About the blog: Alaska is a wonderful and fascinating place. Whether its backcountry hiking, coastline kayaking or dining on a downtown deck, there truly is something for everyone. This blog picks up where the annual Daily News Visitors' Guide leaves off. The guide is published in late April, but that's just when summer fun starts heating up. Throughout the year, we hope to give readers a look at Alaska through local eyes. The blog also serves as a calendar of what's going on, a place to look for some outstanding vacation deals and other cool stuff. We invite your comments and your questions. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About me: I live in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, and I served as the special sections editor at the Anchorage Daily News for nine years. My wife and I have been Alaska residents since 2000 and never plan to leave.
100-mph wind-driven love? - 12/5/2011 10:30 am
It's 'that' season - 11/8/2011 5:19 pm
Winter is on its way - 10/28/2011 4:07 pm
Changing seasons and reasons to smile - 10/3/2011 2:24 pm
People, animals love summer - 6/22/2011 1:13 pm
Bike to Work Week - 5/17/2011 5:05 pm
Cyclist dies ... is Alaska safe? - 4/5/2011 2:58 pm
Glorious winter fun - 12/22/2010 8:49 am
Posted: March 15, 2007 - 10:21 am
A couple weeks ago, I said the start of the Iditarod was the sign that spring was coming quickly in Anchorage.
I was wrong. This morning it's 10 below zero here. It was cold before the Iditarod, it was cold during the Iditarod and it's still cold even after Lance Mackey did the unthinkable and won the Iditarod after winning the Yukon Quest.
Spring feels a long way off. The forecast calls for temperatures to 15 below tonight. Temperatures fell below normal back in the middle of February and have remained chilly since then. The average temperature for the past three weeks is 9.2 degrees, 12.2 degrees below the regular average temperature. The first two weeks of March have been the coldest since 1966. And temperatures haven’t been above freezing since Feb. 3.
Posted: March 12, 2007 - 2:30 pm
I must admit, when I first received an assignment that was taking me to Fairbanks in early March, I wasn't too sold on the idea. To me, March in Fairbanks equals really cold temperatures and not much else.
I was mistaken. Gina, I and our friend Kelly not only survived the trip but really enjoyed it. We saw some amazing ice sculptures, ate some tremendous Thai food, soaked in Chena Hot Springs, saw the northern lights and ogled at Mount McKinley.
All together, it was a great trip. There will be more about it in future posts. Check back.
Posted: March 8, 2007 - 12:16 pm
There are deals to be had for Alaska visitors. Here are a couple in addition to the previously mentioned ”Twice as Nice” packages at Denali National Park or Glacier Bay National Park, there are rail-tour and cruise deals to be had.
Princess is offering a two-for-1 Princess Rail Tour package, combining a trip on the rails along with a stay at Mount McKinley Princess Lodge, for as little as $109 per person. You can begin the getaway in either Anchorage or Fairbanks and spend one or two nights at the Mount McKinley Princess Lodge on the south side of Denali National Park. The deal is valid from May 17 to June 1. For more information, call 1-800-426-0500.
Posted: March 5, 2007 - 2:46 pm
Sadly, weekend responsibilities got in the way of too much weekend fun. Fur Rondy ended, the Iditarod's ceremonial start was in downtown, the race's official start was in Willow and the Tour of Anchorage went from one side of town to the other – it was a whirlwind weekend.
Gina and I usually try to make it out to Willow for the Iditarod's restart every couple years. This year wasn't one.
Posted: March 2, 2007 - 10:52 am
It's a big weekend in Anchorage.
Tonight is First Friday, if it doesn't get blown away by the fierce north wind. (Right now it's 13 degrees, with 25 mph winds and gusts to 40 mph. The forecast calls for windchills hitting 30 below after midnight.)
All the Friday night art is just a kickoff for a big Saturday.
Saturday begins with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race's ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage. They'll have the streets covered with snow in preparation for the 10 a.m. start at Fourth Avenue and D Street.
Posted: March 1, 2007 - 12:06 pm
One of my favorite Fur Rondy events is the snow sculpture competition. It's cool (no pun intended, seriously) to see what creative minds can craft out of a big block of snow.
Gina and I ventured to the Ship Creek area to wander among the sculptures on Wednesday afternoon. It was difficult to select a favorite.
At first glance, the carved Godzilla and devastated city scene seemed like a sure winner.
Posted: February 27, 2007 - 3:44 pm
Yesterday's post got me thinking about all the myths, misconceptions and simple untruths that exist about Alaska.
Is it dark all the time? No.
Do we all live in igloos? No again.
Are there 10 men for every woman? Of course not, but some TV shows like to depict it that way.
So, I'm going to start an occasional blog item about Alaska myths. Today’s installment: Alaska is devoid of shopping.
Most people don't come to the Last Frontier to spend a lot of time shopping, but the truth is they could. Just yesterday, I received an e-mail promoting Wednesday's ribbon cutting ceremony of the city's first Bed Bath & Beyond store.
Posted: February 26, 2007 - 3:47 pm
I had an e-mail waiting for me this morning, and in it the writer revealed one of the many myths about Alaska. The writer was concerned about traveling the Alaska Highway this summer because it is "all gravel and a bad idea."
He smartly asked: Is this true?
The answer: No, it's not true.
Decades ago, the Alaska Highway was gravel. The road was constructed in just a few months in 1942 to provide land access to Alaska during World War II. Today, the highway is paved from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks. (There is a bit of a battle as to the "official" end of the highway. Technically, it's Delta Junction, where the World War II construction crews stopped. They only stopped there because there was already a road from Delta Junction to Fairbanks.)
Posted: February 23, 2007 - 10:09 am
This morning was a reminder that it's still winter. At my house it was 8 below; a co-worker said it was 15 below at his house.
It's cold but beautiful. The cold, clear weather makes the white mountains pop against the blue sky. Sunrise is brilliant and bold; sunset is beautiful orange-yellow.
Just make sure you have your hat, gloves and scarf on if you really want to enjoy the outdoors.
Posted: February 22, 2007 - 2:21 pm
This year, we may call it Burrr Rondy instead of Fur Rondy.
The first Fur Rondy after Gina and I moved to Alaska, we went to the carnival and rode the Ferris wheel. We wanted to show everyone back in Michigan what crazy fun Alaskans had, so we took pictures and e-mailed them to friends.
Posted: February 22, 2007 - 11:53 am
I'm pleasantly surprised by many things in Anchorage.
I've been to the Loussac Library many, many times. Wednesday was the first time I wandered into the Ann Stevens Room, a reading room between the main library and the Alaska Collection. The wood-paneled room feels like a den that belongs in one of Anchorage's mansions, not in its public library.
Posted: February 19, 2007 - 9:30 am
From my desk in the newsroom, the sun shines directly in my eyes when it pops above the Chugach Mountains to the east. And the sun's appearance is usually followed by the sound of window blinds being closed by my co-workers. That bright sunshine makes seeing a bit challenging, especially if it shines on your computer screen.
This morning, the sun popped above Wolverine Peak about 9:17. But sunrise was actually at 8:32 a.m. Today's sunset is 5:56 p.m., and we gained nearly six minutes more daylight from yesterday.
And this morning was cold, 3 degrees on my drive in. I always say that spring in Alaska arrives when the Iditarod starts. This year, that is March 3 in downtown Anchorage. Of course, it's not really spring, but with the growing daylight it feels that way.
Posted: February 16, 2007 - 9:34 am
One of yesterday's story assignments for the Visitors' Guide was about renting cabins in Alaska. It's one of the things that makes the outdoors more accessible – whether it's in the middle of January or the middle of July.
While I love my tent and setting it up in just about any location, I also love the comfort of the public-use cabins in Alaska. They're especially good if you're headed to a location where rain is likely – Prince William Sound or Southeast Alaska – or if you’re traveling with some novice campers.
Posted: February 12, 2007 - 3:16 pm
Last year about this time, I was working on the summer Visitors Guide and doing research for a story on Cordova. It was one of those places in Alaska I had always wanted to visit. After several years we still hadn't made it.
Last June, Gina and I took a mountain biking trip to Cordova. It was one of the summer highlights. We spent a night camping with the Childs Glacier in our backyard.
This winter, I'm writing stories and again taking stock of my Alaska "portfolio." I see that I've never been to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It doesn’t make me all that special. Despite the fact that it's the largest national park in the country, is usually gets about 40,000 visitors or so. That means seclusion and a lot of wilderness.
Posted: February 8, 2007 - 11:01 am
Today, I'm editing a story for the summer Visitors' Guide on kayaking and white-water rafting. It has me thinking about a summer trip.
It has been a couple years since we've been on a kayaking or rafting trip.
I'm still trying to decide where to go – Seward, Prince William Sound or Kachemak Bay across from Homer. I've been to Prince William Sound before, both out of Whittier and Valdez. Those trips are some of my fondest memories in Alaska.
One trip from Whittier included some drizzly rain. But we stayed in a U.S. Forest Service cabin, so we were dry when it counted the most. On a trip out of Valdez, we went to Shoup Glacier. Again, we stayed in a public-use cabin, but you could hear the glacier creaking and calving all night. It was like a good Midwest thunderstorm without all the lightning and rain.
Posted: February 1, 2007 - 4:51 pm
Wednesday was the last day of January, but it sure felt like spring.
And in a true rite of "spring," we took a trip down the Seward Highway to Girdwood. Actually, it wasn't all about the beautiful day. Gina has an art show at Jack Sprat Restaurant on Saturday and we needed to drop the art off. (Actually, Gina has art in five galleries this weekend. It'll be a busy one for us.)
Posted: February 1, 2007 - 10:18 am
Anchorage got its own slogan on Wednesday: "Big Wild Life."
Sounds OK to me. People generally find fault with these sort of things, but I think Anchorage is a place that is a gateway to big adventure -- a wild life, if you will. And with moose and the occasional bear walking around, Anchorage does have big wildlife.
Throw in all the big trucks and SUVs on Anchorage roads and even the people are big and wild.
Could they come up with something better? No doubt. But people don't come to Anchorage or Alaska because of some "brand" or slogan. Alaska is what it is. You love it; or, maybe, you don't. A slogan won't change that.
Posted: January 30, 2007 - 9:39 pm
For the first time in months, today I saw an after-work sunset. Sunset in Anchorage was at 5 p.m., just as I was walking out the door at the Daily News.
As I headed south on the Seward Highway, the sky was a brilliant orange. Sadly, I didn't have the camera with me to snap a picture. You'll simply have to take my word for it -- it was beautiful.
It was probably a bit more stunning because it was a reminder that the days are getting longer. It wasn't all that long ago that sunset was in the middle of the day ... before 4 p.m.
The sunshine and the warm temperatures (some places in town were around 40 degrees today) made it seem like spring. I'm not really ready for spring, but today was a nice reminder what awaits us in a couple months.
Posted: January 29, 2007 - 1:39 pm
"It's finally warm."
I've heard that far too often the past few days. After a winter that actually felt like winter (cold temperatures and record snowfall), it's beginning to look like our beautiful winter weather has come to a screeching halt.
We've had several days in the past week with high temperatures above freezing. Right now, it's 32 degrees, but the forecast for tonight calls for "numerous rain showers." In Alaska that means a big melt-off, followed by freezing temperatures and ice-covered everything.
Posted: January 25, 2007 - 12:03 pm
Things are weird at work these days. I'm juggling summer and winter.
One minute, I'm thinking about kayaking Prince William Sound or Kachemak Bay. The next minute, I'm thinking about Iditarod mushers and whether Jeff King, Martin Buser or Doug Swingley will catch Rick Swenson in the number of all-time Iditarod wins. Swenson has five; the other three mushers have four. All four are entered in this year's race.