A Beach

CA Sea Lavender Lined Trail Next to The Beach
Life is a it? Some say, "life is a get drown...", while others say, "life's a beach, ride the waves of life, surf it up, and calm it down." I love beach, and actually the second quote is my thoughts about beach :) Sometimes I think, if life's a beach, then I am living life. But we all do live life, which makes life more than just a beach :)
Life is more than just a beach, more than just a hike, more than just a climb, more than just flying, for life isn't simple, but its complexities make it beautiful and fun living. 
Talking about beautiful living, one beautiful city in the East Coast I just learned while surfing for places is Wilmington in North Carolina. This beach city is located between Cape River and Atlantic Ocean. Though a popular tourist town in North Carolina because of its beaches, outdoor recreation, foods and culture, but definitely it is more than just a tourist town. It is home to University of North Carolina at Wilmington, regional medical center and to Screen Gems Studios- one of the largest motion picture and TV studios outside of Hollywood. This is where Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill were filmed. Tourists at Wilmington are reminded of the city's rich history by the grand old homes and tree-lined boulevards which make this place one of the most beautiful small cities in the South. The homes in Wilmington are beautiful, I got excited to see a wooded house like the one below
with 4 bedrooms and 4 baths for $379,000. A house close to the beach with your own wooded backyard and beautiful lush garden at a very reasonable price is very attractive. If you are planning to relocate to Wilmington, I found one realty site, BlueCoast Realty Corporation, which will make your home search easier. You can search by map, by type of property, or by subdivision. I like these feature since I usually wanted to see the proximity of the house to the essentials, such as hospital, clinic, supermarket, and of course, beach :) After all, though life is more than just a beach, but beach adds fun and coolness to life! 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Kenai Fjords National Park Wildlife Part 1

Sea Lions, Kenai Fjords National Park
This may be the second to the last part of my featured series on Harding Icefield and Kenai Fjords National Park. As much as I love this natural park where the ice, sea and mountains meet, and where the Ice age still lingers, I am excited as well to share our other adventure trips in Alaska. However, rest assured, I will go back to share more natural features of Kenai Fjords National Park that we were able to experience. 
This post is about the wildlife in Kenai Fjords that we were lucky enough to see and experience. Though Kenai Fjords National Park is famous for its black bear and mountain goat population, but we only saw a black bear and mountain goat from very far that my camera only showed a small black dot for the black bear and a hazy cloud of white for the mountain goat, not good enough to be shared :) The only land mammal we saw very close to us was a hoary marmot, he surprised us during our Harding Icefield hike.
Hoary Marmot
Hoary marmots are the largest North American ground squirrels, their largest population is in Alaska, but they are found throughout the Northwest, in northwest Canada to Washington, Idaho and Montana. 
If however we were not so lucky enough to spot wild animals on land at Kenai Fjords, we were lucky enough to spot a lot of marine animals. The most abundant sea wildlife we saw in the fjords are the Stellar sea lions. 
Stellar sea lions are the largest members of the otariid, or "eared seal family". Another group of marine mammals we saw in Kenai Fjords are the whales. Though they are very hard to photograph, because they seem to jump and leap in surprising places and time, but with some patience and luck, we were able to capture some of them with our lens. We saw two different whales in Kenai, the humbpack and the orca. 
Breaching Humpback Whale
Humpback whales spend their time from mid-April to November feeding around Kenai Fjords National Park. Each day, a humpback eats a ton of food.
Humpback Whale
During the winter months, humpback whales migrate to and breeds in waters of Mexico and Hawaii. Their migration allows us to see them in the waters close to San Diego Coast, and where every winter, whale watching has been one of our favorite activities in San Diego. 
Breaching Humpback Whale
What makes it special seeing the whales here is because the whales are so close to the mountains. Kenai Fjords National Park is bounded by the mountains and the sea, and where more than half of it is buried in glacial ice. 
One of the cutest sea mammals we saw at Kenai Fjords are the sea otters.
Sea Otter
It is very inspiring to know that the sea otter holds the role of being a "keystone species"  for the fjord estuary ecosystems of Alaska. Keystone species link the whole ecosystem. If the sea otter population is healthy, then one can conclude that the ecosystem it lives in is healthy. Please click Kenai Fjords Estuary Ecosystem, to learn more.

Since I do not want to overwhelm you with so much pictures and information in one post, I will continue sharing the other marine wildlife and sea birds in Kenai Fjords National Park that we were lucky enough to experience in my next post. 

PS....I would like to thank Nature Center Magazine for featuring my blog for this week, I really appreciate it and no words can describe the simple joy your feature has brought to my day.