Category Archives: Alaska


For those of you who find amusement in our quick to change seasons: This morning we saw our first HARD frost of the season. It wasn’t our first frost, mind you, just the first one that killed tomato plants and left a thick layer on our windshields.

Grunts in the dark

I went outside the cabin late on Friday night to appreciate the changing of the seasons. It happens fast up here in the Interior. The moon was already setting, and the sky was lit up with stars. It was the first night of the season where the stars absolutely jumped out at you, demanding your attention. This time of year, it is always more pronounced, since it has been quite some time since the stars commanded the northern sky. It has also been quite some time since we had a sky free of clouds.

We would be getting a frost overnight, so I was about to drag the few plants I have under the cabin overhang. The lettuce had flourished all summer, and I wasn’t ready to give it up. The tomatoes and peppers struggled however, with the cool, wet weather we had.

Just as I grabbed one of the pots, I heard a grunting sound coming from behind me. I spun around, but could see nothing. I went back in to get my headlamp, and when I turned it on, the grunting returned in earnest, but still I had no visual on the source. I had immediately thought “moose”, but the sounds were not moose-like. They were also coming from low in the willows and fireweed, too low for even a young calf, unless it was lying down.

My cell phone started to ring, so I went back into the cabin. It was a neighbor calling to tell me that there was some strange animal about. “It grunted at me!” I told the neighbor, that it was in my yard now, and that I had been grunted at too. No, I don’t think it’s a moose. Yes, it could be a bear, but it didn’t sound like a bear either. I’ve been huffed at several times by various bears, even growled at, but never grunted at in such a way. I assured the neighbor that when I pointed the light in its direction, the grunts seemed to be more excited than aggressive.

At midnight, the novelty of the grunts had worn off, and I hadn’t heard them around the cabin for a while, so I started to get ready to turn in. Then I heard a truck come speeding down my driveway. There were the sounds of a door being opened and shut, and then came a pounding at the cabin door. I can’t tell you how rare that scenario is for me. When it comes right down to it, I don’t have many neighbors, and most are too smart to just pound on someone’s door without calling out first, especially at midnight.

At the door was a man I had never seen before, which made me even more suspicious. “Are you missing a pig?”, he asked. No, I don’t own a pig. It seems there was a pig at the end of my driveway. The man was quite excited, claimed the pig stood taller than his knees, and was hairy. He wanted to know if any of my neighbors had pigs. I honestly didn’t know if any had pigs, but it was certainly possible.

So, it was a pig of all things. I was happy the mystery was solved, thanked the man, and started to close the door. He stopped me, then asked what I was going to do about the pig. I told him that I had no intention of poking around the dark woods at midnight looking for a lost pig, if that was what he was getting at. The man then turned away, obviously disgusted at my lack of immediate concern. I came out onto my deck to watch the truck speed out my drive in reverse.

After the sound of the truck died away, I could hear the pig grunting his way down a trail through the woods.

I have to admit, life is rarely a bore up here.

Benny Benson Memorial

Seward, Alaska

Just off of the Seward Highway, across from the Seward Lagoon, is the little memorial to Benny Benson. As posted prior, a 13 year old Benson, won a state-wide contest for his design of the Alaska State Flag.


It’s a nice, simple tribute to the state’s flag designer. Which seems fitting, considering the simple, yet elegant design of the state flag.

How’s it shaking?

Sensor monitor reading at University of Alaska

Interior Alaskans felt the Earth move a bit on Tuesday morning. It wasn’t a big earthquake, at only magnitude 4.6, but it was widely felt at 7:18am. It’s note worthy, mainly because it has been a couple of years since I felt one pass through.

On Sunday morning, Kaktovik, which is located on the Beaufort Sea coast, woke up to a 6.4 magnitude quake. It was the largest earthquake ever recorded on Alaska’s North Slope.

Earthquakes in Alaska are far from unusual. An earthquake is detected once every 15 minutes, on average, within the state. In 2014, Alaska set a record with over 40,000 shakes. Over the past five years, the Alaska Earthquake Center has reported over 150,000 earthquakes. Of those, 31 had a magnitude over 6.0. and four went over 7.0. Seventy-five percent of all earthquakes over 5.0 within the United States happen in Alaska.

The 7.9 magnitude quake, that hit us in 2002 when the Denali Fault ruptured, is the largest I have experience. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake was a magnitude 9.2, and it is still the second largest earthquake ever recorded anywhere on the globe.

Graph and stats credit: Alaska Earthquake Center

Risky Raspberries

The blueberry season this year in the Interior wasn’t anything to write home about. They were out there, but you had to work for them and cover some serious ground doing so.

The raspberries this year have been another story. They seem to be everywhere. There are plants around my cabin that I didn’t even know about, and they are loaded with berries. Anytime I want them, I just go outside the door and fill a bowl.

The raspberry patch in the photo I have known about, but the wasp nest came as a bit of a surprise, although it probably shouldn’t have. In the same area of the “yard” last year, wasps had completely encased an old bird feeder with their nest.
This summer has not been a “bee year”, as I have not had any issues on any job sites at all. I usually get chased down the extension ladder once or twice in a normal building season, but that has not happened this year. In an actual “bee year”, that has been known to happen several times a day.

Thunder Mountain Crash

A de Havilland Beaver (DHC-2), flying out of Talkeetna on a flight seeing tour of Denali National Park, tragically crashed near the summit of Thunder Mountain on August 4. The crash site is roughly 14 miles from Denali’s peak.

There were four tourists from Poland on board, as well as the pilot. Initially, word spread that several people on board survived the crash, but that is not the case. All five in the de Havilland perished.

Heavy cloud cover hampered efforts to reach the site in the days right after the crash. The National Park Service eventually was able to send out two crews in helicopters. The first was to check for survivors, and the second was to evaluate the scene for possible recovery. Park rangers were dropped by cable to the broken Beaver, which lay precariously on the mountain side.

After accessing the risk, The National Park Service came to the conclusion Friday, that any attempt to recover the five bodies in the plane would put the rescue crews in too much danger. One look at the photos show why. The Beaver is broken behind the wing, and the tail section is pulling the entire plane down. It’s a 3500 foot drop to the glacier below. Since the crash, 30 inches of snow has fallen, driving up the risk of avalanche.

On Friday, I spent some time downtown, and overheard several tourists complain about the NPS decision. I get why they thought that way, but I respectfully disagree. The risk to a recovery crew would be too great, and as tough as it is to hear it, NPS made the right call.

Photos credit: Denali National Park & Preserve

Wild Salmon Day

It’s Alaska’s third annual Wild Salmon Day. Events and salmon barbecues are being held throughout the state today. Get out and enjoy some wild Alaska salmon.