Tag Archive: mountains

Mount Susitna

A view of Mount Susitna as viewed, looking to the northwest west, from Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska.

This is a great spot for aircraft aficionados. The airport is just to the north and you will see 747s, World War II-era DC-3s, Cessnas, and just about anything else you can think of passing in front of the mountain on approach to the runway.

As usual, this image is available at my Zazzle store.

Click on image for full-size view.

Mount Susitna

Mount Susitna

Mount Susitna is 4,396 feet high. It is located on the west bank of the lower Susitna River, about 33 miles northwest of Anchorage, Alaska. The mountain, a prominent landmark in the Anchorage area, can be seen across the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet from most of the city.

Often called The Sleeping Lady for its resemblance to a recumbent woman, the name “susitna” is sometimes said to derive from a Dena’ina legend, in which a woman named Susitna belonging to a race of giants vows to sleep until her beloved comes back from battle, but no such legend actually exists. The mountain’s Dena’ina name is Dghelishla, meaning “Little Mountain”; in English it was simply named for the Susitna River which means Sandy River.

Mt Susitna is a roche moutonnée, a landform created when a glacier flows over a resistant, topographically high, bedrock body, creating a smooth-sided and teardrop shaped feature aligned with the direction of ice flow.

The Anchorage bowl topography has been influenced by 5-7 glaciations. Over several thousand years, thick ice sheets from the Talkeetna, Chugach and Alaska Ranges flowed down Cook Inlet. The five well documented glaciations from oldest to most recent were the Mt Susitna, Caribou Hills, Eklutna, Knik and Naptowne. The earliest glaciation in the Anchorage area is known as the Mount Susitna for the erratics and other glacial features found on the top of the mountain. This is the time period when it obtained its characteristic streamlined shape. It is dated to the late Pliocene to the early Pleistocene (2-6 million years ago).

Kincaid Park encompasses over 1500 acres of land in the Western part of Anchorage. The park is bounded on the south by Turnagain Arm, on the west by Knik Arm, and on the north by Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Noted for Nordic skiing trails, in snowless months the park is frequented by runners, bikers, hikers, archers, dog-trainers, motocross users, disc golfers, soccer teams, and rollerskiers. Other winter activities include snowshoeing, sledding and biathlon. The park was created in 1968 and in 1978 expanded to include the location of a Nike missile site.

The park is mostly forested, with birch, cottonwood, and spruce. Wildlife includes moose, lynx, bear, fox, eagles, porcupines, owls, and many others.

Little Campbell Lake offers ice-fishing in winter, boating and fishing in the summer.

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail connects Kincaid Park to downtown Anchorage and provides excellent biking or skiing.

Spring 2012

We had record-breaking snowfall in South Central alaska this last winter. Most of it has now melted though quite a bit remains on the mountains.

I thought this was a nice view for a spring day. Looking east towards the Chugach mountains from Anchorage.

New grass is coming up and leaf buds are beginning to open up as you can see on the willows here.

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Spring 2012

Spring 2012

I worked this up from a photo I took in Sandpoint, ID some yers ago. Looking east from City Beach across Lake Pend Oreille (ponderay) on a winter day; snow-covered mountains in the distance. The refelctive area in the foreground is ice along the shore extending part way across the lake. Some years the ice is thick enough for hockey games.

The lake is reported to have a monster, like Loch Ness or Lake Champlain, called Pend O’Reilly. I have never seen it, but I always keep a watchful eye out when in my kayak, especially if it’s foggy and snowing.

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Lake Prnd Oreille - Sandpoint, ID

Lake Pend Oreille on a Winter Day

The Long Dark

Last night was the winter solstice; the high point (or low point) of the long dark. I made this quickie image to celebrate the fact that today we had two seconds more light than yesterday.

How do those chickadees – little, tiny fluff balls that they are – survive the winter?

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winter solstice 2011

The shortest night of the year.

Dall’s Sheep

Sheep Peak Lodge. Somewhere in the far north; Alaska or Canada

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The Lodge


Image available at Zazzle.

Named after American naturalist William Healey Dall (1845–1927), Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli),  most often referred to as dall sheep. are native to northwestern North America. Dall sheep are typically all white in color, although a few black hairs on the tail are not uncommon. The white coat is an adaptation, or special trait that helps them survive. Dall sheep typically move to lower altitudes in the winter, but predators are more numerous there. The white coat helps the sheep go unseen against the snow by predators. In the summer months, their coat does not change color, but stays white. They are still protected, however, because they move to steep and rocky cliffs where predators are hard-pressed to follow. to slate brown.The sheep inhabit the subarctic mountain ranges of Alaska, the Yukon Territory, the Mackenzie Mountains in the western Northwest Territories, and northern British Columbia. Dall sheep are found in relatively dry country and try to stay in a special combination of open alpine ridges, meadows, and steep slopes with extremely rugged ground in the immediate vicinity, to allow escape from predators that cannot travel quickly through such terrain. The primary predators of Dall’s sheep are wolves, coyotes, black bears, and grizzly bears; golden eagles are predators of the young.Dall’s sheep walk a survival tightrope, although they do it rather effectively. They have lived since the Pleistocene in places such as Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.

Male sheep have thick curling horns. The females have shorter, more slender, slightly curved horns. Males live in bands which seldom associate with female groups except during the mating season in late November and early December. Lambs are born in May.

All ungulates walk on hoofed toes. Hooves are made of keratin, which encases the toe bones. Dall’s sheep walk on two toes which places them in the “even-toed” group of ungulates similar to giraffes, deer, and camels. Hooves are another adaptation that enable Dall sheep to live on rocky, steep terrain. Their toes are flexible and able to adjust to the uneven surfaces in their mountain habitats where sure footing is essential.

During the summer when food is abundant, the sheep eat a wide variety of plants; primarily grasses and sedges along with broad-leaved plants and dwarf willows. The winter diet is much more limited, and consists primarily of dry, frozen grass and sedge stems available when snow is blown off, lichen and  moss. Many populations visit mineral licks during the spring, and often travel many miles to eat the soil around the licks. Sheep will often travel to mineral licks to eat soil. These are typically rocky outcrops where high concentrations of minerals are pooled. This replenishes essential minerals that the sheep cannot get from their daily diet of plants.

Dall’s sheep have well developed social systems. Adult rams live in bands, or groups, associated with ewe groups during the mating season. Since Dall sheep are very loyal to their social group, they have very specific home ranges  After joining a social group, sheep are never known to leave it.


Boundary County

A late spring day in the northernmost county of Idaho. This view is just a bit to the northeast of Bonners Ferry.

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Near Bonners Ferry Idaho


A tidewater glacier runs into the sea.  The face of the ice fractures and pieces calve off

Rendered wity DAZ Bryce 7.1; a bit of post processing with Photoshop. Click on image for full-size view.

A Glacier Meets The Sea

 Glaciers occur where the accumulation of snow is greater than the amount that melts during the warmer months. Over time, often decades or centuries, a glacier forms as the snow compacts and turns to ice. A glacier is distinct from sea ice and lake ice that form on the surface of bodies of water.Most glaciers are found in higher latitudes near the poles and high-altitude alpine regions, but are found on all  continents save Australia. However, Australia is considered part of Oceania, which includes Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, both of which have glaciers. There are two main types of glaciers: valley glaciers and continental glaciers (known as ice sheets).

Glacial ice is the largest reservoir of freshwater on Earth. Many glaciers store water during one season and release it later as meltwater, a water source that is especially important for plants, animals and human uses when other sources may be scant. The amount of precipitation (whether in the form of snowfall, freezing rain, avalanches, or wind-drifted snow) is important to glacier survival. In areas such as Antarctica, where the low temperatures are ideal for glacier growth, very low annual precipitation causes the glaciers to grow very slowly. Because glacial mass is affected by long-term climate changes, e.g., precipitation, mean temperature, and cloud cover, glacial mass changes are considered among the most sensitive indicators of climate change and are a major source of variations in sea level.

As snow accumulates and compacts underlying snow layers from previous years into solid ice, causing changes in volume, density and crystal structure. The distinctive blue tint of glacial ice is often wrongly attributed to Rayleigh scattering due to bubbles in the ice. The blue color is actually created for the same reason that water is blue, that is, its slight absorption of red light due to an overtone of the infrared OH stretching mode of the water molecule. Glacial ice may also appear white because some ice is highly fractured with air pockets and indiscriminately scatters the visible light spectrum. Rocks and other debris picked up by the glacier add a brown tint to the picture.

Glaciers flow slowly due to stresses induced by their weight. Crevasses and other distinguishing features of a glacier are due to its flow. Another consequence of glacier flow is the transport of rock and debris abraded from the rock beneath it A glacier forms in a location where the accumulation of snow and sleet exceeds the amount of snow that melts. Another type of movement is through basal sliding. In this process, the glacier slides over the terrain on which it sits, lubricated by the presence of liquid water. As the pressure increases toward the base of the glacier, the melting point of water decreases, and the ice melts. Friction between ice and rock and geothermal heat from the Earth’s interior also contribute to melting. This type of movement is dominant in temperate, or warm-based glaciers. The geothermal heat flux becomes more important the thicker a glacier becomes.

Crevasses form due to differences in glacier velocity. As the parts move at different speeds and directions, shear forces cause the two sections to break apart, opening the crack of a crevasse all along the disconnecting faces. Hence, the distance between the two separated parts, while touching and rubbing deep down, frequently widens significantly towards the surface layers, many times creating a wide chasm. Crevasses seldom are more than 150 feet (46 m) deep but in some cases can be 1,000 feet (300 m) or even deeper. Beneath this point, the plastic deformation of the ice under pressure is too great for the differential motion to generate cracks. Transverse crevasses are transverse to flow, as a glacier accelerates where the slope steepens. Longitudinal crevasses form semi-parallel to flow where a glacier expands laterally. Marginal crevasses form from the edge of the glacier, due to the reduction in speed caused by friction of the valley walls. Marginal crevasses are usually largely transverse to flow.

As the glacier flows over the bedrock’s fractured surface, it softens and lifts blocks of rock that are brought into the ice. This process is known as plucking, and it is produced when sub-glacial water penetrates the fractures and the subsequent freezing expansion separates them from the bedrock. When the ice expands, it acts as a lever that loosens the rock by lifting it. This way, sediments of all sizes become part of the glacier’s load. The rocks frozen into the bottom of the ice then act like grit in sandpaper.

Abrasion occurs when the ice and the load of rock fragments slide over the bedrock and function as sandpaper that smooths and polishes the surface situated below. This pulverized rock is called rock flour. The flour is formed by rock grains of a size between 0.002 and 0.00625 mm. Sometimes the amount of rock flour produced is so high that currents of meltwaters acquire a grayish color. These processes of erosion lead to steeper valley walls and mountain slopes in alpine settings, which can cause avalanches and rock slides. These further add material to the glacier.

Visible characteristics of glacial abrasion are glacial striations. These are produced when the bottom’s ice contains large chunks of rock that mark scratches in the bedrock. By mapping the direction of the flutes, researchers can determine the direction of the glacier’s movement. Chatter marks are seen as lines of roughly crescent-shape depressions in the rock underlying a glacier, caused by the abrasion where a boulder in the ice catches and is then released repetitively as the glacier drags it over the underlying basal rock.

Tidewater glaciers (as in the image above) are glaciers that terminate in the sea. As the ice reaches the sea pieces break off, or calve, forming icebergs. Most tidewater glaciers calve above sea level, which often results in a tremendous splash as the iceberg strikes the water. If the water is deep, glaciers can calve underwater, causing the iceberg to suddenly leap up out of the water. The Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska and has a calving face over 10 km (6 mi) long. Yakutat Bay and Glacier Bay are both popular with cruise ship passengers because of the huge glaciers descending hundreds of feet to the water. This glacier type undergoes centuries-long cycles of advance and retreat that are much less affected by the climate changes currently causing the retreat of most other glaciers. Most tidewater glaciers are outlet glaciers of ice caps and ice fields.

Following the Little Ice Age, around 1850, the glaciers of the Earth have retreated substantially through the 1940s. A slight cooling led to the advance of many alpine glaciers from 1950-1985. However, since 1985 glacier retreat and mass balance loss has become increasingly ubiquitous and large.

Yesterday was the summer solstice. While it never really gets dark in Alaska this time of year it is not always bright and sunny.  Most of yesterday was dark and dreary with drizzle on and off.  Quite a few mosquitos out as well.  The sun made an appearance in the afternoon.

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Summer Solstice

I painted this from a photo I took the day after the winter solstice.

Image available at Winter Eagle.

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Chugach Range

Solstice 2010

Yesterday was the solstice; the shortest day of the year.

Image available at Winter Solstice.

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