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Borealis Basecamp launches new offerings Three nights deep in the backcountry of the million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area outside Fairbanks is a good example of a hard adventure. A soft adventure, says Adriel Butler, could be one hour riding a snowmachine through a powder field. Butler is the owner of Borealis Basecamp, which he aims to make the go-to resort in interior Alaska for those types of soft adventures. The cubes at Borealis Basecamp are spaced out to give guests more privacy. Borealis Basecamp opened in 2017 on a 100-acre parcel of forest 25 miles north of Fairbanks. It was open only during winter months and primarily a destination for aurora viewing. The team used time during the early months of the pandemic to plan new accommodations and adventures that launched in 2022. The basecamp is now open through the summer months and offers excursions like six-hour UTV rides…

Congratulations to our 2022 photo contest winners. Each image tells a story or captures a slice of Alaska’s unique beauty, adventure, or way of life. This year, we’ve included photographers’ Instagram names so you can follow them online to see even more of their explorations around Alaska and beyond. We hope you enjoy these colorful images from around the Great Land. Grand Prize Winner JENNIFER SMITH @jfogle02 Look for this image on the cover of our February Issue of Alaska Magazine. Ice Bear: “Blessed with an early winter and a late salmon run, a Kodiak brown bear finds itself encased in ice. The ice around this young sow’s face makes the perfect heart shape.” Categories Alaska Life: Representing Alaskans and/or their way of life, traditions, culture, or authentic “only in Alaska” moments. CLOSE-UPS: Showing the close-up details of anything Alaskan, from nature to people to urban constructs. Scenic: Emphasizing the…

Discovering ancient bones near McGrath. The water level in the Kuskokwim River rises and falls in response to snowmelt and rain. High water plucks trees from the muddy riverbanks, transporting them down the river. Low water strands jumbles of wood on sandbars. These wood piles are welcome to the river communities because the logs are a convenient source of firewood. I was six years old when we set out from McGrath to collect firewood. Francis, my stepdad, drove the boat upriver, so that the collected logs could then be floated downriver. Our strategy was to tie a raft of logs to the bow of the boat and gently motor the raft back to town. While my mom and Francis were sawing wood for the raft, I played games with my older brother Burke—setting up sticks for target practice with rocks or a BB gun. Burke recalls that one of the…

Taku Harbor’s Legendary Man and Myth I stepped into the low light of a derelict cabin and studied moldering walls, broken glass, and filth. My three-year-old son clung to me, scanning the shadows. “Daddy, there could be ghosts! We need to get out of here!” he said. The cabin once belonged to Henry “Tiger” Olson—a hermit, philosopher, and mystic who lived most of his life in Taku Harbor, 20-some miles south of Juneau. By the time we got there, it had been more than 40 years since he had occupied the cabin. To be honest, the place creeped me out a little as well. It wasn’t just Tiger’s cabin that felt haunted, though—Taku Harbor is filled with ruins and stories. Tiger Olson lived in this cabin in Taku Harbor for nearly 60 years. Photo by Chris Miller The harbor is part of the Tlingit T’aaku Kwáan’s territory. The Hudson’s Bay…

The Lure of a Mountain Peak I fell in love with my house immediately, thanks to the 6,398-foot-tall Pioneer Peak jutting into the sky behind it. Pioneer looked like Alaska incarnate to me. It dominated my view, rising abruptly from the flat valley floor as the kind of peak you might see if you look up “mountain” in the dictionary. Over nearly five years of living in my home, I tried once, twice, five times to make it to the top of the mountain that loomed above my house. Each time, I fell short. Then, one bright morning in September 2021 after a full summer of strenuous hikes and runs, my husband and I set out for a hike on the Pioneer Trail. We started early, with cool temps leaving dew on leaves underfoot. We climbed at an unhurried but steady pace, gaining elevation as the sun rose higher into…

Bringing Native Values to Work Sophie Minich and Sheri Buretta were both little girls in Alaska when, 51 years ago, on December 18, 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the landmark Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The act was the first of its kind in the United States’ long history of settlements with Native Americans. ANCSA created 12 Native regional economic development corporations in which the stockholders are the Native people who traditionally lived in these regions. The corporations were formed to provide economic, educational, social service, and cultural benefits to their shareholders. Today, Minich and Buretta lead two of these Native corporations. Buretta is the chairman of the board for Chugach Alaska Corporation. Minich is the president and CEO of Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI). Sheri Buretta Growing up between Tatitlek and Anchorage, Sheri Buretta and her family drove from Anchorage, where she lived, to Valdez, where an uncle…

Welcome to the future Alaska is hot, welcome to the future. It might be time for snowbirds to rethink their second home or retirement condo in Florida. The world is hot and getting hotter, and while Alaska is leading the way, I’d like to illuminate the bright side of global warming. Consider home gardening. In the 1970s, Anchorage was a terrible place to grow tomatoes. Now, you can harvest your own tomatoes and even okra—unthinkable even in the 1990s—in Alaska. Robins once migrated south to warmer climes in the fall (just like many Alaskans), but now they overwinter in Homer. Fireweed blooms no longer reliably predict the first freeze. Red fox have been moving north and taking over the territory of arctic fox. Heck, even the bears in Kodiak didn’t hibernate until late December last year, before announcing it was spring by emerging in early March. If the reactions of…

Communication is Key I grew up in the Lower 48, and over the last decade, I’ve come to realize the differences between people who live in Alaska versus those who don’t. My clients, who I take on Alaska tours, also note these distinctions and point them out—usually with amusement, and other times with shock akin to having entered a foreign country with a different language and culture. Of course, these are generalizations—but indulge me for my years on the ground in the north and attempts at self-deprecating humor. One of the first things you need to know about Alaskans is that they prefer to communicate by phone or in person. Many businesses don’t publish their email address for correspondence, not even a general one or automated form. Because I have social anxiety and will always choose to write rather than call or meet in person, I have spent hours searching…

An Arctic Miracle on Hold Seth Kantner and I sat, leaning into our binoculars. The sandy knoll commanded a huge sweep of autumn-bright country—rolling tundra banded with willow and spruce, framed by the ragged, snow-dusted heave of the western Brooks Range. Working near to far, we scanned each crease and hummock, studied clumps of brush and jumbles of rock, searching the blue-tinted distance for shimmers of movement, anything that stood out or reflected light a bit differently. This place was far more than a fine view in a landscape defined by countless others. Half a lifetime had passed since I’d first looked out from this crest, and I’d returned more times than I could count. Seth’s attachment lay deeper still. He’d been born just a few miles to the east and knew this place from childhood. Each of us, together and alone, and in varying company, had spent time here…

Get a cup to go at this unique coffee house Tolkien fans, take note. You don’t need an eagle from Mordor to visit the Heart o’ the Shire. Just catch a flight to Naknek. Heart o’ the Shire, a hobbit-themed coffee shop, sits at milepost 2 of the Alaska Peninsula Highway, a strip of pavement that connects Naknek to King Salmon and nowhere else. The two towns share 850 residents and only one taxi, but the region buzzes each summer with Bristol Bay cannery workers and tourists visiting Katmai National Park and Preserve. That means out-of-town travelers stumble upon the Shire each summer. “It’s kind of fun when people discover you and they’re surprised,” said co-owner Eseta Sherman. Eseta has run the coffeeshop since 2008 alongside her husband, Richard, and their four kids, Maica, Aniva, Bethany, and Jesse. That first season, they operated from a double-wide trailer and a tent.…