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Port Chatham, a bay on the southern tip of the Kenai and a former village of the same name, hardly seems like a setting for inexplicable terror and fright. But a series of mysterious disappearances and deaths where the Kenai Mountains narrow before plunging into the North Pacific gave birth to rumors that began in the 1930s and continue to this day. And the rumors all point the same thing: Something’s not right around Port Chatham. Take for instance Andrew Kamluck, who had gone out logging in 1931. He was found dead in the woods from a blow to the head; a piece of log-moving equipment nearby may have been used as a weapon. Around the same time, elder Simeon Kvasnikoff of nearby Port Graham (present-day Nanwalek), said that a gold miner headed out for the day and just disappeared. No sign of the prospector was ever found. Sometime later,…

A sunny summer Sunday found Iditarod rookie Mary Helwig reading a book on her lawn near Willow when a neighbor’s text interrupted: A fast-moving forest fire was headed toward her kennel at Mile 72.5 of Parks Highway. Helwig packed food for her five dogs, some expensive sled-dog harnesses, her good parka, a few furs, a small suitcase of clothes and a few other random things—such as her bluebird-of-happiness figurine. Later, she’d kick herself for not grabbing more—especially her dog sled. Willow is best known as the home of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race restart, and nearly as many sled dogs as people—about 2,000—live in this unincorporated community, which dots the Parks Highway between Mile 60 and Mile 80. The wildfire started about 1:15 p.m., June 14, 2015, off Sockeye Avenue near Mile 77.5 of the Parks Highway. A few hours later, flames had spread south five miles and began…

Photos by Andrea D’Agosto I sat at the Talkeetna Roadhouse with three other women climbers after an attempted ascent of Denali. After two weeks of freeze-dried meals, our mouths watered in anticipation of home-cooked fare, and the aroma of freshly baked bread warmed the room. We replayed our failed summit bid of North America’s highest peak, the storm that hemmed us in and the staggering grandeur of the mountain itself. We needed a place to collect ourselves. We needed comfort food. And we were not alone. Conversations about trail conditions, hazards of wilderness travel and the weather have been taking place around tables at the Talkeetna Road- house for nearly 100 years. The Roadhouse sits on Main Street in Talkeetna, a community with an official year-round population of 876, located halfway between Anchorage and Denali National Park and accessible by road, rail and local air taxi. Founded in 1917, the…

As we head into the new year, we asked you, our readers, about your favorite destinations in Alaska. No need to turn to Yelp or Travelocity for reviews—our Facebook poll reached more than 104,000 loyal Alaska magazine followers. We received a few hundred photos featuring everything from the northern lights to bears fishing in Katmai. The results? See below and start planning your vacation to one of these spectacular locations. Hatcher Pass / Hatcher Pass Management Area Hatcher Pass edged out Seward as the number one destination in 2015. Readers wowed us with photos of the Little Susitna River and wintery trails leading to Reed lakes. One Facebook follower said, “Archangel Valley. Can’t beat it!” The area encompasses 300,000 acres, and its proximity to Anchorage (it’s a three-hour round- trip drive) means easy access to recreation in the picturesque Talkeetna Mountains. Waterfalls, glacier-fed rivers and lakes, tundra and wildflowers, along…

I slept well, but then again, A Secret Service agent stood just outside. The agent wasn’t there because of me, but rather guarded former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn, who were in the cabin next door. The president was here to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, better known as ANILCA. Carter had signed the law in 1980 and set aside some 104 million acres for parks and wildlife refuges in the most sweeping conservation legislation in the world. At the time, there were protest marches in Anchorage, and Carter had been hung in effigy. After a round of public appearances, the president and his contingent flew west to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. The National Park Service planned to show the president an ANILCA park and treat him to some fly fishing. As the park superintendent, I played host. We…