Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Float Planes

Suskeegach is on an island surrounded by many other islands. Since there are no bridges, people depend on the inter-island ferry and planes - float planes - to hop from town to town.

A float plane is basically just a plane except that it has floats under the fuselage instead of landing wheels. Taking a float planes can be a bit embarrassing since you have to reveal your weight. The planes are small, and the airline has to be careful how much weight it carries as well as how it's distributed.

These colorful small planes are all over the sky in Suskeegach. Some are gray but many are yellow, red, or blue. They are quite loud when starting up. I like sitting on the rocks besides the Narrows and watching them take off and swoop down for a landing.

Monday, August 16, 2010


If it's August in Suskeegach, then it must be the Blueberry Festival. And if it's the Blueberry Festival, then it must be slugs. As in the Annual Slug Race. That's when kids of all ages gather slugs from inside mailboxes, under rocks, along a stream or anywhere they can be found. Plop it/them into a traveling home - a plastic container of some sort - and then you're off to the race. First is the weigh-in and then the fun begins. The entrants are plopped in the center circle of an elevated square wooden racetrack. The first one to slime its way to the outer, larger circle is -- the WINNER!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Whales - Part 1

Here's a coolest of cool thing about the Last Frontier - the whales. One type is the bowhead whale. These giants (adults can be 60 feet and weigh in at 100 tons) hang out in the Arctic Ocean and don't migrate south to feed like most whales. Instead, with over a foot of blubber as padding and a massive head (perfectly suited for ramming ice), they swim north in April.

Bowheads are black with a white spot on their snouts, and their calves or babies are blue/gray. Bowheads have two blow holes and can pop through a foot of ice to breathe.

Unlike other whales, they're not very social, preferring to have pods of three or so buddies while feeding in the spring. In the fall, the buddy number shoots up to fifty.

If they visited Suskeegach, these bowheads could easily explore the bottom of the Narrows as they can dive to 500 feet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Ding-a-ling-ling! That's the sound of the bears' inner alarm. They've been waking up in the mountain forests of Suskeegach for over a month now.

How do I know? Easy - skunk cabbage. The other day I went for a walk around Chinook Lake Trail and the center pistil of the skunk cabbage was missing. For some reason, bears like that center spear as a tasty wake-up snack.

Now that they're up, that means - BEWARE! Especially because the most aggressive bear will be a Mama protecting her cubbies.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All Aboard

The beginning of May heralds all sorts of things from warm weather to flowers to the prom (which I'm not going to because it's only for seniors, so I have three more years to worry about that). But in Suskeegach, May also means the arrival of the first cruise ship of the season.

Which also means shops closed for the winter are opening, the yellow-vested crossing guards are directing pedestrian traffic, and all kinds of tourists are wandering about.

And as for me, I like having these one-day guests around. I like sharing my home, my Suskeegach with them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Break-up Time

No, I'm not talking about a boy-girl break-up here. I'm talking ice.

In late April or early May the temperature starts to rise a bit, and the ice starts breaking up in the big rivers like the Yukon, the Kuskokwim and the Tanana. Since 1917, the town of Nenana has fun with this by sponsoring the Nenana Ice Classic, a contest to see who can name the exact time when the ice goes out on the Tanana River. A line is attached from a tripod on the ice to a clock on shore. When the line moves, the clock stops and the time is recorded. The lucky winner or winners wins a huge jackpot.

Here's this year's photo of the Nenana Ice Classic.