Lost in the excitement and drama of Fat Bear Week, was the story of how two Russian nationals crossed the Bering Sea in a boat, landed on St Lawrence Island, and turned themselves in to authorities in Gambell, Alaska. The two men were seeking asylum in order to escape Putin’s War in Ukraine.
Gambell, Alaska, population 600, is actually much closer to the coast of Russia, than it is to Nome, which is 200 miles away. The two Russian men were flown to Anchorage.
The incident adds to the drama going on between Alaska and Russia. Russian military aircraft have been veering into Alaska airspace for several years now, and recently, the USCG followed a flotilla of Chinese and Russian naval ships out of the Aleutian Islands.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park was established on this date in 1972. As I’ve said before on here, GMNP is one of my favorite National Parks. My trip there, which involved some serious dirt roading in a ’73 Beetle, was completely spur of the moment and unplanned. I brought back a Bug full of memories when I found this gem in Texas.
Mack Rutherford, a 17 year old pilot, is attempting to become the youngest person to fly around the globe solo. Rutherford left Sophia, Bulgaria on March 23.
He recently flew his Shark ultralight plane down the Aleutian Chain, landing at Attu, Shemya Island, and Adak. Rutherford arrived at Unalaska on August 1. When I last checked his online tracker, Rutherford was in Ketchikan, following the coast down to Mexico. Although, by now, Mack has no doubt moved further on down the coast.
The young, Belgian-Brit Adventurer is expecting to complete his circumnavigation by the end of August.
A new tourism study released by the University of Alaska Fairbanks turned a few heads recently. The group of tourists that spend the most money and stay the longest in Alaska are birdwatchers. In fact, birders spend twice as much time in Alaska when they visit than the non-birders do. In 2016, birdwatchers spent over $300 million in Alaska.
The study probably shouldn’t have surprised as many people as it did. Alaska is a birdwatching mecca. Alaska is home to the largest concentration of shore birds in the world. There are some 530 species of birds that have been documented in Alaska, 55 of which are considered rare.
So, if you want to see a red-breasted sapsucker, I suggest the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. As for Fairbanks, we have a very active and vocal raven population.
Fairbanks remains pretty dry, but we’ve had a couple of tenths of an inch of rain lately. Out east, near Black Rapids, a heavy rain storm coupled with heavy snowmelt caused a flash flood to hit the Richardson Highway where it crosses Bear Creek.
Bear Creek won. Travel to the fishing mecca of Valdez from Fairbanks will now require a much more round about way.
A severe washout has taken out both lanes of the Alaska Highway in British Columbia, just short of the border with the Yukon Territory. The location of the closure is between Liard Hot Springs and Watson Lake. Judging by the size of the ditch, repairs may take a while. No immediate detour is available.
Travelers will have to make a route change early if they want to continue on to Watson Lake and/or Alaska, or do some serious back-tracking. The alternative is the very scenic Stewart-Cassiar Highway, also known as Highway 37. It’s a beautiful route, but more remote. I recommend bringing extra gas.
The Pribilof Islands have been some of the most restricted locations in the United States for the past two years due to Corvid-19 concerns. After a two year hiatus, however, the Pribilofs will reopen for tours in 2022.
The Pribilof Islands consist of four individual islands in the Bering Sea, approximately 200 miles north of Unalaska. The largest of the two are St. Paul and St George. Otter and Walrus Islets complete the quartet and are near St. Paul Island. The Pribilofs are a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
The islands have long attracted Bering Sea wildlife. Some 300 species of birds have been identified visiting the islands, and over 2 million birds nest here every year.
St Paul Island is the breeding grounds for over 1/2 of the world’s fur seal population. Over 100,000 seal pups are born in the Pribilofs every year. Once decimated by the the fur trade, hunting seals on the Pribilofs has been banned since 1966, other than some subsistence hunting by Aleuts.
A landslide blocked Lowell Point Road in Seward over the weekend. Workers began to cautiously clear the road on Monday. Lowell Point is outside Seward, and the narrow gravel road follows the shoreline of Resurrection Bay out to the point, where there are several campgrounds, lodges, resorts and B&B’s. It’s a pretty area, dominated by the beauty of Resurrection Bay. As of Tuesday, there were at least 40 cars trapped on the “wrong” side of the landslide. No word on how many travelers, who were trying to get out to Lowell Point, and now can not get to their destination.
This post is less about the landslide, and more about giving yourself extra time when visiting Alaska, and accepting the unexpected.
This is Alaska, after all.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints online about the slide from tourists, and I know several housing accommodations have taken some flack for the road closure. No matter where you are in Alaska, and this includes Los Anchorage, you are never very far from wilderness. That is the main draw of the place.
Our infrastructure is minimal when compared with the Lower 48. Many communities have one way in and one way out. In my time in Alaska, I’ve probably seen it all: Roads closed from landslides, wash outs, beaver dams, ornery moose and/or grizzly, avalanche and wildfires. Flights delayed or rushed because of blizzards, volcanic eruptions, and pilot strikes. Sometimes, all you can do is take a deep breath, open a cold refreshment, and chill out for a day… or two…
We all have deadlines, but sometimes we find ourselves dealing with forces that have no interest in flight departures. So, if you visit Alaska, by all means, get out and explore the state, but leave the time planner at home. Enjoy both the view and the ride.