Chuck Miller in episode 16 of the 14 Miles project. Courtesy 14 Miles. Despite how they might be labeled, people living in rural America lead complex lives and develop dynamic communities. The documentary project 14 Miles is a series of short three- to five-minute videos that aim to shine a light on some overlooked stories in the remote community of Sitka, which takes up a roughly 14-mile stretch of land in Southeast. The 37 videos in the project’s library include a profile of a young woman’s past trauma, a behind-the-scenes look at the town thrift store, and a snapshot of community gatherings. “It’s about what we celebrate and care about living in a small Alaska community, but it’s also about the challenges,” says Ellen Frankenstein, who led the project. The episodes are available on 14miles.org and through video streaming platforms including Vimeo and YouTube.

Parade on Nome’s Front Street, 1916. Courtesy Library of Congress Loving liberty, Americans honored their nation’s birth in Alaska when it was still foreign soil. Two years before the United States bought the territory from Russia, the Western Union Telegraph Expedition’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Henry P. Fisher arranged its first July Fourth bash in the capital New Archangel, present-day Sitka. As guest of the Russian governor, Fisher had tired of the outpost’s routine and diet. The Brooklyn exile decided to celebrate Independence Day stylishly, helped by two supply vessel captains anchored in port. He requested the customary gun salutes and received Russian-American Company officials and their wives and daughters for a light meal on Clara Bell’s quarterdeck. Before music and dancing commenced, they all toasted Lincoln and the Tsar. Elegant shipboard dining continued to mark the anniversary: a Depression-era feast-day menu for the Inside Passage on SS Aleutian—a steamer considered “palatial”—boasted…

I just landed in Sitka after leaving Haines, where I spent two lovely weeks in the Valley of Eagles. While bald eagles are everywhere in Haines, they’re also everywhere in Southeast, including Sitka. Still, there’s a difference between them: we’ll call it the lazy factor. Haines eagles are spoiled. I visit them in November during the end of the chum run. The chubby birds wait for a salmon to flop close to shore, and then they drag it up onto the rocks and feast on it. Or, they steal a fish from another eagle already dining on one. Their young also have easy access to meals, and don’t need to rely on mom and dad to bring food back to the nest as they mature. The eaglets don’t have to learn to dive into the water to fly off with a struggling fish in their talons. They just have to…

Historic photos show early Alaska The earliest photo in the Alaska state archives is from 1868, a year after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia.  The photo is a landscape of Sitka, and is one of many taken by Eadweard Muybridge, a photographer who was hired by the government to travel with a party inspecting Alaska’s military posts and harbors. The oldest known photograph of Alaska, however, is not in the state archives. It is part of the University of California Berkeley’s Bancroft Library collection, and was taken by Charles Ryder, a photographer who traveled through Alaska two years prior, in 1866, as part of a Western Union expedition evaluating the possibility of a polar telegraph line. Ryder’s earliest photo shows three people standing in front of a wooden building, possibly a store because of a sign on top. In the background, an impressive Alaskan mountain rises from…

Whether you’re looking to keep warm or keep time, our Gear picks for 2016 have run a wide gamut of products that will help you enjoy the outdoors year-round.

Alaska staff members pick the stuff they like best from 2016