Photo of the Day (12.20.10)

There’s nothing more frustrating on a road trip then getting stuck behind a slow-moving bus or truck that you are unable to pass. Not only are they holding you up, but after a few miles (or worse, a few hours), you simply just get sick of seeing the exact same vehicle in front of you. The only saving grace is if, when you finally do get to pass, the driver of that massive vehicle honks the horn and waves.

I suppose the scenery made being stuck behind a bus slightly more tolerable for Flickr user Michael in TN, who took this photo in beautiful Denali National Park. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion he passed that bus the first chance he got.

Taken any great photos during your road trips? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Denali National Park seeks artist in residence

Are you an aspiring artist looking for some inspiration? Do you enjoy the great outdoors and have a desire to paint spectacular landscapes? Then Denali National Park has an opportunity for you. The park is now taking applications for its artist in residence program, seeking qualified artists to visit during the summer of 2011.

Each of the residency programs is ten days in length and comes with the use of the Murie Cabin, located at Mile 43 along the Park Road. The cabin was the base of operations for Adolph Murie, who conducted a ground breaking study on the predator-prey relationship between wolves and sheep back in the early 1940’s. The cabin sits at a very scenic site in Denali, offering access to some of the best landscapes in all of North America, although the accommodations are a bit spartan. The cabin comes equipped with a propane heater, necessary even during the Alaskan summer, a stove, refrigerator, a small library, and double beds. There is no electricity or running water however, and an outhouse out back provides bathroom facilities.

The ten day residencies take place between June and September of next year and the artists selected will be responsible for their own food and travel. Additionally, the position offers no monetary compensation, and the artist is expected to create at least one piece of art and donate it to the park. They are also expected to make one public presentation of the piece they create. In exchange for their work, they’ll receive free use of the cabin and access to some of the most spectacular backcountry on the planet, which should serve as fantastic inspiration for their art.

For more information on the Denali Artist in Residence program and to fill out an application, click here.

[Photo credit: National Park Service]

Chicago backpacker gets lost (again) in Alaska

When Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless’ epic adventure in the Alaskan wilderness, was published, the idea of setting off into the wild with nothing but a few pounds of rice and your wits to survive seemed terribly romantic….well, except that McCandless died because he was unprepared for the harsh conditions. Despite (or I guess, because of) that minor point, hundreds of people have followed suit to gawk at the ruins of the bus that McCandless lived, and died, in.

Over the years, several people who’ve set out for the bus have had to be rescued, costing the state around $2000 each. Understandably, many locals have have come to dislike the tourists who arrive, unprepared and ill-equipped, and put themselves in unnecessary danger. So they probably hate Don Carroll.

The Chicago-area 19-year old went looking for the bus with a friend, found it, and then got lost in the woods for three days with no food or water. The two ate berries and drank river water before being rescued by helicopter on Monday. But this isn’t Carroll’s first time being lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Back in June, Carroll, a seasonal resort employee, was hiking alone in Denali National Park and lost his way. Wearing just jeans and a hoodie, he suffered hypothermia, but managed to lead rangers to his location through text messages. He was rescued by helicopter then as well.

Caroll will head back to civilization in mid-September. Until then, hopefully he’ll stay out of the woods. It doesn’t sound like he is welcome there anyway. “If police see me in the woods, they’re going to arrest me,” he said in a phone interview. “The chief ranger said he’s not going to come looking for me anymore.”

[via Daily Herald]

New hybrid buses being tested for Denali National Park tours in Alaska

Tourism in Denali National Park, home to 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, could get a lot greener before we know it.

If you’ve been to Denali you know that the park forbids personal cars for the 92-mile length of the park road. Instead, visitors catch a diesel bus near the park entrance. The road is the only way to get into and out of the park.

Park officials are now testing out a hybrid tour bus to eventually replace the fleet of 110 diesel buses that take thousands each year to view North America’s highest mountain and the wildlife that surrounds it.

Officials tell the Associated Press that these hybrids reduce the amount carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by another 20 percent and particulate emissions by 30 percent.

That translates into a much more environmentally friendly vehicle for one of the country’s most beautiful…environments.

Officials are also touting the gas efficiency of the hybrids, since diesel fuel in the area is topping out at around $5 a gallon. The hybrid bus requires around 70 percent less fuel as the park’s current diesel buses.

The hybrid system combines a diesel engine with an 80-kilowatt powertrain that incorporates a transmission, batteries and an electric motor, the AP reports.

Right now the park is looking to slowly phase out its diesel fleet, and officials tell the AP it could replace anywhere from two to 12 buses each year with the hybrid models.

But this will come with a significant price tag: Each hybrid bus costs $200,000 — twice as much as the buses currently in use.

Denali Road Lottery: An Autumn Experience for a Lucky Few

Autumn in Alaska is less a season and more a quick transition from summer to winter. There’s no slow, sexy undressing of trees; instead we get the climax for three weeks as anything with leaves scrambles to dump them. Denali National Park is ablaze daily for three weeks in late August and September, and one of the coolest ways to enjoy this intense “season” is by driving the Denali Park Road.

The road into Denali is closed to private vehicles during the summer season (and not plowed in the winter), but over one weekend in September 1600 cars are allowed to drive the 92 miles to Kantishna. The National Park Service has been running the Denali Road Lottery for 13 years, and it’s gaining popularity every year. To enter, you send a check for $10 in an envelope with the dates you’d like to go, in order of preference (there’s four days available; the NPS allows 400 cars per day).

There are several reasons why being able to drive the road is cool: for one, you’re in your own car, not a bumpy school bus listening to other people’s conversations. But the best is being able to enjoy Denali’s awesome fall colors, a display that could compete with New England’s famous show. The open, panoramic views from the road provide scenes of autumn at every stage, from the clean, white termination dust on top of peaks, to the maroon and rust explosions of highbush blueberries.

I’m a lottery loser this year, but I’ll keep spending the $10 on a chance to drive the road.

Thanks to zrim on Flickr for the perfect shot of Broad Pass in the middle of fall.