Back when it was cold and our snow had a lovely fluffiness, I recall people bemoaning winter’s frigid grip and wishing for warmer weather. Their wish was granted at the end of 2012. And now, moving into 2013, our ground is covered by an endless sea of ice — smooth, glare ice; ice covered with water, ice covered with sand, gravel and kitty litter. We’ve been glaciated.
A recent column about “going farther” during hikes and climbs got me to thinking more about those who go the extra mile for others. The thought was fresh in my mind because of the recent death of Anchorage’s Jim Crockett, a tireless advocate for the homeless and hungry.
Ed. Note: Earlier in two installments, Mountain Echoes columnist Frank E. Baker recounted the toll smoking took on his immediate family and how he eventually managed to quit. He also offered tips on how to quit smoking, noting organizations such as the American Cancer Society, which offers smoking cessation classes. In this installment he checks in simply to offer encouragement and reinforcement to those who have been unsuccessful in their efforts to kick the habit, or currently in the throes of nicotine withdrawal.
People have asked me, “if for any reason you couldn’t live in Alaska, where would you go?” Without thinking, I quickly list Canada, New Zealand’s southern island, Switzerland, the southern tip of Argentina, Patagonia — in other words, places that look a lot like the 49th state.
I discovered quite a while ago that no matter how far I hike in Chugach State Park or other areas, there are those who will venture farther.
Driving past Walmart on Thanksgiving eve before the big 8 p.m. “Black Friday” sale, I took note of the long line of brake lights and hordes of eager shoppers. Every year I avoid these sales and the ensuing madness that they inevitably bring.
People from Girdwood to Anchorage to Eagle River to Hunter Creek along Knik River live adjacent to one of the largest and most unique state parks in the nation — Chugach State Park — a 495,000-acre recreationists’ paradise of mountains, valleys, lakes and streams and diverse wildlife. But in many locations, access to the park has become problematic and some of its trails are in dire need of maintenance, if not re-routing.
While the government, insurance companies and health-care mega-businesses constantly debate health care issues to protect their separate interests, (note the operative phrase ‘protect their separate interests’) there is a seldom-discussed panacea, albeit not a perfect one, that could go a long way toward reducing health care costs: Preventative medicine.
The lack of snow during the back half of October going into November has definitely prolonged the hiking season. The situation offers little solace to winter recreationists who are impatiently waiting to ski and snowshoe, or commercial enterprises like Alyeska Ski Resort that count on every day of the ski season. But just the same, it’s truly a unique time of the year to be outdoors.
With winter’s darkened skies, all we have to do is look skyward to behold a celestial extravaganza that includes planets, bright constellations, an upcoming meteor shower, the aurora borealis and a good look at the galaxy in which we live: the Milky Way.