Rick Sinnott

Most Alaskans I know applauded the recent announcement that Mount McKinley will heretofore be identified as Denali on official maps . As a symbolic gesture, a nod to Native Americans who gave the continent’s highest peak a name long before another name appeared on a map, it was hard to beat. Restoring Native American names to geographic features is trending. A flurry of name changes has taken place in Alaska this summer. This raises important questions. How will we know when we’ve gone too far, and is any Native American place name preferable to one concocted after Columbus sailed the ocean blue? Shortly after President Obama authorized the switch back to Denali, the Alaska Historical Commission, the state’s geographic names board , received an application from Dr. James Kari to rename a...Rick Sinnott
Call of the American Wild: A Tenderfoot’s Escape to Alaska By Guy Grieve; Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, $17.99 Steeped in the stories of Jack London from an early age, Guy Grieve felt stuck in a rut selling advertising space for a newspaper in Edinburgh, Scotland. He longed for his own life-changing adventure. With plenty of time to ponder alternative lifestyles during his daily four-hour commute to and from work, Grieve settled on, of all places, Galena, Alaska. Boatloads of young men (and women) have come to Alaska, usually hoping to strike it rich. But a more profound, personal motive is often involved: the idea of proving oneself capable of surviving in a hostile environment. If they survived, their stories of deadly cold, rogue bears and a lawless society were sometimes the only...Rick Sinnott
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When I was Anchorage’s wildlife biologist and dealt with wildlife and people on a daily basis, I could never fully appreciate the onset of spring like normal folks. With bears emerging from hibernation and humans stampeding to local trails, I braced myself for the inevitable seasonal spike in bear...
Rick Sinnott,Loren Holmes
When I was Anchorage’s wildlife biologist and dealt with wildlife and people on a daily basis, I could never fully appreciate the onset of spring like normal folks. With bears emerging from hibernation and humans stampeding to local trails, I braced myself for the inevitable seasonal spike in bear encounters. Some trails, I soon realized, were worse than others for bear attacks. I’m not a big fan of signs — they clutter up the environment and people frequently ignore them — but I often wondered if I shouldn’t hang permanent signs over these trails with the admonition Dante inscribed in stone at the gate of Hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Even more worrisome was the perennial push by well-meaning individuals and groups to improve these trails to attract more people or to build...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