A northward jaunt extends winter, or does it?

In early May avalanches had become a danger in the mountains, so in an attempt to salvage the last of winter, I drove about 200 miles north while gaining two degrees of latitude. Recent snowfalls in the Alaska Range had blanketed the mountains and lowlands near the Denali Highway in pure white satin. On May 7th skies were mostly clear and there was hardly a breath of wind. But at mid-day, the temperature was in the high 40s. Was this winter?

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Encumbered by my 48-inch long snowshoes that I’ve bragged about so often in this space, movement was painfully slow amidst the tangle of willows and hemlock trees. It felt like I was trying to steer two battleships through a jungle. Not content on Saturday, April 14th to ski 6-1/2 miles to the Kenai Peninsula’s Crescent Lake Saddle Cabin, I told my friends it would be fun to hike up through the low pass south of the cabin to reach a divide that surely would offer a great view of Kenai Lake.

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Talkin’ trash is a rite of spring

This past winter the trash fairy returned to Anchorage and Eagle River. And as always, she gleefully deposited tons of refuse along our streets and byways. From May 1 to May 8, thousands of citizens will mount an assault on this miserable, mephitic, malodorous mess, asking themselves the same question over and over: Where does it all come from? Here’s a number for you: 4 million. That’s the amount of trash, in pounds, that was collected during one of Anchorage and Eagle River spring cleanups.

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We love our trails: Outdoor recreationists come in many types and styles

Generalizing about people is risky, to say the least. But after many years on our trails, I’ve observed several types of recreationists. I thought it might be fun to light-heartedly point some of them out.

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Chugach Park Fund supports trails and other park amenities

The park receives tens of thousands of visitors each year and attracts a steadily increasing number of tourists. The year 2020 will mark the park’s 50th Anniversary. With state revenues declining in recent years, budgets for park trails and other amenities have been severely constrained. Recognizing a growing need for maintenance of park facilities and development of trails, a 15-member group called the Chugach State Park Citizen Advisory Board created the Chugach Park Fund in 2016.

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It was a bluebird morning. There was no wind and the sun was warm on our faces as Pete Panarese and I skied into South Fork Valley, headed for Eagle Lake. It was my first major outdoor trip in more than a year after knee surgery, and in every fiber of my being it felt like a physical and spiritual rebirth.

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Historically, Caribou Creek drew considerable interest from gold miners, hunters and trappers. And to this day there are active mining claims in the drainage. Mining property and equipment are to be respected. In more recent times, the area has become a popular haven for ice climbers who have identified about 20 ice falls that they’ve assigned evocative names such as, “The Abomination of Sublimation,” “Night Moves,” “Polar Shrimp,” “Ragtime,” and “Barrel of Monkeys.”

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Girl Scout cookies brighten the spirit… but it’s not just about the cookies

The Girl Scouts in Carrs Grocery had me on the word “Samoas.” I have no proof of this, but I think these Caramel deLites with coconut are almost everyone’s favorite among nine cookie types offered. I bought two boxes and consumed more than I care to mention with a thermos of coffee on a trip to Eklutna Lake. My mood improved dramatically that day and on into the next. It got me to thinking: Sometimes when grim national and world news is weighing us down, there is a sure fire way to unburden ourselves. The answer can be found in our community’s people.

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Trial and error are good teachers in the outdoors

Much of my learning in the outdoors has come from making miscalculations and mistakes. Luckily, none of them have been life threatening--except the time I tried to float down one of the channels of the Knik River in a one-person raft with the chamber on one side entirely deflated. But that’s another story. Just as airplane pilots acquire weather information on their destinations, outdoor recreationists need to gather as much intel as they can on where they’re going – especially in winter. Much of the time if I’m headed north, I’ll call a lodge that’s in the area and ask about conditions. Or, if I’m headed south to the Kenai Peninsula, I might telephone one of the rangers with Chugach National Forest.

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Do you want to build a snowman and other youthful questions

Certainly, there are aches and pains. There are doctor visits and prescription drugs. There are topical creams, glucosamine, daily stretching and exercises, a knee brace and even a joint replacement. But I hearken back to Rod Stewart’s song. And when I think of it, I want to go outdoors and build a snowman, or go sledding. Maybe, one of these days I’ll find some other kids who want to play “Kick the Can.”

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