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NICK JANS: ARCTIC PIRATE KODIAK TREK GEAR: BACKPACKS The Magazine of Life on the Last Frontier

The

Islands Issue! >> Round Island Wildlife >> Exploring “Steller’s” Island >> 7 Tips for Sea Kayaking


E L A S R FO

Alaska Island

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W W W. I N T E R I S L A N D F E R R Y. C O M


02.18 V OLUME 84, NUMBER 1

FEATURES

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A Visit to Round Island

Walruses, wings, and wind Text and images by Lee Rentz

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Island of Forgotten Dreams

Exploring Kodiak by foot and packraft By Bjorn Dihle

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Steller’s Island A rock of many names By Michael Engelhard

Horned puffins are found all along Alaska’s coasts. Photo by: LEE RENTZ /

leerentz.com

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02.18

DEPARTMENTS

QUOTED

“At least one of the whales dives below the herring and vocalizes, its call becoming a sonic weapon.”

The Cache

20 Sentinels of the Coast 22 History Made Accessible 24 Sheep Mountain’s Volvo Doctor 26 Destination Sand

~ WILL RICE A NET MADE OF BUBBLES P. 49

27 An Arctic Nation

Escape 30 Sense of Place Never Quit

34 Itinerary

Salmon at Prince of Wales Island

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KENAI PENINSULA

Adventure 38 Try This

Sea Kayak Like a Pro

42

KETCHIKAN

42 Out There

We Did It for Mom

44 Sportsman

Sharing the View

46 Gear

PLUS: 6 My View North 10 Letters 12 Alaska Exposed 16 On the Edge 48 Natural Alaska 50 History 52 Community 79 Interview 80 Where in Alaska

On the Cover: Pacific walrus males rest at a haulout along the shore of Dragon’s Tail on Round Island in Bristol Bay. –Photo by Lee Rentz / leerentz.com

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TOP: STEVEN MEYER; BOTTOM: KEVIN G. SMITH/ALASKASTOCK.COM

Backpacks


Island Life

Shelter in the storm necessity fosters invention, characters abound. In the tropics, this might mean afternoon siestas during the heat of the day, or building a battery charger from coconut shells and seawater aka Gilligan’s Island, or friendship between a volleyball and a Castaway. In the far north, it means something else entirely. Time sinks to an iceworm’s pace when the land freezes up and darkness prevails. Drivers reduce their speed or face a ditch dive; the aurora dances long past quittin’ time; summer is but a distant memory for months on end. Harsh northern living makes inventors of many. Alaska’s early Inupiat carved goggles from bone or wood with narrow slits to spare their eyes the glare of sun on ice and snow; Meyers Farm in Bethel grows food on the tundra so locals have fresh produce; fatbikes are all the rage now for winter cycling. Alaska is a small town, as the saying goes, whose eclectic residents have been known to arrive late from fish camp to stand in a friend’s wedding still wearing hip boots, or who, after a five-minute introduction, might very well invite you to their next barbecue. Characters loom large in “reality” TV shows that present them living off the land, but who, in real reality, drive just down the paved road for groceries. People move to Alaska to reinvent themselves; polar explorer and dog musher Col. Norman Vaughn comes to mind. Separated from the country by geography and attitude, Alaska itself resembles an island. Our place in the circumpolar north gives us a front row seat to the international stage of Arctic issues, but with a twist: as an “island” state, we must sing our own song while harmonizing with 49 other entities. Sometimes the cacophony drowns out the ebb and flood of nature, the glue that holds us all together as one people, one land, connected beneath the vast, swirling oceans. Other times we hit the high note and shatter the glass. Either way, Alaska reveals its unruly side. Actual Alaska islands number in the hundreds—some named, but many mere dots on a map. The prominent ones like Kodiak, Unalaska, the Pribilofs, and Admiralty loom large in history, industry, and recreation, but others may not be household names. In Southeast, major islands include Revillagigedo (Ketchikan lives here), Baranof (home to Sitka), Chichagof (think Hoonah, Tenakee Springs, Elfin Cove, and

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[TOP] Time stands still for an afternoon break at fishcamp on Kalgin Island. [MIDDLE] Nothing ever leaves the island. [BOTTOM] A stick propped in the old oven door helps regulate temperature.

Pelican), and Prince of Wales (with Craig, Klawock, Hydaburg, and others). In Prince William Sound, there are many: Montague, Hinchinbrook, Knight, Culross, Hawkins, Esther, Perry, Chenega, and Bligh, whose reef split open the hull of the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and changed lives forever. Down the Aleutian Chain are Unga, Akutan, Atka, Adak, Amchitka, Kiska, and Attu, among others. Bastions of civilization in the desolate Bering Sea include the islands of St. Paul and St. George, Nunivak, St. Matthew and Hall, St. Lawrence, and King. Almost linking Russia and the United States are the Diomede Islands, separated by a mere 2.4 miles, but also the International Dateline and an international boundary—Big Diomede is Russian, Little Diomede belongs to Alaska. Off the far northeast corner of Alaska in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is Barter Island, just 90 miles from the Canadian border and a former trading hub for Natives in the region. Today, its only town, Kaktovik, is known for polar bear viewing. The island I spent summers on as a kid and still occasionally visit (Kalgin) will always be my favorite. It’s a microcosm of that distinct tempo, the sure bet we’ll run out of something and have to make do, and novel personalities. Kind of like this lonesome planet to which we’re all attached. Susan Sommer Editor editor@alaskamagazine.com

COURTESY SUSAN SOMMER

I

SLAND LIFE HAS ITS OWN SET OF RULES: TIME SLOWS,


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Forget desert or deserted islands —what would you eat on a dessert island?

This month at

alaskamagazine.com Log on and explore life on the Last Frontier.

The Magazine of Life on the Last Frontier

Brownies ala mode!

GROUP PUBLISHER

Chocolate mousse!

EDITOR

Susan Sommer

SENIOR EDITOR

Michelle Theall

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

Melissa Bradley

ART DIRECTOR

Peanut butter pie.

ASSISTANT EDITOR GEAR EDITOR CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Oreos by the package!

DIGITAL CONTENT MANAGER DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION PRODUCTION COORDINATOR

Cherry pie with whipped cream.

PRODUCT MANAGER DIRECTOR OF MANUFACTURING

Everything!

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Carrot cake.

Ron Vaz Alexander Deedy

If meat counts as a dessert, then porkchops!

Bjorn Dihle Nick Jans Seth Fields

A pint of Alaskan Brewing Hopothermia IPA. Why fool around?

Kris Miller

Pulla.

David L. Ranta Mickey Kibler Donald Horton

Homemade chocolate chip cookies.

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Alaska, ISSN 0002-4562, is published monthly except for combined July/August and December/January issues by MCC Magazines, LLC, a division of Morris Communications Company, LLC. Editorial and Advertising Offices: 301 Arctic Slope Ave., Suite 300, Anchorage, Alaska 99518. Not responsible for the return of unsolicited submissions. Known office of publication: 735 Broad St., Augusta, Ga. 30901. U.S. subscription rates: $24 for one year; $46 for two years. Canada and Mexico add $20 per year (U.S. Funds only). Outside North America add $40 per year (U.S. Funds only). Our trademarks registered in the U.S. Patent Office and in Canada: “Alaska,” “Alaska Sportsman,” “Life on the Last Frontier,” “From Ketchikan to Barrow,” “End of the Trail,” “The Guide Post,” “Main Trails & Bypaths,” “Alaska-Yukon Magazine.” Periodicals postage paid at Augusta, Ga., and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Alaska, PO Box 433237, Palm Coast, FL 32143-9616. In Canada, periodicals postage paid at Winnipeg, Manitoba; second-class registration number 9771, GST No. 125701896. Canadian Publications Mail Sales Product Agreement No. 279730. © 2018 Alaska magazine. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. Volume 84, Number 1.


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TINA JENKINS BELL is a freelance journalist, educator, and literary activist who has written for the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, Upscale Magazine, and myriad online and community news outlets. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two sons, and neighborhood dog Bella.

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM was born in Sitka and published her first article with Alaska magazine in 2007. Since then her work has been featured in Grays Sporting Journal, Shooting Sportsman, Sports Afield, and other national publications. She writes a regular hunting and guns column for the Anchorage Daily News with her partner, Steve Meyer. Together they share a love of the outdoors with a family of bird dogs on the Kenai Peninsula.

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LEE RENTZ is a photographer from

Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. He has traveled widely across North America, but some of his fondest memories are of a two-week backpacking trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park in the Brooks Range and his time spent viewing and photographing the walruses and other wildlife of Round Island. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Bigger Better Maps

Beloved Pets

A small map doesn’t really give us non-Alaskans much to go by. Alaska is a BIG state. Perhaps, at the least, a northern Alaska map on one full page and the southern end on the back side...or do east and west. Those tiny maps with the article don’t help much when trying to see a location in relation to another like a map does. Please consider something more substantial in future issues. Thank you for the interesting articles. Chase, Nick’s dog.

After reading Nick Jans’ article about Chase in the December/January 2018 issue I had to write and send pictures. Our beloved Bichon Frise, Bo’sun, made our first trip to Alaska with us in 2004. He and our collie, Gracie, made the trip to Alaska and the Arctic with us in 2009. We lost Bo’sun, at age 15, in 2016 and Gracie, two weeks ago, at age 12. Once, we ran into The MILEPOST® staff on the Dalton Highway. For several years a picture of both of our dogs were in the heading in The MILEPOST® for “Traveling with Pets.” Gracie still makes a cameo appearance under the same heading. C. J. RANKIN Sequim, Washington

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MELBA SHEAD

Smaller Digital Maps One thing you didn’t mention [in response to Nick Jans’ November column on cell phone cameras]: These phones are great for downloading the topo maps of the area you are going to, and then using a GPS program for navigation. If you put it on airplane mode, the phone won’t burn battery life searching for nonexistent cell towers, and GPS talks to satellites, so you don’t need internet for that. Plus, if you turn off the phone when not in use, the battery will last a surprisingly long time. Of course, waiting for the phone to start from completely off is something that you would have to get an agreement about from any animals you want to capture. DAVID HEIZER Brunswick County, Virginia


FACEBOOK POLL RESULTS What’s your coldest experience in Alaska? Below are a few reader comments from the poll question posted on facebook.com/AlaskaMagazine Renee Oistad: In the late 90s we travelled from Eagle River to Fairbanks to have Thanksgiving dinner with friends of my dad. It was minus 56; I had never been in temps that cold before. After being cooped up in the house I thought I’d go outside for a bit. I got all bundled up and went running out the front door. On my third or fourth stride I took a huge breath of fresh air. I swear to you my lungs froze and I felt that I couldn’t breathe. I turned myself around and went straight back into the house.

Renee Gilbert took this photo on the Anchorage hillside. It was one of the most popular images on Alaska magazine’s Facebook page in November. Visit Alaska at facebook.com/AlaskaMagazine to see more stunning imagery from the Last Frontier and to post photos of your own.

Where do you read Alaska? I recently took my current issue of Alaska on a trip to Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. Here I am with Alaska by the famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels! Mylie Thompson >> Alameda, California Dan Mcdonough: The hardest was working on Eielson Air Base in 1991 erecting a steel building. We got the day off if it hit minus 50. Seems like almost every day was minus 47. Bridget Minietta Baechtel: We lived in Anchorage for a few years when our kids were two years and four months. Both of the door handles on our minivan simply snapped off one dark December morning. I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face. Haley LeeAnn Bunch: No big story. Just another winter day here in Fairbanks, taking this little man for a walk at minus 45.

My wife and I took a long-anticipated European river cruise in September. We stopped in Budapest, Hungary. This was taken aboard ship with the Buda Castle (home of the Hungarian National Gallery), and the “Chain Bridge” in the background. We brought the issue to the dining hall and it regularly served as a conversation starter. It is always a joy to keep up with home wherever we may roam. << John & Lauren Orella, Wasilla, Alaska Your July/August 2017 issue made it all the way to its “cover story,” and Robert Thompson [a bear viewing guide] personally autographed my copy. My husband, Randy, and I will never forget Robert’s kindness, stories, joy, and caring. It truly was a once-inour-lifetime visit with Robert and his family. This was my third Alaska tour and Randy’s second. Now, we may want to move north. Joanie Cervenka >> Hayward, Wisconsin

Connect with us! Send us pictures of where you read Alaska and submit letters to the editor at editor@alaskamagazine.com. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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ALASKA EXPOSED Old Growth

A hiker follows a trail in Ft. Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island. Focal length: 28 mm Shutter speed: 1/6 sec Aperture: f/11 ISO: 200 MICHAEL DEYOUNG/ AlaskaStock.com

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FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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ALASKA EXPOSED Evening Hoops Youth play basketball in Kaktovik on Barter Island. Focal length: 17 mm Shutter speed: 1/320 sec Aperture: f/9 ISO: 200 SCOTT DICKERSON/ AlaskaStock.com

FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Staying Home BY NICK JANS

Kobuk

On late autumn tundra, Nick Jans scans his home country.

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S

ETH KANTNER AND I SAT IN HIS

cabin on the upper Kobuk, sipping a late-night whiskey as the woodstove crackled. Around us lay millions of unbounded wild acres. The road grid, and all that went with it, lay far to the south. If we stood outside beneath the star-flung night sky, we might hear the cry of wolves drifting down the north wind, or the rustle of a black bear close by. Our conversation turned to journeys and adventures past—uncounted thousands of wilderness miles stretched over a frame of years: big weather, hard going, all sorts of close calls. We made some of those forays together; others with different companions; many alone. Seth shook his head. “You know, I’m just

not that excited by the thought of doing some of those trips anymore.” I cocked my head and took a pull on my drink. We’d brushed against this subject before over the years, and here it came again. At least I had company. In 1979, 24 years old and brand new to Alaska, I’d set out on a 750-mile trip that started with a buddy and me floating down the Kobuk; then dragging our gear-loaded canoe up a rushing tributary river to its mountain headwaters; carrying our outfit over a 1,500-foot pass to the Noatak River; and paddling to Kotzebue on the Arctic coast. The memory of that journey is seared into my being. I can’t imagine the shape of my life without it. I also can’t imagine doing it again—or ever wanting to.

(THIS PAGE) COURTESY SETH KANTNER; (OPPOSITE PAGE) NICK JANS

An Arctic pirate stares past 60


Seth Kantner works on a bear hide on his cabin floor while talking with Nick.

I look in the mirror, into a time-creased face: an Arctic pirate staring past 60. Will I be jetboating along the Kobuk-Noatak divide 10 years from now? I’d like to think so. But what about in 20? Can I see myself at 80, wrestling a stuck snowmobile through the willows of Portage Pass? Whether you call them expeditions or trips, I can just about do the math and figure how many I’ll have time for. Somewhere ahead, not too far over the skyline, lies that last trail. You’d think I’d want to cram all I could into that dwindling cache of years. Instead, I feel a tug on my parka sleeve, hear a whisper in my ear: Slow down. Don’t push it. Stay closer to home. And I seem to be doing just that. Sure, the exuberance and energy of youth dwindles with time. No news flash there. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that no matter how much I work out and keep pushing, I won’t jump as high, lift as much, or run as fast or far as I did 10 years ago, let alone 30—and it’s only going to get worse. But heck, I still weigh what I did playing college football, and though I’ve got plenty of scar tissue strewn throughout my body, everything works. I can still huff my way up a mountain without a noticeable gimp, or horse a stuck sled out of overflow. Using my failing body as an excuse for not going out just doesn’t hold air. No doubt, a dwindling tolerance for extreme discomfort figures in. Maybe some masochists revel in whining veils of mosquitoes, slogging over endless wet tundra with a heavy pack, or wincing all day with the sting of half-frozen hands. I could have done without any of them the first time around, but totally understood such things were part of the deal. After a few decades of on-and-off self-imposed misery, though, I’m way less interested in kicking my own butt. Then there’s the been-there-done-that effect. What’s more exciting: the first or fourth time you’ve seen Paris? I’m still

totally thrilled to spy my next wolf, or to pass in the shadow of Mount Igikpak again. But what if you travel for days without glimpsing a caribou, let alone a wolf? Or if you pound through a ground blizzard toward Igikpak, then end up getting stormed in and turning back? Once you’ve had a few vivid experiences, it’s hard for the country to live up to your expectations and easy to forget the long, often hard and boring gaps between. So why even bother going through all that trouble, just to be disappointed? Of course, if we followed that logic in our everyday lives, we’d never even go to a new movie or restaurant, fearing a letdown. It’s an existential dead end. Last, the biggie: an increasing awareness of mortality, and a growing reluctance to take physical risks. I riffle through memories and wonder: what the hell was I doing, traveling alone up canyons, detouring around fresh avalanches, or walking up brushy creeks, pinballing from bear to bear, with nothing more than a fishing pole in my hand? What about all the rotten ice I’d zoomed across on my snowmobile, the remote breakdowns and near falls and flirtations with hypothermia or glancing ax blows, the myriad, barely dodged sideswipes with catastrophe? I fully grasp how many times I came close to checking out. Yeah, I’ve become more cautious. That said, I was plenty aware of my mortality way back when. As a young man, I recall having to talk myself into any number of long solo trips, and with sled already packed, practically shoving myself out the door. I remember thrashing

“We’d brushed against this subject before over the years, and here it came again.”

through beary patches of brush, getting the willies and backtracking; and lying awake many times out in the country, heart pounding. In truth, most of the risks I took were calculated, and I was in statistically far less danger than if I’d been on a stepladder in some suburban backyard. So what gives with all this inner dithering? Were Seth and I imagining that we’d changed? The next day, we’d set out in his little tin can of a jet skiff, and wind our way up a wild Brooks Range valley through cold rain squalls, dodging sweepers and rocks, looking for caribou and moose, and at one point, as we rounded a bend, coming face to face with a grizzly, close enough to see his nostrils quivering before he bounded into the willows. I caught and released a dozen trophy-size Arctic grayling from a clear green pool. Some might call that 25-mile, half-day jaunt the adventure of a lifetime. For us, it was just a good day well spent, close to home, in the company of an old friend. Beyond, the far, hard, lonely country, and the journeys past and future, scrolled over the horizon. Nick Jans is a longtime contributing editor to Alaska and author of the national bestseller A Wolf Called Romeo, available from nickjans.com. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Be inspired by the light of the Aurora Borealis. Renew your energy under the Midnight Sun. Experience the warmth of Fairbanks—Alaska’s Golden Heart—and the gateway to Denali, Interior and Arctic Alaska. Call 1-800-327-5774 for your free Fairbanks Visitors Guide. Explore your Alaskan vacation at explorefairbanks.com.


Cache The

02.18

Unalaska Winter

The Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church on Unalaska Island is the oldest cruciform-style Orthodox church in North America.

“The Cache” is written and compiled by Assistant Editor Alexander Deedy. CHRIS MILLER /

csmphotos.com

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The Cache

Alaska’s islands

Five Finger Lighthouse

By the numbers

2,670 1,100 2nd 40

Named islands in Alaska.

Miles from Attu to mainland Alaska. Approximately the same distance from San Diego to San Antonio.

Kodiak is the nation’s second largest island, behind only Hawaii’s Big Island.

MILLION

Seabirds living on the rocks, reefs, and islands of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

Sentinels of the Coast Stay in an Alaska lighthouse With the rush of gold prospectors north to Alaska at the turn of the 20th century, many reaching the state by boat, the federal government recognized the territory’s need for lighthouses to make the water safe to navigate. Lights were built on rocky islets and jagged shores, and working at one often meant isolation and extreme weather that could coat the building in ice. Today, a few lighthouses that kept Alaska’s waters safe have been refurbished and can be booked by guests for an overnight stay. One of Alaska’s first two American-built lighthouses, the Five Finger Lighthouse marks five rocky islets at the confluence of Frederick Sound and Stephen’s Passage in Southeast

and is a four-hour boat ride from Petersburg. It’s been used as a research station and is now owned and operated by the Juneau Lighthouse Association. A short three-minute boat ride from Sitka, the Rockwell Lighthouse was built by hand in 1985 by a town resident, and the light hasn’t turned off since. Guests renting it now enjoy internet, television, a fully-stocked kitchen, four floors, bedding, and, of course, stunning views. Near Juneau, the Sentinel Island Lighthouse is on a six-acre island and offers a rustic stay off the grid. Visitors bring sleeping bags and provisions, and can enjoy the three eagle nests on the island, as well as passing whales and sea lions on nearby Benjamin Island.

Kodiak’s Other Giants

Transplants gained a reputation for their large bodies The Kodiak Archipelago is renowned for its massive brown bears, but on the islands of Afognak and Raspberry, another, lesser-known, brown behemoth eats and roams among the old-growth spruce: elk. Unlike the bruins, the elk are newcomers. In the 1920s, Washington state was keen on the idea of a wild mountain goat herd on its Olympic Range, so officials captured three bull and five cow elk from the state’s Olympic Peninsula and traded them to the Alaska Territory at an exchange rate of two elk for one goat. Public pushback caused the scheduled release to be moved from Kodiak Island to unpopulated Afognak Island, separated by two miles of ocean. There the elk have stayed, spreading only to neighboring Raspberry Island, which is connected to Afognak at low tide. For nearly a century the elk have experienced boom and bust, thriving in the pristine habitat but enduring biting winters. Annual hunts help regulate the population. Now numbering about 1,100 on the two islands, the elk are notoriously large-bodied. A bull on Afognak can tip the scales at 1,300 pounds. Compared to most other elk, they’re giants, but in an Alaska measuring contest, the elk should be thankful there are no moose around.

TOP: COURTESY PAUL SHARPE; BOTTOM: CREATIVE COMMONS

Elk have grown large on Afognak and Raspberry islands.


The Cache

Star Volunteer

Edith Wiley’s contribution to Kodiak

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“She was an all-around great person to be around,” Clarkston says. “She was funny, witty, smart. She carried on a great conversation.” Wiley died in March 2017. She was 95. Born on a homestead in Nebraska, Wiley dreamed of going to Alaska for years before she finally arrived in Kodiak in 1943 on contract to work in the payroll department for the island’s Naval Air Station. She married in 1945 and never left. Throughout her life, Wiley worked numerous jobs, was a devoted bowler, and spent many free hours volunteering. She volunteered in health and immunization clinics, was an assistant leader in Girl Scouts, served as secretary/ treasurer for the Outdoorsmen’s Club, and was active in the business and professional women’s club. Kodiak resident Mike Rostad says, “Edith was the star volunteer of Kodiak during her peak years and continued to be involved until her death.”

An index of every person listed in Alaska’s “End of the Trail” section is available on the Alaska State Library Historical Collection’s webpage.

History Made Accessible “End of the Trail” information indexed

For anyone digging up information on historic Alaskans, the search just got a bit easier. Sandra Johnson, with the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, noticed several people had asked her if there was an index of Alaska magazine’s “End of the Trail,” a column that for many years listed notable Alaskans who recently died. There wasn’t, so Johnson took it on herself to make one. Starting last spring, Johnson looked through every issue of Alaska dating back to September 1960—at which time it was called Alaska Sportsman— and created a digital index of every name listed in the “End of the Trail” section, noting the individual’s first and last name, the issue in which their name was published, and the page number. She typed 15,752 entries. Johnson said she came across many interesting people during her work. The January 1974 issue, which she chose at random, included the names of a lady who owned a cleaning business and an exploratory pilot who was the first person to fly over both the north and south poles. Johnson says there are lots of people doing genealogy research who dig through state historical archives, and she hopes the index will help those people streamline their search. The index is published online under the Alaska State Historical Collections’ genealogy guides.

LEFT: COURTESY JANELL REHMER; RIGHT: ALASKA MAGAZIN

Though often described as a private person, Edith Wiley’s contribution to Kodiak was well recognized. Every community has elders who are respected and revered, and in Kodiak, Wiley filled that roll, says Derek Clarkston, who worked with Wiley at the Kodiak Daily Mirror.


The Cache

Sheep Mountain

The Volvo Doctor’s medicine cabinet Mark Fleenor, owner of Sheep Mountain Lodge on the Glenn Highway, says visitors often inquire about the fleet of old Volvo cars that sit on the land by the lodge. “It’s definitely—eclectic, if you will,” he says. “It’s not every day you see 100 Volvos parked in the middle of nowhere.” The mysterious owner of the museumquality collection is most well known as “The Volvo Doctor,” but his name is John Alexa. Alexa has been mechanically inclined as long as he can remember. When his mom asked him to mow the lawn as a kid, he would first spend time sharpening the blade and oiling the engine. In his 20s, Alexa drove his Mercedes-Benz 190SL from Michigan to Alaska, where he worked as a mechanic for other busi-

Last summer, heavy rains triggered a mudslide that surged down onto John Alexa’s Volvos, enshrouding and partially burying many of his cars.

nesses before striking out on his own in the early ‘90s. For decades, he’s been buying Volvos in Alaska whenever he gets the chance, one, two, 15 at a time, and towing them to his property by Sheep Mountain. Alexa estimates that at one time he had about 250 cars on the lot. Volvos, to Alexa, are simply the best cars around. But not just any Volvo, only

those with so-called red block engines, which are known for their longevity. A P1800 Volvo, which has a red block engine, currently holds the Guinness World Record for the vehicle with most miles, clocking in at over three million. “I picked the Volvo because it’s really worth working on,” Alexa says. “It’s worth putting your time into.”

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The Cache

Alaska Grown

Village commits to six weeks of local foods For six weeks last autumn, food was the main subject of conversation in Igiugig, a village of about 60 on the edge of Lake Iliamna. The community had committed to a Native foods challenge, six weeks of eating only traditional foods that could be sourced locally. “Everything kind of became a little more important, especially the fat part,” Tate Gooden, headteacher at Igiugig School says about those six weeks. “And leftovers.” The idea came after students read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, a book that includes a story about Aboriginal Australians who saw health benefits after seven weeks on a traditional diet. Meals in Igiugig consisted of kale, turnips, and cabbage from the local gardens and harvested caribou, fish, and ptarmigan. After a few people figured out how to create fat cakes by boiling caribou bones for about 30 hours, adding those to boiled potatoes was a game changer. The participants tracked changes in health during the challenge, which students compiled and analyzed for a school project. At the end of the challenge Gooden says he lost 22 pounds, slept better, and felt stronger. But six weeks without coffee was enough. The challenge ended at 6 p.m. on a Saturday, and that evening the community gathered to watch a food documentary and eat pizza flown in from Anchorage by the local airline.

Destination Sand Plan a trip to Alaska’s sandy beaches

Potatoes, like this one harvested by Mavrik Salmon-Anelon, were a staple during Igiugig’s Native foods challenge. COURTESY TATE GOODEN

Alaska is known better for its white snow than its white sand, but pristine summer beaches do exist along the state’s coasts and islands. For anyone who’s had enough of the cold white powder, consider marking one of these beach destinations on the calendar for a sunny summer day.

White Sands Beach

A stark contrast to Kodiak Island’s typical black rock and sand, as the name suggests, you can lounge on this beach’s white sand at low tide.

Boy Scout Beach

Just north of Juneau, and within sight of the area’s more popular Eagle Beach, Boy Scout Beach has equally gorgeous white sand and impressive sunset views. Take a short hike on a trail maintained by boy scouts to get there.

Cannon Beach

Boy Scout Beach outside Juneau. COURTESY ALEXANDER DEEDY

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Flat, sandy, and stretching for miles, this beach outside Yakutat is known as a surfing destination where the swells are never too crowded. Bring your board or just sit on the beach and enjoy views of snow-capped peaks from your spot in the sand.


The Cache

An Arctic Nation

Alaska puts the U.S. in a league with few countries Though the Arctic Circle may only include the northernmost swath of Alaska, the entire state can be considered Arctic under different definitions, writes the Institute of the North in its recent book, Alaska’s Arctic: An Overview. The institute, which represents Alaska’s interests in the Arctic, published the book as an educational guide for what Alaska’s role as Arctic territory means for the state, the nation, and the world. The book notes the importance of Alaska’s abundant natural resources, rich indigenous culture, impressive wildlife, cutting-edge research, and its leadership as the first state to pass anti-discrimination laws and to recog-

nize voting rights for women. It’s a reminder for Alaskans about the significant intersection of their home and the Arctic, and a step toward, as the authors write, convincing “320 million Americans that they are part of an Arctic nation, with the corresponding challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities inherent to the region.”

FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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02.18

D E ST INAT IO N AL A S KA

Royal Water

The falls near Waterfall Resort Alaska on Prince of Wales Island. Photo by:Â JANNA GRABER / jannagraber.com

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SENSE OF PLACE

Never Quit

Jimmy Settle traverses across snowfields and crevasses while training for a technical alpine rescue.

An edited excerpt from the memoir of Jimmy Settle, detailing a nighttime tactical training exercise that went awry in Cook Inlet. (Published with permission from St. Martinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Press)

N

o one willingly jumps into an icechoked ocean in Alaska at night when the ambient temperature is pushing twenty below. At least, not anyone in his right mind. Yet, there we were. Two choppers hurtling out into the black night sky toward nothing but possible trouble. I hovered at the chopperâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s doors, ever so careful. I wore fins and eased right to the brink.

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When I hit the water, the first thing I noticed was the cold. My face began to burn, like someone had sprayed my cheeks with liquid nitrogen. My body was relatively protected within my survival suit, but my mouth, lips, cheeks, and chin were completely exposed to this burning water, like someone had wet my face and slammed it against a giant flagpole in the middle of winter. I wore a dive mask, a

(THIS PAGE) COURTESY OF CHRIS ROBERTSON; (OPPOSITE PAGE) COURTESY OF ALASKA AIR NATIONAL GUARD

From Alaskan Wilderness Rescues to Afghanistan Firefights as an Elite Special Ops PJ


Jimmy Settle receives the Purple Heart from Brig. Gen. Charles Foster, commander of the 176th wing of the Alaska Air National Guard.

heavy neoprene hoodie, the whole shebang, but none of that gear mattered. That horrible sting of cold sucked the wind right out of me, even though the only thing exposed was my face. Luckily I had a snorkel, but my lips around the rubber mouthpiece instantly froze. The moment I broke the surface, the outside of my mask iced up. I couldn’t see. I tried to lift the bottom of my mask up to make sense of the world around me. I needed to locate two things: 1. Roger. 2. The helicopter and the hoist cable. The powerful rotor wash from the thumping blades lifted the seawater and blasted what felt like thousands of ice needles into my face. I had to keep dunking my face into the water to seek protection from this barrage of little flying spikes, and after doing this a couple times I got seawater on the inside of my mask, so now it was double iced, a [blinding] thick layer of frosted crystal covering the inside and out. The chopper left us for a moment. I could hear only the splashing of the ocean around me. I reached up into my hoodie to pull my earplugs out. I wanted to be able to hear Roger and be ready when the chopper came back. It took us a minute to find each other. At this point, everything was still routine training. Both of us were adjusting to the shock of the icy water, steadying our breathing, and floating, waiting and watching for something blacker than the night sky to appear above us and drop the hoist, a thick silver metal cable, the diameter of a pencil, with a big heavy double hook—one side for humans, the other for cargo. “There it is,” Roger yelled. The cable dangled just a few feet from my head. Then, as quickly as it appeared, it zipped off horizontally and away from us. Out

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of reach. In that moment, I lunged toward where it sat in the water. “No!” Roger yelled. The urgency in his voice reminded me of one of the important rules about water work. You don’t swim for the hoist. Especially if you are rescuing someone with the Stokes litter or are too gearladen to swim with any speed. The swimmers in the water let the experts in the bird above do their job. They are the best in the business, some of the most skilled helicopter pilots on the planet. They will get the hoist to you. The crew above kept trying to get the hoist to Roger and me. But something wasn’t quite right. Each time the line appeared close enough for one of us to grab, it rocketed away again. After one too many times of the hoist landing just out of reach, Roger yelled to me, “Go for it, Jimmy!” And I did. I dove for that hook with all I had. With the combination of adrenaline and years of water training, I should have swum like an Olympian. But now, with all my gear, and the heaviness of the deep cold gripping my body, and my clumsy numb limbs, I could only flail like a little kid. That blazing swim speed was probably reduced to a knot at best, and the attempt to reach the hoist only a few feet away required maximum effort. I ignored the scream of pain from my

frozen body and lunged with a giant kick, clawing with the frozen clubs that were my hands. Just a few feet from my outstretched glove, the hoist shot off again. I couldn’t. Grab. It. They kept trying, for nearly twenty minutes, to get the hoist to us, to no avail. And then the black sky above us lit up. The chopper lights blazed over us. Through the ice blasting my face, I watched as the helicopter, tail down, suddenly scooted backwards— actually flew backwards—and anyone knows that is not how a bird that size is supposed to fly. As quickly as that happened, the aircraft hovering above us corrected itself and—whoosh!—the Pave Hawk flew off. Gone. The thump of the HH-60 grew faint, replaced by silence and a soft tinkle, like someone was gently shaking a chandelier. For a moment, neither of us said a word. We didn’t know what had gone wrong, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. We were already freezing, and now we’d been left behind. Roger turned to me and said, “Well, now what, Jimmy?” Jimmy Settle is a decorated Air Force veteran. He wrote Never Quit with Don Rearden, Alaska professor, playwright, and author of The Raven’s Gift.


THE ITINERARY

Searching for Salmon Near Prince of Wales Island

A fishing novice heads to one of Alaska’s premier fishing resorts

Prince of Wales Island The author and her friends show off their catch for the day.

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I

’m not a fisherman, but the sport is an iconic part of Alaska’s tradition. When you go there, you fish. So, when friends invited me to join them at Waterfall Resort Alaska on Prince of Wales Island, I jumped at the chance. What better way to experience the state? My lack of fishing experience, though, made me nervous. In the days leading up to the trip, I worry: What if I can’t catch anything? The first day on the water, I admit my fears to our fishing guide, Brian. Without hesitation he says, “This is a great place to learn! You’ll have a big box of salmon to take home.” I can only hope he’s right. >>

A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M FEBRUARY 2018

(THIS PAGE) COURTESY JANNA GRABER; OPPOSITE PAGE) JANNA GRABER

BY JANNA GRABER


GETTING TO WATERFALL RESORT

Accessible only by air and sea, the resort is nestled in Southeast Alaska’s 1,100-island Alexander Archipelago. From Ketchikan, we take a 90-minute floatplane ride over deep blue bays and forest-covered islands. The flight alone is worth the trip. The 52-acre Waterfall Resort, once a cannery, has a fishing legacy stretching back more than a hundred years. The resort has been in operation for nearly four decades, and has hosted 60,000 guests. This week, I’m one of them.

Day 1 The sky is a bright blue on our first full day on the water, and I’m warm in my yellow waterproof fishing gear. I’m the only woman in our group of four, and the only novice. Brian patiently explains the basics of column fishing. I’m relieved to learn that the resort’s guides take care of the hard stuff, from baiting hooks to netting fish and removing hooks. All I need to do is enjoy the adventure. Waterfall Resort has the biggest fleet of privately owned fishing boats in Alaska, and their 27 boats are comfortably appointed with a heated cabin and a restroom on board. Learning to fish is rarely graceful, and my fingers fumble to get the rhythm. Eventually, though, I relax, watching sea birds soar overhead. At first, the bites come slowly. Then someone brings in a large silver salmon, and three more quickly follow. Just when I’m starting to get discouraged, I feel a hard tug. Then the creature on my hook starts running out to sea. “Start reeling!” Brian yells. “Just keep it steady.” But this fish is strong. It’s all I can do to stand still and keep reeling. I’m sweating now,

and my arms ache as I struggle with the fish. I see a flash of silver, but the fish dives again to 50 feet. At times, Brian helps to hold my line up as my weakened arms tire, but he doesn’t take over. “You’ve got this!” he says, as the others cheer. Finally, after 10 minutes of struggling, I reel the fish to the boat and Brian nets it. It’s a glistening 35-pound king salmon, the first one we’ve caught today, and it’s beautiful. Sadly, though, king season ended the day before, so my fish is released. But I catch two more silvers that afternoon, and they’re added to our ice chest. Tanned from the sun, I smile through dinner that night, devouring all-you-can-eat local mussels, baked halibut, peppercorn steak, and more.

Day 2 I wake before dawn at 5:00 a.m. in my cozy seaside cabin. After a good breakfast, we head out to sea. The guides know all the best spots, and they talk among themselves, forming a game plan for the day. The fish bite early and often, and soon the icebox fills. I’m slower than the others, but I’m starting to feel comfortable. I reel in a few rockfish (which we throw back), and pull up a silver. Then chaos ensues: We suddenly have one, then two, then three different fish on our lines at once. The fish dive and cross under the boat, pulling our lines together into a knotted mess. Unsure what to do, we holler for Brian’s help. In an acrobatic feat I still don’t understand, he pushes one line up and another back, trying to untangle them. He gets one loose, and nets the fish. But my line and my friend’s are still a jumbled mess. I watch in awe as Brian pulls them in by hand. Not pretty, to be sure, but amazing.

By the end of the day, we’re tired and happy. As Brian turns the boat toward home, skimming across smooth water, I can’t help but nod off. My friends do the same. The movement of the boat has rocked us all to sleep.

Day 3 The morning brings fog. Thick clouds sit halfway up the mountains, their peaks poking out from above. Everything is still and almost otherworldly. Packing an extra thermos of coffee, we follow the other boats to sea. Brian takes us to a deep bay, where halibut are said to be biting. Sure enough, I pull one in, marveling at its flat shape and white belly. But it’s too small, so we set it free. “I’ve snagged something on the bottom,” a companion says. He can’t reel the line in. But Brian thinks it’s something else. “Keep reeling” he says. Then slowly, from the bottom, a 52-pound halibut emerges. No wonder it was hard to reel in. But it’s slightly over the size limit, so back it goes. As Brian sets the fish free, I hear blowing air. Three humpback whales have entered the bay and are feeding on krill alongside our boat. They ignore us and spend the next hour swimming in the bay. I stop and appreciate the moment. I’m floating on the mist-covered sea, surrounded by whales, the call of seabirds, and the wild majesty of Alaska. That, and I’ve finally learned to fish. Bucket list adventures don’t get much better than this.

Janna Graber is a Colorado-based journalist and author. She is the managing editor at Go World Travel Magazine, and the editor of three travel anthologies, including A Pink Suitcase: 22 Tales of Women’s Travel.

A beautiful day of fishing in Southeast. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Unalaska Port of Dutch Harbor

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02.18

E XPE RIE NC E T HE L A ST F RO N T IE R

Hunting Partners

Christine Cunningham with Purdey, one of her hunting dogs. Photo by:Â STEVEN MEYER

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TRY THIS

Hit the Water

I assumed kayaking would require some arm strength and endurance to paddle across the sea.”

7 tips for sea kayaking like a pro BY DEBORAH KEARNS

I

’VE NEVER CONSIDERED MYSELF TO BE

Whittier Sea kayakers get to see Alaska’s landscape up close.

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After a tutorial on how to paddle, steer, and avoid overturning, we were on our way. I assumed kayaking would require some arm strength and endurance to paddle across the sea. And because I would be in a tandem kayak, I knew it would take some coordination. However, I definitely underestimated the endurance part. And the part where your legs sit stock-still for several hours, which

made for a stiff exit. But the minor aches and pains were worth it. I saw countless salmon (“zombie” and live), rushing waterfalls, secret coves, and the places where majestic trees, glaciers, and rock met to create a stunning natural backdrop. Our guide also recounted local folktales and explained how Whittier evolved from a humble outpost to a major sea transportation hub. In short, it was magical. >>

COURTESY ALASKA SEA KAYAKERS

much of an adventure junkie. I’m also not terribly athletic so when I travel, I tend to play it safe on excursions. But our first trip to Alaska last September was a time for self-discovery—and for testing my limits. Sea kayaking on pristine blue-green glacial water surrounded by Alaska’s raw beauty instantly appealed to me. When I showed up to the outpost for Alaska Sea Kayakers in Whittier on a cold, rainy September day, I was quickly whisked into all the gear necessary to keep water out and stay warm. Rubber boots, a splash bib, and a water-resistant jumpsuit complemented my own water-resistant pants and three (maybe it was four) layers of tops.


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Ready to embark on your first sea kayaking adventure but not sure where to start? Peter Denmark, co-owner of Alaska Sea Kayakers in Whittier, shares these seven expert tips for doing it like a pro. 1 Dress for the weather. If it’s a warm, sunny day, you can get away with a T-shirt and shorts. But as Alaska’s summer fades to cooler, rainy weather, come dressed in layers so you stay warm. Synthetic wicking fabrics are the way to go; cotton will absorb your body heat and won’t keep you dry. 2 Stretch ahead of time. If you’re new to kayaking, you’ll definitely want to stretch beforehand. Although you use more push than pull when you’re paddling in the water, your arms will still get a workout. A tip to help reduce arm fatigue: rely on your core abdominal muscles to help you paddle, rather than arm strength. 3 Make three points of contact. Before you get started, you’ll get into your kayak while it’s still on dry land, with the rear cockpit loaded first. Your body needs three points of contact with the kayak: the seatback, the footpegs, and the sides of the cockpit. Your rear should be settled firmly into the seatback, ensuring you’re as upright as possible. Place the balls of your feet on the footpegs, keeping a slight bend in your knees. Finally, bend your knees firmly against the sides of the cockpit so your legs create a diamond shape. Keep your hips loose to make paddling and balance easier. 4 Paddle with precision. Put your paddle in the water by your feet and push off with

your arm (using your core for help) rather than pulling. “It’s two-thirds bench press and about a third bicep curl,” Denmark says. “Your paddle should come out at the hip; anything farther back is wasted motion and energy.” Also, your paddle blade shouldn’t go any deeper into the water than the blade, otherwise, you’ll end up working twice as hard and tire much faster. Coordinate with your partner. Many sea kayaking tours use a tandem kayak, and that requires some coordination. If you’re in the rear cockpit, which usually controls steering with a foot-pedaled rudder, match your cadence to the front paddler’s rhythm so you stay in time. Whether you’re going forward or paddling backward, the same need for coordination applies. 5

6 Know how to exit a capsized kayak. Really, the riskiest part of sea kayaking is capsizing and the dangers of being in the ice-cold waters for too long. If your kayak capsizes, grab the spray skirt loop and yank it up so you can get out of your seat and swim to the surface next to your kayak. 7 Don’t go it alone. If you’re new to sea kayaking, a guided tour is the safest, easiest way to go. The key to sea kayaking safety is being able to re-enter a capsized kayak, and an experienced guide can help you do it quickly when you’re treading frigid water.

Deborah Kearns is a Denver-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and other national publications.

BEST PLACES FOR SEA KAYAKING IN ALASKA Looking for the top spots for sea kayaking in Alaska? Here are Denmark’s suggestions: WHITTIER AND SEWARD: These are arguably two of the best destinations for sea kayaking in the state. Whittier serves as the gateway to Prince William Sound, and Seward is the access harbor to the majestic Kenai Fjords National Park. Both areas give paddlers inspired views of glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, and wildlife galore. HOMER: Situated near the heart of Kachemak Bay State Park at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, Homer boasts a variety of kayaking routes. It’s also one of the best places for bird watching, especially at Gull Island, home to kittiwakes, murres, gulls, cormorants, puffins, and guillemots. Birds have nested in this area for more than 4,000 years. Across Kachemak Bay is China Poot Bay, famous for its incredible estuaries teeming with sockeye salmon. KETCHIKAN: Alaska’s Inside Passage offers remarkable kayaking, too. In Ketchikan, you can paddle through Ketchikan Creek to see the historic town from the water. From there, head to Pennock Island and Snow’s Cove to watch harbor seals, salmon, and bald eagles.

COURTESY ALASKA SEA KAYAKERS

Sea kayakers watch harbor seals and a tidewater glacier calve ice chunks into the water.

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OUT THERE

We Did It for Mom

The author pans for gold with his family in Alaska.

Building new memories, remembering old

W

E EMBARKED FROM VANCOUVER ON A CRUISE

at sunset: my dad, brother, sister, spouses, nephew, niece, and Mom. Her cancer had taken her eye, and we knew it would take the rest of her soon. We toasted my mother over cocktails by the pool as we watched the coast disappear to the south and into memory. That first night, we sailed into blackness through a ship-rocking storm, emerging at breakfast to Ketchikan’s kaleidoscope of brightly painted houses hanging like ornaments on a pine-forested hillside. And rain. We, as a family, were in Alaska. Safely docked, Mom and I headed to Saxman Totem Park to view massive Tlingit carvings. Due to her arthritis, the walk was slow and we got very wet. But I didn’t mind the pace or the soaking. How many more trips with Mom would there be? We stared at the totem poles. “That blue color on the totem pole reminds me of Santa Fe skies,” she said. At dinner, she declared, “What an adventurous day! I loved the colors of the houses in that town. And the smoked salmon at that restaurant was so delicious. Better than at home.” Next day, Juneau, and after that, Skagway. The family

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piled into the last car of the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway for a four-hour excursion into the mountains on a narrow-gauge track. I sat next to Mom. As the train pulled out of the station, she groaned. “I’m not going to like this,” she said. Mom hated heights and anything that felt like a risk to one’s safety. High on the pass, the tracks grew steep. Mom gripped my hand. I looked at her. She grinned as wide as the world. On the journey back down, I woke to an elbow in the ribs. “Look at the moose!” she said. I must have drifted off, because she did it again. “What, Mom?” I mumbled. “The lady across the aisle said she saw a bald eagle and a grizzly yesterday. I want to see a bald eagle and a grizzly.” “I bet we see them later this week. I hear there are a lot of them up at Glacier Bay. Whales, too.” I had no idea, of course. I’d never been to Glacier Bay. I’d also never known my mother to be such a connoisseur of wildlife. But she was in this state. “Alaska is turning you into a regular old Marlin Perkins,” I said. “Who’s that? I don’t remember him.” “A nature lover,” I said.

(THIS PAGE) COURTESY BRAD WETZLER; (OPPOSITE PAGE) KEVIN G. SMITH/ALASKASTOCK.COM

BY BRAD WETZLER


Mom, overdressed for the cool air in her parka and stocking cap, stood mesmerized as massive chunks of ice fell away. “You’re right. I love it here.” Glacier Bay National Park was everything the brochures said it would be. First, the glaciers. The ship’s captain steered our vessel to within a beanbag toss of Margerie Glacier. Via loudspeaker, he invited all passengers down to the bow to watch the glacier calve and to eat pea soup. Mom, overdressed for the cool air in her parka and stocking cap, stood mesmerized as massive chunks of ice fell away. She cheered and whooped at the loud splash of ice crashing into the dark blue water like she’d cheered on the 1977 Kansas City Royals in the playoffs. For a half hour, we stood watching the slowmoving ice that had fallen from the sky as snow to make its final journey to the sea and listened to Mom’s nostalgic memories of trips past: The epic station wagon road

trip from Kansas City to California and back. The countless trips to Estes Park and Breckenridge, Colorado. The three kids tussling in the back seat. The time our luggage took flight off the roof of the car in western Kansas and the five of us scrambled across highway and wheat field to gather it. Mid-story there was a loud crash. “Look!” Mom said. “The glacier is falling again.” That afternoon, we watched breaching humpbacks and bald eagles. The next day, we rode the train to Denali National Park. And there, Marlin Perkins, aka Mom, saw her grizzly. She also spotted a wolf, Dall sheep, fox, and a lot of misbehaving kids on the bus. “I remember when that would have been you,” she remarked, as the bus pulled back

into the park headquarters and I helped her off. Our Alaska trip was in the books. “What was your favorite thing about Alaska?” she asked. We walked slowly through the rain toward our cabin. “The glacier,” I said. “It’s crazy to think how long that ice had been making its way to the sea. And then it’s gone.” “You’re so dramatic,” she said. “I know,” I laughed. “What was your favorite thing about Alaska?” “How could you choose one thing?” she said, rhetorically, then added, “Well, for me, it was standing out in the open air on the bow, drinking pea soup and telling stories about family vacations.” “That was when we watched the glacier,” I corrected her. “Oh, you’re right. I guess it was. The glacier was cool. But I liked talking about the family stories the best.” Brad Wetzler is a former editor at Outside. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, GQ, Wired, and Travel + Leisure. He is a devoted writing coach currently working on a memoir. Bradwetzler.com.

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Winchester always saw it— the world where everything is possible if we just stop looking and live it.”

ALASKA SPORTSMAN

Sharing the View BY CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM

Kenai Peninsula

Christine Cunningham hunts with her dog Winchester.

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I

’D BEEN STUDYING THE WEATHER

since the 10-day forecast, which showed rain every time. There was no way around it. It was going to rain on opening day. The grass and lichen in the mountains would be wet and slippery, and Winchester’s feathers would mat and clump instead of blow in the wind. The birds would be more difficult to smell. I’d have to wear a hat. A dog doesn’t know about the weather forecast, but he somehow knows when summer changes to fall one morning. In his seventh year, he becomes anxious and excited by all the signs of the coming day. Winchester got out of the car and didn’t stop for five miles. They were his miles. When he locked up and went on point in the square rocks at the back of the valley, my partner and I were still far behind. I usually took a break on the first hill to catch my breath before the prospect of birds, but there wasn’t time. Not because Winchester wouldn’t hold,

A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M FEBRUARY 2018

but because I couldn’t ponder at the speed it took to catch up to him. I wanted to have the silence of coming over the hill settle into me and then feel the softer sounds of the mountain come alive. I wanted the wind to carry the last flower smells of summer in the updraft before heading across the valley. I wanted to take a moment to revisit past experiences of the place before moving on. The bird he pointed was a single whitetailed ptarmigan, but when it flew, its wingspan betrayed its infancy. My reluctance to shoot a bird so young at least had behind it the skill required to miss on purpose. Instead of worrying about the threat of rain, my fretting turned to the fact that my refusal to shoot too-small birds might ruin the day. When we reached the next level of rocks and peered back to the blue mountains in the distance, a momentary calm came over me until the lies I told myself started back up again. Winchester

STEVEN MEYER

Lessons from a hunting dog


The author with Hugo, a three-yearold English setter on one of his first hunts in the Kenai Mountains.

was on point. If the birds were small, I would miss again. My thoughts created a drag, a draining of energy from action. This covey was also too young. It wasn’t important as much as my thoughts about it created a dullness. I made Winchester sit with me, and we looked out over the valley. His eyes were bright, and I followed where they led—to that remarkable place that doesn’t exist even though it’s right in front of you. It’s the world behind our intentions or without them. It takes piercing eyes to see through thoughts to reality. Winchester always saw it—the world where everything is possible if we just stop looking and live it. This wasn’t the time to lecture about what he didn’t understand. This was about what I didn’t understand. “Show me,” I whispered in his ear. The back of the valley was surrounded by peaks we had never climbed. I let go of the weight anchoring me to fears of rain, exhaustion, running short on time, too-small birds, and too-small thinking. “Let’s follow that line,” I said. My partner had already figured a route. If we stayed to the side of the snowpack and the shale slides weren’t too steep, we could get out on top and look over. The rocks near the top appeared jagged from the other side of the valley, and it was impossible to know what we’d find. Winchester would find it first, no matter how many times we called him back as we made our slow ascent. The most I could imagine was a rocky peak overlooking the next valley. It would be cold and windy up there. When we came over the top, it was nothing like I’d imagined, but rather a wide-open field where the hoof print of caribou and sheep unearthed lichen and stirred the mountain soil. The edges were soft and bright white and lime green compared to the dark shale rock across the valley. It was a kind of floating heaven, and Winchester and I began running. We ran across it, first just to run, but then it occurred to me how badly I’d wanted to peer into the next valley. At the edge, the updraft hit us with all the cold of the summer’s unmelted snow. The dark pit of the valley below held the

jeweled lakes we climbed to on other days. Today they were far below us and spilled into streams. Above them loomed the last remnants of a glacier I had never seen, shipwrecked and scarred in the jagged rocks. It was always there, for all the years we’d hunted beneath it, and we never knew. Winchester was calm now. The tide had turned, and he sat the way he does. It’s a smart posture, like meditation. The

wind beat loud against us, and it was the quietest we’d been all day. There was nothing to say, nothing to do. No matter what anyone says about what a dog can see or what a dog can feel, I know there are moments like this when both of our worlds come together. Christine Cunningham is a lifelong Alaskan who lives and hunts with a family of sporting dogs on the Kenai Peninsula.

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GEAR

The Right Stuff

Backpacks for Alaska adventures big and small BY BJORN DIHLE A backpack can be your best friend or leave you questioning your sanity. And if it rubs, it can leave you missing half the skin off your back. Whether your adventure to Alaska involves a cruise ship, a vision quest in the Arctic, or harvesting wild foods, you’re going to need a good backpack. To find the right one, you’ll want to be sure it fits your body and is well suited for your outdoor pursuits. There’s no one “best” backpack, but here are five quality products I tested that may help you pick out what’s right for you.

Editor’s Choice Patagonia Stormfront Roll Top Pack I love this backpack so much I get jealous when other folks look at it. I’ve yet to see a more skookum drybag pack, or one that rides more comfortably. With padded shoulder straps and a removable waist-belt, it’s great for putting in the miles. Also, it’s light enough for me to use it as a drybag on both kayaking and backpacking expeditions. Simple, durable, and with enough capacity for a big day trip, the Stormfront has accompanied me everywhere from Admiralty Island to the Alaska Peninsula. I’m kind of a caveman and tend to destroy gear quickly. Somehow, my Stormfront still looks so good I’m turning heads from the Anchorage airport to bush villages. $149.00; patagonia.com

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Cabela’s Minimalist Frame Pack I’m not sure the word “minimalist” fits this hunting-expedition pack—there are more straps and features than I know what to do with. However, after using it, I’ve realized this might be the best and most versatile big game hunting pack on the market. I tested it on a caribou hunt this fall. My partner MC, a cute hippie chick (except when she’s hunting), insisted we shoot a caribou 16 miles from the road. I expected to be destroyed, but what ensued was the most unexpectedly pleasurable 100-plus pound pack trip I’ve made. Throw in a built-in daypack, a hydration pack, and a rifle sling, to name just a few of the additional features, and you have a hunting backpack that delivers. With a lifetime guarantee and super affordable price, this pack should be on every hunter’s must-have list. $250.00; cabelas.com

Mystery Ranch Scree Pack This 32-liter technical daypack, like all Mystery Ranch products, offers the utmost comfort and quality. Whether you’re a mad mountain climber, a rough rambler, or want to be cool in downtown Boulder, the Scree is likely what you’re looking for. It has many unique features, including a double-layered bottom and a three-zipper design for quick and easy access. With an adjustable yoke and padded hip-belt it’s engineered to evenly distribute weight. My shoulders and back weren’t fatigued in the least after a long day carrying 20 pounds through the mountains. A good choice for climbers and the spectrum of mountain dirtbags. $179.00; mysteryranch.com

Filson Duffle Pack This durable yet sophisticated pack is equally at home in the fast-paced urban wilderness of New York as it is in the wilds of Alaska. It’s lightweight and constructed from tough 600-denier nylon and bridle leather. Easily convertible from a duffle to a backpack, this tote gives Renaissance travelers gear that works well for both cityscape travel and rambles into the wild. There’s something to be said for a pack that’s designed to carry a laptop and for rough wanders in the backcountry. $245.00; filson.com

Sitka Gear Flash 20 Pack The Flash 20 is ideal for hunters, anyone who wants an awesome daypack, and those folks broadminded enough to wear camo. With a 2,000-cubic-inch capacity, and the ability to lash all sorts of gear on the sides and back, the Flash 20 works as a light overnighter as well. I found the pack very comfortable and quiet while moving through brush. It’s constructed from double-weave polyester with a PU coating. I actually don’t know what any of that means, but I do know the material kept the rain out after some miserable fall days spent testing in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. $269.00; sitkagear.com

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A Net Made of Bubbles

The unusual feeding technique of humpback whales “Keep an eye out. They’ve been down about three and a half minutes,” our skipper, Dave Carnes, shouts to us from the wheelhouse. “There go the birds!”

A

Chichagof Island

A humpback whale breaks the water’s surface while bubble net feeding.

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STRAGGLE OF GULLS LIFTS OFF THE

water, all of them drawn to a faint circle that has appeared on the ocean’s surface. Within moments, a massive black head, jaws agape, shoots up through the circle, followed immediately by a half dozen more whales. The pink of their mouths and the sieve of black baleen plates give a sense of their purpose. Throats stretch like massive beach balls, and water, flashing with the few herring lucky enough to escape, pours from their mouths. The whales are bubble net feeding, one of the most complex, and rarest, forms of feeding behavior in the animal kingdom. Only a small percentage of Alaska’s whales have learned the complex choreography of

A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M FEBRUARY 2018

the technique and, although humpbacks range worldwide, this phenomenon occurs only off the coast of Alaska and British Columbia. The humpbacks we watch have spent their winter in Hawaii, serenading mates, rivals, and tourists—all without eating. A month-long journey has brought them here, to the edge of Chichagof Island, where they will devour enough food, as much as a ton and a half a day, to sustain them for the rest of the year. As massive as they are (up to 45 feet long, weighing 40 tons), humpback whales feed only on prey small enough to slide down their grapefruit-sized gullets, primarily krill and herring–sized fish. We watch the whales repeat this performance for about 20 minutes, at

WILL RICE

BY WILL RICE


times surfacing close enough to see the barnacles that pockmark their skin. Their mouths close, and the whales slip down into the water, rolling onto their sides so their 12-foot pectoral fins jut up from the water’s surface, looking like the airfoil sails of high-tech sailboats. The surviving herring escape to the dark safety of deep water, rejoining the swirling silver shoal of fish fleeing the whales. The whales move slowly along the surface, their breath showing as white plumes against the dark spruce background. A half dozen blows, and they each sound, their whitesplotched flukes raised vertically in the air. The drama is about to repeat. Below us, unseen, the whales search for the escaping herring. Once they locate the prey, one of the whales sets the trap, a ring of bubbles that may range from 15 to 100 feet in diameter, depending on the size of the pod. The physics of bubbles means that the net must be blown within 200 feet of the surface; typically well above the shoal of herring, which may be a thousand feet deep. At least one of the whales dives below the herring and vocalizes, its call becoming a sonic weapon. Whales are the loudest animals on earth, and humpback calls can exceed 180 decibels, loud enough to burst a human eardrum. We cannot hear it above the surface, but the herring, stunned and disoriented, flee upward. The pod circles the panicked fish, using sound, their bodies, and their massive pectoral fins to keep the herring bunched into a mass and forcing them upward into the net of bubbles and jaws. Our first sign of the underwater drama is a couple of desperately leaping salmon,

A pod of humpbacks bubble net feeds on herring in Southeast Alaska.

their own herring feast interrupted. Underwater, the noise and the glitter of the bubbles hold the baitfish in a tight ball, trapped against the surface. The first panicked herring begin to jump, drawing the gulls closer. On a signal from the leader, the whales once again burst through the bubble net. The 20 or so pleats behind their lower jaw relax, allowing their throats to expand enough to capture over 5,000 gallons of water, together with hundreds of unlucky fish. A massive tongue forces the water through the 400 plates of baleen that hang from the whale’s upper jaw, straining the herring from the seawater. Gulls swoop in to pick off the survivors. The whales hang suspended for the moment, and as gravity prevails, one of them, his head still above the water, lets out a massive bellow that echoes off the surrounding mountains. The whales catch their breath, and the dance continues. Finding a pod of bubble net feeding whales is a highlight of any marine trip, but there are no guarantees. The technique has been observed from Ketchikan to Seward, but the whales follow the herring, and the specific locations they frequent can change from year to year. When you do find them, as we did while cruising Chatham Strait, one of the most consistent feeding areas in Alaska—count yourself lucky. You’re bearing witness to one of the most unique and evolved wildlife displays in the world. Will Rice came to Alaska for the summer in 1970 and never left. More of his photos can be seen at willricephoto.com.

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New galleries highlight beloved “Painter of the North” BY M.T. SCHWARTZMAN

S Sydney Laurence painted “Rolling in Tide,” an oil on canvas, in the late 19th or early 20th century.

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YDNEY MORTIMER LAURENCE WASN’T

the first or the only fine artist to have portrayed Alaska’s larger-than-life scenery, but he is probably the most famous. Few painters are as closely identified with their settings or have become as much of a local icon. In fact, the Alaska State Museums have described Laurence as “a beloved figure,” and the Anchorage Museum called him “the foremost historical painter of the Alaskan landscape” in its retrospective book Sydney Laurence, Painter of the North, written by University of Alaska Fairbanks professor emeritus Kesler E. Woodward on the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death. Sydney Laurence was born in Brooklyn, New

A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M FEBRUARY 2018

York, in 1865, but was drawn by the lure of gold to Alaska, where he sought to make his fortune in the early 1900s. An artist by training, Laurence studied painting and exhibited his work in New York between 1887 and 1889. He moved to Britain thereafter, exhibiting in England and Paris through the late 1890s. No one seems to know exactly why, according to Woodward, but in 1904 Laurence suddenly left his family and moved to Alaska, settling on Cook Inlet to eke out a living as a prospector. Fortunately for us, he soon discovered that his true calling was as an artist, and he returned to his painting—directing his attention to the subject matter that would come to define him.

(THIS PAGE) ANCHORAGE MUSEUM COLLECTION, 2011.17.8-1, SYDNEY LAURENCE; (OPPOSITE PAGE) TOP: ANCHORAGE MUSEUM LIBRARY ARCHIVES; BOTTOM: ANCHORAGE MUSEUM COLLECTION, 1991.62.13, SYDNEY LAURENCE

Sydney Laurence


[RIGHT] Sydney Laurence poses in front of several paintings with his paints and easel. [BELOW] “Sunset on Snow” by Sydney Laurence is one of the artist’s early 20thcentury oils on canvas.

Southcentral Alaska provided the setting for several of Laurence’s earliest known paintings of the North, mostly created before 1912. By 1915 he had moved to the nascent town of Anchorage, founded just the year before, and by the 1920s he had become an in-demand artist. He created sometimes massive paintings of Mount McKinley—now Denali—which became his trademark. (The first of these images dates back to 1913 and is owned by the Anchorage Museum.) He painted smaller canvases of the mountain as well, which were quickly produced and sold to tourists as souvenirs. “He found that people were drawn to his images of Denali, so he made lots of reproductions of the mountain,” says Betany Porter, Curator of Art and Contemporary Culture for the Anchorage Museum. Stylistically, Laurence is most closely associated with the 19th-century Hudson River School of painters who came before

him. From this group he inherited a reverence for nature and a dramatic flair for portraying its sublime grandeur. He also was directly influenced by the Tonalist movement, whose palette of colors was more subdued. The Tonalists emphasized an expressionistic use of light to create atmosphere and mood. In his work, Laurence combined these two influences—further refined by the unique

ruggedness of the Alaska landscape—to create a style totally his own. Visitors may view many of Laurence’s most famous works at the Anchorage Museum, which this past September unveiled expanded Art of the North galleries in its new Rasmuson Wing. These galleries are more than eight times the size of the previous spaces, encompassing 25,000 square feet (as opposed to 3,000 square feet before the expansion). The museum is a major holder of Laurence’s work, with more than 200 of his paintings, drawings, and prints in its permanent collection. Over 80 of these are now on display in the new galleries. “That was the idea behind the expansion,” Porter says, “To get more works on display from the permanent collection and have a more compelling narrative of the North through art.” Besides images of Denali, Laurence painted a wide variety of subjects from still lifes to seascapes. Among those on view include images of trappers, prospectors, and one of his “Going to the Potlatch” paintings. Sydney Laurence died in Anchorage in 1940. For several decades, he depicted Alaska in a way that captured its essence. Having once seen Alaska, the impression is unforgettable—and the same may be said of Sydney Laurence’s paintings. M.T. Schwartzman has written hundreds of magazine articles on Alaska since he first visited in 1988. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Road to Recognition BY TINA JENKINS BELL

Army engineer troops haul logs down a cleared road while building the Alaska-Canada Highway.

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FTER THE BOMBING OF PEARL

Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt worried about the United States’ vulnerable position via Alaska, whose Aleutian Islands arc toward Japan. The Asian nation later bombed Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island and invaded Attu and Kiska, also in the Aleutians. These acts of war spurred collaboration between the U.S. and Canada to build the Alaska Highway, a 1,422mile military road stretching from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, southeast of Fairbanks. The road would support U.S. troops and transit of supplies. To get the job done, 10,000 men from seven Army Corps of Engineer regiments were dispatched to Alaska. One-third of the manpower, the 93rd, 95th, and 97th African

A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M FEBRUARY 2018

American Engineer regiments, completed most of the construction. The black soldiers’ high quality of work and efficiency, on a project often compared to the Panama Canal due to its construction complexity and danger level, led the Federal Highway Administration to describe their efforts as paving “the road to civil rights.” Others would attribute their achievements as a milestone on a long, crooked road to President Harry S. Truman signing Executive Order 9981, on July 26, 1948, abolishing racial discrimination in the armed forces. The Army led its military counterparts in integrating troops, though desegregation was not complete until almost 15 years later in 1963. “The success of the black soldiers assigned to building the highway speaks for itself,” said John Lonnquest, Ph.D. and Chief of the U.S. Army

(THIS PAGE) COURTESY OFFICE OF HISTORY, HQ, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS; (OPPOSITE PAGE) ERIC ENGMAN/FAIRBANKS DAILY NEWS-MINER

Black soldiers’ contributions to building the Alaska Highway


Corps of Engineers’ Office of History. “They quickly and efficiently built a road through the wilderness under extraordinarily difficult conditions. The troops overcame these hardships without complaint or incident to accomplish a remarkable feat of engineering.” According to “Writing Minorities Out of History: Black Soldiers of the Alcan Highway,” by journalist, educator, and road historian Lael Morgan, experts predicted construction of the Alaska Highway could not be done. The highway route ran through the Canadian Rockies and covered dangerous terrain, including tundra and irregular, unstable permafrost that turned into spongy, slippery mud during spring and summer. But from March to November 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers and a team of white contractors built the pioneer road linking Alaska to Canada. According to Christine and Dennis McClure, authors of We Fought the Road, the African American 97th Regiment, commanded by white officers, swiftly completed the section of highway within Alaska’s borders while the black 93rd and 95th regiments constructed the Canadian segments of the road. These segregated regiments were treated poorly, not receiving proper clothing or suitable shelter to sustain frigid subzero weather. They were not given heavy machinery like bull dozers and other equipment granted to white troops. Instead, they were forced to weave basic corduroy roads of small trees and brush by hand. “We just did what we were told,” said New Orleans resident Leonard Larkins, 97 and a World War II veteran from the 93rd Regiment. “Nobody told us what we were working on or why, but we were in the Army so we worked hard with the shovels, picks, and grass-cutting blades they gave us.” The black troops were also restricted to their military base and told not to interact with locals, a compromise

between Brig. Gen. Clarence Sturdevant and Gen. Simon Bolviar Buckner, Jr. Gen. Sturdevant needed to send black troops to Alaska due to dwindling manpower but promised to restrict the troops to their barracks to quell Gen. Buckner’s fears that black soldiers, who he saw as shifty and useless, would settle in Alaska and breed a “mongrel” race with Alaska Natives. After witnessing the strong, consistent work ethic of the black regiments, Gen. Buckner later recanted his reservations and voluntarily sent black troops to support war efforts in the Aleutian Islands. “It started to sink in that these guys were not incapable of handling heavy machinery, leadership, or combat,” as had been unfairly publicized by white commanding officers and generals, Dennis McClure said. He believes “the black soldiers’ work on the Alaska Highway, the blacks fighting in the Aleutians, and even the Tuskegee Airmen opened doors toward Truman’s executive order in 1948.” An Alaska law passed in 2017 designating October 25 annually as “African American Soldiers’ Contribution to Building the Alaska Highway Day,” is credited to the advocacy of the Alaska Highway Project team, led by Jean Pollard, a retired African American educator who discovered the black Army Corps of Engineers’ feats in 2011 after viewing a documentary produced by Morgan. “I’d lived in Alaska for 40 years. I’d gone to high school and studied Alaska history, which is required in public schools and

not once did I run across this information,” said Pollard, whose father was in the military. Pollard promised herself the stories of the black soldiers would not be omitted from the education of future students graduating from Alaska schools, starting in Anchorage where she lives. “I decided the only way we were going to keep the story alive was to get it into the schools and universities,” she said. Pollard convinced the Anchorage School District to approve a course to teach Anchorage social studies teachers about the contributions of black soldiers to the construction of the Alaska Highway. In April 2017, Pollard and her team trained the first 30 instructors. Very few WWII vets are still alive to offer first-hand accounts of their war efforts, but through the hard work of teachers, journalists, legislators, and others, their accomplishments won’t fade. Larkins—who at one time found it difficult to discuss the poor treatment he received while on active duty—finally capitulated on his vow to never step foot in Alaska again. Last year, with five of his sons, he traveled to Anchorage to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Alaska Highway and to be recognized for his role in history. Tina Jenkins Bell is a freelance journalist who has written for the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, and Upscale Magazine, among others.

Leonard Larkins, a 97-year-old World War II veteran who worked on the construction of the Alaska Highway, talks about his experiences during the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce luncheon in 2017. Larkins was joined by three of his sons (back from left) Kirby, Bert, and Darrol.

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Thousands of Pacific walrus hauled out on the beach beneath the Dragonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tail rock formation. [INSET] Waving like a diva to the visitors above.

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s we perched on a rocky headland above Bristol Bay, two Pacific walruses sparred in the shallow water below, their jabbing tusks gleaming in the late afternoon sun. Clouds of spray splashed up from the roiling waters in a battle for dominance. These enormous males can approach two tons, so the testosterone and adrenaline of a fight is quite a sight. There were also quiet moments for the walruses, when they would leisurely swim on the surface with an air sac inflated, creating the sweetest large mammal sound I have ever heard: one that reminded me at times of a violin and at other times of a tinkling bell. My wife, Karen, and I ventured to Round Island specifically to see the Pacific walrus because the island is a renowned summer haulout for male walruses, where several thousand gather for a season of diving deep to the ocean floor for clams and then resting together on a warm beach. The females are farther north with the pack ice, giving birth and raising young completely apart from the males. In 2017 the peak walrus population reached 2,501, a figure that fluctuates dramatically from year to year but has reached 14,000 in the past.


Text and images by Lee Rentz

A Visit to

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etting to Round Island is a bit of a challenge. We flew from Anchorage to Dillingham, then flew on a smaller plane from Dillingham to Togiak, a small Yup’ik fishing community in Bristol Bay on the Bering Sea. Then we took a small boat out to the island, where we camped for five nights. This gave us plenty of time to view and photograph the walruses, climb to the summit of the high, rounded peak, and view seabirds and wildflowers along the shore. Camping on the island is a wonderful experience in itself. The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, which manages Round Island as part of the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary, provides a campground with wooden tent platforms during the visitation period of May 1 through August 15, when the walruses are present. Visitors need a strong tent that can withstand gale-force winds off the

Steller sea lions swim to their haul out spot on the island.

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Bering Sea—which we experienced and which can keep the boat from making the journey. There is a communal military-style cook tent/gathering place, complete with a propane stove (visitors can’t bring gas stoves on planes) for preparing meals and a fox-proof food box. The ADFG also staffs a research station on the island to keep daily counts of walruses and Steller sea lions, monitor the nesting seabird populations, and ensure that the walruses are safe from visitors and other disturbances, since walruses can panic and trample each other in a rush to get to the sea. Round Island lost its state funding with the downtrend in the oil economy. Fortunately, funding for staffing was restored by grants from the Annenberg Foundation, Alaska SeaLife Center, and a variety of other organizations, including the federal government and several zoos and aquariums from around the United States.


Horned puffins hang out on the Dragonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tail.

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ach morning and evening we would lie awake in the tent for a time, listening to the grunts and sweet sounds of the walruses, the cries of seabirds in the distance, the lapping of waves, and, on two nights, wind whipping the nylon tent in a frenzy. A typical day involved breakfast, then hiking the island’s trails to see the wildlife from a variety of overlooks. Horned puffins rested on rock ledges only 100 feet from our tent. Other seabirds included tufted puffins nesting in burrows on the cliffs; 150,000 penguin-like common murres nesting on the cliffs; and black-legged kittiwakes, pelagic cormorants, pigeon guillemots, and parakeet auklets. Common ravens joined red foxes as the bad boys of the island, raiding the nests of the seabirds for eggs and chicks. On one day, we made the extremely steep climb to the top of the mountain on a glorious summer day. There we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the rock formation known as Dragon’s Tail, which leads far out into the ocean. Along its beautiful beaches hundreds of Pacific walruses rested together, as their ancestors have been doing for thousands of years. This dramatic scene will remain a favorite memory of our expedition to Round Island. I can’t wait to return. For those who want to visit Round Island vicariously, there is a summer webcam site showing the walruses of the island at explore.org (walrus-cam-round-island).

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Pacific walrus males squabble in close quarters.

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Island of Forgotten Dreams Exploring Kodiak by foot and packraft 60

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Story by

Bjorn Dihle

Images by

Chris Miller

“You’re going to hike across Kodiak Island?” asked the woman sitting next to me on the Alaska Airlines plane. “Are you crazy?” “I was just let out of a psych ward,” I said, which was the truth.

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[SPREAD] Cape Uyak rises out of Shelikof Strait above Karluk’s Ascension of Our Lord Chapel, a Russian Orthodox Church and the oldest extant church in Alaska, built in 1888. [INSET] Bjorn Dihle packrafts on Karluk Lake on the final push to the starting point of the trip in Larsen Bay. Karluk Lake is home to the highest density of Kodiak brown bears on Kodiak Island.

spend winters working in the mental health unit in Juneau. In late April I’m released to run around with bears and wander wild places. The plane shuddered in the gray chaos of a Gulf of Alaska storm and the captain got on the intercom. “Waves and salmon have flooded the runway, but don’t worry. Kodiak is my home town; I’ll get you there,” he said. When we emerged from the foggy deluge we were at sea level and waves were within a few inches of crashing over the runway. The plane jolted down and a number of passengers screamed. I was bugling on the inside; after a year of scheming I was finally setting foot on Kodiak to explore a 130-mile loop by foot and packraft across the western portion of the island. I’d planned to do it alone but the winter before I’d gone out to a bar with my friend, photographer Chris Miller. He got me drunk, tricked me into confessing my spring plan and then decided a long walk amidst the biggest brown bears on earth was a great idea. From our vantage points on bar stools, where we did our planning and talked of training while drinking beer and eating nachos, the trip almost seemed too easy. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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hris arrived in Kodiak a day earlier to visit his aunt and uncle, Jeanne and Brett, who generously helped us with logistics. They picked me up and we headed to the Kodiak Island Brewery. I was horrified to encounter an eclectic mix of folks, many of whom were dressed in khakis and smelled like they bathed often. Seeing Kodiak so gentrified made me nostalgic for the smell of two-week-old halibut slime and stale Rainier. At least the conversation in every group seemed to be about bears. Men talked about what guns were best for putting one down. Women talked about how the school went on lock-down whenever one was near. A lady, hearing of our walkabout, looked at us with wonder. “And why do you want to do this?” she asked. “Our home lives are bad,” I said. We were delayed by weather so terrible it was awe-inspiring. We wandered the flooded streets, staring out at seabirds riding swells of black ocean and wondering if our plan was anything short of crazy. An armada of commercial fishing boats and infrastructure surrounded the small city—I’d never seen one so invested in maritime industries. Clouds lifted two days later and we hopped on a small plane and flew to the Alutiiq village of Larsen Bay. A number of men in camouflage sized us up and asked what we were doing. “We’re going to try to hike to Olga Bay,” I said, failing to mention this was only the halfway point of our journey. “You can’t hike to Olga Bay!” a bear hunting guide retorted. His client, a large middle-aged man with braces, stood by listening. “I hiked a lot,” the hunter said. “You sure did, and you shot your bear!” the guide said. Chris and I snuck away but were quickly hailed by a man smoking a cigarette. He told us he was the chief of Larsen Bay and that we needed a permit, with a price tag that made both of us feel queasy, to cross land owned by Koniag, Inc., a regional Native corporation. He also thought we were nuts and went so far as to mention he’d grab any cool gear we had if a bear ate us.

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[TOP] Bjorn Dihle inflates his packraft at the edge of the Karluk River, after hiking from Larsen Bay to the midpoint of the river; which also served as the take-out point on the 130-mile loop. [BOTTOM] Bjorn Dihle pushes his way through brush and alders as he makes his way inland from Olga Bay.


Despite all the hype in the media about Kodiak bears, there’s only been one documented case of a person being killed in the archipelago in the last 75 years. A few dollars poorer, we walked out of town, into brush and past numerous winter-killed deer until we hit the beach. I got tingly when I saw the first set of bear tracks. They were as big as the largest I’d seen on the islands of Admiralty and Chichagof, where I work as a bear viewing guide during the warmer months. We followed the bear up an ATV trail, hollering at every corner. I wanted to see a Kodiak but not at the expense of overly stressing the animal or getting nibbled on. The landscape—barren, wide-open valleys surrounded by mountains—was more pleasant than I expected. With all the “man literature” Kodiak has generated I thought we’d be suffering a little more. “I’ll never become a man!” I said. “Me either. It sounds like too much work anyway,” Chris said. The lovely Karluk River cut through a valley. Before colonization there were dozens of Alutiiq villages and camps along its banks and lagoon, all depending on prolific runs of salmon. Now, besides the small village of Karluk on the coast, the river was without people. We inflated Alpacka rafts—one of the most revolutionary inventions for backcountry travel—and floated the shallow current past numerous deer. For thousands of years the only large animal on the island was the brown bear. Since Russian colonization, numerous animals from Sitka black-tailed deer to Bjorn Dihle pauses to observe erosion on the side of a bluff at the edge of beaver had been Karluk. Residents of the small town introduced in an attempt hope to repair and possibly relocate to make the island a the Ascension of Our Lord Chapel, sporting paradise. seen here at the top of the bluff. In the late evening, after pitching a tent in the rain and a quick dinner, we hiked through brush to the top of a ridge. The peaks above Karluk Lake rose in the gray distance. A number of record bears, animals that stood over 10 feet tall and weighed more than 1,500 pounds, had been killed there. If all went well, we planned to return to Larsen Bay via Karluk Lake in around nine days. In the muddy lagoon of the Karluk River, we stared out at giant cliffs above Shelikof Strait. The infamously stormy water body was named after Russian fur merchant Grigory Shelikhov, who arrived in charge of two heavily armed ships to Three Saints

Bay on the south side of the island in 1784. After two decades of Koniag people repulsing Russian fur hunters, Shelikhov was determined to establish a permanent colony. A massacre ensued with Russians slaughtering hundreds, mostly with cannons. When the smoke cleared, Shelikhov had subjugated an entire people and established the first capital of Russian Alaska. Under Shelikhov’s rule, Karluk became a Russian outpost a few years later. To us, the silent village felt heavy with ghosts. Derelict canneries dotted the bay. Once, more salmon were caught here than in Bristol Bay, but those runs were mostly gone. On an eroding bluff, above old houses and shacks gradually falling into the ocean, stood the Ascension of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Chapel. Believed to be the oldest existing church in Alaska, it too will likely soon be claimed by the eroding bluff and ocean. I walked through the graveyard—it seemed everyone buried here had died young—and was happy to climb a mountain and stare out on the wild expanse of the next leg of our journey.

That night we camped in a narrow mountain valley next to a small, frozen lake. A cross fox approached while we made dinner. From a den on a mountain, its pup called for it long into the twilight. Not just the human history of Kodiak felt haunted. Dozens of dead deer lay scattered amidst tundra and brush. By the end of our trip, we would see more than a hundred. In 1912, the Novarupta Volcano eruption ravaged the island and its wildlife with ash, acid rain, and starvation. In 1964, the Good Friday Earthquake and its resulting tsunamis devastated the people, the land, and the wildlife. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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[LEFT] Bjorn Dihle reviews a topo map to plan the next day’s route while boiling water for the evening meal.

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n the chilly morning, as the sun rose magically above mountains and coffee boiled, I shrugged off dark thoughts and studied a landscape so beautiful it was hard to take in. We hiked across tundra, low mountains, and lagoons. No bears appeared. It was a cold spring; maybe most were still snoozing in their dens. We saw skulls of reindeer and caught a glimpse of a lone animal grazing the tundra above Halibut Bay. We followed miles of sandy beach as the surf cascaded pebbles. On a bluff above the old village site of Ayakulik, an emaciated doe wobbled. Below, harbor seals bobbed in the waves at the mouth of the lagoon. There was nowhere to walk except right next to her.

“Hang on for just a little longer and spring will come,” I said to her as Chris and I slowly stepped past. That night we camped on a bluff next to a bear trail where generations of animals had stepped in the same place. A fox picked through molted king crab shells scattering the shore of Olga Bay. We passed setnet cabins and a bear hunting camp protected by an electric fence. A low pass led to Akalura Lake, which was surrounded by bear trails as big as bike paths. In a few months this place would be impossible to travel without close encounters. Whenever trails petered out, travel was brushy, and by the time we reached the southern edge of Frazer Lake, we were pleasantly surprised to find a short trail that led to Dog Salmon Creek falls, a bear-viewing area. Even more surprising was how much infrastructure was in place, including several cabins, platforms, a weir, and fish ladders. It was early May now and we still hadn’t seen a bear. I was getting worried we’d return home skunked. That evening, though, as we worked our way through a forest of cottonwoods, we saw our first Kodiak. The bear looked like an adult male on the prowl for a mate. It stared at us and sniffed the air. I’d been approached by horny boars a number of times. Neither Chris nor I wanted to go that way, so we made it clear we were people and just passing through. Slowly, the great animal lumbered away, leaving us feeling electric. We made camp next to Lake O’Malley and watched goldeneyes court each other in the few ice-free stretches of water. It was a stormy hike to Karluk Lake and would have been miserable if bears hadn’t created a network of trails. Once we arrived, we chatted with friendly hunters camped there.

“Seeing Kodiak so gentrified made me nostalgic for the smell of two-week-old halibut slime and stale Rainier.” 64

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rown bear hunting presents several paradoxes difficult to reconcile. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game around 180 brown bears are shot in the Kodiak Archipelago, and $5 million are spent on the hunts annually. Meat is almost never salvaged—a successful hunter walks away with hide and skull. The irony is that until relatively recently, brown bears were viewed as a hamper to economic progress, and it was largely the bear guides and hunters who were responsible for getting the government to protect and conserve the species. Like some sort of wilderness magic, bears began appearing on the mountains above Karluk Lake. We watched them graze, dig roots, and nap. Mated pairs lazed and fed next to each other. Most were the same color of the yellowish-brown slopes. [TOP] Larsen Bay Cannery sits at the inlet of Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island. The cannery was built in 1911 by the Alaska Packers Association, and is currently operated by Icicle Seafoods. The cannery is one of three still in operation on Kodiak; at one point up to 30 canneries existed on the island. [BOTTOM] Bjorn Dihle floats along the Karluk River taking in the hilly country and golden grass from the previous summer.

We counted twelve bears by the time we reached the north shore of the lake, where the river begins. I could now comfortably confirm what they say about Kodiak bears—they’re huge! A mother and her two spring cubs grazed on a ridge we were considering hiking as we checked my InReach. A message from a friend told of a big weather system that would hit Kodiak the following afternoon; he advised trying to get on the morning flight out of Larsen Bay if we didn’t want to get stuck in the storm. Instead of hiking the mountain, we paddled down the Karluk River, past flocks of goldeneyes, mergansers, pintails, cinnamon teal, and shorebirds. Tundra swans winged over and set down in a slough. We shouldered our packs and hiked to the low pass above Larsen Bay we’d stood on nine days before. Tomorrow we’d barely beat a storm back to the town but, right then, the evening sun bathed the mountains in soft light. Silently, I thanked the land, animals, and spirits of Kodiak for letting us visit before following my friend down to the ocean. Bjorn Dihle is a Juneau writer. His first book is Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Legends and Mysteries of Southeast Alaska. Contact or follow him at facebook.com/BjornDihleauthor.

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Stellerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Island A rock of many names

PATRICK ENDRES

By Michael Engelhard

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Kayak Island seen from the southwest, the seaward side, with Cape St. Elias and Pinnacle Rock.

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rom the cockpit of a small plane—the best means to get there from Cordova, weather permitting—Kayak Island looks like a 17-mile-long breaching whale. Dark spruce cloaks its rocky spine. Driftwood like matchsticks clogs the cetacean wake in the bays. If the bony head, Cape St. Elias, suggests a humpback’s, Pinnacle Rock to the south is the fin of a titanic orca circling it. Indeed, in the cosmology of Yakutat Tlingit who plied these rough waters in dugout canoes, Kayak Island is a whale Raven tried to kill. Adjacent Wingham Island is his kayak, the mainland’s Okalee Spit, his harpoon line. All these turned to stone, except Raven. Ignorant of the myth, Russians dubbed the wrong island “Kayak,” for its shape, a case of mistaken identity. Some people nowadays call it “Steller’s Island.”

And thereby hangs another epic tale. At the age of 32, the military surgeon and botanist Georg Wilhelm Steller—born Stöhler, in Franconia, revived after having been declared dead—had joined a Tsarist voyage in search of a continent in the role of scientist and physician. Commanded by the Danish cartographer Vitus Bering on his flagship St. Peter, the expedition left the tiny Kamchatka port Petropavlovsk on June 4, 1741. Steller had explored 7,000 miles of Siberia on foot and by dogsled the two years before, driven by the “insatiable desire to visit foreign lands and to investigate their conditions and curiosities.” Little did he know that he would become the first European naturalist to set foot in Northwest America, where he’d encounter creatures unknown to science, and one that today is extinct. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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in, though reluctantly, fearing perhaps that Steller would get thick fog south of the storm-lashed Aleutian chain, lost or carried away, botanizing. Bering lost contact with Aleksei Chirikov’s St. Paul on Landfall was made in a small cove by the mouth of a freshet, June 20, never to be reunited. After a few days of searching, and one must assume the German was the first man to jump Bering resumed sailing east, hoping to find land soon. His from the yawl. While the crew refilled casks, down the beach sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued German adjunct spotted mainland Steller and his Cossack servant and hunter Thoma Lepekhin Alaska, though vaguely, through clouds, more than three weeks found a hollowed-out log for cooking with heated rocks, next to later. “It was not so distinct that a picture could be made of it,” a fire drill. Then they ducked into the woods. Steller wrote in his journal, which wasn’t published until Insatiable like his contempo47 years after his death. The rary, Linnaeus, Steller identified following day, July 16, the weather 140 plant species during his cleared and all beheld a snowstint on the island. Those capped, majestic volcano: already familiar to him 18,000-foot Mt. St. Elias. included upland cranberry, Three days later St. Peter whortleberry, and likely dropped anchor in a bay west of crowberry, which he called Cape St. Elias. Ever the stickler, “scurvy berry”—its vitamin C Steller contested the naming, as a helps to prevent that disease. cape was a mainland feature, not Sitka spruce was new to him, as an island’s. Bering just wanted to was salmonberry, an “elsewhere stay long enough to take on fresh unknown species of raspberry.” water. Worried about hostile A faint trail through timber inhabitants, he wouldn’t endanger festooned with moss hinted at the crew for “some herbs,” trying seasonal camps of the Unagalto keep Steller from going ashore. akmiut, a branch of Pacific “We have come only to take Eskimos. Trees had been peeled American water to Asia,” the Sea otter from Steller’s De bestiis marinis (The Beasts of the Sea), for shelter material or cut down scientist complained. Bering gave published in 1751 in St. Petersburg.

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TOP: COURTESY CHARLESGAUSE.NET; BOTTOM: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

In


“In the Gulf,” a painting by Alaska artist Charles Gause, envisions Bering’s St. Peter approaching Kayak Island.

wintering crew. Advised by Steller, preyed on by foxes, the survivors ate antiscorbutic herbs while building a boat from the stove-in hull, which they sailed to the mainland. Their ordeal had lasted 10 months. Steller died four years later in western Siberia en route to Irkutsk, felled by pneumonia while riding in a sled. But even in death, this adventurer did not find rest. Robbers dug up the corpse, leaving it naked on the ground. After reburial, the river Tura flooded his grave. In a letter to a fellow naturalist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Steller had summarized his feelings about the expedition, which encapsulate his philosophy: “I would not exchange the experience of nature I had on this miserable journey for any amount of money.”

Collecting frantically before night fell, Steller asked his Cossack to shoot some bird specimens. with stone axes. In a clearing, Steller and Lepekhin stumbled upon an underground cache. It held bark containers with smoked sockeye. Arrows, painted black. Plant fibers to be woven into fishnets. Dried rolls of inner spruce bark, famine food. On his return, Steller saw smoke tendrils curl from a distant campfire. Back at the beach, Bering ordered him aboard within three hours, or else he’d be left marooned. Collecting frantically before night fell, Steller asked his Cossack to shoot some bird specimens. The midnight blue, crested corvid Lepekhin then bagged reminded Steller of “a likeness painted in lively colors and described in the newest account of the birds of the Carolinas” he’d seen: the eastern American blue jay. Its western cousin, the feathered gem in the scientist’s hands, this splinter of sky whose peskiness and curiosity resembled his own, proved he really had reached the threshold of the very same continent. After 10 years of preparation, 10 hours on the island had made the endeavor worthwhile. Hardship and death lay ahead. Weaving past Kodiak and Attu, St. Peter foundered on a dagger-shaped scrap of land, one of the Commander Islands near Kamchatka. There, Steller drew and dissected the “Manati” sea cow with walrus skin and a porpoise tail that would come to bear his name. With the influx of Russian fur hunters this kelp grazer disappeared within three decades of its first scientific description from life—it was placid, twice as long as a Beetle; 10 tons of excellent eating. Exposure and malnutrition killed Bering and about half the

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till teeming with life, the waters surging around Kayak Island are now managed as a state marine park. The beach where Steller landed was designated a national historic landmark, as was a lighthouse built in 1916, snugged against the foot of monolithic Cape St. Elias. The island has been uninhabited since the beacon became automated in 1974. Present-day visitors bunk in a building that forms part of the complex. Naming is claiming, and Qe’yiłteh changed hands again after Steller’s sojourn. Captain James Cook, who beached a longboat there in 1778, buried a bottle with a note and two silver pieces given to him by King George III’s chaplain Richard Kaye—so the stone whale became “Kaye’s Island.” One year later, Spaniards christened it “Isla del Carmen” after the saint on whose feast day they found it. No portrait of Steller survives. But his name does, hitched to a sea lion, a broad-billed sea-eagle (think Baldy on steroids), a harlequin eider, the sea cow, the gumboot chiton, and the telltale jay. It endures in a species of kelp, in starry bell-heather, a glacier, a natural arch, a school that boosts courage and independence (go Jays!), and less formally, in this stern and rockbound coast.

Michael Engelhard is the author of the essay collection American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Circle, and of Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon. He lives in Fairbanks and works as a wilderness guide in the Arctic. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Southeast Alaska

Shop, cruise, and explore the Inside Passage

Riggs Glacier (left) and McBride Glacier (center) above Muir Inlet in Glacier Bay National Park.

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We just got into port and plan to soar through the treetops later on zip lines. In Juneau, a helicopter pilot will take us buzzing over a vast field of ice. From there we’ll head to Glacier Bay, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see calving glaciers. But before our next outdoor adventure, we’re squeezing in some shopping on main street. Visiting these diverse, tight-knit communities in southeast Alaska has been a bucket-list item for me, so I’m not bothered by a little rain. The adventures keep our spirits up and every stop brings new thrills. When we’re not in action, the views of cloud-shrouded peaks rising sharply from the sea are enough to send our hearts racing. And in this moment, I’m actually wishing the cool rain was back, because my cheeks are burning. >> 72

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(THIS PAGE) JIM WARK / ALASKASTOCK.COM; (OPPOSITE PAGE) LUCAS PAYNE / ALASKASTOCK.COM

EARING A DRESS TRIMMED WITH LACE AND HER HAIR DONE IN CURLS, the lady waves a sultry finger at me and calls out, inviting me inside. My cheeks turn red, and I pretend not to hear. My girlfriend, however, laughs at the good-natured fun. We’re in Ketchikan, a town born during the Klondike Gold Rush, and the lady is one of many historic actors playing make-believe to bring the town to life.


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Hand Crafted Alaskan Jewelry, Knives, Totem Poles

Fish Creek Company Ketchikan, Alaska

Phone: 907-617-0867 • Request a catalog

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Welcome to The Driftwood H Welcome to The Driftwood Hotel Welcome to The Driftwood Hotel Welcome to The Driftwood Hotel SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

and crew provide three- to ten-day cruises featuring kayaking, stand-up paddling, fishing, glacier-viewing, photography, and more. 888-530-2628, alaskacharterboat.com

Pelican Chamber Located in one of the few old fishing towns remaining in Alaska and eager to share that news with visitors. Pelican offers fabulous sport fishing charters, lodges, restaurants, stores, and more. 907-735-2460, pelican.net Alaska Ferry Vacations With more than 35 years of Alaska travel experience, you’ll want to work with Alaska Ferry Vacations to plan your customized trip to the Last Frontier. Sit back, relax, and let one of our agents help plan your trip today. 907-772-3818, alaskaferryvacations.com Custom Alaska Cruises Cruise through Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, joining us for an all-inclusive 6-night, 7-day cruise: kayak around icebergs, watch glaciers calve, see whales breach right next to the boat, and watch black and brown bears stroll along the shores with their young. Tour a lighthouse, visit sea lion rookeries, and toss a rod in to catch a salmon or halibut and enjoy fresh-caught shrimp and crab while aboard! Visit us online to book what truly is a trip of a lifetime! 970-217-6359, sikumi.com

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Haines, Alaska You might know us as a small, breathtaking, artistic community with endless backcountry skiing and thousands of bald eagles. But we’re also the Alaska we all dream about: authentic and unashamed. Fill your days with intention—wild salmon, microbrews, hikes, and bonfires on the beach. We’re a place for both adventurers and lovers. 907-766-2234, explorehaines.net

FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Sporting Travel & Activities ÂŽ

Hunt on Kodiak Game Ranch, Kodiak Island

Guaranteed Hunt includes a 2-4 year old bull (head, meat & hide) with 3 days meals & lodging & ground transport during hunt. No hunt license needed. Scheduling to be arranged by winner. Optimum period is Sept â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Jan. Travel to Kodiak not included. Winners may opt for $3500 cash prize. Prizes are transferrable. One prize drawing for every 1300 tickets sold! Three winners last year. Proceeds benefit Knights of Columbus charitable work in Alaska.

Drawing April 28, 2018 in Juneau.

For winners see News at www.alaska-kofc.org

To buy tickets, send check or money order payable to KofC Council 1760 Gaming, P.O. Box 21026, Juneau, AK 99802-1026. Ticket Price $20 each. Need not be present to win. Alaska Permit #1631

Stand Out. Contact Melissa: melissa.bradley@alaskamagazine.com

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Sporting Travel & Activities

www.Katmai-Wilderness.com|1.800.488.8767|Bears@katmai-Wilderness.com

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Get ready for your Alaska camping adventure! Featuring pop top campers | Including all the gear you need for a successful experience in the Alaska wilderness | One way rentals available | Seattle to Anchorage | Call us for details!

Kodiak, AK Toll Free 1-888-563-4254 www.kodiakinn.com

ALASKA ADVENTURE

Premier Brown Bear Photo Safaris Katmai National Park Departing Daily From Homer, Alaska

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R E N T A L S

Homer, AK Toll Free 1-866-685-5000 www.bidarkainn.com

Valdez Harbor Inn Valdez, AK Toll Free 1-888-222-3440 www.valdezharborinn.com

Photo by Gary Porter

Each Best Western® branded hotel is independently owned and operated.

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Trading Post

MATERIAL FLOW

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6112 Petersburg St Anchorage, AK 99507 P: 907-868-4725 1-877-868-3569 ANCHORAGE NEW & USED RACKING

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Browse our ulu bowl set, sizes and handle varieties See the great collection of Alaska made gifts View our unique “museum” of ancient ulus and artifacts Receive a personal ulu demonstration Take a individual factory tour Summer hours: 7 days a week 8-7 Winter hours: Mon-Fri 9-6 and Sat 10-6

(Closed Sundays from the First of the Year until Mid-May)

211 W. Ship Creek Ave. – Anchorage, AK 99501 CALL FOR DIRECTIONS / CATALOG Local: (907) 276-3119 Out-of-state: 1-800-488-5592

5BBA 5” Ulu with Bowl $25.95*

6BBA 6” Ulu with Bowl $31.95

www.theULUfactory.com

USED LOCKER SALE 12" x 12" x 60" $50 / Per 3 Openings 100S IN-STOCK

CASTERS - MANY SIZES & TYPES

PACKAGING EQUIP. • STRETCH WRAP • BANDING & TOOLS • TAPE • STRAPPING CARTS • CARTON TAPES • POLY STRAP • STRETCH WRAPPERS

• WORKBENCHES • BUSINESS, SHOP, HOME NEW & USED FORKLIFTS

• Exclusive garments in Alaskan village patterns • Qiviut Hand-knitted by over 200 Alaska Native members

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OOMINGMAK

MATERIAL FLOW - 228 PAGES IDEA BOOK - 544 PAGES

Corner of 6th & H Downtown Location 604 H Street, Dept. AMI Anchorage, AK 99501

OTHER LOCATIONS: Billings, MT. 855-753-1400 Portland, OR 800-338-1382 materialflow.com

(907) 272-9225 1-888-360-9665 www.qiviut.com

A L A S K A M A G A Z I N E . C O M FEBRUARY 2018

Digital + Print. The perfect pair. Contact Melissa melissa.bradley@alaskamagazine.com 907.275.2152


Ernestine Hayes is the Alaska Writer Laureate and author of two books.

It is an honor beyond any of my dreams to serve as Alaska Writer Laureate.”

How has Native storytelling and literature influenced your writing? Native literature transcends storytelling. Before colonial contact, Native cultures had already developed social institutions that allowed indigenous societies to flourish for thousands of years, and these institutions included effective history-keeping methods as well as elegant philosophical and intellectual insights.

Homecoming

Ernestine Hayes defies adversity and speaks the truth

COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PRESS

Ernestine Hayes’s first memoir, Blonde Indian, which won the American Book Award in 2007, details her life growing up as a Tlingit Indian in Juneau before moving to California with her mother. At 40, Hayes decided to return to Alaska or die in the process as she made her way north, homeless and often hungry. After returning to Juneau, she enrolled in University of Alaska Southeast, eventually earning an MFA in creative writing and becoming a tenured professor. Her second memoir, The Tao of Raven, was published in 2016. Today, she is the Alaska State Writer Laureate. ~as told to and edited by Andrea Clark Mason Blonde Indian deals a lot with survival, while The Tao of Raven seems to have a lot more hope. How did your message change from your first book to the second book? Blonde Indian is a story of return—my return, the return of the salmon and the return of the bear, the return of the glacier and of the land, and the cycles of indigenous existence in a colonized land. The Tao of Raven attempts to recognize some of the events that have brought us to our present condition and to imagine a way forward.

You write about trauma suffered by Native peoples. What do you see as the next step in healing? In The Tao of Raven, there comes a point in Young Tom’s experience when he realizes that the boxes that trap him are flimsy and made of nothing. “For some reason,” the story goes, “he’d thought that the walls that made his prison were anything but empty.” Perhaps the next step in our healing is when we realize that the things that trap us are empty and are made of nothing.

You have written about Native issues in both memoir and journalism. Do you consider yourself an activist? I venture to say I am a witness rather than an activist. I speak up because the only other option is to remain silent. Do you think your own journey towards hope and healing can offer inspiration to our divided country? The currently divided country is the master’s house, where I have at long last attained a place just inside the door to the least exclusive banquet hall. I can’t say I have a lot of hope. I can’t say I’ve really healed. I can say I’ve been relatively resilient. Although I live where life has brought me, I tend to agree with [poet] Audre Lorde on this question, and it looks like history also agrees. How does it feel to be the Alaska State Writer Laureate when you sacrificed so much to come back? When I enrolled at the University of Alaska Southeast in a two-year program at the age of 50, it never occurred to me that I could earn a bachelor’s degree. It never occurred to me that I might earn an MFA, or that my thesis would be the basis for a published book. It never entered my mind that I might return to UAS to teach or to receive tenure. It is an honor beyond any of my dreams to serve as Alaska Writer Laureate. The sacrifice wasn’t coming home; the sacrifice was being away from home for so long. FEBRUARY 2018 A L A S K A

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Can you tell us where youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll find this view? David L. Ranta of The MILEPOSTÂŽ took this photo during a recent trip in Alaska. Post your answer on Facebook for a chance to win a subscription to Alaska magazine. facebook.com/AlaskaMagazine

December/January Answer:

Scott Christianson took this photo in Talkeetna.

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Profile for Morris Media Network

Alaska Magazine Outdoor Feb 2018  

Alaska Magazine Outdoor Feb 2018