Alaska was a trip. Something I will always remember. Our goal was to chase bears and maybe see a moose or two. But this whole thing turned into a wild and wacky adventure for the ages. I am stoked to see how many people we inspired to go up there and follow in our footsteps. It really is a place to behold.
If you haven’t already, check out our Alaska #chasingbears14 trip on Exposure.
Special thanks to all of our sponsors that helped make this trip a reality:
A short film that Caleb Babcock put together…
All film images shot with a Leica M3 and a Canon AE-1.
Denali Grizzly Encounter Journal Entry:
On June 25, we took the park bus deep into Denali National Park. We were assigned a zone to camp (31) by the rangers. We had our bus driver drop us off at Polychrome Pass lookout. Because there are no trails in the park, we literally just headed straight into the wilderness, looking for a peak to climb and to camp on. It was pouring and swampy, with wild banshee mosquitoes. We were soaked. We stopped for a quick breather when I spotted a massive grizzly bear on the hillside far above us. We watched as he made his way down the hill towards us. We backed off a bit, and he continued to follow us, getting within a couple hundred yards of us. He seemed very interested in us and kept moving in so we picked up our speed.
All of a sudden a full-grown moose came bolting out of the bushes about 75 feet from us. He got startled by the bear and scared the crap out of us. We thought the bear was following us but was in fact sniffing out the moose. We found ourselves in the middle of a big game hunt. Thankfully the moose took off quickly and the bear was quite lazy and turned around. This all lasted about an hour. We had our bear spray out, Caleb’s hatchet, bear bells, 23 cameras and were making plenty of noise, but it definitely had our attention. Thankfully we had watched the mandatory safety video 2 hours before, so we knew how to handle ourselves properly. #ChasingBears14 quickly turned into #RunningFromBears14.
A group of friends and myself headed up to Alaska in June 2014 with one goal in mind: chase some bears, and make some rad photos while doing it. We are all photographers and film-makers, so we had a pretty heavy arsenal of gear to make sure that the job would get done. Our plan was to check out Hatcher’s Pass, Denali National Park, Seward, Exit Glacier, and the Canoe Trails on Kenai Peninsula. It was a lot to pack in to 10 days, but we rocked it. Denali was definitely our favorite part of the trip, although it got cut short by the constant rain. The Canoe Trails is an experience to remember, or forget. June is peak season for flesh-shredding mosquitos, and the swampy climate made the Trails a feeding ground. There are 14 lakes connected by trails. It took anywhere from 5-40 minutes to canoe across each lake. We would then throw all our gear on our backs, lift the canoe over our heads and hike each trail. Most trails were roughly a quarter mile. But with full packs on our backs and 150lb canoes over our heads, it felt like a country mile. And while our arms and hands were occupied with balancing the canoes over our heads, we were defenseless to the ruthless mosquitoes. We got annihilated. Hands, arms, shoulders, backs, faces, stomachs, even our legs through our pants. It was all part of the great #Chasingbears14 adventure!
I picked up a fresh pair of the Crater Rim Danner boots for the trip. I had always been told that Danner boots don’t need to be broken in before wearing them, but I was still a little leery heading out on a 10-day backcountry adventure with new boots. I couldn’t believe how quickly the boots formed to my feet and nearly felt as comfortable as tennis shoes. I was grateful because we covered an extraordinary amount of ground on day one. And day two. And days 3-10. I chose the Crater Rims because they were waterproof and we knew we were in for some typical Alaska weather. Right out of the Denali N. Park bus, we were all soaked from the wild rains. In Denali, there are no trails. Only zones that you get assigned to and you basically bushwack your way to your chosen destination. This made things a little interesting because all the shrubs and foliage was soaked, which meant we were soaked. By the time we got to camp, we had to strip everything down and try and let it dry in between downpours. Thankfully my boots dried out in less than an hour, as they were the only shoes I had with me.
We tromped through snow, mud, swamps, lush foliage, rivers, ponds and long treks… My boots truly saved the day. They stood up to every test I threw their way, and were warm and comfortable along the way. Being my first pair of Danners, this is a mighty fine first impression. My relationship with my boots are going to the next level.
Our only sighting of Mt. McKinley, the highest point in North America.
Alaska is unique in that it is very grande. Everything you look at is bigger than anything you see in the lower states. The mountains are taller and more of them, the rivers wider, and bears faster. We planned to do some backcountry trekking in Denali, and the weather in Alaska can get sketchy fast. I chose to leave the expensive SLR gear in the car when we headed out. I brought a Leica M3 film camera, and my iPhone with the Moment Wide and Moment Tele.