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A YEAR IN THE MOUNTAINS

Anywhere you go in Anchorage, to a store, a restaurant or for a walk along the local trails, you can see the mountains of Chugach State Park. They are such a constant presence that it is easy to forget the wonders they hold. I know because I, too, take them for granted.

Alpenglow on the mountains of Chugach State Park above Anchorage.
Ice cave at Clear Creek Glacier.

I spent my first seven years in Alaska trying to find and photograph the essence of the Alaska wilderness. I flew, hiked, climbed and skied across the state; the more remote the better. I found places few had been, places that were rugged and magnificent. But as the economy sank and my family grew, I realized I needed to focus on a project close to home. The obvious choice was the local state park. So I decided to focus my energy on exploring and photographing Chugach State Park for one year, September through September.

Fog and fall tundra on Bold Ridge.
Aspens and cranberry leaves.

In the beginning, I doubted I would find the same wild landscape I had discovered elsewhere in the state. I was quickly proved wrong. Chugach State Park had the same wild character as the more-remote areas I had visited. But the park was different: it was accessible; it was next to the largest city in Alaska; it was only minutes from my doorstep.

Fall leaves and bear tracks along Eagle River.
Fireweed and burned logs, two months after a wildfire at Eklutna Lake.
Moose drinking beneath Polar Bear Peak.

I knew right away what I would do. I would use my camera to capture the park’s wild character. To do that, I had to know the Chugach from forest to summit, mushrooms to mountain goats, through all four seasons.

Mixed light over Walrus Lake.
Sunset from Steamroller Pass.

Last fall I sat back and asked, “Did I capture the essence of the Chugach State Park wilderness?” I hope so. I also hope that through these photographs the viewer will experience Chugach State Park on a personal level, something most visitors never do. But most importantly, I hope these images will remind Alaskans that Chugach State Park is a wild place, not a glorified city park. It is Alaska at its finest, and we must do what we can to keep it that way.

Willow leaves beside Eagle River.

Carl Battreall is a photographer and filmmaker based in Anchorage. These photographs and others appear in his new book, Chugach State Park: Alaska’s Backyard Wilderness, published by Greatland Graphics.

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Alaska Magazine MMN
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Credits:

Photos and Story by Carl Battreall

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