It is Still the Morning of Creation…

Soon I shall return to my own travel writing.  I thought I would write an interlude of sorts, meant to transition from previous wanderings toward more of my recent adventure.  Slowly, I have been digesting a book written by conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club, John Muir.  Travels in Alaska details his journeys between 1879 and 1899 to the Alaskan wilderness, through its forests, mountains and glaciers.  Every so often he writes of God an the beauty that surrounds him, uncovering a spirituality of nature…

glacier panorama

Gazing at a mighty glacier, he saw this awesome sight as reflecting the plans of God, and wrote (pp. 67-68):

Standing here, with facts so fresh and telling and held up so vividly before us, every seeing observer, not to say geologist, must readily apprehend the earth-sculpturing, landscape-making, action of flowing ice.  And here, too, one learns that the world, though made, is yet being made; that this is still the morning of creation; that mountains long conceived are now being born, channels traced for coming rivers, basins hollowed for lakes; that moraine soil is being ground and outspread for coming plants,—coarse boulders and gravel for forests, finer soil for grasses and flowers,—while the finest part of the grist, seen hastening out to sea in the draining streams, is being stored away in darkness and builded particle on particle, cememting and crystalizing, to make the mountains and valleys and pains of other predestined landscapes, to be followed by still others in endless rhythm and beauty.

Amen!

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Experiencing the Midnight Sun

Kluane Lake

Tuesday 24 June 2008 — Yukon Territory, Canada

We had crossed the border from Alaska into the Yukon Territory hours before. Dazzled by the geographical wonders that continuously passed before my eyes, I hardly noticed the late hour. Midnight approached and the sun, low on the horizon filled the open sky; dusk was soon to follow. Not accustomed to the late night light, somewhere out of my own experience in the lower 48 states, an alarm went off. There was still an hour or more of driving until we reached our lodging destination at Whitehorse. I began to wonder how we would find our site at the campground and how we would pitch our tent in the dark.

Without thinking it through, I turned to Ray and asked, “uhm, do you have a flashlight?” Though not yet worried, I wondered. Setting up a tent in the dark after 12 hours in a car is not what I consider fun. This, of course, was a stupid question. He just looked at me. Of course we don’t need a flashlight, because in the summertime, it won’t get much darker than dusk. Intellectually I knew this, the experience however, played tricks on my body and mind. For me at all times of the year midnight=darkness with the visibility of stars. However, this was midnight sun country. And near 1am, I was still wide awake enjoying the slowly fading sunlight; it never got completely dark.

Yukon NightWhen we rolled into Whitehorse and found the campground, I again began to wonder. OK, now we are here, but where the heck is our reserved spot? Again, the answer was simpler than I thought. As luck would have it, the spot was found without much searching, marked “Reserved for Ray” and close to the parking lot. When all was said and done it was after 2am. The photo to the left shows the remaining light, shortly before I crashed in the tent.

Sleeping was not as easy as being extremely tired and passing out. The chilly night air kept me cold and partially awake in my cheap sleeping bag in spite of my pants, shirt, long sleeve shirt, socks and fleece. My shivering body periodically woke me up, making me wish I had purchased a sleeping bag with more insulation, instead of quickly finding an inexpensive one. I curled up in a ball to keep myself warm and pulled the top over my head to block out the light. Yet all was well, as I repeated to myself, “Holy crap; I’m camping in the Yukon!”

This mantra followed by deep breaths shepherded me through the night, and I awoke with a smile to greet the glorious morning sun of a fresh new day…

Leaving Alaska & The Art of Photography from Moving Vehicles

ghost in the mirror

Tuesday 24 June 2008 — Palmer, Alaska, USA

We had a long day ahead of us. After a stack of delicious blueberry pancakes prepared by his mother, Ray finally finished packing up “Dora” the Ford Explorer. A few hugs were exchanged, goodbyes said. We drove away from his life in Alaska on a cool and cloudy summer morning, bound for a destination a few thousand miles away. The first stop was 12-hours away by car. Only one road exists to drive in and out of Alaska. It was quiet those first few minutes in the car, but eventually we settled in for the journey. We passed the Matanuska Glacier, mountains, through taiga and approached the border with the Yukon Territory. There were long stretches of road construction and patches of extremely bumpy road, warped by the frost and cold temperatures that cover the area most of the year. Settled in for a long ride, but still full of adrenaline, I could not help myself from snapping many pictures along the way–while the car was in motion.

Rainy RoadLong road trips through beautiful country can present a problem for trigger happy photographers such as myself. My eyes glued to the road and land around me, I have a continual string of inspiring scenes. In recent years of travel, I have acquired a skilled technique to ensure roadside stops are made less frequently. One may only have a few seconds before a stunning mountain scene fades away and there may not be a place on the road to pull over. Thus, when a passenger, I have my three cameras nearby to pull out as inspiration strikes. The necessity to be quick must be balanced by carefully preparing the shot, although sometimes rapid fire works better. While I have used my 35mm cameras for this, the digital is optimal for such craziness, as the rate of misfire is high.

Sometimes it works very well, like the photo below. Driving into the night, we pressed onward to the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. After moving through a rainstorm, the clouds broke to reveal the clear blue sky and open country. Distant snowcapped mountains towered over the horizon. I took this from the car sometime around 11pm on the 24th of June. For an inhabitant of the lower 48 states such as myself, it was fascinating to experience the midnight sun.

Summer Night in the Yukon