What a difference 80 years makes. The average person won’t notice the old names for the trails and locations, but just about everyone should see the “Bear Feeding Platforms”, and realize that they are not that great of an idea anymore. Also noticeable is the Big Oak Flat Road. Go down on Odd Hours, Up on Even. I can only guess how well that would work in modern times.
Naturally, the layout of the valley hasn’t changed that much, even the roads are more or less the same. There’s no hotel at Glacier Point anymore, which is unfortunate because it’s such a pain to get up there, but that’s what camping is for.
Something has to be said for actors, and directors doing actual stunts in movies. Instead of green-screaning everything. Sure technology has come along way and it’s harder to spot the artificial ones, but having someone actually hang on to the side of an airplane as it takes off is so much better then blowing air in their face and computerizing in a plane. That is what separates good movies, form great movies, good directors, for great directors.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation comes out this week, it’s consistently been one of the better film franchises in recent memory. This one looks just as good as the previous.
The last entry in my profiles of the National Parks of Alaska is Glacier Bay. It is one of the older parks in Alaska, President Coolidge made it a National Monument in 1925, and President Carter upgraded it to full Park status in 1980. Over it’s 90 year history it’s seen countless boats bring tourists into the coves to see the massive glaciers up close. Because it is so easily accessible to cruise ships, it currently ranks the 2nd most visited park in Alaska, with just over 500,000 visitors in 2014.
It’s one of the more southern parks, located close to Juneau. Like the state’s capital, (and most of the other Alaskan Parks), there are no roads leading into the park. Unlike most of the other Alaskan parks, the majority of it’s visitors arrive via boat instead of the air. The park borders Canada, and Wrangell-St. Elias, together with the Provincial parks of Kluane and Tatshenshini-Alsek, they make up 32 million acres of protected area in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main attraction here is Glaciers. There are 15 tidewater glaciers in the park, glaciers that terminate in the sea. Four of them are actively creating new icebergs all the time. This impressive scene is dangerous to witness due to the weight of the ice, the unpredictability of it, and the waves it causes when they fall. It’s still pretty neat, if you manage to see it. Over the 200 year history of the area there has been extensive documentation of the glaciers and their many advancements and retreats over the years.
Historically, Glacier Bay has been inhabited for at least the last 10,000. But the landscape has changed drastically since it was first visited in the late 1700s. The entire bay was once covered by a glacier. 100 years later in 1879, John Muir visited the area and wrote heavily about it. Eventually, he would get a glacier named after him, at the time it was the most active glacier in the bay, but has since retreated quite a bit and is no longer classified as tidewater.
Kayaking around the bay, as well as rafting the Alsek River are two popular attractions. At low tide, brown bears (coastal), can be seen feeding along the shores, humpback whales, and sea otters swim in the bays, while eagles soar above. Some of the quintessential Alaskan wildlife viewing is paramount in and around Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. The most popular section is Glacier Bay, with all the different coves, and inlets of the area many leading to glaciers, or to newly unearthed land freed from glacial cover in just the last 150 years. However there are over 600 miles of coastline along the outer coast of the park that are rarely visited, but these are open to the raw Pacific Ocean.
On September 30, and October 04, 2015, The Iron Giant will be show in select theaters again. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this masterpiece, you should stop what you’re doing and find somewhere to watch it. It’s less than 90 minutes long, it has some legendary names attached to it, Brad Bird, Vin Diesel, and Pete Townshend among others. It was a box office bomb, but only because no one knew what it was supposed to be, and it was before social media, or the internet was big. Critics loved it, and it really is an amazing film. You should make some time to go see this classic on the big screen. It’s remastered, and includes extra scenes. I’m not really sure how the extra scenes things will go, but hey, it’s The Iron Giant on the big screen, you should go watch it.
It’s being run by Fathom Events, there will be details to follow soon.
National Geographic has the above video where Mike Wilson has decided to construct a ski jump made of crushed ice on the side of a bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. He was then pulled across the “snow” and jumped over the railing of the bridge. He threw out a parachute, and glided to the river below. It’s quite a spectacle, especially since it’s taken place in the summer, and this guy has skis on, and is jumping off a bridge, and he’s crazy.
This week I am taking you to the largest National Park in the country. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, together with the National Preserve that borders it takes up some 13 million acres of land. This is larger than the European country of Switzerland. The park is home to some of the tallest peaks within the continent (9 of the 16 tallest peaks on U.S. soil are within the park), but very close to the ocean, within 10 miles of tidewater. This gives the park one the the highest reliefs in the world.
In the turn of the century copper was discovered in the hills and area. Soon the boom town of Kennecott sprung up. But like all mining towns, it became a ghost town when the mines dried up. Over the 2 decades of it’s service it produced about $100 million worth of some of copper. Now the ghost town serves as a tourist attraction and gateway at the base of the park.
Wrangell-St. Elias is one of the few parks connected by road to Anchorage. It may be a gravel road, but you could in theory drive from Anchorage to the McCarthy road, and then get to Kennecott. There are no loop roads within the park though, and most visitors take flight planes into the interior to camp, or just fly over the beautiful landscape below.
The most prominent features of the park (besides the many multi thousand feet tall mountain peaks) are it’s glaciers. Indeed, 1,700 mi², or 60%, of the glacial ice in the state of Alaska is located within the mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias. These glaciers are constantly moving and changing the landscape (albeit at a glacial pace), but combined with the geologic activity below ground which includes volcanoes and earthquakes makes this park an ever changing world.
All the usual Alaskan animals, black and brown bears, wolves, and caribou are present in the park, but in lower concentrations. Except for Dall Sheep, some 13,000 of them live within the park, the highest concentration on the continent. The harbor is home to seals, and whales, and the air above hosts common ravens, robins, and owls. The rivers that the glaciers feed are where you can find river otters, porcupines, beavers, salmon, and rainbow trout, among other fish and mammals.
There are quite alot of different activities that you can do in this park. You could raft along the Copper River, take a kayak tour of the bay, hike on a glacier, or take a scenic flight over the landscape. Of course, like most of the other Alaskan Parks, you can pack a bag and start hiking somewhere and make camp. Wrangell-St. Elias has the unique property of having 14 public use cabins within the park bounds. These are rustic cabins, that are on a first come first served basis, but reservations are required. Most of these cabins are a ways into the park, often a plane ride in, but they are a unique thing to think about. However, bringing your own camping supplies are recommended as the cabins may be occupied, and the people may not want to, or be able to leave.
Well, a bicycle version of a metal and foam modeled T-Rex that is. Someone in Eugene Oregon is offering their custom built T-Rex bike for sale. It’s $2,000 on Craigslist, and is named after Sue. However, this dino is only 8½ feet tall, 12 feet long, and has a 5½ foot stance, which is close to the size of an adolescence T-Rex. She’s powered (by you) by a 9 speed drivetrain. If you’re of dino strength, you could get her up to 15mph, but 7mph is probably more realistic, but with a bit of adrenaline, you could go faster.
The Model kind that is. There’s just something about model railroads. You don’t necessarily need to be a nerd to really like them, but it helps. Kids love them, and they really are just a testimate to dedication. Being able to play with the model trains, that’s a secondary spot of fun.
Now, this isn’t the largest, or most detailed, but it’s definitely got some work put into it. Look at the bridge and the gorge below it here. That’s beautiful. In fact, you could probably mistake that for an actual full sized rail road bridge with some handy work of the camera.
MICRON3DP is working on a 3D printer that uses glass as it’s medium of choice. This is a potential breakthrough in the 3D printing world. Currently, 3D printing is limited to soft, low melting point plastics. These plastics aren’t the suited for many things and that makes the applications limited. But, being able to use glass, which has a melting point of thousands of degrees Fahrenheit means that it’s one step closer to using metal and being able to 3D print parts that were never before possible.
Now, granted, the quality isn’t up to spec yet, but this is the prototype stage, hopefully it won’t be long before this has advanced enough where we can 3D print buildings.
I’m sure you’ve all seen these penny crusher machines. They are pretty ubiquitous on vacations and are a great cheap souvenir. Well, besides the common question of is this legal, which it is, so stop asking, the other question is how do they work?
In actuality, it’s a pretty simple process, a penny is pushed through a space slightly smaller then the penny’s thickness made by two hardened steel dies. One the die has a design carved into it’s face, and due to the process of stress and the deformity of metal, this image is transferred to the penny. It’s pretty basic science and math. If you want to get alittle more advanced, take a look at the Instructable mblem has made. He is making his own Penny Crusher machine.
You would think that this is not a simple process, and you’d be right. There is quite alot involved, and he’s still not fully finished. The design phase went through some tweaking after he used a laser cutter for a dry run on plywood. He used a water jet to cut parts out of steel, (which he included a video of, which is super boring, don’t bother watching it).
He still has a ways to go apparently, but he wanted to show his progress. It’s also probably easier to break this up into different sections because each one requires different skills. Next up is building the cabinet that will hold everything, that requires woodworking skills, and design skills, things that are very different from the engineering skills necessary to come up with the design and tolerances needed for guts of the machine.
I look forward to seeing him finish the project, and hopefully he posts some final cost values associated with this project. It’s not something that a normal person would buy, or want to make, but it’s totally something I could see some places buying. Support local artists, and people, I’d be for that.