Life In Alaska

Do you live in igloos in Alaska?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cruise Alaska a Dream Come True

By Adam Lenk

Alaska CruiseThere's no better way to take in the explosive panorama of Alaska than from the deck of a cruise ship. Let Alaska's wildlife and amazing sea and landscapes surround you in all its grace while you sit back and indulge in all kinds of cruise ship pampering.

Rise early and witness the soul-shaking rumble and crack of glacier shards as they drop into Alaska's jade green waters, and then duck inside for a croissant and a cup of joe. Spy a brown bear hunting salmon or a harbor seal catching some rays while you soak up the sun on deck in a chaise lounge with that book you've been longing to read.

Gaze into the soar of bald eagles while sipping tea poolside. Spot whales spouting and tail flipping while taking a stroll on the top deck after your five-course meal in the dining room. Watch the dance of porpoises alongside ship as you enjoy a midnight sunset. All this in the middle of the big blue sea and only in Alaska…

Once your ship pulls up to land, you're in for a whole other adventure. Take excursions by train, tramway, canoe, kayak, or floatplane in Alaska's seaside cities like Skagway, Anchorage, Ketchikan, Sitka, Haines, or Juneau. Investigate these quaint towns, appreciate totem poles and local crafts and artwork from Alaska's indigenous people and buy souvenir replicas.

History buffs can enjoy a variety of tours of "The Great Land" from the perspective of native Aleut, Athabascan, Eskimos, or Northwest Coast Indian storytelling, the narrative of the Russian "discovery" of Alaska, or the tales of the Gold Rush.

Head for the trails and immerse yourself in Alaska's thick forests on hiking tours. Perhaps you'll glimpse a moose, Dall sheep, caribou, brown bear, or grizzly bear. You won't believe your eyes in Alaska.

What better way to see Alaska's beauty than by floating along the edges of its waterways? This land is rich in wildlife, culture, and unspeakable beauty from its snow-capped mountains to its rich green forests. Come, take Alaska in and enjoy an array of onboard amenities along the way.

By Adam Lenk
For more Alaska Cruise information

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

The World Champion Eskimo Yo-Yo Contest

Robert Crumley demonstrates the Eskimo yo-yo. Photo by Erik HillThe Eskimo yo-yo consists of two furry balls attached to a common cord. The object is to get them whirling in opposite directions without hitting each other. It's not as easy as it looks. I've tried and failed nearly every time.

Those who can accomplish twirling one yo-yo then begin to master the art of getting two yo-yo's going; one in each hand. Beyond that, you can use your imagination.

Coming up this month, Nov. 13, will be the World Champion Eskimo Yo-Yo Contest in Anchorage. The event hasn't been officially held since 1969, 35 years ago. Back then there were competitors who could do amazing things with two or more yo-yo's.

For example, one youngster was able to do a back bend while twirling two yo-yo's. Another was able to work a hula hoop while keeping two yo-yo's going. And another young boy was able to get three yo-yo's going, one in each hand and one in his mouth.

The Yo-yo Contest will be just one of the many attractions of this month's Alaska Native Heritage and American Indian Heritage Month. There will be a Cultural Awareness Workshop, a forum for Alaska native writers and publishers, a free tour of the excellent Alaska Heritage Museum, a panel about Native Rights and Responsibilities, a yo-yo making workshop, and the Alaska premiere of the film, "Aleut Story." The final event will be the Intertribal Gathering at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

I'm sure that in the past 35 years many new tricks and dazzlements have been developed by Eskimo yo-yo experts. Perhaps there will be some world records set at this year's event.

Are You Interested in Alaska Trout Fishing?

By Ken Austin

Trout FishingFor those of you that don't know, Alaska trout fishing is one of the most beautiful, most unbelievable experiences in this world. Not only are the trout big and beautiful, but the area around the fisherman is enough to make the trip perfect. The most common trout fishing done in Alaska is for rainbow trout. But, there are many more types of trout and even some gorgeous salmon that you can catch.

Alaska trout fishing is a journey, not an adventure into some of the most beautiful lakes, streams and rivers imaginable. The rainbow trout you find are simply breathtaking. Many people choose to kayak through the area. Fly fishing is also popular. But, make sure that you use a quality, heavy strength line and rod because these fish will put up a strong fight! They average a weight of 8 - 10 pounds in Alaskan waters.

For those who are considering Alaska trout fishing, they will be happy to know that there are many locations that you can visit. No matter where you are coming from or your skill level, you will be amazed at what Alaska trout fishing has to offer the individual. In fact, there are many fishing trips you can take.

Rainbow trout being native to the area, there is no short supply of quality fish to be had. Take a guided tour to find the best trout fishing. Also, the trips can provide you with knowledge of what type of lures, flies, and other equipment work the best in Alaska trout fishing. There are several lodging areas and tourist facilities to help you find the best locations and all the hiding spots.

Alaska trout fishing is a great way to spend your time. If you are lucky enough to make this trip, make sure you enjoy all of the beauty and fish that are available there. No matter if you are an avid fisherman or a beginner, you will see that Alaska trout fishing is all about the beautiful fish and the quality of spending the day out on the lake, river, or stream.

Ken Austin
All About Trout and Trout Fishing

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Forest Fires in Alaska

Forest Fire in AlaskaEach year we read the stories about forest fires in America. Huge fires cause massive damage and cost states a great deal of money to fight and contain. Did you know that each year the largest fires are in Alaska?

Many of the forest fires in Alaska do not threaten population centers so they do not make big news. Fires in other states are generally more threatening than the forest fires in Alaska, so they are well publicized.

This past fire season was the third worst in history in Alaska. The 2004 fire season was the worst. About 4.6 million acres burned in 2005 and about 6.6 million acres burned in 2004.

Battling the fires cost Alaska about $56 million dollars this year, and last year's first cost about $108 million to fight. Conventional wisdom says that major fire seasons do not happen back to back as they have done for the past two seasons.

Unfortunately, the dangers on the Kenai peninsula and in the Interior of Alaska are great for next year. Both areas have been hit hard by warm, dry summers and infestations of spruce bark beetles. The beetles have left massive numbers of dead trees that are prime fuel for future fires.

It is possible that next year's forest fire season could be the worst yet.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Bridge to Nowhere: Fact and Fiction

Anchorage AlaskaRecently there has been a lot of talk and a lot of writing about the effects of the Transportation Bill in Alaska. A couple of bridges for Alaska made it into the Bill and at least one of them has been knicknamed the "Bridge to Nowhere."

Not surprisingly, however, there is considerable misinformation about the projects and about Alaska. Let me take this opportunity to address the mistakes and attempt to correct them.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma tried to eliminate the bridge funding recently, but his attempt was voted down by an 85 to 15 margin. He said that the Ketchikan bridge project would benefit only 50 people. He referred to "Ketchikan, the very place where 50 people live, and a $230 million-plus bridge is going to service them."

Ketchikan has a population of 8,000 and is the fifth largest city in Alaska. The bridge will connect Ketchikan to Gravina Island where the city's airport is located and where 50 people live currently. The bridge will benefit far more than 50 people.

It has been written that the Ketchikan bridge will connect an island to the mainland. George Stephanopolous on ABC's "This Week" said that the two bridges would connect the mainland to two small islands.

Ketchikan is on an island itself. There was not enough room on the island for the city's airport so they located the airport on nearby Gravina Island. A ferry services the airport and island, but a bridge is a better long range solution. The Anchorage bridge would connect Anchorage to Point McKenzie across the bay, both of which are part of the mainland.

Many have said that the bridges would be in remote parts of Alaska.

The Anchorage bridge would be located in a large city of nearly 270,000 people. The Ketchikan bridge would serve the state's fifth largest city of 8,000.

Senator Ted Stevens was described as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. George Will said that Representative Don Young was on the House Appropriations committee, then corrected himself and said that Young was on the Ways and Means committee.

Senator Stevens has not been the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for more than a year. Representative Young is chairman of the House Transportation committee.

The Ketchikan bridge will cost about $450 million in appropriations.

The Ketchikan bridge appropriation is $223 million and the Anchorage bridge appropriation is $229 million.

Now that you have the facts straight, what do you think? Is it OK for Alaska to have their bridges? Write and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Alaska Plans a Road to Nowhere

End of the RoadThey've been debating a road from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska, so that the citizens of our capital city, Juneau, would have a way to drive to the rest of Alaska or through Canada to the rest of the United States.

You see, our capital is not accessible by road currently. It's the largest city in the U.S., about 30,000 population, that does not have road access. Juneau and Honolulu are the only state capitals not accessible to the rest of the state by roads.

You have to want to get to Juneau real hard. You can fly into Juneau from Anchorage, about 2 hours plus travel time to and from airports, or you can drive from Anchorage to Haines, Ak, and then take the ferry to Juneau from Haines. That trip is about 12 hours of driving plus about 5 hours for the ferry boat section of the trip. And bear in mind that the ferry runs only a few times per week.

So the idea has been to build a road along the Lynn Canal from Juneau to Skagway. It's rugged territory through there, very lush and beautiful. It would be a great scenic drive. The road could be driven in around two hours.

However, a road to Skagway would have to pass through a section that is designated as part of the Skagway and White Pass National Historic Landmark and the ruling is that federal money cannot be used to build a road through that particular section. Nobody knows why, really, it's just that's the way it is. Somebody must think that they are protecting something.

So, the new idea is to build a road from Juneau to within 50 miles of Skagway and dead end it there. Then build a ferry terminal so that road users could put their car on a ferry for the 8 mile trip to Haines. From Haines one can then drive to Anchorage and the rest of Alaska. Or to anywhere else really.

That road could be built with federal funds. They would have to add two ferry boats and a ferry terminal to the plan. Still, that plan would be cheaper than the original plan of building a road all the way to Skagway.

Predictably though, it would become known as the "road to nowhere."

The plan doesn't make too many people happy, however. Residents of Juneau really want a road that takes them all the way out not almost all the way out.

Well, stay tuned. Perhaps there will be another plan along shortly. Alaska already is planning a "bridge to nowhere" and I'm not sure they really want to add a "road to nowhere."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Northern Lights in Alaska

Northern Lights photo by Evan SteinhauserThe Northern Lights activity has been very high lately. The massive eruptions on the sun are sending particles to earth that ionize in the atmosphere and release highly energetic light displays. The nights have been clear this week, allowing the aurora to easily be seen.

Here is another recent picture of the aurora published in the Anchorage Daily News.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Take Me to McCarthy, Alaska

McCarthy, AlaskaYou may have read the New York Times article by Julia Moskin about life in McCarthy, Alaska. The interesting article included numerous excellent pictures, and highlighted one of my favorite areas of Alaska.

A number of years ago I went to McCarthy with my bicycle to do a little sightseeing around the area. McCarthy is not easily accessible, lying well inside the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, an expanse larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. The mountains in this area are huge and many are currently inactive volcanoes. In fact the St. Elias range is a coastal range among the tallest and most rugged in the world. Some of the largest glaciers in the world have made this range their home.

Cable Bucket across the riverTo get to McCarthy I drove 300 miles from Anchorage, the last 58 miles on a gravel road to a dead end at the Kennicott River. At that point I had to load my bicycle and myself into a metal bucket, or tram, attached to a cable across the river. I then pulled on the other cable, hand over hand, to draw myself across the river. I did this a few years ago. Now there is a foot bridge across the river to replace the cable tram.

After crossing the river I was able to ride my bike into McCarthy, a short distance away. The town is home to 30 or so people year round and several hundred tourists during the summer. It’s a world-class area for adventurers who love glacier and mountain climbing and endless backcountry travel.

With my bicycle I traveled a few miles up the valley to the old Kennecott mine. The Kennecott Copper Mine operated from about 1908 to 1938, when falling copper prices forced the mine to close. During the years of operation the mine shipped $200 million worth of high grade ore to the coastal town of Cordova via a railroad. The gravel road into McCarthy follows a section of the old railroad bed.

During its heyday the Kennecott Mine and surrounding area was home to 500 people. Down the valley McCarthy grew to a population of several hundred and included two newspapers.

Nowadays, McCarthy and Kennicott welcome tourists with lodging, meals, gift shops, guide services, river rafting, air taxis and shuttle bus services. Life there is still rustic, yet comfortable if one makes some basic adaptations.

Here is a brief description of how residents of McCarthy adapt.

There are decent grocery stores within 100 miles or so of McCarthy in towns like Chitina, Valdez, Copper Center, and Glennallen. But every once in a while residents make the 600 mile round trip to Anchorage to shop for major supplies. The supplies can be hauled back to McCarthy and over the foot bridge or shipped back via air taxi service or the US Post Office.

Storing large quantities of produce for long periods is not too difficult if one digs a root cellar. McCarthy sits on a plain at an elevation of 1500 feet with glaciers and cold rivers everywhere you look. A proper root cellar will naturally refrigerate cabbage, potatoes, onions, and other produce for a year.

The long daylight hours of the summer months allow residents to grow large vegetables, three times larger than normal. Huge cucumbers and cabbage, plentiful carrots and lettuce. Residents learn the art and science of gardening and canning as a necessary part of their home economy.

Residents also learn to brew their own beer and to make their own sausage. Moose meat is plentiful as are recipes for sausage, jerky, and pate. And you’re right; there is an abundance of salmon and freshwater fish in the nearby streams, especially the Copper River. Smoked salmon is a staple in every household. Some residents have smokehouses large enough for two men. Even if the cupboard is bare there are always smoked salmon and pickles available.

Most McCarthy homes include outbuildings on their property. Sheds store tools and vehicles, and caches store food away from potential prowling bears and wolverines. A cache is a small building on 10 foot stilts, designed to frustrate marauding animals. It is accessed by a ladder, which most animals are not skilled at climbing. The rule is, don’t keep your meat where you sleep.

Ah, yes, Green Acres was never like this.

I enjoyed my bicycle tour around McCarthy and expect to do the trip again soon. It’s a great place to be reminded that the simple life can also be abundant.

Senator Stevens Defends the Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to Nowhere in BudapestSenator Ted Stevens of Alaska put his foot down regarding a couple of bridge projects in Alaska and threatened to quit the Senate if an amendment to rescind federal money from the Alaska bridge projects passed the Senate. Whether the other Senators took him seriously or not the amendment was defeated 82 to 15.

Due to the work of US Representative Don Young of Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Alaska has been granted significant funds to help build bridges in Ketchikan and Anchorage. The Ketchikan bridge has been labeled, "the Bridge to Nowhere" by outsiders and Alaskans alike.

The amendment proposed reassigning the federal money to New Orleans in order to help rebuild some highway bridges there that were damaged by the recent hurricanes.

Senator Stevens sternly said that "this amendment is an offense to me. It is not only an offense to me, it's a threat to every person in the state."

His words were very dramatic and not exactly a reflection of Alaskan resident's opinion. Many Alaskans have said that it makes sense to reassign the money to help New Orleans now, since it seems likely that Alaska can receive money for the bridge projects again in the future.

The bridge projects make sense for the long range future, but not everyone agrees that it is better to start the projects now rather than later.

The bridge in Ketchikan will link the city to the airport which is located on an island. Ketchikan is surrounded by mountains and water and cannot expand further without a bridge to a nearby island. Currently a ferry service takes passengers to and from the airport. With a bridge to the island, new residents will be encouraged to build homes there and the city will be able to grow.

Many of the same issues are true for the Anchorage bridge. The Anchorage area is surrounded by mountains and water and needs additional area for growth. A bridge across the Knik Arm will allow for significant growth. Currently, that area is a 90 minute drive from Anchorage, but with a bridge the area will be only a 15 minute drive away.

Senator Stevens put some fire into his words when he said that "if the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money only from our state, I'll resign from this body. This is not the Senate I came to. This is not the Senate I've devoted 37 years to."

Hopefully, the 82-15 vote will persuade him that it is the right Senate after all. Perhaps they'll name one of the bridges after Senator Stevens.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

And the World Goes 'Round

Diagram of a roundaboutIf you are a citizen of UK or Australia, you are permitted to snicker at this problem. Anchorage, Alaska, just opened its first two roundabouts at a major intersection.

Not a big deal if you are experienced at negotiating roundabouts, but Anchorage residents certainly are not. The good thing about a roundabout is that it substitutes common sense and courtesy for traffic lights and signs. The bad thing is that Anchorage drivers have never been accused of common sense or courtesy.

The roundabouts have been built on either side of our Seward Highway where about 20,000 vehicles per day will attempt to pass through unscathed. Accidents are expected, especially during the road-slick winter months.

Luckily, there are three auto body shops and three auto repair facilities within two or three blocks of the roundabouts. They may be considering running a "Roundabout Special."

Well, I decided to try out the roundabouts and, guess what, I had no problems. In fact I enjoyed driving through the roundabouts so much that I turned around and drove through them again. Then, just for grins, I went back for a third trip, whirling all the way around and back out the way I came. Amazingly, I was not able to cause any accidents. So I went home.

A bit dizzy.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Surf Alaska!

Josh Mulcoy of Santa Cruz, Ca. Photo by Al GrilloHere’s an Alaska topic that surprises me, and I’ve lived here for 25 years.

The latest issue of Outside magazine named Yakutat, Alaska, as one of the 5 best surf towns in America. Outside magazine is one that I read often and always enjoy. It’s one of the premier magazines in America.

Yakutat is northwest of Juneau in southeast Alaska and is home for about 700 people. In the Outside magazine article, Yakutat joins Cocoa Beach, Fl, Montauk, N.Y., Santa Cruz, Ca., and Coos Bay, Or. as the top surfing destinations in America. That’s pretty amazing company, don’t you agree?

Jack Endicott holds the special Yakutat Model surf board. Photo by Al GrilloThere is a full time surf shop in Yakutat called Icy Waves Surf Shop, and it is featured in the magazine article. The shop is owned by the Endicott family who are thrilled with the article.

Jack Endicott, owner of Icy Waves, stocks numerous surf boards, including the special model called the "Yakutat Model." The Yakutat Model is bigger and more buoyant than other surf boards in order to compensate for the lower salinity of the local surf and the heavier weight, due to the need to wear a good wet suit, of the surfers.

Yakutat is difficult to access, is a small town, and has few accommodations. It is estimated that only about 100 non-Alaskans visit Yakutat each summer to surf their waves. The best time to catch great waves is mid-April to mid-June and mid-August to early October.

Ford Archibold and Josh Mulcoy on a Yakutat beach. Photo by Al GrilloSome of the surf spots are easily accessible and some require the aid of a good bush pilot to drop off a surfer in a remote spot. Part of the charm of surfing Yakutat is the remoteness of the area.

So now you know. Alaska is a surfing destination.

To see the rest of the magazine article go to

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Talking MosquitoIf you’re going fishing in Alaska you’d better put on the DEET. And do it liberally because those pesky mosquitoes seem to be worse this summer than recent past summers. Mosquitoes and other biting insects are normally aggravatingly bothersome every year, but this year they are even more so.

The product that Alaskans swear by more than any other is 100% DEET. It’s a strong smelling application that masks the lactic acid in our sweat which mosquitoes can sense up to 50 yards away. They are also attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale. The fact that the mosquitoes can sense my presence up to 50 yards away always amazes me. The fact that they have developed such sensitive detection systems shows that they really are out to get us.

There are a few other products out recently that also do an effective job of masking our presence. One product is oil of lemon eucalyptus which has a scent similar to citronella, a low potency repellent. By the way, citronella applications are quite ineffective in my experience. They smell good to me, but the mosquitoes can still find me without any trouble. The oil of lemon eucalyptus may be a stronger alternative.

Another possible alternative to DEET is a substance called picaridin. It has been widely used in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. We’ll give it the Alaska test to see if it is effective against our sophisticated mosquitoes.

DEET, as you may know, is very strong, and for that reason many people choose not to use it. DEET can damage plastics, tents, watch crystals, and painted surfaces. I’ve used it as a penetrating substance to loosen rusted nuts and bolts. What does it do to your skin?

Actually, it is harmless to your skin, unless you have a developed sensitivity to it. Still, the thought of applying something to my skin or clothing that can eat through rust seems inherently appalling. The thought of those pesky mosquitoes is more appalling so I use DEET whenever I have to.

Any thoughts about insect repellents? I’ve learned that everybody in Alaska has a story to share about mosquitoes and what works for them.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Maggie the Elephant Gets a Treadmill

Have you ever seen a 16,000 pound treadmill built for an elephant? The Alaska Zoo now has one and Maggie the elephant will soon learn how to use it.

Maggie is the only elephant in the Alaska Zoo and the fear is that she has not been getting enough exercise. Since winter weather in Alaska keeps elephants and other zoo animals from exercising, the solution to Maggie's problem was to build a large treadmill for her.

Several other adjustments have been made to make Maggie's life more pleasant, including having zoo handlers spend more time with Maggie. It's very unusual for a zoo to have only one animal.

The treadmill was lowered into place through a hole in the roof of Maggie's living space which was already being renovated.

The next step will be to teach Maggie how to use the treadmill. Elephants have never had a treadmill before, so Maggie will be a pioneer in this area. Zoo officials are certain that Maggie will learn fast, since she has always been a fast learner.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ever See a 144 Lb Watermelon?

4 year old Riley Scott looks at the state record 144 lb watermelonThe Alaska State Fair is going on in Palmer, Alaska, right now. Palmer is about 50 miles north of Anchorage. The Fair lasts a couple of weeks and ends on Labor Day.

One of the highlights of the Fair is the exhibit of giant vegetables.

Since Alaska gets long daylight hours in the summeretime, and since we always have abundant water available, it is possible to grow huge vegetables here. Cabbage, lettuce, beets, watermelons, squash, cantaloupe all can grow to huge size.

State record 32 lb beetHere's a rarity, a 32 lb table beet. A table beet is different from a sugar beet and I'm not sure why one would grow one.

Both the beet and the watermelon are state records and are on exhibit now. I plan to make my pilgrimage to pay homage to the vegetables this weekend. Upcoming is the judging of the cabbage on Thursday.

How big do you suppose a cabbage can grow here in Alaska? John Evans had a world record 45 lb red cabbage about 10 years ago. Barb Everingham had a 106 lb regular cabbage in 2000.

Other Alaska records include a 19 lb carrot, a 63 lb celery, and a 65 lb cantaloupe.

How do these sizes compare to vegetables in your state?

Monday, August 15, 2005

More Salmon Sculptures and One for the Halibut

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers annually sponsors an art show and auction titled, "Wild Salmon on Parade." The event kicks off in early June in Anchorage with a party and a display of all 30 of the entries. The sculptures are then displayed at various locations throughout Anchorage and then auctioned off in September. The auction proceeds benefit various nonprofit organizations.

"Reel Fish"

Reel Fish, photo by Chris ArendHere's a salmon whose heart is in Hollywood, not Alaska. A spawning salmon may look viscious, but this one wants to be a star. After all, his buddy the shark made it big. Julie Rychetnik is the artist who created this sculpture. Coming soon to a theater near you.

"Fish and Chips"

Fish and Chips, photo by Chris ArendStewart Allison has created a halibut sculpture instead of a salmon sculpture and appears to have an Ace high. Allison's halibut is promoting the local poker game, Alaska Hold 'Em. As you may know, Texas Hold 'Em is only played in secrecy here.

Dogs playing poker is so yesterday. Halibut playing poker is what is really cool.

Monday, August 08, 2005

More Wild Salmon on Parade

The local Internation Brotherhood of Electrical Workers annually sponsors Anchorage's summer-long "Wild Salmon on Parade." They provide each entrant with a fiberglass salmon sculpture and $500 for supplies and materials. Each artist takes these basic items and creates the wildest and wackiest sculptures that they can.

The sculptures are displayed in various places throughout Anchorage and are auctioned off in September. The auction proceeds benefit various local nonprofit organizations. A party in early June kicks off the promotion.

"Summer School"

Summer School, photo by Chris ArendPat Adolfae has created a large yellow school bus out of his salmon. This seems appropriate for our local salmon sport fisheries. Often the streams in Alaska are so full of returning salmon that it seems that they have arrived by the busload.

Adolfae's salmon is complete with reflectors, signals, a flashing light, and the required stop sign. Nobody may pass this salmon when his stop sign is out.

"Spamon Y"

Spamon Y, photo by Chris ArendThis wild salmon has scales of Spam cans and is a pun on the favorite sandwich, ham on rye. Notice that the salmon's tail is a large bottle opener, just what one needs to open one's favorite beverage.

What is in the salmon's mouth? Could it be that he has taken the Spam bait? Alaska fishermen have been known to fish with anything, including Spam.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Walk In the Park

Two Bald EaglesKincaid Park, the largest city park in Anchorage, has about 43 miles of maintained trails throughout its 1400 acres. It lies adjacent to the Ted Stevens International Airport and is a popular destination year-round for hikers, cyclists, skiers, snow sliders, picnickers, bird watchers, and beach combers.

Along its hills and bluffs are many excellent scenic views. At Pia’s Overlook, partway along the popular Mize Loop, a family of Bald Eagles has found a great place to nest, raise a family, enjoy the views, and do some significant people watching.

Their nest is just a few yards off the trail. Go to the left corner of the bench and look to the right. Up in the cottonwood trees is a large eagle’s nest where a pair of Bald Eagles and several fledglings reside.

It’s unusual for eagles to nest in the Anchorage city proper. There are an estimated 10 to 20 nests in the city, not many compared to the tens of thousands of eagles in Alaska, more than in all of the rest of the United States.

The disadvantage of the nest’s location is that it is near the noisy airport with large jets flying nearby. The advantage of the location is that it is close to a plentiful food supply.

The fledglings are about 2 months old. They will stay in the nest until September, and then start hopping and fluttering to other tree branches. Soon thereafter, they will learn to fly and will leave the nest forever.

In the meantime the eagles and the trail users seem to be getting along fine.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

More Salmon Sculptures

Thirty salmon sculptures are entered into this year's "Wild Salmon on Parade" promotion. They will be displayed in numerous locations throughout Anchorage until September. An auction will be held to auction off all of the sculptures, and the proceeds will benefit local nonprofit organizations.

"Uncle Salmon"

Uncle Salmon, photo by Chris ArendThis fanciful creation is from the artists at the Arc of Anchorage. They have created a patriotic salmon in the likeness of our country's icon, Uncle Sam. Their red, white, and blue salmon is complete with a top had and a white beard. Uncle Salmon wants you. And we want the salmon.

"Float Fish"

Float Fish, photo by Chris ArendAs you may know, Alaska has more private airplanes per capita than anywhere else in America. Our pilots often travel to wild and scenic parts of Alaska to fish, often times for salmon. It seems only appropriate that a salmon should sprout wings and floats to be able to escape our numerous local fishermen. The "Float Fish" was created by Don Ricker.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Yukon River King Salmon

St Paul's Episcopal Church, Grayling. Photo by Erik HillGrayling, Alaska, is up the Yukon River a few hundred miles. About 200 people live in the village, and the vast majority of them are native Alaskans, primarily Athabascan. The location of the village is a beautiful spot on the wide river, and the village has been active for a long time. The population has been stable, increasing only about 100 people since 1900.

Like all villages along the Yukon River, the Graylng natives anticipate the arrival of the king salmon to their local waters. News of the salmon’s arrival passes along the river from person to person and via telephone. Once the salmon have reached Anvik, about 18 miles downstream, they will usually arrive at Grayling in about two days.

That gives the local fishermen, who fish eagerly for subsistence, time to mend the nets and prepare for the Yukon Kings to arrive.

Sam Burkett using his ulu. Photo by Erik HillYukon King Salmon have a reputation for being especially fat and tasty. It makes sense because the Yukon is a very long river, over 2000 miles long. Some of those salmon have to store up extra fat for the long journey since they do not eat anything once they enter the fresh water of the Yukon.

Imagine the richest salmon that you have tasted, then imagine one extra rich. That’s the Yukon Kings.

Joel Gay visited Grayling recently and reported in the Anchorage Daily News. He interviewed Joseph Maillelle Sr. who said about the king salmon arrival, “You can’t wait for it to get here, then you’re glad when it’s done.” Harvesting the salmon is a lot of work.

The king salmon harvesting period on the Yukon lasts a couple of weeks in July. Sam Burkett remembers catching 126 salmon in a 24 hour period. As he put it modestly, “It gets kind of tiring.” Sam is skilled at filleting the salmon with his large ulu. The ulu is a traditional knife that is especially well designed for chopping and carving. They are a practical knife and also make a good Alaskan souvenir.

If you’re curious about tasting the Yukon Kings, I have to warn you that they are hard to find outside of the Yukon River. Locally, in Anchorage, they are priced at about $19 per pound, and I know of only one store in town that has some. You’ll have to take my word for it, the Yukon Kings are delicious.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Eskimo Olympics on National TV

The Olympics were on TV this past Friday. Did you see the coverage on ESPN? You missed it? You don’t know what I mean?

The High KickI mean that the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics competition is currently underway in Fairbanks. Eskimo and Native American athletes from America, Canada, and other mostly northern countries are competing in this multi-day international event. This is the 44th edition of the WEIO. ESPN TV decided to spotlight the games in several segments on Friday. They had fun with it.

Listen to some of the unique events. On Thursday they ran the Race of the Torch, which is a 3 mile run to see who will get the honor to carry the torch in the opening ceremonies. Leona Kriska of the small village of Koyukuk won that event. There is a One Arm Reach, where competitors balance themselves on one arm and try to reach a ball suspended above them. Elizabeth Rexford won the women’s one had reach at 52 inches while Jesse Frankson won the men’s title with a one hand reach of 78 inches. First of all, how do you even balance on one hand?

David Thomas won the men’s Toe Kick with an effort of 64 inches. I’m not sure how that event works. Jared Pickett won the men’s Grease-Pole Walk with a distance of 57 inches. I’ll let your imagine how that competition might work.

Matt Evans defeated Garry Hull in the men’s Eskimo Stick Pull competition. In this event the contestants try to wrest a one inch diameter stick away from their opponent while sitting on the floor with their feet pressed together against each other and their knees bent.

Elizabeth Rexford, currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College, won the women’s Kneel Jump. This event simulates the movements of a person on moving ice during a break up period. The contestant must sit behind a line with feet flat on the floor, then spring up and forward as far as they can. Rexford won her event with a kneel jump of 39-1/4 inches. Jesse FranksonI hope that’s far enough to make it to the next block of ice. Jesse Frankson won the men’s Kneel Jump event with a jump of 64 inches.

The High Kick finals are always a highlight. More contestants seem to enter this event than the other events. The high kick requires the athlete to sit on the floor beneath a ball and grasp the opposite foot with one hand. Then with his other hand on the floor the athlete springs upward and kicks the ball with his free foot.

As expected both Jesse Fankson and Elizabeth Rexford won their High Kick events. Rexford won with her 67 inch high kick and Frankson topped out at 91 inches. He was three inches short of the world record that he set last year. Frankson hadn’t trained as hard for the event as last year because of the recent birth of his son, Jesse Jr.

The Scissors Broad JumpBoth Frankson and Rexford were victorious in the Scissors Broad Jump a tricky event where the landing is important. Both athletes failed on two attempts but their third attempt was good enough to nail the victory. The scissors broad jump resembles the triple jump in track except that the legs must be crossed on the second step. Rexford won the women’s event with a jump of 23 feet, 8 inches. Her landing was perfect. Frankson slipped on two landings but stuck the third one for a 34 foot, 1 inch jump.

The events will continue this week.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kenai River King Too Big For The RV

Lorraine Prestood's 75 pound Kenai River king salmon. Photo by Will MorrowLorraine and Jim Prestwood of Lakeview, Oregon, drove to Alaska to vacation and do some fishing on the Kenai River. Now they have a big problem. A 75 pound problem. They caught a king salmon on the Kenai River but do not have room for it in their RV camper.

The king salmon took an hour and a half to land. Lorraine said that she felt like her arms were going to fall off before her husband was able to put the landing net beneath the large king and haul it into the boat. The king measured about 55 inches long with a girth of about 34 inches. Sounds like about the size of a small person without arms and legs.

In 2001 Lorraine also caught a large Kenai king salmon. That year she snapped her fishing rod while wrestling the 59 pound king into the boat.

When asked what she will do with the large king, Lorraine said, “We’ll brag a lot. We’ll take a lot of pictures, freeze it, and share it with the kids.”

We currently have a good late run of king salmon on the Kenai River. The run should last another week or two. Our Fish and Game department reports that the current late run ranks seventh out of the past 19 years.

Don’t think that fishing is almost over on the Kenai River. Following the kings will come the sockeye salmon and the silver salmon. There’s still plenty of good salmon fishing left this summer.

Perhaps Lorraine and Jim will land a few more before returning to Oregon.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Salmon Sculpture, "Leonardo da Fishi's The Last Supper"

Leonardo da Fishi's The Last Supper, photo by Marc LesterAbout 30 artists have entered salmon sculptures into the annual "Wild Salmon on Parade" which kicks off this June. In September there will be an auction of all of the sculptures and the proceeds of the auction will benefit local nonprofit organizations. The promotion is sponsored by the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Leonardo da Fishi's The Last Supper

Debra Dubac created a salmon masterpiece this year with her wild creation. Dubac painted the side of the salmon with a scene reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper."

In Dubac's painting the salmon have live bait such as fish eggs, crab, and worms to celebrate their last supper. Supposedly they will then be ready to head upriver and spawn. As you may know, salmon do not eat anything further after they start their spawning migration back to their birth waters.

The huge salmon is mounted on a plate, complete with huge eating utensils, a huge supper for some lucky person.

Dubac put in many all-nighters in order to make her masterpiece a reality. Last year she created an Elvis with her salmon entry, which was a big hit. She already has ideas about her salmon creation for next year's entry, but she's not giving any hints about what it will be.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Here's a Diet I Like

Baked SalmonWe've been saying it for years: eating fish on a regular basis is a very healthy part of your diet.

Articles are comin out on a regular basis with studies that confirm the idea. The fats in fish produce positive health benefits, such as increased heart health.

Recently, a study of 3000 Greek men and women found that eating 10 ounces or so of fish each week will reduce the level of inflammation in the body. In particular, the implication is that the inflammation caused by plaque in the blood vessels and arteries can be reduced.

When plaque causes inflammation in the arteries, the process of clotting begins to reduce the inflammation. That can be dangerous because small blood clots can block blood flow, causing heart attack and stroke.

The study suggested that all fish are heart healthy and that people should eat fish more regularly. Other studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, halibut, tuna, and mackerel are the best of the fish oils. Walnuts, vegetables, and whole grains are also a source of omega-e fatty acids, though in much lower amounts than in fish.

I'm all for adding more fish to the weekly diet. After all, salmon and halibut are extremely good tasting. And it is easy to add tuna to sandwiches and other meals.

Eat more fish. Here's to good health.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ben Couturier Finishes RAAM in 11 Days

Ben Couturier of Eagle River, Alaska, has finished the Race Across America in 11 days, 3 hours, 10 minutes. He finished in 7th place from among 25 original solo riders who started the race in San Diego.

That's 3000 miles across the United States to the finish line in Atlantic City.

Ben is the youngest rider ever to finish the course in the 20 year history of the event. Ben is only 18 years old, a student at Chugiak High School in Eagle River, Alaska.

It was reported that Ben was a hit among the other racers because he was always friendly and ready to share a joke. I'm sure there were many jokes about his youth, one of the few riders under the age of 30. But now he has the last laugh, defeating all but 6 of the older, stronger, and more mature racers.

At the end of the long race Ben said, "Nothing hurts, I feel great." I hurt just thinking about what he did.

Congratulations to Ben and his father who helped Ben train for the race.
Ben Couturier finishes RAAM in 11 days

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ben Couturier in 7th Place in RAAM

There's only a couple of more days that I can write about Ben Couturier's participation in the Race Across America. Amazingly, he is only about a day away from Atlantic City. That sure sounds like a long way from Alaska!

Ben has been riding his bicycle this summer. Of course he didn't ride it all the way from Alaska to Atlantic City. No way. He rode it from San Diego to Atlantic City, and it looks like he will finish the race in a little over 10 days. That's over 3000 miles in 10 days. Now that's doing some cycling.

There were about 25 solo riders who started the race and only 14 of them are still on their bikes and in the race. Ben is in 7th place. That's an amazingly respectable place for an 18 year old. He's by far the youngest person in the race and he'll be the only teenager ever to finish the race.

Ben is only 5 hours behind the 6th place rider so he has an outside chance to move up a position. Most of the riders are slowing the pace now at the end and getting some extra rest. The only sleep 2 to 4 hours per day. They take a few other rest periods and quick cat naps.

How fast would you fall asleep if you were riding 300 miles per day?

Here's a funny note about Ben. Since he's young and resilient, he's the only rider who can get on and off his bike by himself. All of the other riders need help to get off their bike when they want to take a break.