Alaskology

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 alaskology@adn.com.
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

Turnagain Arm hike

Sunday's sunset was beautiful, with Mount Redoubt standing in the distance.Sunday's sunset was beautiful, with Mount Redoubt standing in the distance.Earlier this week, I blogged about our action-packed weekend.

Here are some photos from the hike Gina and I took with Noah, Katelyn and their dog Kiley. We did a few miles on the Turnagain Arm Trail, ending just as the sun was setting across Cook Inlet and Mount Redoubt. It was just about as beautiful as a February afternoon/evening could be.

And I love the trail. It’s great in any season, but it’s super in the winter because it’s exposed to the sun from the south. Because of the sun and wind (and sometimes rain), the trail also has a little less snow on it than other areas of town, which makes for some nice hiking.

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Fabulous February

The snow-covered Chugach Mountains and the blue sky. It's been a common view the past week or so.The snow-covered Chugach Mountains and the blue sky. It's been a common view the past week or so.Gina told me the other day that she thinks February is her favorite month.

I love winter too, but I'm not quite ready to anoint February the best just yet. But if we continue to have beautiful days like we have the past week, I might change my mind. I've lost count of the number of blue-sky days we’ve had. But it's getting a bit addicting.

Sunday we skied and took the dog on a hike. Saturday night we skied. I think we skied the day before too. It's becoming a blur of activity.

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New skis ... for others

Our friends Noah and Katelyn bought new cross-country skis just a couple days after our trip to Eklutna.

It's been a blessing and a curse for Gina and I.

First the curse: Our classic skis are old. I'm not even sure how old they are, but we've owned them for at least 11 years. We bought them from Play it Again Sports in Michigan -- and they seemed pretty old back then. I wouldn't be surprised if they were 20 years old or more. While Gina bought new skate skis for herself last year from REI, our classics work perfectly fine -- they're just old. We are currently suffering from ski envy. It’s not a pretty place to be. Gina even made the foolish decision to go into REI the other day, but she came to her senses.

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Winter camping at Eklutna

Our group skis across Eklutna Lake on Sunday afternoon after a wonderful midwinter camping excursion. In the distance is Bold Peak.Our group skis across Eklutna Lake on Sunday afternoon after a wonderful midwinter camping excursion. In the distance is Bold Peak.

Gina and I love camping.

In the summer, give me a tent and any secluded spot. That combination makes life better.

In the winter, give me a cabin. And last weekend, that’s just what our friends Noah and Katy did.

Well, they didn’t actually give us a cabin, but they organized a midwinter excursion to the Yuditna Creek cabin in Chugach State Park.

While the rest of the gang headed out Friday night, Gina and I couldn’t make it until Saturday. (Gina had an art show opening on First Friday at Snow City Café.)

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Blue sky, big fun

Gina and Beezil ski across Eklutna Lake on our way to a weekend camping trip in Chugach State Park. In the background is Bold Peak, which towers over this part of the state park at 7,522 feet.Gina and Beezil ski across Eklutna Lake on our way to a weekend camping trip in Chugach State Park. In the background is Bold Peak, which towers over this part of the state park at 7,522 feet.

It was a spectacular weekend to be outdoors, and, thankfully, we spent a lot of time there.

Gina and I joined several others friends at a Chugach State Park public-use cabin this weekend. Enjoy this photo and check back later for a full report on all the fun.

-- Steve

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Now THIS is winter

A snow-covered Flattop Mountain earlier this week as seen from my kitchen window.A snow-covered Flattop Mountain earlier this week as seen from my kitchen window.

We've had a couple days with some fresh snow and many others with bright sunshine. Today the temperature was about 25.

Man, this is what winter should be like all the time.

-- Steve

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Volcano? What volcano?

Yes, this is Redoubt Volcano. No, the volcano didn't just erupt. This isn't a new picture. This photo was taken during the 1990 eruption. Photo by R. Clucas, Alaska Volcano ObservatoryYes, this is Redoubt Volcano. No, the volcano didn't just erupt. This isn't a new picture. This photo was taken during the 1990 eruption. Photo by R. Clucas, Alaska Volcano Observatory

My mother-in-law called this morning from Tennessee and asked, "Why haven't you been blogging about the volcano?"

My answer: You don't blog about things that aren't news. (Well, at least I generally don't, although my definition of "news" can be pretty loose on the blog.) If the thing blows, now that's worth blogging about (at least until the ash arrives in Anchorage and I have to turn off the computer and put a big plastic baggie over it).

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Wolverine: Winter or summer?

The moon rises behind Wolverine Peak in the Chugach Range. This was not from our Friday hike, but it is a stunning photo of Wolverine. Photo by Evan R. Steinhauser / Daily News archiveThe moon rises behind Wolverine Peak in the Chugach Range. This was not from our Friday hike, but it is a stunning photo of Wolverine. Photo by Evan R. Steinhauser / Daily News archive

We took a late-night hike with our friends Noah and Katy on Friday night.

We set out from the Prospect Heights Trail head. Ours was the only car in the parking lot; there were four of us and two dogs. It truly was a great night for a hike. We received 8 to 10 inches of fresh snow on Friday at the house (maybe a little less at Prospect Heights), but by the time we started the hike, the clouds were lifting and the stars were out.

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Sunshine, then snow

Sunday's sunshine brightened our walk and this birch tree.Sunday's sunshine brightened our walk and this birch tree.
As we get a taste of snowy weather, here are a couple photos from our walk on Sunday. The sunshine was wonderful.

I’ve heard people talking this week about the increasing daylight and the sunshine’s warmth. February is just around the corner, and that’s the beginning of the best part of winter – when we’re gaining more than 5 minutes of light per day and it feels like spring is just around the corner (although, in reality, it’s at least three months down the road).

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Changes at the Anchorage Museum

Photo by CHRIS AREND / Courtesy Anchorage Museum
Sydney Laurence's painting "Mount McKinley" is a favorite with visitors to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. It's part of a collection of Alaska landscape paintings in the Art of the North Gallery. The gallery has closed as the museum prepares to move into its expanded space later this year.Photo by CHRIS AREND / Courtesy Anchorage Museum
Sydney Laurence's painting "Mount McKinley" is a favorite with visitors to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. It's part of a collection of Alaska landscape paintings in the Art of the North Gallery. The gallery has closed as the museum prepares to move into its expanded space later this year.

There is good news and bad news at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center this week.

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Sun's coming up in Barrow

If you hurry, you can watch the sun rise in Barrow for the first time since Nov. 18. The sun is set to rise about 1 p.m. today. Catch a glimpse of it on this webcam.

If you miss the brief visit of the sun, check back later to watch the sea ice.

-- Steve

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Dining out in Anchorage

Gina and I had to grab lunch on the run yesterday. We don’t eat out a lot. But when we do, we’re pretty faithful to our favorite places.

We’ll venture out and try something new occasionally -- how else do you find a new "favorite" place? But, generally, if we love the place we go back again and again.

Here are our most recent five restaurants, all of which were wonderful. (The list includes a first-timer.) While it’s not a Top 5 list, you won’t go wrong eating at any of these places.

Yak and Yeti: This was our stop on Wednesday. It was wonderful as always. The place is billed as a "Himalayan restaurant," with Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese dishes. We went with the channa masala and the baigan bharta. The restaurant is at 3301 Spenard Road, which is a bit outside the downtown area for visitors, but it is well worth the effort to get there.

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Enjoying the ice

The brutally warm weather we've suffered through the past 10 days or so turned Anchorage into an ugly, brown mess.

The Freeze Project art doesn't look like much and the cross-country trails are just a mess of ice right now.

But I discovered one benefit of the big warm-up on this morning's commute. I left the car at home and got on the bike. The temperatures dropped enough last night to turn all that melting snow and rain into a glaze of ice on the bike paths.

Without studded tires, it would be a nightmare. With studded tires, it felt almost like summer riding -- smooth and easy.

What's that saying? When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I'll tweak it a bit for Alaska: When life hands you 50-degree, rain-filled January days, make your way to the bike.

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Cold, hot and too warm

- 16.

81.

47.

Those are the numbers of the past week of my life: It was minus 16 at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport when Gina and I got on a plane bound for Texas last Wednesday (Jan. 7).

It was a record-high 81 degrees last Thursday in Austin. I’m not generally a fan of hot weather, but after days upon days of below-zero temperatures in Anchorage, that record warmth felt pretty good. It was pretty easy to enjoy the sun and fun in Texas.

Some quick math says that in the course of 24 hours, we experienced a 97-degree temperature swing.

It was 47 degrees this morning in Anchorage according to one radio station on my way to work. A chinook wind blew in from the south, warming Anchorage up, melting off snow and creating hazardous driving conditions.

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So long cold

Mountain ash berries are covered in snow and ice on a recent clear, cold day in Anchorage.Mountain ash berries are covered in snow and ice on a recent clear, cold day in Anchorage.Actually, the cold isn't going anywhere. It's minus 14 at the house this morning, and I've heard other people using phrases like "minus 20" and "minus 25" this past week.

The icy cold makes it difficult to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities, but it does make for beautiful days. This picture of mountain ash berries was taken on one of our cold, clear days recently.

Anyway, we're headed to Texas for a friend's wedding. Hopefully, the sun will shine there and the temperatures will be closer to 70 than -20.

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Bitter cold slows skiing

Gina skis on the trails at Hillside Park, just a couple miles from our Anchorage home.Gina skis on the trails at Hillside Park, just a couple miles from our Anchorage home.Anchorage is hosting the U.S. Cross Country Championships, starting this weekend.

That's assuming the weather cooperates. The rules say a race can’t begin if the temperatures are colder than minus 4. Let me tell you, it has been a lot colder than minus 4 around town lately. Right now, it's about minus 6 here at the Daily News. It was minus 11 at my house this morning.

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A fishy flight

One of Alaska Airlines' specially painted planes sitting at a gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The airline also has anniversary- and Disney-themed paint jobs on some airliners.One of Alaska Airlines' specially painted planes sitting at a gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The airline also has anniversary- and Disney-themed paint jobs on some airliners.

I'm safely home from the unexpected trip back to Michigan.

On the return trip, I stopped at Sea-Tac airport in Seattle. Most flights to and from Alaska go through Seattle, the home base of Alaska Airlines. While waiting for flights is never much fun, I did get to see the biggest salmon I've ever laid eyes on -- Alaska Air's "Salmon-Thirty-Salmon" passenger jet.

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Far from Alaska but still so close

My previous post was about the strange travel plans I had to try to get back to Michigan on probably the busiest travel week of the year.

Well, things changed a bit. Thanks to the work of a good friend, I managed to avoid the long drive to Whitehorse. I was able to get a last-minute flight out of Anchorage on Alaska Airlines. Then I managed to get the last seat on a flight from Seattle to Detroit.

For anyone who lives in the Lower 48, you know what travel on Friday was like at airports all across the country. Somehow, I managed to avoid all the trouble -- despite the fact that there was unexpected snow in both Seattle and in Detroit. (The news was full of information about the 8-11 inches of snow Michigan received.)

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Irritating isolation

I've written numerous posts about the wonders of Alaska:

• The wilderness;
• All the wild animals;
• The peace and quiet –- if you're willing to hike a bit;
• The great restaurants;
• The art scene;
• The generally good-hearted people.

Normally, I consider the isolation to be a wonderful thing. This week, I've discovered it can be a major drawback.

Because of a family emergency, I need to fly home to Michigan as soon as possible. Of course, next Thursday is Christmas, and lots of people want to be on planes before then. And Alaskans have a strange desire this time of year –- the solstice and all its darkness being just a few days away –- to find a warm, sunny beach.

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Bison headed to Aleutians

Photo courtesy of Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Three plains bison roam the open spaces of Umnak Island. They were transported to the Aleutian island in January. Now, three more bison are headed to the island. Growing a bison herd in the Aleutians is part of a program between the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association.Photo courtesy of Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Three plains bison roam the open spaces of Umnak Island. They were transported to the Aleutian island in January. Now, three more bison are headed to the island. Growing a bison herd in the Aleutians is part of a program between the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association.

I received a press release from the folks at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Tuesday night. Apparently three bison calves are in for a big trip later this week, traveling from Portage to Umnak Island in the Aleutians.

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