Rick Sinnott

Survivalists, take note. The most practical shelter for surviving in a post-apocalyptic landscape is the “portable igloo,” according to Alain Saury , author of “Back to the Wild: A Practical Manual for Uncivilized Times.” I recently read Saury’s book, all 474 pages recently translated from French into English, because the publisher, Feral House, asked me to review it and I was intrigued. Saury was a French actor, filmmaker, poet and songwriter. I can’t think of a résumé less likely to include an instruction manual on how to survive “any rapacious disaster to the modern world.” Case in point: Saury’s portable igloo is a piece of Styrofoam that looks like an inverted cereal bowl -- made by mixing the two components of Styrofoam and pouring the viscous liquid over a large boulder or homemade...Rick Sinnott
There’s no other bike trail quite like it. The Eklutna Lakeside Trail – a relatively flat, gravelly trail ringed by mountains – hugs the pristine, preternaturally turquoise waters of Eklutna Lake for 8 miles. The lake is both a boon and a bane to the trail. Despite offering stunning views and occasional close encounters with wildlife, Eklutna Lake has been known to turn on the trail with vengeance. Trail destroyed The lake’s surface, at its lowest every year just before spring breakup, can rise 50 feet or more by fall. In both 2012 and 2013, Eklutna Lake was full of water when hit by strong autumn winds. The resulting storm waves chewed up and swallowed large chunks of trail. Long and short sections disappeared into the lake along its length. Although Eklutna Lake is located in Chugach...Rick Sinnott
EKLUTNA -- In 1929, the Eklutna River was dammed, forever it seemed. A 61-foot-high dam impounded the river about 1 1/2 miles upstream of the old Anchorage-Palmer highway. And few man-made things appear to be as immutable as a concrete dam. On a recent hike through the Eklutna River canyon, slipping on boulders coated with brown algae, wading back and forth between the banks to avoid sheer cliffs or deep pools, I considered what it would be like to be a salmon growing up in such a river. Imagine overwintering as one of thousands of translucent, orange eggs buried in the gravels of riffles or deep pools. Maybe I’d hatch into an alevin, become a fingerling and survive another year or two in the frigid water, constantly alert to predators like rainbow trout and American dippers. One day,...Rick Sinnott
In the sun-dappled birch woods of Midtown Anchorage, on property owned by the University of Alaska Anchorage, a young, male bear lies buried in a shallow grave, a secret grave. Headless, its four paws lopped off by a saw, the anonymous bear’s only crime was expressing interest in a flock of chickens in a Muldoon backyard. No chicken was unduly molested. Nevertheless, the chickens’ owner blasted the young black bear two or three times in the back with a semiautomatic handgun. The shooter turned himself in and was released without charges. Once again, a publicly owned bear has proven to be much less valuable than a privately owned chicken. The luckless victim is destined to be exhumed next October by a forensics anthropology class taught by Dr. Ryan Harrod. Securing a bear carcass I met...Rick Sinnott
"Problem bears." That’s what people call bears that get into garbage. As Anchorage’s wildlife manager I worked with bears and people for 16 years. The real problem wasn’t unraveling the nature of bears; it was in understanding human nature. Anchorage dumps an estimated 127 tons of edible garbage every day . Anchorage residents often store garbage outside in plastic bags or flimsy plastic containers. As many as one-third of households in many neighborhoods heap garbage on the curb the night before collection day, giving bears all night to sift through it. Leaving garbage in view of a city street on any day other than collection day is a violation of municipal code. The crux of a bear’s nature is to gain access to nutritious food. Our garbage is often more nutritious – in terms of sugar,...Rick Sinnott
When the man standing next to the bike rack at the Fred Meyer store adjusted his shirt, he flashed an object -- gunmetal-gray steel with a green grip -- tucked into the small of his back. In Anchorage it might have been a handgun, perhaps a Beretta semiautomatic with dirty olive G10 grips . But this was Portland. When he leaned forward, the firearm turned into a bike lock. I can list a hundred ways that Portland differs from Anchorage. Bikes and guns would be near the top of that list. Anchorage may never have as many cyclists as Portland, but it can strive to promote bicycle commuting, ameliorate dangerous conditions, and teach its sometimes surly motorists how to drive in mixed company. This summer and next the city plans to double its bike lanes , from 15 to 34 miles, and is painting “...Rick Sinnott
Anchorage stinks. Americans discard approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. On any given day Alaska’s largest city, perched on the edge of bear country, holds nearly a thousand tons of rotting food. When the odiferous waste inevitably attracts bears, the most popular solution is not to move the trash, but to punish the bears. It’s as if we don’t want to inconvenience the people who are causing the problem. This strategy has been pursued for the past century, ever since Anchorage was founded. It hasn’t worked yet. Gov. Bill Walker’s role in relocating a black bear and her cubs from Government Hill to Portage Valley is the latest case in point. Not a bear problem Last summer the female black bear routinely led her four cubs into Government Hill , a small, densely...Rick Sinnott
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When the Alaska Legislature created Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge in 1975, its boundary encompassed mostly publicly owned wetlands between the upstream end of Rabbit Slough and the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. Wetlands don’t respect surveyed boundary lines. Although the wetlands on private...
Rick Sinnott
When the Alaska Legislature created Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge in 1975, its boundary encompassed most publicly owned wetlands between the upstream end of Rabbit Slough and the mouth of Cottonwood Creek. Wetlands don’t respect surveyed boundary lines. Although the wetlands on private property were part of the same complex and were just as valuable as those afforded protection, they were not included in the refuge. Now 40 years old, the 45-square-mile refuge has grown into one of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s most popular destinations for hunters, anglers and birdwatchers. The refuge is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Since the late 1980s the State of Alaska has acquired six once-private parcels in and adjacent to the refuge through purchases and donations...Rick Sinnott
I should have sworn off Roman candles after the state troopers set that moose on fire. The 1998 incident, reported in Mike Doogan’s column in the Anchorage Daily News, with an accompanying photo, is now the stuff of legend. It started when Alaska State Troopers Peter Mlynarik and Sven Skille responded to a complaint of a moose acting like it owned a backyard off Dimond Boulevard. The two troopers had unsuccessfully attempted to squeeze the moose into a nearby greenbelt by yelling and bluff-charging it. That didn’t work, so it was time to unholster the big guns. Roman candles A Roman candle is a firework consisting of a stiff, rolled paper tube holding eight to 10 flammable projectiles that shoot up to 50 or 60 feet before detonating with a loud crack. I was the Alaska Department of Fish...Rick Sinnott