One Man's Paradise

The Blue Bear

Within the last 10 years a number of hybrids between polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and grizzlies (Ursus arctos) have been sighted in Canada. The two species usually do not come in contact, as their territories do not overlap. However, this has changed recently due to climate change.

From bears kept in captivity we knew that grizzlies and polar bears can produce offspring. Furthermore, their offspring was fertile. That begs the question whether brown bears and polar bears are separate species. Scientists claim that polar bears and brown bears first diverged as a species between 479,000 and 343,000 years ago. I thought a species is defined that only members of the same species can create fertile offspring. Nevertheless, they are both closely related.

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A “blue” grizzly

So what’s all the fuzz about? I just read “The Blue Bear”, a “true story of friendship, tragedy, and survival in the Alaskan Wilderness”. Lynn Schooler writes about his adventures with Michio Hoshino, a famous Japanese wildlife photographer, who was mauled to death by a grizzly in Kamchatka. They both went on several trips in Southeast Alaska to find the evasive glacier bear. There are some pictures of bears with a silver-blue coat floating around. Maybe another species? Maybe just a color variation?

Not that important. I take it as another riddle of Nature.

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For the third time in its 45 year history the Iditarod race has been relocated to Fairbanks due to treacherous conditions in the Alaska range. What a pity.

The stretch from Finger Lake to Nicolai entails the most scenic and perilous landscape of the historic sled dog race. Unfortunately, the mushers don’t have much time to admire the beautiful scenery. Depending on weather conditions and time of the day they may not even get a glimpse of the scenery.

As a caretaker at Rainy Pass, one of the checkpoints on the trail, I witnessed one musher arriving just around sunrise on a beautiful winter morning. The first words from underneath his ice-caked fur hood were: “Whoaa, I never knew there were such beautiful mountains around”.

Arriving at Rainy Pass Lodge means the mushers and their dogs have mastered one of the first hurdles: the Steps. Steep, sometimes icy inclines in and out of the Happy River (what’s in a name). A few more nasty side hills and there you are at Puntilla Lake.

Straw, food, water, a dry cabin for the mushers to rest.

After Puntilla Lake comes the long climb to Rainy Pass, the highest point on the trail, and then the hair-raising descent into the Dalzell Gorge. It’s easy to tip your sled, crash into a tree, and in the worst case loose your team. Take a wild ride down that gorge with Jeff King. Past Rohn, a public forest service cabin, overflow, open water and the Farewell Burn are the last obstacles of the Alaska Range before the racers reach the open tundra.

All that drama will be missed this year and replaced by a long slog up the cold Yukon.

Iditarod is certainly a long hard race, but there are others that may be more challenging in terms of endurance, remoteness, and extreme conditions.

There is the Yukon Quest between Whitehorse and Fairbanks. 1000 miles. Long cold stretches between checkpoints. Four out of 21 competitors have scratched so far. Some participants of this race go on to race the Iditarod afterwards. This is prime season for long distance sled dog racing.

And then there is the, a Beringia, a 1,500-km sled dog marathon in Kamchatka, Russia. 19 mushers signed up this year. It will take about 24 days for the winner to cross the finish in Ust-Kamchatsk. In 1991 the event set the Guinness world record as the world’s longest sled dog race, with a route of 1980 kilometers.

There are great sled dog races all over the world. I hope they all will be held in the future, as it keeps a great tradition of alive.

One Man's Paradise

The Last Great Race

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One Man's Paradise

Moose Talk

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“What? Do you mind us munching on your devil’s club? There isn’t much else to nibble on around here. Did you notice that ma isn’t taking care of us anymore? She would watch over us since we were born last spring. Yeah, we are the twins and we made it so far together through this strange winter.

December we had a lot of snow, so we did not go up into the mountains, as mom usually does. Instead we did hang around town and chewed through your backyard, you noticed? Then came the rain in January. I hated that. Although we have a pretty thick coat, after a couple of days that rain gets old (and cold). What’s up with that blizzard warning tonight? 60 mph winds, are you kidding me? We’ll stay in the woods, hopefully the trees have shed their snow until then.

I just hope those bears leave us alone. We are not kids anymore, but we gotta keep an eye on those grizzlies. And those wolves, they are just frightening. Haven’t seen any tracks around your house, but at some point we gotta venture out. We like your backyard, except your neighbor’s dogs are just annoying. They should have a Preserve for us, too, just like the one for the eagles.

Well, I guess that’s it for tonight. Enjoy your cozy cabin. Gotta find a place to bed down for tonight. See you around.”

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Dogs and ponies

The Quest

blogHey loves,

remember me? It’s me Archimedesthe most handsome pup in the whole yard. I am a big boy now. Just wanted to let you know, the Quest is on it’s way.

The Yukon Quest is a tough 1000 mile long sled dog race between Whitehorse (Yukon) and Fairbanks (Alaska). The race is on, no matter what the weather throws at the mushers and the dogs. Just 21 courageous teams signed up this year for the adventure, including 5 rookies.

Good luck!

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One Man's Paradise

Moonlight – № 2

I am ready. I am done with darkness. Let there be sunshine and frigging colors. I knew this time would come. Cabin fever, winter blues, seasonal affective disorder…


“The longest way must have its close –
the gloomiest night
will wear on to a morning.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe


I would not want to miss the experience of a silent night on the lake under a full moon. So bright you could read a book. Walking on the lake, with snow that would creak like Styrofoam. A curious red fox joining me on my midnight excursion. The strange whooping sound of ice cracking under pressure. That and backcountry skiing in pristine powder. Those are my favorite memories of winter in the north…

Wait a minute. There is more. The beautiful subtle colors of winter, the northern lights, cookies and hot chocolate, the holidays…

Not so bad after all. I think I can take another 6 weeks of winter…


Moonlight over Puntilla Lake, Alaska
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Life

01/17 – Unsettled

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How was your first month of the new year?

Everything just peachy? Great!

Or was it more like a “like a mad, insane sprint in tight circles spiraling around and down the toilet bowl”, as Keir J. Beadling describes it in his fitting piece “Stop the world – I want to get off”?


“… like a mad, insane sprint in tight circles spiraling around and down the toilet bowl”


It’s been a rather turbulent month. The climate turned downright frosty towards the end, although that did not prevent some folks from walking the streets. Rapidly changing conditions resulted in slippery conditions with travel delays and cancellations. Unfortunately there appears to be no improvement of conditions in the near-term future. Some forecasters predict this unsettling weather may last 2-4 years…

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Moonlight

Rainbow Glacier in Moonlight

Rainbow Glacier in Moonlight

“The true joy of a moonlit night is something we no longer understand. Only the men of old, when there were no lights, could understand the true joy of a moonlit night.”

Yasunari Kawabata


It took a partially cloudy night, a full moon, and a brief power outage to realize the beauty of a moonlit night. Many nights have been filled with darkness and humidity in all shapes and degrees. Clouds, rain, and snow obscured the million dollar views, or the lack of ambient light just  kept everything in the dark. Having the lights on in the house also does not help, since my eyes are not adapted to see what’s going on outside.

So, a little hiccup in our power facility let the lights go out, which is a bit unsettling at first, since you never know how long it will last, and I never can remember where I left my flashlight last.

After a while my eyes adapt and I see a faint shimmering light outside. What is that?

A patch in the night sky opens up. The moonlight hits the mountain range across from my house and is reflected back into the clouds hovering above the mountain tops.

There are moony(?) and shady sides, almost like during the day. Except, I can see stars flicker in the sky.

I manage to setup my camera, put everything in manual mode and 10 seconds later I have “Rainbow Glacier in Moonlight”.

15 minute later the power comes back on and I don’t have to worry that my salmon in the freezer will go back, the water pump will stop and my pipes will burst, and most importantly the internet goes down and I cannot share this magic moment.

Thank you AP&T.

Yasunari Kawabata received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and committed suicide in 1972. It took him 13 years to write one of his novels “Snow Country”, which plays in a hot spring resort in the West of Japan, one of the snowiest places on Earth.

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