2020: Incredible Moments in Alaska

by Mike Still
2020: Incredible Moments in Alaska

I will choose to remember 2020 for my wonderful adventures with Elizabeth in Alaska and not to dwell on the negativity from 2020.  Looking forward to 2021 and continuing a tradition that I started in 2013  of sharing my favorite photos.  At some point in the last few years, I stopped calling them “travel” photos; that lack of travel has been especially clear with the pandemic of 2020 keeping me from leaving Alaska.  The good news is 2020 has made it abundantly clear how much I LOVE exploring Alaskan landscapes!

Not only were all of my photos taken in Alaska this year but I had an incredible adventure partner for each of my favorite excursions.  Elizabeth and I explored Alaska every chance we could, helping us build a stronger relationship and convincing me that she is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with!

So yeah, in spite of everything that 2020 threw at us, I will choose to remember 2020 for its positive memories. With all of the new teaching challenges in 2020 I haven’t had as much of a chance to write or share my photography.  On the other hand, perhaps that’s because we went on so many adventures with Elizabeth!

The Knik Glacier is deep in a valley past Palmer and only accessible by ATV or aircraft most of the year.  Some winters the weather stays cold enough for the river to freeze that you can actually fat bike to Knik Glacier. It was one of the most grueling days of my life and I can’t wait for the river to freeze so we can go back again and bring my drone!  This day also holds a level of foreboding since we came back home after biking to Knik and to learn that Covid-19 had spread to Alaska.  

Elizabeth and I spent countless weekends (and some weekdays) at her family cabin in 2020.  I think her guestbook had 15 entries from us and many of them were filled with snowy adventures like skiing around Christiansen Lake with Theo, Kalla, and my drone.  Shortly after taking this photo, I was played with the dogs chasing my drone and accidentally flew it into a tree for my first ever crash after 3 years of flying!

These seals in front of Beloit Glacier photo bring me incredible joy and nostalgia.  I was one of the lucky few to attend the Covid-safe modified, Knappzinger wedding which brought so many happy memories in of itself.  A few days before the ceremony we all took a glacier cruise in Prince William Sound to explore Blackstone Bay where we watched Beloit Glacier calving.  I have seen seals at glaciers before but this was the first time I managed to capture both in a single frame! 

When I first came to Alaska I planned on staying long enough to see the aurora borealis and then thought I’d move on.  Alaska had other plans for me and hunting the northern lights has become a borderline obsession for me.  This year I managed to capture aurora photos on 7 different occasions, with my favorite one coming from the Worcester family cabin at Mardi Gras!  This also happened to be our last hang out with friends before Alaska went into a Covid lockdown.

On the first day of summer, Elizabeth and I drove north to the Kesugi Ken campground to hike the Curry Ridge trail with our dear friend Roz.   Sunset from the campground shed incredible light and shadows on the Tokoshas, Mount Foraker, Denali and Ruth Glacier behind the Susitna River.  Denali is just out of view in this photo and you can see the whole panorama if you scroll down but I think the lighting in this photo makes me love it even more! 

Eklutna Lake was my first ever Alaskan adventure with Ben and I’ve been back countless times.  But during the summer of 2020, Elizabeth helped me hike Pepper Peak for the first time.  Never before had I seen a gorgeous glacier lake from this perspective.  I was fortunate enough to capture the turquoise blues before a storm rolled in and love the way this panorama gives you a glimpse of what it’s like to have such a view!

When Covid arrived in Alaska the leadership issued a “hunker down” order for us.  They recommended keeping Alaskan adventures to places that you could reach without stopping for gas.  That left everything from Talkeetna down to Chugach National Forest at our fingertips, so Elizabeth and I put cross country skis on and skied to Skookum glacier.  This was the first time flying after I repaired it from the mishap a few months earlier.

We saw Denali from a few vantage points year but my favorite photo of the majestic peak came from the aforementioned Curry Ridge Trail.  I must have stopped a dozen times on that hike to capture this panorama from a slightly different angle. The clouds constantly rolled through changing the framing of a rainstorm on the edges of the Denali Range and Susitna River. Speaking of rainstorms I love the layers that this fall hike up Manitoba revealed.  Rain lightly sprinkled us on this trail and we saw plenty of rainbows too.  In fact, this hike is where I hatched the plan to call Christina, Elizabeth’s sister, and ask her what type of diamond ring she might want.

Christina shipped a ring sizer to Anchorage and helped me deploy a ‘science project’ to find out Elizabeth’s ring size.  I bought the ring without Elizabeth knowing after patiently waited Christina and Mariah to manage some mischief and discover Elizabeth’s ring size.  We went back to the Knapp family cabin in Talkeetna and skied a nice loop through the winter wonderland before I got down on one knee!   This will surely go down as one of my most memorable photos ever even though it doesn’t have quite the same pizazz as some of the other contestants for my favorite photos of 2020.

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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