Matt Tunseth

Nobody had a wilder Saturday night than the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association did Jan. 14.

That’ when — under cover of darkness — the club hosted 11 sled dog teams and their drivers, who all showed up to take part in unique nighttime race through the rugged trails off Birchwood Loop.

“I love running without a headlamp in the snow,” said race marshal Jackie Fabrizzio, who organized the chaos from the club’s one-room clubhouse. “The moon’s out, it’s quiet, all you hear is the sled and the paws and breath.”

Wood smoke and bacon grease wafted through the air outside the cozy log cabin, its sturdy wooden frame holding strong against the falling snow. Nestled in the smoldering embers of a warm fire, Dutch ovens and cast iron skillets full of cornbread and fritters and sausages sizzled and popped and steamed.

You could almost hear a dog team a-coming.

In the 36 years records have been kept at the Eagle River Nature Center, it’s never been colder on Jan. 18 than it was in 2017. 

The center, located at the end of Eagle River Road in the Eagle River Valley, recorded an overnight low of minus-21 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 18, breaking the record set for this date by four degrees.

“When my boss drove in she said it hit minus-31 on the (Eagle River) Loop Road,” said Nature Center manager Laura Kruger, who said the center isn’t planning any special celebration in honor of the record.

Chugiak residents hoping to slow a high-density housing project visited the Eagle River Community Council last week in hopes of persuading them to join their battle against the proposal.

“Our concern is the pressure not only on that end of town but also on the intersections,” said Darryl Parks, who attended the meeting at the Eagle River Town Center building with his wife, Gina.

The Parkses live outside the Eagle River CC boundary, but were seeking a resolution from the council in opposition to a plan by the Heritage Land Bank to modify the area’s land use plan.

Glen Klinkart wants people to know Anchorage is still a pretty safe place to live.

“How many of you are afraid for your safety,” Klinkhart asked members of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce during a speech Jan. 4 at the ER Ale House. “I’m not.”

Chugiak-Eagle River legislators asked for an earful and got one Tuesday night, hearing from constituents on everything from the state budget gap to the ruts in local highways during a town hall meeting at the Eagle River Town Center.

“We are here to listen to you,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon, who along with Sen.-elect Shelley Hughes, Rep. Lora Reinbold and Rep. Cathy Tilton attended the meeting.

Many of the participants spoke in favor of cuts to government in lieu of new taxes or spending from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

If the kids and bikers of Eagle River have anything to say about it, cancer’s in for one heck of a fight.

Tears and locks were shed Tuesday at Eagle River High School as seven members of the school’s Air Force JROTC program had their heads shaved as part of a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which benefits children’s cancer. The fundraisers have become popular in recent years, but the event at ERHS had a couple unique twists.

Eagle River’s ties to the Alaska State Council on the Arts date back generations, so it’s appropriate the state agency drew its newest executive director from the area.

Eagle River’s Andrea Noble-Pelant was officially named to lead the state agency at the end of December, making permanent a job title she’d held on an interim basis since last May.

“Arts have always been a part of my life, so this is really energizing,” Noble-Pelant said during a Dec. 31 interview at the Star offices in Eagle River.

There’s a lot more to bird watching than meets the eye.

Take finance, for example.

“The economy has a big effect,” on bird numbers, said John Abrams, a longtime Eagle River birder and one of a couple dozen volunteers who turned out for the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count on New Year’s Day.

When the economy is down, birders say they see fewer birds in winter. Their hunch is that when people have less money to spend, one of the first places they save is on things like birdseed and suet.

Howling sled dogs created a welcome din over the weekend at the Chugiak Dog Mushers Association’s Beach Lake Trails, where there’s finally enough snow to set a hook.

“Every single inch counts,” CDMA vice president Kourosh Partow said in an interview Friday, Dec. 30, one day after the trails were dusted with about three inches of fresh snow.

The trails are now closed to ATV use and only open to mushers using dogsleds.

That’s good news, especially after several low-snow winters in a row.

“It’s a start,” Partow said.