Springtime in Alaska

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time

T.S. Elliot

Since returning from Steamboat Springs in Colorado, the streak of sunshine here in Alaska has continued.  Awesome feeling to see and feel the sun returning.  In a few days we will again have more daylight than darkness.  The winter has been one of the better ones in many years due to the return of snow and cold.  As I have said winter consists of three things, snow, cold, and darkness.  If only 1 of three it can be”what’s the point”.  This finishing season we have had an abundance of all three.

Hence after the great trip to Steamboat Springs we returned and I got a email wondering about the Knik Glacier.  It is a glacier about 45 miles away (72 kilometer) and one can ride bicycle or snow machine to the face of it, if the conditions are right.  The past years it has been too warm and the river and lake were a bit dicey to cross.  I have wanted to do it for years but only tried once having to turn around after 10 kilometer because of thin ice and open water.

I would just as soon not break through ice into a large flowing river.  (Discharge normally is about 5000 to 6000 ft3/s in the summer (140 to 170 m3/s), with floods of 60,000cfs or more not uncommon.[2]  )  Currently it is flowing at 560 CFS, still enough to cause problem if you break through.  Still gets me when I see flowing water when the temperature is 10 degrees F (-12C)

But the traveling is awesome, especially when traveling with companions who know how to deal with the cold and are great bicyclers, and are as excited as I am to be there.  I will let the pictures speak.

Enroute from road to river
Riding the lake, must be deep judging by iceberg sizes


Where the glacier meets the wall


Dennis, Mark, J. R. bikes and glacier front


glacier face


Knik Glacier


Dennis’s photo of Mark, J. R. departing back to vehicle

As for the cold one just learns to work with it.  Gloves and mittens are a necessity and sometimes a challenge if there are small things to work with (like a camera).  One learns and it is awesome.

While there we discussed how if this area were down south it would be mobbed with people as it is spectacular.  When I got home and looked at some of the pictures on the phone which gives location it said they were taken at the Lake George National Natural landmark.  Wow who knew, I had never heard of it but having flown over it, I knew it was spectacular.

Then the next day wanted to ski some valleys which are often good in the spring.  Natasha (ski jumping coach) and I went out to see what we could find.  Alas, it has not snowed in weeks and the wind has been blowing over the gully we wanted to ski and it was a bit bare.  Could have skied but the breakable crust and scattered rocks did not entice us further.  We opted to return a different way making it a delightful tour.  It is difficult to go wrong when the sun is shining, and the tracks are good. (or it is just plain crusty snow and you can go anywhere)

Natasha at top of “ballfields” with Mt. Williwaw behind



top of first pass
Overlooking Anchorage with Mt Susitna (sleeping lady) and Mt Spurr in distance. distance. (Mt Spurr last erupted in 1992, wreaking havoc in Anchorage)


On day three Jeanne and I drove down Turnagain Arm just to see it as we never get tired of this drive.  Turnagain arm was named by Captain Cook on his third voyage supposedly while looking for the northwest passage and he had to turn his vessel again..  (it was actually his first mate Bligh (of later fame elsewhere) who explored up the valley and had to turn again).  Or a second version is the waters reverse course with the tide every 6 hours forcing one to turn again as the current reverses.  When in full flow the waters, and ice flow at 9 knots)  Either way Australia and New Zealand do not have a lock on Captain Cook history.

Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet
Turnagain arm

Video of moving ice in Turnagain arm.  It is not bike able or boatable.

I have been trying all winter to get a video of the incoming bore tide with the ice as it is incredibly dramatic.  Timing is difficult and it must be at full or new moon for maximum tide and I have not succeeded but will hopefully try again later this week.  If I succeed I will try and post.

Sometimes the best travel is in one’s own backyard.  Often that is the best of all.




I would like for them to learn naturally, effortlessly, almost without knowing it, that the love of beautiful, things, critical thinking and intellectual honesty. Are the three essential virtues. This way they will learn things for themselves, this way they will be real men. As there used to be. They won’t be fooled by intellectual snobs and political scoundrels. They will know how to live and outside of a century which is only getting deeper into infamy, lies, and stupidity

Jacques Monod August 5 1939
Again writing from plane, this time departing for home.

Eight great kids,  mostly new to ski jumping anywhere from 2 1/2 months to three years of jumping.  Jeanne, coach Natasha, and myself as guidance and directors.  4 kids had one parent along and two brothers had both parents.  But parents were generally not allowed with us as we travel as a team.  Parents stayed with friends or motels saying hello and watching during the day at the hill.  We wanted a team spirit and comeraderie.

The western region Alaska crew 2017


Interesting to watch interactions of parents and kids; which are as varied as there are personalities.  But this age group (10-13 years) is starting to step out into the world on their own, and parents are letting go or not.  It is the age of exploration and excitement at discovering the world.  Hopefully this is  not limited to this age group and exploration and excitement continues through life, but I have seen it this week, being immersed in this age group.  Activity is near constant and not focused but it can be directed with channeling.

Learning experiences and encouragement, wow.  For example we had set a quiet time of 9 pm and lights out by 10 o’clock.  Mostly followed, but Thursday was a rest day of only xc skiing, jumping practice, a 4 hour trip to hot springs (with climbing wall, water slides (requiring of me, more than 15 slides to find a winner)). Thus Thursday night folks were not quite ready to wind down.  But the jumping competition  is on Friday.  Natasha reminded me this is part of the learning curve, they cannot always be told something, they must learn it themselves.    OK, I went into  one of two boys rooms and two are standing on the bed saying “we are getting ready for bed”. I reminded them it is now 10:15 and it is a competition night.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. As I was going up the stairs to next boys room the two previous run past me. (I guess they assumed I cannot see). 10 minutes later I go into girls room to find all eight watching a movie on the computer. Competition night!  Whatever, we were all up at 7.

Alaska Crew with parents


Top of 45 meter jump competition


And teaching them of altitude (Steamboat is at 1950 meters, 6400 feet ), I told them to notice the stairs here versus the stairs at home.  One kiddo as we climbed the stairs said he was not noticing the altitude, but he admitted the stairs were harder.

As for the competition we are a new program just getting going again.  I had not necessarily expected great results and kept reminding the kids it was how they did, not how others did.  On the first day one kid noticed kids from Calgary and park city.  Our kids response (some of them) was “they are going to cream us”. I again reminded them it was not how well Calgary or park city or Illinois or steamboat springs clubs do, it is how well one does oneself.

Alaska medal winners jumping and nordic combined      (the 4 without actual neck jewelry are not included)

That night in the competition we won, we lost, we got scared, we cheered, we beat our own records, we fell, we crashed, we got up, And the tears flowed.  Some from beating personal goals, some from not achieving them.  Tears from all myself included.  Parents, helpers, watchers, and the kids, all requiring varying degrees and varieties of answers.  (OK I admit I get choked up when I see whoever, whatever doing their absolute best) Breaks ones heart when a 10 year old is bawling their eyes out because they did not do their absolute best and felt they could do better.
Basically the adventure of kids.  A real adventure.  But will shortly tag the parents and say “tag you are it, your turn”

And I mentioned in last blog how they were excited about seeing cows, well they also saw for many, their first candy store.  (Sorry parents, had to give them the experience of new experiences, kids choice). But it goes both ways.  One morning tuned the radio to a modern station and all the kids were singing along to Beyoncé whom I had to ask who the artist was.  Even us oldersters can still learn.

And great to see how other programs work.  And one comment by the director of the steamboat club was he does not care about making olympians (and their have been numerous from the area) but he cares about making good citizens.


It was a great week of which I thoroughly enjoyed it and am thoroughly exhausted.  For those without kids it is far harder than it looks and  can be extremely rewarding.  I am quite happy with loaner kids.  My hat is off to parents.  Hopefully I had a bit of good influence and they learned a few things (like candy is not necessarily the best thing)

Top of 30 meter jump (photo by Jessie Ann Menkens)
75 meter jumper competion (jumper landed at 52.5 meters

A different trip

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.              Paulo Coelho

Gentle readers, again I am taking off on another adventure.  This time the bike is not accompanying me; but am being accompanied by 10 other folks and a few groupies.  There are 8 ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen year olds plus Jeanne, the coach, and myself.  The groupies consist of 4 parents.  We are heading to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the western region ski jumping competition.  This is a different kind of adventure.

Our kids will be jumping the 20,30 and 45 meter hills although there is competition on the 70, 100, and 125 meter hills which will be great fun to watch.  I have seen big hills, but have never seen a competition on them.

At first I was excited to go back to steamboat as I used to race there many years ago.  Alas I checked lift prices and it was obvious they do not want people like me there.  $155.00 US for a one day pass.  I will be busy enough monitoring our group.  

Several years ago a friend approached Jeanne and I to say she was very jealous of our adventures and trips.  It was true we have done some amazing trips and adventures and seen a tiny portion of our world.  But I thought about it, not being one who can quickly come up with a comeback, only to acknowledge her desires to travel and explore.  The next day though, I mentioned to her our wondrous trips which were grand, but she had an adventure Jeanne and I are not doing.  Raising a family through the years of growth and exploration.  Perhaps even more grand.  She thought about it and said wow that is true.  (Then a year later she ran off with her best friends husband). We all have our own adventures and stories.  

Oh my gosh. Two of the kids got bumped up to first class. The excitement is barely contained. No wonder I am enamored with this volunteer activity.