Tag Archives: history

Outburst

Public service announcement from the City of Valdez

An ice-dammed lake above the Valdez Glacier is undergoing an outburst event, which started on Friday. Water levels in Valdez Creek and Valdez Lake will be seeing a considerable rise.

This is a biannual event, which usually happens in mid June and then again in the fall. Water builds up in the lake above the glacier until the pressure raises the ice, and the water flows down the mountain.

The dammed lake

The image above shows the lake caught behind the ice dam. The ice wall in the picture is approximately 200 feet high.

First image credit: City of Valdez; Second image credit: National Weather Service


Chickenstock is back!

Chickenstock, the music festival at “the top of the world”, has returned after a year off due to the pandemic. The music begins on Friday and will continue through Saturday, but this is Chicken, and one never really knows when the festivities will end. The festival is hosted by the Chicken Gold Camp. Chickenstock is a very Alaskan event, not to be confused with Salmonfest. Local breweries and food trucks will be on hand, but it is best to be prepared for a self-sufficient, off-the-grid weekend.

Chicken, Alaska was founded by goldminers in the late 1800’s. In 1902, the community built a post office, but they needed a name for the town. With so many ptarmigan around, the miners wanted to call it Ptarmigan, but they could not agree on how to spell the word, so the miners settled on Chicken.

Located on the Taylor Highway, Chicken is completely off-grid. There is no cell service, electricity, running water, ATM’s or wifi for 100 miles. Chickenstock is a BYOW event: as in, Bring Your Own Water. You will be able to buy beer. Remember to pack it in and pack it out.

The music is always very good, and there are all sorts of activities planned for the weekend including the annual “Chicken-Legs-Morning-After-5K-Run”, which takes place Saturday morning.

Downtown Chicken

Sockeye salmon are being caught at the mouth of Resurrection Bay. Fishing should/hopefully improve over the coming weeks. Like every season, the Return of the Sockeye is an inexact science. Bristol Bay is expecting a great return, the Copper River, not so much. For the rest of us in-between? Time will tell.

For the past decade, my little group of salmon chasers have seen full freezers in odd years, and a battle to fill, in even years. I’m looking forward to seeing if that trend continues, as I have a near empty freezer.

Artwork by the ever talented, slightly twisted, and all-Alaskan: Ray Troll


Copper River Run

Early numbers on returning sockeye salmon to the Copper River are not encouraging. Less than 64,000 sockeyes have gone past the Department of Fish & Game’s sonar tower. That is less than half the goal of 148,000 returning spawners, putting 2021 at 13th on the worst year list.

News of the returning numbers come as the personal use, dip net fishery will see its first open window on Thursday June 10. For 96 hours, permitted Alaskans can take home 25 salmon for the head of household, and an additional 10 for each dependent. Only one of these can be a king salmon. This first window will be 72 hours shorter than expected due to the low return.

Salmon prices are sky high right now, with kings going for $19.60 a pound, and sockeyes a respectable $12.60. In 2020 the salmon netted $6.00 and $4.00 respectively.

Commercial fisherman have seen three 12 hour fishing periods in May.


Timing is everything

An eruption plume from the Great Sitkin volcano on the Aleutian Chain

Volcanos world-wide seem to be getting a bit anxious of late, and Alaska has three rumbling right now. The Great Sitkin volcano, which dominates the skyline of Great Sitkin Island, erupted on May 25. Lauren Flynn of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service captured this image as Great Sitkin erupted. Flynn was aboard the Research Vessel Tiglax at the time.

Great Sitkin Island was a fuel depot during WWII. The island lies between Adak and Atka, and is roughly 11 miles long by 10-1/2 miles wide. The Great Sitkin volcano rises to a height of 5710 feet above sea level.

Photo credit: Lauren Flynn/USF&WS/AVO


Sitka National Cemetery

In the weeds

Film Friday:

Forgotten One Ton

Camera: Polaroid 600 Land Camera; Film: Polaroid B&W 600


The return of the Malemute

The world famous Malemute Saloon is set to reopen today. The historic bar, located in Ester, Alaska, has been basically closed for the past 11 years. It would open for a month every summer to keep its liquor license, but otherwise, the Ester institution has kept its bat doors shuttered.

New ownership is gearing the Malemute and the adjacent Ester Gold Camp towards the locals, and tourists who are looking to get off the beaten path and not arrive by tour bus. Live music by local musicians and shows by other local artists are expected to be scheduled for daily events throughout the summer.

The Malemute Saloon in June of 2019, during one of its brief openings

Ester is a uniquely Interior Alaskan community, and it is a trip back in time. Once a thriving gold camp, now it’s a very laid back community reveling in the Alaskan lifestyle. The Malemute, made famous in the poetry of Robert Service, has kept the memories of the gold rush era alive. When my Dad would visit, the Malemute was one of his favorite places to go.

Ester City traces its history back to the early 1900’s serving the small local mining claims. The Fairbanks Exploration Company moved in and enlarged the footprint, building the gold camp in 1936. Large scale mining ended in the Ester area in the 1950’s, but small claims are still being worked today in the area.

The gold camp then became a tourist resort and the Malemute Saloon was opened. The bar in the saloon was obtained from the Royal Alexandria Hotel in Dawson City. The building itself dates back to 1906.

As a local resident, I have to admit, I’m thrilled to see the Malemute and Gold Camp reopening.


An Alaska through-hike

Hiking in Alaska

The idea has been proposed for years: a thru hike from Fairbanks in the Alaskan Interior to Seward on Alaska’s southern coast. The nonprofit, Alaska Trails, really started to push the idea last year, and now the State of Alaska seems interested.

Maybe after the pandemic, Alaska leaders have realized we have put most of our tourist eggs in one cruise ship sized basket. At any rate, support for the 500 mile all-Alaska trail is gaining traction in Juneau.

Most of the proposed trail already exists within the trail system, but there are at least two sections where there is no connection. Money is being earmarked in the state budget to complete those connections.

Personally, I’m in favor of the idea, and not just because it will motivate me to get back in shape to hike the 500 miles. Thru hikes bring in tourism, as the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Coast Trail can attest to, but those tourists are not the cruise ship/tourist bus type of people. It’s a separate subsection that Alaska ironically has never really actively gone after. Our attitude is, “Well, it’s Alaska, and they will come”.

Might as well plant that seed early, and give it some water now and then.


Flash & Splash