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Author

Joseph Jackson

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The snowshoe hare If you’ve invested any time in nature documentaries, you’ve undoubtedly come across this image: Alaska’s snowy paradise, the boreal forest. Everything appears serene until, perhaps with a swell of dramatic music, a snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) leaps into the frame, followed hotly by a Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis). With the lynx’s laser-focus and seemingly inexhaustible speed, it appears impossible that the hare will get away. Yet, lo and behold, the scene usually fades out as the hare makes its escape, dashing into some impenetrable cover or simply vanishing altogether. Like Houdini squirming his way out of a straitjacket. The snowshoe hare’s crafty reputation goes beyond the big screen. In traditional Ojibwa tales out of Great Lakes Canada, for instance, the hare is known as a trickster, utilizing the ol’ sleight-of-hand to steal fire from the gods. In India, a hare fooled a lion into eating its own…

Lessons in feathers and freedom Picture it: You’re in the mountains of Alaska, out where the trail ends and the air tastes unused. You’ve forgotten what a crummy week you just had. You’ve even forgotten the cramping protests in your right thigh and the 10 miles you’ll have to hike back to the truck. Here in the mountains, you’re just an animal; a pair of lungs and a circuit of senses, raw and unfettered, living second to second. Same as the ptarmigan you so desperately chase. This was me last September. I was halfway up a scree slope on the Kenai Peninsula, and my heart was thumping like a phonebook in a dryer. I’d just flushed a handful of willow ptarmigan that cackled and flew way off into the next valley. Even though this ptarmigan flush was what I hoped to find when I set off from the trailhead with…