Early Summer Summary: 2024

Early Summer Summary: 2024
Cat and Tut walking along a stream south of Rainbow Ridge in the Alaska Range

It’s a rainy morning, continuing from most of yesterday. The rain has spread across much of Alaska’s interior, which I hope will positively impact the current wildfires. Or rather, I hope it has a negative impact on the fires.

Not long after the start of the McDonald and Clear fires south of town. The pyrocumulus cloud is from the Clear Fire, while most of the smoke in the background was from the larger McDonald Fire. A few days later, they combined.

I haven’t shared much in the past few weeks, so I wanted to provide a quick update. Actually, that’s not entirely true; I’ve been writing a lot, but it’s mostly been wildflower articles. While I haven’t embarked on any particularly adventurous or elaborate hikes, I’ve been exploring diverse areas to document as many floral species as possible before the season ends.

Since I last wrote, I’ve walked most of the trails at Creamer’s Field and the Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary, out on Ester Dome, and most of the south side trails at UAF, including Smith and Ballaine Lakes, Birch Hill, Olnes Pond, the Chatanika River, Tanana Lakes State Rec Area, and probably some others. I’m still dealing with a backlog of wildflower photos.

The underside of a one-flowered wintergreen (Moneses uniflora), taken near Ballaine Lake at UAF
Beach-head iris (Iris setosa) blooming on our road
Fruit set on Canadian bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) where the ovaries have become green and swollen, and the styles have become woody before they fall off.

It’s been a fruitful season, but the spring/summer bloom seems to have hit its peak. Many late-season flowers are still coming, but nothing like mid-late June. In the last two weeks, I photographed well over 40 species I don’t yet have in my guide. Whenever I’m not working or out photographing, I’m at home researching and writing about each new species.

A few of the climbing team kids and I biked to Chena Hot Springs and back a couple of weeks ago. The sky threatened rain, but it held off for the entire trip. At over 60 miles, it was the longest ride I’ve done in years. I felt great for most of it, but I hit a wall in the last 10 miles.

Reflections along Chena Hot Springs Road – One of the few photos I took on the ride

Cat and I took Tut down the Richardson Highway a couple of weekends ago to get a change of scenery. It was a gorgeous day with perfect weather. We stopped at the Donnelly Creek Campground, walked along the river briefly, and let the dog play in the water while I photographed flowers. There were so many orchids!

Tut hates getting his feet wet, but sometimes he forgets
Tut and Cat
Sparrow’s egg lady’s slipper (Cypripedium passerinum)
Northern green orchid (Platanthera aquilonis)
Marsh across near the Donnelly Creek Campground
Mountain deathcamas (Anticlea elegans)
The creek at Donnelly Creek Campground
Whorled lousewort (Pedicularis verticillata)

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After that, we walked along a creek south of Rainbow Ridge. It was a really pretty spot and one of the few spots on Rainbow Ridge I haven’t walked yet. I spotted a few new flowers there for me, including a milkvetch I’d never seen before.



Mountain stream south of Rainbow Ridge
Nutzotin milkvetch (Astragalus nutzotinensis)
A nice view of Rainbow Ridge from the creek

The last week of June was rough with wildflower smoke. The temperatures were in the 80s almost every day, and the smoke was thick from the Clear, McDonald, and Globe fires near Fairbanks. The air quality was terrible. We had to cancel our running club with the climbing team and keep the windows closed (it was awful in the heat).

Sunlight filters through a smoke-filled sky, creating crepuscular rays in Fairbanks, Alaska. When this was taken, the smoke was from the nearby Clear fire (23,000 acres) and McDonald fire (50,000 acres). A few days later, smoke from the Globe Fire to the north dominated and dumped ash all over town.
Wildfire smoke drowning out the Sun over Ballaine Lake
A solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) on a lily pad on Tr’exwghodegi Troth Yeddha’ Bena’, Athabascan for Smith Lake. I’ve been so focused on wildflowers this summer, it’s been a while since I’ve used my wildlife lens!
American wigeon (Mareca Americana)
I love this birch forest near Olnes Pond!

Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now. We’re going to do a rainy-day hike today. The weather will limit my photo-taking, so we can focus on just doing a fun hike, which I haven’t done in a while. It’s supposed to rain the rest of the weekend, too, so my goal is to leave sore enough today that I spend the rest of the weekend resting, editing photos, and writing. Maybe sit in the hot tub at the gym.

I hope everyone has a good holiday weekend and enjoys these summer days!

If you want to see more of my photos (or buy some prints to support me, the wildflower guide, and these posts), check out my Recent Photos Gallery here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Recent-Photos

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