Nick Jans would often push his adventures to the limits when exploring Alaska, though he’s slowed down, he’s still driven by journeying beyond the horizon.
About 87 percent of land in Alaska is public. It provides ample opportunity for recreation and habitat for wildlife. But it also stirs debates on how the land should be used.
COVID kept Nick Jans away from Alaska for the longest absence he’s experienced in 40 years. Luckily, he writes, “Alaska is a state of mind.”
Nick Jans on living in Alaska, the stories that emerge from that lifestyle, and sharing with them with Alaska magazine readers.
A lone bear stakes out his fishing territory beneath Brooks Falls in Katmai. Photo by Michelle Theall. Alaska’s eight designated national parks cover over 41 million acres. For scale, that’s twice the size of all of the Lower 48 national parks—from Death Valley to Big Bend—added together. National parks are considered the crown jewels of each state—important enough to be protected for all—and Alaska is no exception. It just, well, has a bigger crown. Alaska is romanticized and revered for its wildness, its vast and forbidding landscapes, and its almost mythic number of creatures. The diverse flora and fauna here exist among famous mountains, but also unnamed and unclimbed peaks and salmon-rich rivers and remote streams. There’s a reason these areas are protected: their wild beauty and wonder represent the best Alaska and, thus, our country, has to offer. Visiting all of the parks requires some logistical gymnastics—ideally broken down…
Learning from a tree To understand the black spruce, remember it grows from a fist-sized root ball as grey and compact and crucial as a brain. Each black spruce spindles itself straight up into the crack of the cold, stout branches making a skyward scrub from base to apex all winter night. And below that brain of roots lies permafrost, even in summer. This, then, is a tree that keeps ice in mind. I remember meeting black spruce during my move from southeast Alaska to the interior. I was ill at the time, a fjordlands creature with an immune system gone haywire, taking temporary leave from the rainforest and a sabbatical from the whole glaciated coast against which my fevers flared. I went inland, aiming for semi-arid, boreal-forested Fairbanks, where I hoped to find a kind of medicine. It was end-summer when I went, fall-not-winter. The road north took me…
The hunt for the perfect photo.
IT’S 1981, a mid-August evening on the spine of the Kobuk-Noatak divide, 70 miles above the Arctic Circle. It’s hard, wind-scraped country: tundra valleys webbed with caribou trails, rolling away beneath a wide sky.
“WHICH WAY?” I shouted over the roar of the engine. Seth leaned forward, speed-reading the three-way split in the river that lay ahead. He gestured left.We both knew we had two chances to make that gooseneck turn into a six-foot-wide, three-inch-deep slot at 30 mph: slim and none.
Visitors can see everything from bears and murres to sand dunes and salmon.
[by David Shaw]
It’s Denali National Park’s fault I live in Alaska. Fourteen years ago, I accepted a position as a field biologist, banding birds at the far end of the park’s only road. For two months I awoke every clear morning to a view of Denali itself, the Great One rising 20,320 feet into thin air. I was hooked, and have been here ever since.