Alaska Guidebook Series

Viewing and Photographing the Northern Lights
Viewing and Photographing the Northern Lights

There's perhaps no bigger draw to the far northern latitudes in winter than the chance to see the aurora borealis....

Table Top Mountain Trail
Table Top Mountain Trail

Table Top Mountain Trail is a 3.5-mile hike with a short extension to the summit of a treeless, mesa-like mountain...

Gulkana Glacier Hike
Gulkana Glacier Hike

The Gulkana Glacier area has much to offer, including day-hiking, backpacking or mountaineering expeditions, or just a roadside view of...

I’m currently writing and mapping guides to hiking and general travel/tourism to destinations all over Alaska. My focus is on sharing beautiful, photogenic locations that would most interest hikers and photographers, but the guide is open to anyone!

Explore the Guide

Alaska Wildflowers

Common Fireweed – Chamaenerion angustifolium
Common Fireweed – Chamaenerion angustifolium

Fireweed's common name comes from the fact that it can revegetate quickly after forest fires. Each flower is symmetrical about...

Larkspur – Delphinium glaucum
Larkspur – Delphinium glaucum

The larkspur is a tall, single stem flowering plant that grows 3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m) in height with spurred, purple...

Moss campion – Silene acaulis
Moss campion – Silene acaulis

Moss campion is a cushion-like plant with 6-12mm (1/4-1/2 in) diameter, pink or whitish-pink 5-petal flowers, and 10 stamens.

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01
Castner Ice Cave
Person in a glacier cave kneeling down to look at ice crystals
Cat inspects a columnar ice crystal that had fallen from the ceiling

Yesterday, in an effort to avoid people amidst a growing outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Fairbanks, Cat and I drove down to Castner Creek. There were quite a few more cars in the parking lot than normal, apparently, we weren’t the only ones with the idea. It wasn’t too difficult to practice our social distancing on the one-mile trail, we just had to step aside into the waist-deep snow every once in a while. We got there a bit later in the day, and most people were leaving. It wasn’t long before we were the only ones here.

Hiker walking out to the Castner Glacier

We brought snowshoes in case the trail wasn’t well-packed, but we never needed to put them on. It was mostly cloudy and windy. Luckily, we still had a great view of the mountains, especially Black Cap and White Princess, both towering over the Castner valley. The temperature was above freezing, a nice change from our long, cold winter.

Short video walk-through of the glacier cave

Approaching the toe of the glacier we see nothing but a white wall of snow and some skiers practicing turns on the terminus. Suddenly there are people appearing at the bottom as we get nearer. Turning in at the edge of the toe, we look down into a giant blue hole in the side of the glacier.

Large entrance to the Castner Glacier ice cave
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A line of hoarfrost lined the ceiling. The further back we got, the bigger the ice crystals became. The little feathers of frost turned into large columnar (c-axis) crystals. Near the furthest extent that these crystal were growing inside the cave were some of the largest frost spikes I’ve ever seen, approximately 2 ft long.

hoarfrost on the ceiling of a glacier cave under the castner glacier
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A hiker looking up in a glacier cave in the Alaska Range
Long ice crystals on the ceiling of an ice cave
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A hiker with a headlamp looking at ice crystals in an glacier cave
ice crystals and hoarfrost on the ceiling of the castner glacier ice cave
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large c-axis ice spikes and hoar frost on the ceiling of a glacier cave
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We spent a little over an hour-and-a-half exploring the cave and ice formations. It was absolutely incredible getting to experience such awesome ice crystals, especially while being under a glacier. I don’t have much more to say, except I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and not going too stir-crazy. We are definitely on the precipice of some tough times. I’ll try my best to keep sharing some pretty things every day. Hopefully, we’ll all be back out exploring soon!

Check out the full photo gallery here.

Layers of sediment in glacier ice
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Bright light through frost toward the entrance of a glacier cave
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Frost on the ceiling of a blue glacier cave
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Latest Stories

Ice Crystals in R-Channels
2020 03 30
Ice Crystals in R-Channels
Visitor in the Snow
2020 03 26
Visitor in the Snow
Castner Ice Cave
2020 03 20
Castner Ice Cave
Hello Otter
2020 03 11
Hello Otter
Parhelia, or sun dogs in the sky over a snowy forest in Fairbanks, Alaska
2020 02 02
Parhelia
Michelle Phillips dog team starting the 2020 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks, Alaska
2020 02 01
Yukon Quest 2020
Golden light hits the top of the trees near Ruby Creek in the Alaska Range
2020 01 17
2019 Photo Highlights
All Blogposts
Recent Photos
Lee Petersen
Lee PetersenPhotographer/Writer

I am currently available for freelance photography, writing, or web design. My photography and writing focus is primarily outdoors-related (hiking, climbing, biking).

Featured Articles

Otters preparing to jump off an iceberg in Columbia Bay

I’ve only been getting really interested in wildlife photography over the last three years. It is becoming on of the most enjoyable and rewarding pursuits in my life. I’ve been amassing a collection of bear, sea otter, seal, sea lion, dall sheep, and moose photos from around Alaska. You can view my wildlife portfolio at the link below.

View my Wildlife Photos
Autumn colors in tundra in Denali National Park

My passion for landscape photography started with my hobby of taking photos and love of hiking and the outdoors. It wasn’t long after I started hauling my DSLR along on backpacking trips that I realized I was hiking, climbing, or skiing to seek out the coolest landscapes I could find.

View my Landscape, Seascape, and Coastline Photos
aurora borealis from Granite Tors

Probably the biggest draw to Alaska in the winter months is the hope to view the northern lights. I love being able to step out on my front porch at night and see the sky lit up in green. Even more, I love being able to hike out to beautiful locations and view the aurora borealis from my tent door.

View my aurora borealis photos
columbia glacier

In my 10 years in Alaska, I’ve seen a drastic shrinking of most of the glaciers that I hike to and on. Some of these will be nearly gone in my lifetime and photos will be all we have to remember them. Unfortunately, whatever your political stance is doesn’t seem to matter to the glaciers.

View my Glacier and Iceberg photos
birch trees with snow

The interior of Alaska is mainly covered by boreal forest. White spruce, black spruce, birch, aspen, tamarack, and balsam poplar are really all we have for native trees. The forests are gorgeous and one of the main reasons I love living here. Although, since I do a lot of hiking when I travel there is more than just boreal forest in the collection.

View my Forest Photos

Snowy Aurora

Photo of the Day

Aurora from 30000 feet

Aurora Blog


Aurora at Angel Rocks
2017 02 02
Yikes . . . Has it really been this long?! Spring in Alaska

It sure doesn't feel like it, but it's been over a year...

Alignment of Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Moon with Aurora Borealis
2016 05 28
Aurora Borealis – October 6, 2015 – Planetary Alignment!

I woke up early to photograph a cool planetary alignment of Venus,...

2015 12 06
Aurora Borealis – September 11, 2015

The first impressive aurora borealis display I witnessed this season was shortly...

Aurora borealis from the Granite Tors Trail.
2015 03 28
Two nights on the Tors trail

Ghostly aurora from the Granite Tors Trail | Purchase Print I'm awakened...

Featured Products

Mt. Shand stands nearly a vertical mile above the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range.
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Mt. Shand – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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Mt. Shand stands nearly a vertical mile above the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range.

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-zmKqwCT/buy

$70.00 $60.00
Cow moose grazing on willows in Denali National Park & Preserve.
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Cow Moose in Fall Colors – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Cow moose grazing on willows in Denali National Park & Preserve. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-Hb7fZ6t/buy

$95.00 $80.00
Gorgeous red landscapes over the Thorofare River and yellow vegetation-covered Muldrow Glacier.
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Denali – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Gorgeous red landscapes over the Thorofare River and yellow vegetation-covered Muldrow Glacier. And of course Denali, the tallest Mountain in North America at 20,310′ above sea level. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-zmKqwCT/buy

$95.00 $80.00
Ice-covered mountains over the Black Rapids Glacier in the Alaska Range
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Ice-Covered – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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A lot of snow falls up here covering the mountains of the Trinity Basin of the Alaska Range in ice. This is part of the small remaining accumulation area of the Black Rapids Glacier. I’m amazed at how such a conglomeration of ice and snow can take the appearance of simply being draped over the mountains. (No watermark on print)

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-VMftqNx/buy

$70.00 $60.00
Birch reflections in the seasonal wetlands at Creamer's Field in Fairbanks, Alaska.
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Boardwalk – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Birch reflections in the seasonal wetlands at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks, Alaska. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-sd83XLd/buy

$95.00 $80.00
Anderson Falls near Valdez, Alaska
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Anderson Falls – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Anderson Falls in the Chugach Mountains near Valdez, Alaska. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Date/2018/July/2018-07-04/i-cQpPDgn/buy

$95.00 $80.00
Auroral Corona
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Aurora Corona – 8″x12″ Signed Metal Print

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8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back (no watermark on print)
Not a minute after that eruption on the horizon this auroral corona danced overhead and seemed to last for a really long time. Usually only appearing for a few seconds, I think I had about a minute of shooting this one. In the center, you might be able to make out the big dipper, but the stars were pretty dim compared to the northern lights that night!
Click here for more sizes and formats! (unsigned)

$95.00 $80.00
Parhelia over Black Rapids Glacier
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Parhelia over Black Rapids Glacier – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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I photographed this awesome sight while doing field work out on the Black Rapids Glacier in the eastern Alaska Range. The view is to the southeast and you can see the Loket Tributary flowing into the main branch of the glacier center-right. Living in Fairbanks (a little under 100 miles north of here) we get to see a lot of optical phenomena from ice in the atmosphere. In the winter we frequently see halos and parhelia (sun dogs). It’s pretty rare to see the tangent arc and even rarer to see a parhelic circle – the line that continues ‘horizontally’ from the sundog. At times this made a full 360° circle around our heads from camp. The stitching together of this 14 image panorama was not fun and it isn’t perfect, but I think it came out nice enough. (No watermark on print)

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-PXbnKsT/buy

$70.00 $60.00
Waterfalls and islands in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska.
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Waterfalls into the Sound – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Waterfalls and islands in Prince William Sound near Valdez, Alaska. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-rcRDMdh/buy

$95.00 $80.00
Grizzly bear in fall foliage in Denali National Park
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Grizzly in Fall Colors – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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Grizzly in Fall Colors. Near the Primrose area of Denali National Park & Preserve. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-gb2MDcD/buy

$95.00 $80.00
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Winter Sunrise – 5″x10″ Float Metal Print

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This is a pretty typical mid-winter scene in the Alaska Interior. There’s not much wind in Fairbanks, so the snow sticks to the trees for a while. The sun is always low on the horizon when it’s up around winter solstice, so it never gets much past the sunrise stage. Beautiful light makes up for the lack of light. (No watermark on print)

5″x10″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-PXbnKsT/buy

$70.00 $60.00
Blue stream on the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range
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New Stream – 8″x12″ Float Metal Print

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A blue stream forms in the snow on the surface of the Black Rapids Glacier in the Eastern Alaska Range. (No watermark on print)

8″x12″ Float Metal Print – Signed On Back
Other sizes and formats are available here: https://photos.lwpetersen.com/Portfolio-Images/i-TMF5Lg4/buy

$95.00 $80.00

All Featured Posts

Castner Ice Cave
20 03 2020
Castner Ice Cave

Cat inspects a columnar ice crystal that had fallen from the ceiling Yesterday, in an effort to avoid people amidst a growing outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Fairbanks, Cat and...

Supraglacial stream in the Alaska Range
20 02 2020
Canwell Glacier and Rainbow Basin – Hiking Guide

The Canwell Glacier is an approximately 10-mile long valley glacier on the south side of the Delta Mountains in the Eastern Alaska Range. It is reasonably easy to access the...

Parhelia, or sun dogs in the sky over a snowy forest in Fairbanks, Alaska
02 02 2020
Parhelia

Parhelia - Fairbanks, Alaska Buy This Print There was strong parhelia and sun pillar while driving home from the Yukon Quest start yesterday. This photo was taken at 1:40 pm, very close...

Michelle Phillips dog team starting the 2020 Yukon Quest in Fairbanks, Alaska
01 02 2020
Yukon Quest 2020

This morning 15 dog mushers began their 1000-mile journey on the 2020 Yukon Quest. We watched them all off on their way to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory just as they left...

Golden light hits the top of the trees near Ruby Creek in the Alaska Range
17 01 2020
2019 Photo Highlights

Forty of my favorite photos from 2019. Landscapes and wildlife from glaciers in the Alaska Range and Chugach Mountains, Denali National Park, and more!

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
14 01 2020
Birds (and more) at Pelican Island

The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is roughly 5400 acres of protected water and land. Located near Sebastian, Florida, the refuge is a beautiful conservation site in an otherwise sprawling...

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch on January 6, 2020
07 01 2020
SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch

For a few seconds, it looked like the Sun was rising over the river. Standing almost 45 miles away the sky and water were completely lit up. We watched the...

29 12 2019
Biking the Park Road

Three day bike tour in Denali National Park before the tourist season opens. Dall sheep, grizzly bears, and ptarmigan were spotted among other animals along with some beautiful vistas.

Hiker descending the Savage Alpine Trail to the Savage River in Denali National Park in winter.
11 07 2019
Winter Hiking in Denali National Park

(Link to a few trail maps and hiking guides below) Winter is my favorite season in Denali National Park. It is empty. I rarely run into anyone, and when I...

All Featured Posts