COLDSMOKE CHRONICLES: EXPLORING THE ALASKAN BACKCOUNTRY

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When Trevor Olsen and best buddy Brandon Baker told us about a trip they were planning into the Alaskan backcountry just as the seasons turned, we jumped at the chance to get our new Alpha-lite Pullover, Alpha-lite Bomber, eVent Shadow Anorak, and MA-1 jackets on their backs where they could be put to the test in a most unpredictable and demanding environment.

Gear in hand, Trevor and Brandon waisted no time, going straight from the airport to the trailhead of the Gold Mint Hut trail in Hatcher Pass where they hiked nine miles up-valley and sheltered through a night of snow in the pass’s iconic red hut. The next day they hoofed it nine miles further into a neighboring valley where wet boots were rewarded with breathtaking expanses.

From Hatcher Pass, they drove four hours north to Denali and hiked deep into the park, spending their last days camping at Wonder Lake, famous for its views of Mt. Denali, which rises  20,000 ft into the sky. Despite its size, and because of relentless cloud cover, Mt. Denali only shows itself to 20-30% of park visitors, and it kept itself hidden until Trevor and Brandon’s last morning in the park when they woke at sunrise to clear crisp clear skies and a glorious Mt. Denali, looming above them, blanketed in fresh snow.

 

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COLDSMOKE CHRONICLES: FORREST’S ALASKAN ADVENTURE

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When I was 4 years old my grandfather returned from Alaska, where he had been a hunting guide for 21 years on the Kenai Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. Of the many things he brought back with him, from bearskin rugs to native crafts, the most important treasures where his stories. I was too young to retain his words, but they lived on through my father’s telling. As a boy, listening to my grandfather’s stories, and stories of my father’s journeys, instilled in me a sense of adventure that has evolved into my way of life.

In August of 2014, I made an explicit goal that within the next year I would visit Alaska and see the land that my grandfather had loved and lived in. I had absolutely no prospects for realizing such a bold claim, but as with many things in life, taking the first step is the catalyst for achieving our dreams.

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EPIC ALASKA: THE DREAM FACTORY

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From gold rush, to oil rush, to fishing rush, Alaska has always been a destination of pioneers. In The Dream Factory we follow a new breed of Alaskan pioneers as Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Seth Morrison, Dash Long, and the rest of the Teton Gravity Research team strike deep into the Alaskan wilderness in search of some of the best and most remote terrain in the world.  Continue reading

BIGGER THAN LIFE ICE CAVES

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In southeastern Alaska is the largest national forest in the United States that measures 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest. The rainforest is bounded by the Coast Mountains to the west and the Gulf of Alaska to the east, and is cut haphazardly into islands by intersecting inlets and blanketed by snow and ice at high elevations. In the center of this is Juneau, the capital of Alaska, a place only accessible only by air or sea. About 12 miles from downtown Juneau is the the Mendenhall Glacier, a 12-mile long tongue of ice.

Due to warming climates, the glaciers are retreating at a faster rate then they would naturally during the past few decades. As it slides along the uneven valley floor, its underside buckles into caves and irregular ice patterns. Wind and flowing water continually carve and enlarge the caves, making them a dynamic but remote tourist attraction. The center is open year-round and receives close to 500,000 visitors each year, many coming by cruise ship in summer. Recently, a Los Angeles based film crew visited the glacier and, by attaching a GoPro camera to a flyable droid, recorded the carving force of the glacial meltwater as it winds through Mendenhall’s underside. By dropping into the caves from above and flying high over the landscape, producer Christopher Carson captured the changing faces of the massive glacier. But for visitors to the Alaskan Panhandle, these views might one day be gone.

Check out the amazing video below!

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