Category Archives: travel

Flying Solo

Mack Rutherford

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.

Mack Rutherford arrives in Unalaska

To follow along with Mack’s global flight, his website is: http://www.macksolo.com


“The only way to fly…”


Top Tourists?

The red-breasted sapsucker

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.


Flash Flood across the Richardson

Before: Bear Creek meets the Richardson Highway

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.

After: The power of running water

Bear Creek won. Travel to the fishing mecca of Valdez from Fairbanks will now require a much more round about way.


Alaska Highway Closure

Washout on Highway 97; Photo credit: Yukon 511

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.

An aerial view; Photo credit: Nate Vallier

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.


Take a Hike

Happy National Trails Day!


Going Remote

The Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea

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 cliffs of St George Island

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.

Thick-Billed Murres on St Paul Island

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.

Northern fur seals on St Paul Island

Alaska Time

A landslide across Lowell Point Road, outside Seward, Alaska

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.

The landslide view from the air

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.


Chatham Lighthouse

Chatham Lighthouse, Cape Cod

The site had been used as a light station since 1808, but this lighthouse, along with a sister light, was originally built in 1877. Both were built of brick, lined with cast iron and had a cottage for the light keeper. It was known as Twin Lights until 1923, when the sister light was moved and became Nauset Lighthouse.

CG 44301

Chatham Lighthouse remains in service, and the site is now an active United States Coast Guard Small Boat Station. The vessel displayed outside the station is CG 44301, which was the first 44′ motor lifeboat purchased by USCG commissioned in Chatham in 1963. It was also the last to go out of service in 2009.


Battleship Cove

Fall River, Mass

The Big Ships: USS Joseph P. Kennedy JR; USS Lionfish; USS Massachusetts

We spent some time out at Battleship Cove on our off-hockey day. There are eight surviving U.S. battleships that had served in WWII. One member of the Frozen Foursome had been to seven of them. We set out to find the last one on the list: the USS Massachusetts.

On the deck of the USS Massachusetts

There is a lot to see out at the Maritime Museum at Battleship Cove: Cobra and Iroquois helicopters, a pair of PT Boats, a WWII landing craft and a DUKW Boat, just to name a few things. The main draw though is the big ships: the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy JR, the submarine USS Lionfish, and the “Big Mamie”, the battleship USS Massachusetts.

The bell of “Big Mamie”

The USS Massachusetts was commissioned in May of 1942, and quickly headed out to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Afterwards, she was transferred to the Pacific Fleet, taking part in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands Campaign, the Philippines Campaign, and the Battle of Okinawa. After WWII, the ship was transferred to the reserve fleet in 1947, and finally stricken from Naval Records in June of 1962.

The USS Massachusetts has been a museum ship at Battleship Cove since August of 1965. She was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and became a National Historic Landmark in January 1986.