Northern Lights
Shing Tak Doo '61 USA

On the first week of September 2004 my wife, Mary, and I visited the Denali National Park of Alaska with a group of enthusiastic amateur photographers led by renowned nature and wildlife photographers John Shaw, Jack Dykinga, and Len Rue. While in Denali, we photographed the ubiquitous and exquisitely beautiful Mount McKinley Mountain range every dawn and dusk, attempting to capture the magical colors from Wonder Lake, Reflection Pond, and other locations. Every day it looked different. The snow -capped mountain range, the glacier, the tundra and the permafrost, the alluvial terminal terrain and the braided rivers, beautifully woven and unfolding as we traveled along. We scouted for wildlife in between. However, we didn't see too many -- just a couple of white grizzly bears and a brown one devouring berries on the tundra. We saw a black stag moose briefly and a doe with her fawn at the lake. There were a herd of caribou and some dall sheep, but they were far away up the slopes.

The Denali National Park is about 8 hours' bus ride from Anchorage. We stayed overnight outside the park for one night. This park, a giant piece of wilderness, is about the size of the state of Massachusetts. There is only one major unpaved road winding along the mountain side on the opposite side of Mt. McKinley. McKinley is the most majestic and spectacular sight of the park. The rest of the park can only be seen by hiking. We were told that we had the best weather since June 2004, as the smoke from the wild fires of Fairbanks had been contaminating the air and stressing out the plants and wildlife in the last few months. We lucked out with glorious sunny days and blue skies during our stay.

We were so lucky we saw the northern lights (aurora borealis) on the first two nights we were there. We were hoping to see them on this trip, and were so surprised that we had our beginner's luck without even trying. They were gloriously displayed in front of us in the northern night skies, a splash of pale green. It was truly magical for those who saw them by braving the cold.

At the end of the Denali trip, Mary extended the tour to go to Katmai National Park, to photograph the brown grizzlies. These bears were free to roam around on the island and salmon is their staple food. She took some spectacular photos of the bears. We were completely exhausted after the trip. But we were happy to have had these experience and memories.