timistravels

My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Unalakleet, Alaska~ Jan. 15-16, 2015 and NO SNOW!

Jan. 15/16

Last year I was unable to fly into Unalakleet because they had so much snow, this year, NONE.  Unalakleet is on the NW coast of the Bering Sea, just under the community of Nome.  It was a beautiful day as I flew in and the sun was setting over the community.  It was in the high 20’s low 30’s while I was there and I enjoyed a quick walk to the beach and the ability to beach comb a bit!    The Elders are worried about the continued warming of the region.  There were locals that had just gone out on a seal hunt, not normal for this time of year.

If you want to know more about Unalakleet, check out my blogs from Jan. 2012 and 2013!  Here are some pics!  The photo of me is with Donald Masters, Donald originally from Unalakleet is a former student of mine (at UAS).  He’d gone south for college but has moved back home~ and I got to see him, what a treat!

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landing in Unalakleet! Sun starting to set about 4:30!

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swinging around to the airport

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Sunset on the day I left, this is a beautiful community.

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drift wood on the beach, locals use it for fire wood

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another view looking down the beach

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long lost friends… last saw each other over 15 years ago! JOY

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Little Diomede, you CAN see Russia from this Alaska town!

Jan. 15-16, 2015

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Opik and her scoop to help grab the crabs with! (photo courtsey of Opik Ahkinga)

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this photo was taken on Little Diomede but you can see how close Big Diomede is. Big is part of Russia! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)

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Little Diomede sits in the Bering Sea just off the coast of AK near Nome.

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This is Little Diomede (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

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There is one helicopter flight in/out of Little Diomede each week, there are no planes as there is no place for a runway. This is a remote community.(photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Okay, NO I did not get to go to Little Diomede, but there was a woman at my training ( which was held at the regional office in Unalakleet https://timistravels.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/flying-wild-alaska-unalakleet-adventure-jan-16-18-2012/?preview=true&preview_id=34&preview_nonce=6a772c9321 ) that grew up there.  I felt like a reporter asking her questions about her home town!  Her name is Opik Ahkinga, Opik is her Eskimo name and the name she has always gone by.  Opik translates to “snow owl”!

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Happy Crabber Opik Ahkinga! So blessed to meet this woman! (photo courtesy of Opik Ahkinga)

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the hole made in the ice to get crab! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Opik spends much of her time helping her village become aware of humans environmental impact.  She shared many stories of growing up there and how for years there were ‘disposable’ items such as water bottles.  They had never seen such a thing, but once ‘western ways’ moved to Little Diomede there was a need to educate on how to remove unwanted material.

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a days catch! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

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one by one! (photo by Opik Ahkinga)

Another interesting discussion I had with Opik was her talking about subsistence living.   She is a crabber.  She crabs by digging a hole through the ice of the Bering Sea and dropping a line with bait.  She prefers smelt, but any fish is acceptable.  She drops down about 60-80 feet but can go down as deep as 100 feet.  Opik talked about 2 main kinds of crab that she gets; Blue King which is very tasty, Blue King is fished where there is a rocky bottom.  The other is Red King, not as good as good as Blue but still yummy.  Red King is caught in more mucky bottom areas.  In the winter these crab come ‘in’ to spawn where in the fall and summer they are further off shore.

And though Blue King is so sweet and tasty, the Spiny King is the best!  Historically  these Spiny Kings were found Japan and eastern Russia.  The first time they were found in AK were off of Little Diomede in 2003.  However, by 2010 they were really showing up in the waters around St. Lawrence Island and other communities in the Bering Sea.

Opik shared other interesting stories with me including the fact that she remembers going with her Grandpa to the international date line to trade with the Russians. Big Diomede is part of Russia, though it is just miles from Little Diomede and can been seen across the Bering Sea.  The international date line separated them and they are less than 2 miles apart.  Big Diomede is actually only a Russian military base.  Both Big and Little Diomded ‘communities’ are on the west side of the islands.  She shared that her father used to go to school on Big Diomede.  Another story was that  in 1952 her uncle (mom’s brother) went out to hunt and  was found and taken by the Russians.  He was kept captive for 50 days before he was released and sent home.

There is so much history in this part of our great state and so few know anything about it.  I feel blessed to have met Opik and look forward to more conversations in the years ahead.

side note that made me smile; the mascot for Little Diomede; the “dateliners”  isn’t that cute?

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Taku Glacier; 2 trips in one week, so very different!

Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012

Harry and I had a certificate for a ‘glacier hike’ that we had won, but needed to use it by Sept. 1.  We had tried other days over the summer but had not had a lot of luck, BUT our luck changed on a PERFECT beautiful day in Juneau.  We arrived at North Star Treking and boarded the helicopter with 3 Canadian’s that were on a cruise ship.  We’d been told that b/c it was SO nice out we’d get to go on Taku Glacier vs on Mendenhall Glacier, Taku is only accessible on perfect days, where the Mendenhall is an option on cloudy socked in days.
We flew over Split Thumb   and over some hanging glaciers, 

off in the distance we could see Canada and Devil’s Peak.

Both had new snow on the tops!!!  We continued over the icefield and up and over towards Hole in the Wall Glacier.  Taku Falls was right below us, a waterfall that falls 600 vertical feet feeding into the Taku River system! 

It was beautiful.  Coming around the corner and seeing Taku Glacier from the front was beautiful.  Taku Glacier is the only glacier on the Juneau Icefield that is advancing, so you can see trees, rocks and more that are being moved forward with the momentum of the glaciers movements. 

Once off the helicopter,

we got to walk around on Taku Glacier for about an hour. 

It was breathtaking to say the least… see all the pictures I have included.  On the flight home we flew over Norris Glacier, Norris Glacier

saw ice dams, and other amazing views,

until finally we were back to the airport in JNU, what a great day.

Sunday/Monday Sept. 2, 3, 2012

Our friends Matt and Kelly have a cabin up the Taku River and invited us to join them for the long weekend.  They took their boat up on Sat. but we opted to fly on the ‘dead head’ flight to Taku Lodge on Sunday.Harry on plane ride, leaving JuneauTaku Lodge was where we landed, this is a tourist destinatioin that has been there since 1923!  The flight was $65 person, to simply be dropped at their dock.  On the flight we saw the normal valleys and peaks but one neat view was that of the water below.  In this shot you can see where the river water meets the ocean water.  The river because it is made by glacial water is gray and made of fine silt (sand like) which is really just fine ground up rock from the ice moving over it.  on our flight you could see the water break, this is where the river water (silty from the glacier) and the ocean water, bluer and clear, meet!

Matt and Kelly came on their river boat and loaded us for the ride back to their cabin.  Harry and Kelly as we leave the Lodge

Riding on the river was such an amazing sight!  There are waterfalls coming down on all the rocks towards the south side of the ride and 3 glaciers on our north side, Hole in the Wall, Taku and Norris. view from Taku Lodge, of Hole in the Wall Glaciersee the eagle on the log? the edge of the glacier is behind those<br /><br />
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riding boat right in front of glacierFace of Taku Glacier

first spotting of the cabin on Taku Point

We got to the cabin, off loaded some gear and took off again for more exploring!  This is when the fun began!!!
We got up near Davidson Creek and thought it would be fun to go to the front where it flows into the river/ocean.  We were attempting to find the slough that would lead us there but instead we got into the wrong slough and headed towards the opposite direction.  Before long, we were stuck!attempting to get us out of the slough

Stuck in the low tide, mucky, muddy shallow slough of some other falls.  Kelly and Harry jumped turn us around, I hopped out to lessen the weight load and Matt stayed in boat to try to get motor back on and drive it out. Harry helping out!

It took a good 45 minutes of pushing, pulling, tugging and such to get the boat out of the slough and to high enough water (1 foot was all we needed) to ride the boat back to the cabin.Here we were skiing across the mud flats trying to get out of the sloughmore of the sloughI basically walked out over the mudflats, but it felt more like cross country skiing!  I ‘slid’ across this mud.

Each of us was muddy and wet, most of us got water in our boots.  Matt cheering as Kelly and Harry rode the boat out!

We laughed a lot during the time, and it was not really scary because we knew the tide would eventually go the other way and get higher.  The scariest part was probably after we got in deeper water and took off at a good pace, me up front, Harry and Kelly in the middle and Matt in the back driving, and BOOOOMMMM we hit a rock!  Harry said my feet went up in the air and the look on my face was priceless.  We were all okay, but it was funny.
relaxing at night in the cabinThat evening we had a nice dinner in the cabin, honkered down for a good nights rest, and awoke to a cloudy, socked in Sunday morning.

Harry and Lena,(matt and kelly's dog) enjoying the walk in the rain

Bummer, we could not enjoy the view as much as we might have on a good day. that is Taku Glacier as seen from inside the cabin, what a view!

We hiked the property, looked at the old cabin, sat in the hot tub, a fish tote transformed into a hot tub, you can't really tell but the glacier is directly across from this.

YES, I said hot tub, read for a while and headed back to town mid afternoon.
It was a  great weekend, but you will notice immediately by looking at these pictures, the difference between a sunny day and a cloudy day in SE Alaska!  These maps might begin to show you where we were… you can see downtown Juneau with the A and then the cabin at the B.

You can also see the glaciers that are feeding the River

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Here is a great link to some of the history up Taku River!

http://www.history.noaa.gov/stories_tales/taku.html

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