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Meet the Rodney Dangerfield of Alaskan wildlife I’m casting for a dinner along a cut bank across from camp, evening colors reflected in the Nuna’s clear, purling current. The arctic stillness is broken by a wet, resounding crash, as if a rock had just been chucked from the sky. Though startled, I’m hardly surprised by my noisy company. Floating 30 feet away, a pair of unblinking eyes set in a wet, furry head regard me, radiating curiosity-tinged indignation. I can practically hear a Disneyfied, bucktooth nasal voice: Hey buddy, what the hell you doin’ in my yard?  Another tail slap followed by a shallow dive, and the head pops up closer. I’m again fixed by that beady-eyed stare. I said, beat it! and with a final slap and a swirl, it vanishes. I track the bubble trail a few dozen yards down the bank to a mound of peeled, interlocked…

Relearning how to be outside When Ira Edwards was struck by a rogue tree he was felling in 2010 and paralyzed from the waist down, he knew life would never be the same. But it never occurred to him to stop doing the things he loved: hunting, fishing, skiing, and being outside in Alaska. “A lot of that is believing you can. It just takes me a lot longer to do.” Named “the real-life most interesting man in the world” by The Chive, Ira shares how this injury has shaped him and how the outdoors helped him become happy and healthy again. —AS TOLD TO AND EDITED BY MOLLY RETTIG Let’s start by talking about life before your injury. I grew up in Palmer skiing and being outside. The whole world revolved around skiing, having kept up a 163-consecutive-month ski streak. I raced for the University of Alaska Fairbanks and…

Lessons in feathers and freedom Picture it: You’re in the mountains of Alaska, out where the trail ends and the air tastes unused. You’ve forgotten what a crummy week you just had. You’ve even forgotten the cramping protests in your right thigh and the 10 miles you’ll have to hike back to the truck. Here in the mountains, you’re just an animal; a pair of lungs and a circuit of senses, raw and unfettered, living second to second. Same as the ptarmigan you so desperately chase. This was me last September. I was halfway up a scree slope on the Kenai Peninsula, and my heart was thumping like a phonebook in a dryer. I’d just flushed a handful of willow ptarmigan that cackled and flew way off into the next valley. Even though this ptarmigan flush was what I hoped to find when I set off from the trailhead with…

And into your own journey Getting off the beaten path, this issue’s theme, means different things to different people. A short hike to an overlook above a lake popular with hikers and paddlers on weekends might be all one person needs to recharge her batteries before heading back to the city. Another might think teaching students in rural Alaskan communities is sufficiently out there to qualify. Someone else might consider diving deep into frigid waters to photograph undersea creatures his blissful escape. However you frame it, getting off the main drag in Alaska is as easy or complex as you want to make it. This month, our features lead readers away from the usual to places like Naknek, Kasigluk, and Tuntutuliak in “Never a Dull Day” (page 64); a tiny cabin visited every summer in “Off-Grid in Moose Pass” (page 72); and underwater around Kodiak and Valdez in “What Lies…

A Wildlife Sighting Primer from a Pro I’m often asked how I managed to get a particular shot of a wolf or a bear or some other wild creature in Alaska. People imagine I know of secret locations up trails that can only be accessed by ATV, snowmachine, or packraft, or that require weeks of primitive camping and sewing a coat out of leaves, fur, and pine needles to blend into the environment. That’s rarely the case. I do have a yeti costume, but that’s a different story for another day. In fact, none of my images required me to slather myself in salmon oil or bellow like a moose in heat. At this point in my life, I’m old and lazy, and I prefer to work smart, not hard, to get an image, if I can help it. What I’ve found out? Animals also prefer the path of least…

A photographic journey of the heart I knelt behind my camera tripod, gazing from the edge of a sandy knoll, northward up the Nuna valley. A few yards away, a fortyish Japanese man did the same. Before us, a weathered caribou skull lay in a blood-red swath of bearberry; beyond, an immense sweep of autumn tundra glowed beneath a furling expanse of clouds, squalls, and sun. Occasionally moving his lips without speaking, my companion seemed adrift in a trance as he studied land and sky, making adjustments and squeezing the shutter release. I divided my time between scanning the country for caribou and studying him—emulating lens choice and angle, trying and failing to mimic both his technical command and his absolute-in-the-moment absorption. At last, he turned toward me with a smile that seemed to mirror the land’s radiance. Oh look, Neek, look! It is all so beautiful. The man was…

Species Profile Whatever adventure you’re planning this summer, it’s not likely to match the recent journey of godwit #234684. Nicknamed B-6 and weighing less than half a pound, this juvenile shorebird gained fame last October when it flew 8,925 miles nonstop from Alaska to Tasmania in 11 days. The odyssey, which occurred largely over open ocean, was tracked via a five-gram satellite tag attached to the bird’s rump. Audubon’s online field guide describes the bar-tailed godwit as “big, noisy, and cinnamon-colored.” It is a wading shorebird that feeds along shallow waters and nests among tussocks on Alaska’s tundra. According to Dan Ruthrauff, the U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist who helped tag B-6, the godwit is among 37 shorebird species that regularly breed in Alaska. Ruthrauff’s crew captured B-6 last summer on the tundra outside of Nome as part of a study to better understand shorebird migrations, which are tied to…

My Love for Alaska’s Winter Images and text by Carl Johnson It is 6 a.m., and, while it is still pitch dark, the nearly full moon floats over Cook Inlet on its descent behind the Alaska Range. Its bright light and surrounding stars reveal a hillside’s silhouette with a layer of fog enveloping the Anchorage bowl below.  This is one of my favorite times of winter—when several days of calm, cold, and clear conditions and persistent ice fog create a landscape that might have inspired the movie Frozen. It is a winter wonderland, where everything is fresh and new, magical and mystical, and utterly beautiful. This, for me as a photographer, is one of the many reasons why I love winter in Alaska. In any season, photography provides me a way to connect deeply with my natural surroundings. In winter, that experience is enhanced through a greatly simplified landscape, covered…

Tour operators at the brink Booking and canceling and rebooking travel during the pandemic was not for the faint of heart. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Oh, who am I kidding? It was the worst of times. If you worked in the travel industry over the last few years and are reading this, you’ve either been released from the looney bin or are allowed to have this magazine as one of your institutional privileges. Tour operators at the brink. The pandemic hit all of us hard, but it sent most travel-related workers over the edge. If we’ve recovered at all in 2022, we remain shell-shocked. Our “long-COVID” is a special kind of PTSD that has us duck for cover at the words: rollover, rebooking, cancelation, vaccination, testing protocol. My hands still shake before I send a non-refundable deposit to hold six spots at…

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. 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 landscape and scenery of Alaska with or without the human element. Wildlife: Animals native to Alaska (not in captivity). Alaska Life 1st Place JILLIAN BLUM @jillian.blum 2nd Place DAVID NEEL @akwildphoto 3rd Place…