Craig Medred

A trail-clearing chainsaw lashed to his snowmachine, Iditasport race organizer Billy Koitzsch set out from Knik into heavy winds on Friday afternoon determined to log his way along the Iditarod Trail to the Yentna River if necessary. Behind him, 35 mountain bikers, skiers and runners were preparing to challenge Saturday gusts forecast to 60 mph on a jaunt of more than 100 miles from Knik to Flathorn Lake, across the Dismal Swamp, up the Yentna River and on to Shell Lake at the foot of the Alaska Range. Some will then circle back to Knik. Those in the longer race will go 225 miles for several days in temperatures down to minus-25, destined to be made brutally worse if the winds continue. Conditions delayed Friday's scheduled start of the 225-mile race. Erica Koitzsch, co-organizer with her...Craig Medred
Kenai Peninsula fisherman Roland Maw, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's controversial appointee to the Alaska Board of Fisheries , claims in his resume to have been responsible for a significant scientific achievement, the first identification of a new, endangered species in North America. In a sworn 2013 affidavit setting out his bona fides as an authority on Alaska fisheries, Maw wrote that he was the "coauthor of 'Fishing Canada's Mountain Parks,' 1985 ... (which has) received numerous public awards for the first scientific description and naming of 'Bull Trout' as a new species of char/trout.'' U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorities, however, say the bull trout, a close cousin of the Dolly Varden char, was first identified by Ted Cavender of The Ohio State University Museum of Zoology in...Craig Medred
Depending on who tells this story, Kiersten Lippmann is either a sad victim of cyberbullies or a reckless owner of a loose pack of biting dogs. Anchorage is full of people who love their dogs like family. Some of these people cannot comprehend that an animal that is family to them is to others just a dog, a sometimes threatening and scary cousin of the wolf no matter the thousands of years of domestication. Enter Lippmann, a former staff scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, a former member of the University of Alaska Anchorage ski team, a fairly well-known endurance athlete in the community, and the owner of several Belgian Tervuren dogs . Lippmann runs regularly with her dogs in Far North Bicentennial Park on the city's Hillside. Skiers, fat-tire bikers, walkers and...Craig Medred
If the snows ever return to Southcentral Alaska, here's a tip on how to survive, courtesy of the lamestream media from America's faraway coast: "Stay warm.'' With the mother of all storms (or maybe the stepsister of a midsize Bering Sea blow) pummeling the East Coast this week, "stay warm'' was No. 3 on the list of " top safety tips for surviving the blizzard of 2015'' from CBS News . Yes, this is the savvy information now provided by the network once home to legendary newsman Walter Cronkite. It has to make Alaskans wonder just how out of touch with nature are those who live Outside. The other top tips? "Don't drive." "Be prepared." "Put down the snow shovel." "Mind the gas." The first three warnings are largely self-explanatory, but the last could leave a few scratching their heads. It...Craig Medred
Good-bye, snow drought. Almost halfway through the winter, Alyeska Ski Resort swung back into action this week. The Girdwood forests surrounding the ski area might still look more like fall than winter, but the mountain is finally open from top to bottom. The resort warns that early season conditions exist from midway down despite the January date on the calendar, but life in Girdwood looks a lot better now than it did only weeks ago. Cold weather that finally allowed for snow-making was followed by a couple of inches of fresh snow Thursday, allowing groomers to get the Race Trail and a few other routes down to the base of the mountain in good shape. Night skiing was underway Friday, and the prospects look good for the weekend with even more snow in the forecast. Get it quick. The...Craig Medred
In an effort to hype its phony reality TV show "Ultimate Survival Alaska,'' the National Geographic Channel has come up with a nifty list of nine of the 10 accidents least likely to kill people in the 49th state. Only it isn't packaging these minimal risk dangers in that way. Oh no. The channel's website is hyping "10 Ways to Die in Alaska,'' noting the state's tragically high accidental death rate. "Alaska's rate of 49 accidental deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is 20 percent higher than the national average,'' says its website . "That's not too surprising, considering that the northernmost state has so many natural hazards — steep mountain gorges, icy rivers and streams, sometimes treacherous roads, hungry bears and massive moose, and remote areas where it's hard to get help if you’re...Craig Medred
TULUKSAK -- The jail in this remote village in Western Alaska is a 6-by-8-foot mesh cage inside a shabby, one-room building smaller than the master suite in many a suburban American home. In this barren, dimly lit room, Mary Moses sits on the only chair next to the desk of village police officer Kim Lewis and asks a simple question: "Why isn't Martin Bowman in jail?" Bowman is a teacher come north from the Lower 48 and now long gone from the Kuskokwim River community of fewer than 400 people. Moses (not her real name) is Yup'ik and the mother of one of nine girls who in the fall settled a $2 million civil suit with the Yupiit School District, claiming they were sexually molested by Bowman. Moses' question hangs in the air in the empty jail, and another mother nods her head in agreement. (...Craig Medred
Twenty-two years after a young man named Chris McCandless was found dead in a long-abandoned bus north of Denali National Park and Preserve, a plausible explanation has arisen as to why the 24-year-old man stayed there until he starved to death: toxic mushrooms. Photos of the mushrooms appeared on film found with McCandless' body after his death. Some of those photos made their way into a McCandless family book "Back to the Wild'' , published in 2011. A noted authority on Alaska mushrooms who this year examined one of those photos identified some of the mushrooms McCandless was eating as "Amanita muscaria.'' Those have been known to make people sick and cause hallucinations. German doctors in 2006 reported "prolonged psychosis'' associated with eating those mushrooms. Writing in the...Craig Medred
Mike Glidden's press release was amateurish and lacked for fancy letterhead, but it had a killer pitch: "I did not know the bear was there…" After that, the Anchorage hiker went on to outline what he said was a chance encounter with an invisible bear and explain how lucky he was to escape the meeting unharmed. Attached to Glidden's emailed pitch were 13 photographs taken in and around Byron Glacier in the Portage Valley recreation area about 50 miles southeast of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city. One of the photos showed the inside of an oft-visited Byron Glacier ice cave and more. In the right-hand corner of one of three identical cave photos was what appeared to be a bear hide draped over a rock. In the second photo of the set, Glidden had superimposed a circle around that object and...Craig Medred
Oil is us. Face it. Alaskans went all-in long ago on the idea we could live off the fat of one natural resource, and once again it appears we're about to pay the price. Wiser folks might have figured things out when oil prices tanked in the mid-80s and many walked away from their mortgages and fled the state. Wiser folks might have tried to diversify the state's tax base instead of keeping nearly all the eggs in the oil-industry basket. From time to time over the last 50 or so years, we've tried to be wise folks by holding round-tables, panels and conferences to address the inevitable problem of declining oil revenue. But we're clearly not wise folks. Roll this number around in your head a bit: $7.1 million. Seven million dollars is chicken feed by state budgetary standards. The Alaska...Craig Medred