Because of relentless rain, we’ve been somewhat cheated out of the long-awaited autumn hiking season. But there are still plenty of days remaining, and I’ve got a hunch weather will improve as we move toward October.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
William Penn


When we average current male and female expected lifespans in the U.S, 78 years is roughly how long we can expect to live. That gives us 28,470 days, which on the face of it seems quite ample.

Even after we subtract sleeping time--about one-third of our existence--we’re still left with about 19,000 days to invent a perpetual motion machine, find a cure for cancer or write the Great American Novel.

They’re round and blue, juicy and rather tart — and they’re back — our blueberries that we’ve missed for more than two years! I’m no botanist, but on two hikes recently — one up Mt. Gordon Lyon via South Fork and the other up Blacktail Rocks, I found the delicious morsels from 2,000-3,000 feet. They weren’t thick, but they were there.

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.

This week I’d like to take you on an excursion to a glacier theatre...a theatre of eternal ice...a theatre surrounded by dizzying, snow-encrusted peaks, sheer granite walls, a restless theatre of echos, rumbling avalanches; a pensive, brooding theater of silence...a theatre where time suspends itself into an endless beginning.

This is the Ruth Glacier Ampitheatre, on the southern flanks of Mt. McKinley (Denali), and there is no place like it in the world.

 “Eight stars of gold on a field of blue,

Alaska’s flag may it mean to you…”


The first two lines of the Alaska Flag Song: Bold, evocative, an invitation to listen, to explore.

What does the song mean to you? Does it evoke memories about some important chapter of your life, some experience or event close to your heart but distant in time? Does it remind you of some special place that you haven’t been to in a long time?

I don’t get into arguments over trail use by outdoor recreationists, because I feel there is room in Alaska for everyone — snowmachiners, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, dog sledders, hikers, mountain bikers, etc.

It’s not that I believe we shouldn’t have designated areas for non-motorized recreation. I think the multiple-use plan we have in Chugach State Park, for example, works quite well.

On the Hawaiian island of Kauai three weeks ago, the rain was coming down in buckets, turning small streams into raging torrents, causing mudslides and flooding that closed roads and schools. Kauaian old timers were saying it was one of the biggest rainfalls in recent memory, wondering if they had done something to offend the great Hawaiian god Kane.

The evening of March 8, a Thursday, was nothing short of a celestial extravaganza. A full moon vied with the aurora borealis to create a spectacular light show across the skies, while Venus and Jupiter played tag as they crouched above the western horizon.

The planets appeared very close together, but in reality, the more distant Jupiter was millions of miles away from our solar system neighbor, Venus.

Alaska is such a unique place that it isn’t difficult to compile a list of firsts — one-of-a-kind achievements — especially with our comparatively young, vibrant and restless population. Rummaging through some back issues of Alaska magazine, we came up with some rather compelling firsts.