Curious beaver

I first spotted the beaver by his wake – gliding smoothly out from shore, just downstream of the dock. I placed my rowing shell gently into the water, keeping one eye on my busy downstream neighbor. He arched his back, slapped his tail loudly, and dove… only to emerge a few seconds later, a few meters away. I sat still, and watched. He looked at me. I looked at him. He paddled along, zig-zagging upstream ever closer to me, clearly curious to see who (or what) I was, and what I might be up to. My fingers itched for my smartphone – only 10 meters away, on shore where I’d left it – but to stand up and fetch it, I knew, would spoil the moment. The beaver swam ever closer, his eyes on me every moment.

Eventually – for the moment seemed to last, though it was surely only one or two minutes – he pulled alongside the dock, keeping a safe distance of five meters, watching me from the side as he paddled strongly upstream.

Then a sudden SLAP and he dove again. The moment was gone; I readied my shell to row, and he resumed his course across the river.

Beaver near his den, near our home (2017).

It’s moments like these when I wish I had a camera, or even a smartphone. No such luck today! The photo above is from a sequence I shot in 2017.

Today’s beaver may have been the same fellow whose photo I shared in April:

A beaver swims at the mouth of Grant Brook, Lyme NH

Forty years ago today

I became a member of the Dartmouth family.

Forty years ago today I started classes as a first-year undergraduate student at Dartmouth College. As I headed off to find my Physics, Math, and Geography classes, I surely did not anticipate that I would return, less than a decade later, to join the faculty … or how the years would turn into decades and I would take on increasing responsibilities. It has been truly an honor and a privilege to serve this institution on behalf of current and future students. Read on!

My 1982 Dartmouth ID, which received a new validation sticker each term.
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Laguna Beach

The pounding waves never ceased.

After leaving Anchorage I stopped in San Francisco for a few days of business and alumni events, then hopped down to Laguna Beach, south of Los Angeles, for a retreat with about 50 other provosts. They have a longstanding tradition of hosting this retreat at the Surf & Sand Resort, right on the beach.

Sunset view from Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach.

It’s quite a nice place to visit – when the weather is good. Unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy for most of my visit. And the waves were pounding the shore, and indeed the base of the hotel itself, so hard the building would shake. All day. All night. It was quite impressive – check out the video clips in the gallery, most of them taken from my balcony a few floors above the spot where the waves crashed under the bottom balcony. On the other hand, the surfing community was out in great numbers (video).

The moon was full, which always leads to higher tides. Furthermore, I heard others mention a storm out at sea, which I later learned to be Typhoon Merbok. It was west of Hawaii at the time and then slammed western Alaska a few days later. The satellite imagery is quite impressive – as were the reports of waves exceeding 50 ft.! (I hope the good ship Dreamcatcher and its crew rode out the storm in a safe harbor.)

This post was written a few weeks later and thus benefits from some hindsight reporting, but is backdated to the final date of my visit to Laguna Beach.

Bush pilot’s haircut

I’ve been traveling in Alaska for nearly two weeks and have another week of travel ahead, in California, before I return home. Long overdue for a haircut, I noticed a tiny shop beside the TSA entrance here at Anchorage airport: the Bush Pilots Barbershop. Two older men were seated inside, shooting the breeze, while Fox News blared loudly on the overhead television. Decades of memorabilia were pinned to the walls – photos of a younger barber holding a massive fish (95 pounds), well-fingered maps of Alaska, postcards from bush pilots, stuff animal heads, antlers, and more. What the heck. I’ll go all-in for the Alaska experience. I stepped inside, waited for a break in the conversation, and asked for a haircut.

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Chugach State Park

Many thanks to Steve – a fellow Dartmouth alum and long-time Anchorage resident – who took me along for a hike in Chugach State Park, on the east side of Anchorage.  We climbed up the slopes of O’Malley Peak and into an alpine plain called the “ballfield”, to an overlook of the Williwaw valley.  It was a beautiful day with plentiful sunshine and some clouds passing through the peaks.  Great views, near and far.   More photos in the gallery!

David at the overlook into the Williwaw valley, Chugach State Park, outside Anchorage.
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Katmai finale

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

The full group of photographers on our Muench Katmai Bears expedition. L to R: Kevin, Pam, Jeff, Gene, Jerry, Caryn, Jeff, Allen, Dave, Jack; kneeling: John. Photo by Kevin Lisota.
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Katmai, days 6-7

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Thursday (September 1) Geographic Harbor: We visited the beach (and bears) in the morning. It was a beautiful day, with the clouds passing over and through the hills surrounding the bay. Read on, though, for photos of the bears and other wildlife spotted this day!

Landscape (with bear), Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
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Katmai, days 4-5

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Tuesday (August 30) Kuliak Bay, Hidden Harbor, Geographic Harbor: An early breakfast allowed us to reach the beach by 8am, where an immature bald eagle was perched on driftwood as if waiting for a dozen photographers to capture its portrait. My favorite photo from the sequence came moments after it launched from its beachfront perch. What else did we see in the next two days? read on.

Bald eagle (immature) on shore at the head of Kuliak Bay.
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Katmai, day 3

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Monday (August 29) Kuliak Bay: Today we decided to move to another bay, also well known for bears: Kuliak Bay. So we spent a few hours motoring out from Geographic Harbor and Amalik Bay, then northeast through the Shelikof Strait along the Katmai coastline. It was a gorgeous day with calm seas and scattered clouds, with snow-capped peaks in the distance behind the coastal hills. Read on to see what we found in Kuliak Bay…

Panorama from offshore Katmai National Park – click to see fuller size.
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Katmai, day 2

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Sunday (August 28) Geographic Harbor: We rose for an early breakfast so we could return to the beach during low tide. Many bears were out today, as was another group of photographers. There are no lodges or cabins or roads with access to the extensive shoreline of Katmai National Park, so visitors all arrive by ship or plane and groups (like us) sleep on-board ships. Throughout the trip we were often the only group in a bay, and thus on shore; sometimes there was one (or maybe two) other boats sharing the same bay (and beach). Rarely, we’d see a small group of day-trippers arrive by floatplane. The guides, like our Captain Rob, all knew each other, and there was a tacit understanding that groups stayed out of the way of each other; still, it was sometimes possible to photograph bears as they passed by another group.

Coastal Brown Bear passing close to another group – Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
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