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A brilliant moon illuminates fresh white snow on the Kenai Mountains in southcentral Alaska as multicolored auroras dance above Portage Lake on November 7, 2017, at 3:33 am. Photo by Todd Salat. “I hear the northern lights are going to shut off because we’re in the low of the solar cycle,” someone had told me a while back. This thought flashed through my mind as I stood bewildered by the aurora dancing directly over me last March in Alaska’s interior. Not one night, but five nights in a row, the nighttime sky erupted with wild, bizarre sheets of emerald white and crimson light rippling and following the turbulent whims of our magnetic field interacting with the solar wind. Science turned magical. It’s true that we are currently in what’s called solar minimum, the quieter phase in the approximate 11-year sunspot cycle. This means sunspots are low in number. Headline-grabbing explosions…

Arctic Alaska’s mysterious stone walls HIKING ACROSS THE ARCTIC TUNDRA ONE RECENT YEAR, I happened upon an unusual array of rocks, unlike anything I’d seen in more than three decades of exploring Alaska’s diverse wildlands. Upon discovering the piled stones, two thoughts ashed through my mind. Who would build rock walls deep in the Brooks Range wilderness, many miles from any settlement? And why? I knew that during their nomadic days, the region’s Nunamiut Eskimos had in places built “stone guards,” called inuksuk, along caribou migration routes. Intended to mimic humans, the stone gures helped the Nunamiut steer caribou toward areas where the animals could be more easily harvested. But these rocky forms were totally different. Built along one edge of a wide valley bottom in the central Brooks Range, they had been shaped into walls, not widely spaced cairns. And those walls were far too low—from a few inches…

Intentional community eats with purpose [by Amy Newman] LIVING OFF THE LAND IS THE ALASKAN WAY: Alaska’s Native people have led a subsistence lifestyle for generations; sportsmen stock their freezers with salmon and halibut in the summer and moose and caribou in the winter; weekend foragers spend the late summer months filling buckets to overflowing with berries for jellies and jam. Yet even in a state where subsistence living doesn’t elicit much awe, Ionia, a 200-acre intentional community located in Kasilof, 160 miles south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula, manages to stand out. The 45 men, women, and children who live in the semi-isolated community focus on living as naturally and healthfully as possible, said Eliza Eller who, along with her husband, Tom, was one of the community’s founders. The idea for Ionia was formed more than 30 years ago, in 1970s Boston. Four families, each experiencing mental and…

Follow Alaska’s fall colors south to Lost Lake

[by Mollie Foster]

As spectacular as they are, it’s surprisingly easy to miss fall colors in Alaska. Once the leaves start changing hues, they only stay on the trees for two to three weeks, with peak foliage lasting only 48 hours in some areas.

Calling all wildlife weekend warriors IF YOU WANT TO GET A QUINTESSENTIAL TASTE OF ALASKA, and you want to check a few items off your bucket list in a single weekend, point your car down the Seward Highway, a nationally designated scenic byway, and get your camera ready. The 127-mile trip from Anchorage to Seward can take over two hours (or four hours by train), but trust us, you’re going to want to stop along the way for the massive views, flora, fauna, glaciers, and waterfalls. That said, the drive is a mere appetizer plate for the main course of Seward. The first whets your appetite; the second sates you. POTTER MARSH Just as you’re leaving Anchorage (mile 117.4), park and explore the boardwalk over wetlands of Potter Marsh, a birder paradise that’s also rife with spawning salmon and marauding moose. Wooden paths stretch 1,550 feet along sedges and sloughs,…

Exploring the appeal of Alaska’s strangest gamefish

[by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.]

You don’t need to travel far across Sitka Sound before you begin to fall under the spell of true maritime wilderness—Baranof Island’s convoluted outer shoreline unspools a long way from civilization. Many places in Alaska offer easier opportunities to catch fish, but few appeal more directly to the heart of the wilderness angler.

Stillpoint Lodge opens to adventure

As the helicopter pilot angles the chopper for a closer look at a glacial crevasse, I think how much Stillpoint Lodge has changed since it opened in 2003. Once a contemplative-retreat center, Stillpoint recently transitioned to a high-end adventure resort.