I’ve probably said it before in past columns, but if for whatever reason winter eludes us here in southcentral Alaska, the remedy could most often be found in two approaches: gain elevation, for example, go to Hatcher Pass or Turnagain Pass; go north to a higher latitude via the Glenn or Parks highways.
The two main trails leading into Arizona’s Grand Canyon from the South Rim are gradual, wide and painstakingly well-constructed, with switchbacks to ease a descent of some 5,000 feet to the Colorado River. These trails – the Bright Angel and South Kaibab – are so hiker-friendly that people might overlook a deep and fundamental aspect of the experience. Hiking the Grand Canyon is not simply an excursion from one destination to another. It is a journey back in time.
Many outdoor adventurers, myself included, have learned that making a few simple preparations before venturing outdoors could significantly change outcomes when, for one reason or another, we get into trouble.
At roughly zero degrees Fahrenheit, the few inches of fluffy snow didn’t provide much glide as I skied across Eklutna Lake under clear blue skies. It was Jan. 25, and I hadn’t set any goals for the day except to get out on my skis for the first time this winter.
You need not spend much time outdoors in Alaska to have witnessed the antics of one of the most fascinating and intelligent birds in the Northern Hemisphere, or the entire world, for that matter: the Common Raven (Corvus corax).
We all live in places — in houses in neighborhoods within communities such as Anchorage, Eagle River, Peters Creek, Chugiak, Birchwood and beyond. But we sometimes live elsewhere — in places of the heart and mind and spirit.
Despite the fact it has been probed and studied for years and astronauts have left footprints on its surface, our moon still retains much of its mystery and magic, kindling deep emotions within us as it wanders slowly across the night sky.
Head and eyes down, I walked south on the ridge between Blacktail Rocks and Vista peak in the Chugach mountains in an almost meditative trance, kicking steps through about seven inches of snow overlain by a tough crust. I heard a “shhhhhh” sound in the distance. I stopped instantly and looked at Vista to see if an avalanche was scouring the face. I saw no movement and was confused. I shrugged to myself and plodded onward. A second later I again heard the “shhhhhh” sound. But this time the sound was much louder and closer. I stopped moving and looked up. Instantly I froze. A grizzly bear and two cubs were bounding directly for me at high speed.
The darkest days of the year on and around Christmas are often the brightest for us spiritually, as we adorn our homes with lights and decorations and draw closer to loved ones and friends. In one way or another, whether through church activities, prayer, or in communion with nature, we begin to experience a deeper, stronger bond with God and each other.
At first it was a passing thought. Then it took hold as an idea. Finally, it became an obsession: I was going to ice skate before it snowed and closed what I term the ice skating “window.” It all started Nov. 21 during a hike into Eagle Lake over a snowless trail.