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.

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One Man's Paradise

The Last Great Race

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So what was up with 2016? Was it a good year, a so-s0 year, or one to forget?

They say don’t dwell on the past, it’s history, nothing we can do about it.

Thinking about what happened in the big wide world in the past year my head explodes. I cannot comprehend how humans can provoke and tolerate so much misery.

My way to cope with this is to immerse myself in places far away. Remote, not pristine, but close. Threatened and affected, nevertheless.

Let’s walk gently. This beautiful blue planet is the only one we have.

Conservation, Inside Out

Good bye 2016

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The year that left us without David Bowie, Leonhard Cohen, and Prince.

The year Donald Trump was named “Person of the Year” by the New York Times.

Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature, but was too busy to attend the award ceremony.

Millions of fugitives starving, displaced, drowned, or killed.

The Dow at an all-time high.

Could the contrasts be more stark?

Living in remote Alaska makes it easy to feel sheltered from the tribulations of the rest of the world. Nevertheless oil prices, climate change, and the state budget impact our daily lives. In the end it feels as it all comes down to money… No escape.

So here is my crop of 2016. A dozen black and white images that each represent a  memorable moment in my sheltered life in the year of division and contrast.

Inside Out

2016 – The Year of Division and Contrast

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Without much fanfare my friends the arctic terns have left. Off to Antarctica…

They arrived in Alaska in May, fed on eulachons, found a mate, raised their chicks, and off they went on their annual 20,000 mile journey. It’s just an unimaginable twist of evolution that these tiny birds embark on this long trip every year. How do they find their feeding grounds in Antarctica, how do they find their way back to this particular spot at the end of the Inside Passage? It’s a miracle.

Soon, I will have to make a choice, too. Where to spend winter? Should I try the snowbird approach, too and travel South? Or should I spend another winter in Alaska?

 

Nature

Off to Antarctica…

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The beginning of July certainly was a color spectacle. Wild flowers galore. Blue skies, emerald lakes, and lush greens were the backdrops for daisies, clover, paintbrush, and so many more flowers.

Then morning mist, rain, and storm clouds moved in, much to the delight of black and white lovers.

If summer had a slow-motion mode I would push that button now.

No such button, sigh.

Then I just wait for the repeat next year.

On the Road

July 2016 – monochromatic

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July brought sunshine, thunderstorms, days of celebrations, and time to muse. After a roadtrip to the lower 48s, I have settled back into the quirkiness of Alaska. The current abundance of delicious berries in the wild makes up for the lack of affordable, quality food items in our one and only grocery store in town. I have made dozens of containers with thimbleberry, rasberry, salmonberry, blackberry, and black currant jam, that will last me through the next Alaskan winter. Blueberries are next. I am dreaming of blueberry scones with lemon glaze and Martha Stewart’s unforgettable blueberry tart.

Living the simple life in rural Alaska becomes me. Being outside every day, even when it’s blowing or raining I feel alive. I don’t have TV. The world news are troubling, although they seem distant, almost unreal. I don’t miss that part of the “civilized”  world.

Six more weeks and then the summer season is coming to an end up here. Until then I soak in all this place has to offer. Speaking of soaking. There has been quite some moisture in the air lately, so don’t be too jealous.

At night it is actually getting dark, so not much longer and we start looking for northern lights, eh! Can’t wait. Eagle fest, salmon roe, snow...

Live here is a cycle. It all repeats itself, at its own pace. Live follows nature. I am part of it.

On the Road

July 2016

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