Tim's Blog About
|Mid March 2019:
Skiing In The Land Of Shem Pete's Legendary Giant Psychoactive Fungus
I often ski by Dinglishna
Hill in the western Susitna Valley. An igneous intrusion
formed this rocky hill, not far from the base of
Mount Susitna. It's a unique, and very cool, geological
feature that borders Alexander Creek. I've skied around
and scampered all over this knob. I once collected a rock from this hill and
gave it to a USGS geologist who had it dated. This hill is one
of the youngest hills or mountains in the Lower Susitna Valley.
There are a number of strange
stories surrounding this hill. And I've met some strange people
that once lived on this hill. But the oldest
strange Dinglishna Hill story is the one mentioned in
Pete's Alaska", on page 111 (see text in picture below).
Shem Pete claimed that a
long time ago there was a huge fungus growing on this hill.
It was "maybe 50 feet around, "as big around as the inside of a
house". Native travelers would stop
here, chip away at the fungus with axes and ingest it.
Apparently after consuming the fungus they couldn't leave the
place and would "circle and come back". They would do this
for "half a day" until "they get home somehow".
"Shem Pete's Alaska" it is
noted that this fungus may have been in the area of the "rock
protrusion on Dinglishna Hill". There's only one
pronounced rock protrusion on Dinglishna Hill, and I ski by it a
lot. It's the one shown in these pictures.
There is no sign of the Dinglishna
HIll magic mega-fungus these days. So, it must have been
completely consumed long ago, or it died off. But the rock outcrop
where the fungus supposedly existed still stands. And the
legend of old-time Natives getting high on the Dinglishna Hill
super-sized 'shroom lives on.
"Shem Pete's Alaska", page 111.
The prominent rock protrusion on
|Mid March 2019:
Is The Ditch Bewitched?
View of where The Ditch (center)
arrives at Viola Swamp.
at Kincaid makes me wonder.
The Ditch? What are you talking about?
north side of the Kincaid Park athletic field complex, there is
an old ditch that heads off into the woods. This ditch was
excavated when this area was a Cold War missile site. Dug by
heavy equipment, this ditch drained runoff off the lower end of
this military complex, northward and down to a low spot (now
called the Viola Swamp).
bridge” on the Kincaid single track trail crosses this large
ditch. But for the most part, people don’t know this ditch is
here, because it is so overgrown with alders.
But in the
spring time you can easily see … “The Ditch”.
wonderings about this ditch are pretty simple. I wonder in days
gone by what drained out from the missile site to the Viola
Swamp. Back in the days when there was little to no
environmental oversight (50’s and 60’s), I wonder what stuff,
perhaps toxic stuff, washed down this ditch with rain and
military sites are notorious for their legacy of toxic waste.
They spawned a huge industry of site cleaner-uppers. So it’s
no stretch of the imagination to think this ditch may have seen
some toxic cocktails served to it back in the Cold War days.
is the outflow of the ditch. Viola Swamp, right next to
the Mize Loop trail. I’ve also wondered about this wetland
why have other swampy areas at Kincaid Park grown in over the
last 30 or more years? But the Viola Swamp is still as open an
area as ever. Is it just too wet there for alders, birch and
spruce to take hold? Or is it a toxic dead zone for trees? Did
“The Ditch” bewitch this swampy area?
said, I wonder about The Ditch and the swamp. But I am not
driven to know the details. So I will continue to do what I
do. Wonder. Avoid running, biking or skiing through Viola
Swamp water when it floods the Mize Loop trail. Feel sorry for
the ducks and geese that land in the swamp in the spring. Feel
sorry for the dogs that people let swim after and harass the
geese. While riding single track, not steer my bike off
the wavy bridge into The Ditch. And not refill my water bottle at the swamp.
again, maybe I’m just a worry-wart. Yeah, that’s probably the
case. So what the heck, time to be positive and move on! Time
to make good use of Viola Swamp. It will make a superb
community potato garden! I’ve already have some seed potatoes.
So late spring I will plant the first potatoes in Kincaid’s
Viola Swamp. And this fall, we can all celebrate the first
harvest of … Kincaid Nuke Nugget potatoes!
The Ditch, as it heads north, under
the "wavy bridge" to Viola Swamp.
Viola Swamp, site of a future
renegade community potato patch.
|Early March 2019:
Something Unique On Skis
|Late February 2019:
A Cross Country Ski Area That Thankfully Never Happened
As you can
probably tell from this web site, I’m not big into skiing the
groomers at xc ski areas. But that doesn’t mean I’m not an
advocate of xc ski areas. I realize most xc skiers like skiing
groomed loops. So for the good of the sport of cross country
skiing, I say: "Let there be more xc ski areas!"
was once a proposed cross country ski area that I am very glad
never materialized. And that was the Catholic Church’s proposed
'Shangri-La' cross country ski area on Murphy Road in Palmer,
begin, references to what I am writing about can be found here:
This linked Anchorage Daily News story will give you a long
version with plenty of gory details. Below is my very condensed
Back in the
1970’s, an alcoholic Catholic pedophile priest named Frank
Murphy began buying up properties off the Buffalo Mine Road in
Palmer. By 1981 he had bought 14 acres of land, that
adjoined the large, public Moose Range area. This plot of
land he called ‘Shangri-La’. With the help of young men that
would steal building supplies from around the Valley, he built
several cabins and a sauna on this property. The sauna was
nicknamed “the Butt Hut”, which, in my opinion, is a rather
ominous name considering the pedophilic stigma of this
property. The road ‘Shangri-La’ was located on was eventually
named ‘Murphy Road’.
many Catholic priests in Alaska, Murphy was eventually sent away
by the church after he ruined many peoples’ lives with his
predatory sexual abuse. The modus operandi of the Catholic
Church. Send the sickest of their sick puppy priests to
Alaska, especially to the Bush. Let them be un-monitored
and out of control sick puppies for decades. Then when
their sickness and sex crimes get exposed, sequester them to a
retirement retreat in the Lower 48.
does this have to do with skiing? Well, back in the 1980’s, the
“godly” Monsignor Frank Murphy considered making ‘Shangri-La’ a
"cross country skiing resort".
priest running a ski area where lots of kids would be skiing!?
Not a good idea. So that is why I am glad this cross country
ski area never happened. It would have been a ski area that led
to many more victims of Frank Murphy’s sexual predation.
was skiing on the Moose Range Trails in Palmer. When I got to
the Murphy Road area I remembered reading the accounts of the
sicko this road was named after. So I skied down the road to
see if ‘Shangri-La’ still existed.
I remember seeing the ‘Shangri-La’ name on a log entrance arch
over a driveway off Murphy Road back in the 80’s. And I believe
I saw it in 2008 when I
skied from Hatcher Pass to Palmer, and passed down Murphy
Road. But now the ‘Shangri-La’ sign is gone. Though
other signs indicate this is still property owned by a religious
noticed that the ‘Murphy Road’ signs were gone. Hmm, maybe
people didn’t like living on a street named after a pedophile?
I know I would have gotten rid of the signs. And I probably
would have lobbied a Palmer assembly member to rename this road
that is named after a notorious Catholic priest sexual predator.
Again, I am
very much pro-cross country ski areas. But not in the case of
the once-proposed ‘Shangri-La Cross Country Skiing and Sexual
Abuse Resort'. If that ski area had ever been developed,
it would have been shrouded in a dark and sick legacy.
Moose Range Trails - very nice.
The log arch with the 'Shangri-La'
sign is gone. It used to be near where this sign is now.
General location of Murphy Road.
Moose Range Trails - very nice.
|Mid February 2019:
Upping Your Trailhead Security Game
Facebook and trails forums indicate that vehicle break-ins and
theft has been flaring up at trailheads in Anchorage. This
should be no surprise. There is always a chance your vehicle
will be broken into at a trailhead. And the chance of you being
a victim of trailhead robbery increases exponentially if the
trailhead is in, or anywhere near, Anchorage, Alaska.
I could say
what everyone else says about protecting yourself from “smash
and grabs” (when a scumbag smashes a car window and grabs
whatever looks valuable). But no one wants to hear that again.
Plus, this ski blog is about new ideas ... and not about being
suggestion: Put a safe in your vehicle.
No, not a
full-blown, heavy and fireproof safe like you would put in a
house. But a sturdy metal box that can be locked. Such safes
come in many sizes and their cost is reasonable. For an example, see the picture below of a safe I put in one of our vehicles.
or at places like Sportsman’s Warehouse, Costco, Walmart or
Target, you can buy a small security safe that is big enough to
fit the largest item you want to secure. Which is probably a
laptop. Then use hardened steel
bolts to bolt the safe to the vehicle floor, trunk bed,
truck bed or other immovable surface.
little safe will take up some space. But that is a trade-off
for better vehicle security for your valuables. Yes, it’s not
super-easy to bolt the safe to your vehicle. But that is a
trade-off for better vehicle security for your valuables. Wait,
didn’t I already say that?
vehicle smash and grab thefts are usually done in 15 seconds or less.
So if your valuables are in a box that will take a long time to
break into, then they will likely be given a pass by the thief.
Unless of course your car is stolen and brought to a chop shop.
But that's another level of crime, and not nearly as common as
trailhead smash and grabs.
0.7 cubic foot SentrySafe security safe I recently installed
in one of our vehicles.
|Mid February 2019:
Oh The Big Fat Irony Of It All
wrote about a couple of vindications delivered to me over time
(see post below). That made me think of another
long-in-coming vindication that will soon be delivered, though
for someone else.
years ago there was a big political blow-up at the Nordic Skiing
Association of Anchorage (NSAA). There was a massive meltdown
amongst the track setter ranks. Or maybe I should say,
entrenched old geezer track setters staged a hissy fit and made
a big stink because they
didn’t want to share their fiefdom with young new hires. That’s the
way I remember it.
was a lot smaller back then. So this was a big deal. It happened during
ski season and track setting stopped for a while. Skiers in
Anchorage were worked up and taking sides. The Anchorage
Daily News outdoors
writer Craig Medred even did an article about the "battle in the
result is that a young, new hire was canned by the NSAA. The
geezers ousted him. I was bummed because he was a friend, a
former UAA ski racer, and he was really good at grooming
trails. He knew exactly what racers needed on corners. So when
he left, NSAA classic track setting really took a dive.
the guy that was fired wasn’t happy. I, and millions of others
in the world, have experienced the situation where your work
arrangements come screeching to a halt. And because it’s not on
your terms, it doesn’t sit well.
given a bit of time, you realize that getting out of that work
environment was a blessing. New work proves to be much more
fulfilling. And you are much happier.
I would say
that this is most certainly the case with the trail groomer that
definitely made waves when he got away from the NSAA. He became
a pioneer advocate of winter biking, i.e. fat biking. He
started making his own brand of fat bikes. And he opened a
bicycle shop to sell his fat bikes. He helped make fat biking
huge in Anchorage, in Alaska and in North America.
this guy, that got run out of the NSAA, started taking skiers
away from NSAA. By the dozens. By the hundreds. A mass exodus
of baby boomer-aged skiers to fat bikes occurred. And this guy
was the pied-piper that made it happen.
decades, the number of fat bikers in Alaska grew, the number of
xc skiers decreased. This could be seen in the number of
participants in the Tour of Anchorage. Every year less and less
people signed up for Anchorage’s signature ski race.
the NSAA figured they needed to do something about the sagging
Tour of Anchorage race sign-ups. So they decided to add a fat
bike division this year. This was a good move.
this fat bike division is ironic. And it is, in a way,
vindication for the guy that they shit-canned from their
grooming staff 30 years ago.
that guy is Greg Matyas, father of the modern fat bike. Greg, the former NSAA groomer, gets
run off by NSAA, creates an army of fat bikers (many from former xc
skiers), and eventually NSAA realizes they need the army of
fat bikers (to keep the Tour of Anchorage alive), and they open
the race to the fat bike army whose creation is largely due to
the guy they fired 30 years ago.
when Greg was a short-timer groomer, there were 100 xc skiers to
every fat biker in Anchorage. Now there are 100 fat bikers to
every skier. If NSAA didn’t fire Greg, would xc skiers still be
the majority? And would Tour of Anchorage skier numbers still be
high? And would the NSAA be courting fat bikers and
holding their first fat bike race to bolster revenue for the
Tour of Anchorage?
In hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t a good thing for Anchorage xc skiing for the NSAA to fire
Greg. But it sure was a good deal for Greg to get fired by the NSAA. Things worked out well for him. And for the thousands of
people he turned on to fat bikes.
Yes. Vindication? Perhaps. But most of all …
it’s a good chuckle when you look back and see how local
Anchorage events intertwine over time. And it's funny to
see how firing
a young and smart person came back around to deliver an
unforeseen bite in
|Early February 2019:
Winter Bridge Building
Construction is starting on two new winter trail bridges, to
the northwest of Big Lake. These bridges are being funded
by a Matanuska-Susitna Borough recreation bond. This is
good, as it will extend the travel season on the popular "Trail
6". One of the bridges is on upper Fish Creek. That
makes me a bit envious. I, and I am sure many others,
would love a bridge on lower Fish Creek at the Enstar Gas Line
crossing. That location is a very temperamental stretch of
creek and is always throwing surprises at winter travelers that
cross there. Hope to check out these new bridges later
|Early February 2019:
Vindication? Yes. But Not That I Care Any More.
Time is funny. Given enough time,
you can be proven right. But then again, after a long enough
time, you just don’t care as much about the vindication that
time has brought you.
This seems to be the case for me recently, on
a couple of issues.
Back in the
late 1990’s I realized that fat biking was getting big. I
realized that lots of skiers were bailing from cross country
skiing and becoming winter bikers. And I realized that the NSAA
(Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage) would be losing
membership revenue from these skiers turned bikers.
So I made
sacrilegious comments in online forums. I suggested that cross
country skiers embrace fat bikers. I suggested that some NSAA
trails and events be shared with fat bikers. I suggested that
fat bikers could be sources of revenue for the NSAA.
made sense to me. But it definitely did not make sense to many
other skiers. I got a tidal wave of negative feedback on how
there was no possible way that xc skiers and fat bikers could
coexist. I was labeled a pariah. A trouble maker. How could I
dare make such sacrilegious suggestions!?
forward the clock 20 years. Within a month the NSAA will be
holding its first fat bike race in conjunction with a cross
country ski race. Same day, same course. There will be a
fat bike division in the Tour of Anchorage. And NSAA will be
collecting money from fat biker entry fees.
great. But it could have happened 20 years ago. And probably
so years ago the Kincaid Park Group was burning money. Oil was
in the $120-$140 range, the state was flush with capital project
largesse. Engineering firms were in a feeding frenzy planning
improvements and modifying Kincaid Park. Besides the State of
Alaska, the Municipality of Anchorage and the Rasmussen
Foundation where shoveling money to the KPG.
improvements rationally did not register at this time. Burning
money while it was available was the goal. So in the rush to
profits, rational logic was bypassed. A new biathlon range in a
“less windy location” was built without any testing of wind
conditions at the new location. Soil from the old biathlon
range was not tested, and dirt laced with lead bullets was spread all over the
new soccer fields (and never adequately cleaned up).
there was the issue I spoke up about and got massive blow-back. I
said it would be a great risk to build snowmaking at Kincaid
Park. And xc snowmaking should be built elsewhere.
History had proven (with the Cold War Nike missile site and previous
snowmaking attempts) that the water sources at Kincaid Park were
very limited. And I pointed out that drilling wells through the
ancient sand dunes that define Kincaid Park is a dumb idea in
earthquake country. The well bore can cave in and sand can
ruin the pump and kill the
I went on
to say that money would be better spent to bring snowmaking to the
Hillside trail system. At Hillside there is a better water
source, dense black spruce to shade trails and colder
temperatures and less Chinook
winds than at Kincaid.
Tim and his sacrilegious comments again. “How could he say
that!” The old NSAA guard in particular, who wanted to leave a
Kincaid Park legacy for themselves, surely gave me the cold
shoulder. I was a bad, bad guy for questioning the blind money
splurge on Kincaid Park.
came November 30, 2018. And a big 7.0 earthquake. And what
happened soon afterwards? The snowmaking system at Kincaid
fails. As predicted, the quake wins. Proof that this will always be a
system at risk of high expense failures. Millions of dollars spent on a snowmaking
system with an at-risk and unreliable water supply. Could this money have been
better spent? Yes. At Hillside.
But like I
said in the first paragraph - time is funny. 15 years ago
probably would have called-out and berated the dumbshits behind
these past bad calls. But now I just laugh and am thankful that I
don't associate with people that are such experts at making
poor decisions. And I take my skis and go off and do my own
thing. Time is indeed funny. It’s funny how time morphs things
you were once passionate and outspoken about to the point that
you just don’t give a shit anymore.
|Late January 2019:
Race For Spruce Burls, Man vs Beetles
The race is on. The
race to salvage spruce burls before they succumb to the spruce
Presently the Susitna Valley of Alaska is getting hit hard by
the spruce bark beetle. Many mature spruce trees are
getting infested by beetles and being killed. This also
means that many thousands of spruce burls in the Susitna Valley
are going to be lost. Once the tree dies, needles and bark
will no longer be able to protect burls from the elements.
So they will get weathered, rot and eventually fall to the
ground when the dead host tree topples over.
For folks like me that like
to make stuff out of spruce burls, this is not a fun thing to
see. Burls are cool and seeing so many on their way to
waste is sad.
So, I've been spending time skiing in the boonies and looking
for spruce burls on trees that have recently been killed by the
spruce bark beetle. By recently, I mean within the last
year. Burls on trees killed two years ago are usually too
far gone to be worth harvesting.
I've found a few good burls
on recent beetle-killed trees. Next step is to take a
chainsaw, make a trail to the burl tree, harvest the burl and
then haul it out to my "burl vault".
Bark falling off a white spruce tree
that was killed by beetles 2 years ago.
A nice burl high up in a spruce tree
that was killed this year by beetles. I'll be harvesting
this burl soon.
esoteric workout: burl wrestling. Pick a stormy day when
skiing is not good. Go deep into the woods and harvest a
400-600 pound spruce burl. Then in deep snow try to
wrestle the burl onto a snowmobile sled and get it 5 miles back
to your cabin. Of course, the sled will have to tip over
many times and you will have to grunt it back upright.
This is a mind and body workout. Mind, in that you are
always figuring out how to get the burl from point A to point B
with what you have. And it is a body workout because you
work most every muscle in your body and you are beat when the
wrestling match is finally over. PS: 100% of this large
burl will be used to make two corner "table-benches". But
first the wood has to season for a year or more.
burls come in junior sizes too. All of these burls came
from the same tree that was killed by spruce bark beetles.
|Mid January 2019:
"Making Skis". Again.
Last year I "made my own
skis". The skis were made of steel and UHMW plastic and
became part of a Susitna Valley design freight sled. I
wanted to become a better welder, so I undertook this project to
get there. It worked out well, I was able to haul a lot of
heavy loads with the sled. And I really upped my welding
game. But damn, the sled took a lot of time to build.
I have joked about the amount of time it took. New freight
sleds like the one I built can be bought at Deshka Landing for
$3500. But I estimate that if I billed my time required to
build the sled at the rate a Walmart greeter makes, it probably
would have been cheaper to pay the $3500! Oh well,
learning something I had long wanted to learn how to do was the
I figured that would be my last large welding project. But
alas, my memory is often short when it comes to ordeals.
And I am always driven to learn new stuff and check off new
challenges in life. So I got this idea of making another
freight sled. This would be more my design, instead of a
copy of others' design. And instead of steel, it would be
made out of aluminum.
Well, thanks to DIY Youtube videos and helpful hints from great
folks at welding and metal supply stores in Anchorage, I'm
getting close to finishing up my four-skied aluminum freight
sled beast. This one should be nice because I will be able
to pick up the sections of it and load it on a trailer.
The steel one was too heavy to do that. In a week I will
load some lumber on it and give it a go. If it
makes the 25 miles to our cabin, I will call myself an aluminum
welder. If it collapses in route ... well, no big deal ...
nothing that more welding can't fix!
When I talk to people about welding, and mostly with those that
don't know shit about welding, I often get the comment that
aluminum is tricky to weld. I don't know why that opinion
is so widespread. It's not true. Maybe welding
aluminum was tricky to weld long ago. But with modern day
welders it is no big deal. No harder to weld than steel.
Welding aluminum or steel is like everything ... when you start
out you suck. But keep doing it and be analytical about
your work, and eventually you get proficient at it.
The steel freight sled I welded
year, with a 1500 lb load.
This year's aluminum freight sled in
Aluminum freight sled skis in
progress. Tips will be connected to tow bar by plastic so
skis can't get caught under shelf ice.
Got it done. Fun project. But it took a LOT
of time. And just like after I finished welding the steel
freight sled last year, I am again saying that this will be the
last freight sled I build!
Field test. Loaded up the sled and gave it a test.
Worked well. Silky flow over bumps. And no welds
broke, leaving me with a twisted pile of wreckage out in the
middle of nowhere. Later I would test the sled by hauling
a 4-wheeler 50 miles with it.
What does this freight sled business have to do with skiing?
Well, for me, it's the same thing that remote cabin building,
dog mushing, burl wood work, riverboating, snowmobiling and
Upper Cook Inlet setnet fishing have in connection to my skiing.
I first became aware of all of these things while skiing remote
trails in the Susitna Valley. And often I'd say to myself,
"This stuff seems cool! I should give it a try!". Skiing's path will lead you to many other paths. If you
|Early January 2019:
No! Not The Miracle Water Fountain!
driving down to ski in Girdwood. And it soon became evident.
The November 30th, 2018 7.0 earthquake was the worst
Alaskan earthquake. Ever.
Because it caused the shutdown of the Seward Highway Miracle
driven by the Miracle Water Fountain countless times. A
long-ago drilled hole in a roadside cliff allows an artesian
water source to spurt out a PVC pipe and into the ditch.
water must indeed be miracle water. You can tell this by the
people that stop there to fill up water. They are most often
people of poor health. Overweight, cigarette in mouth, lacking
mental acuity to discern the dangers of crossing Alaska’s
busiest highway while wearing baggy sweat pants and flip flops,
they make the pilgrimage to the Miracle Water Fountain.
risking their lives to reach the Miracle Water Fountain is worth
it. Because drinking the miracle water must cure all the ills
that resulted from their bad lifestyle choices. They can
continue to over-eat, drink all the booze they want, do all the
drugs they want and never exercise their heavily tattooed
bodies. And it’s all cool. Because the miracle water will cure
all the ills of their bad lifestyle choices.
seems, from driving past this holy site. The Seward Highway
Miracle Water Fountain is perhaps Alaska’s most sacred natural
2018 earthquake sent big rocks crashing down the cliff face next
to the Miracle Water Fountain. And the State of Alaska
Department of Transportation pulled the PVC pipe out of the rock
and cordoned off access to the Miracle Water Fountain. In the
name of “safety”! Outrageous!
perhaps the biggest crisis Alaska has ever faced. What will
Alaskans who make bad lifestyle choices do now to stay alive?
They can’t be expected to change. No! They need their Miracle
Water Fountain back!
|Late December 2018:
Always Surprises With First Trip To Cabin Since Summer
|Late December 2018:
Kincaid Park Huldufólk
Icelandic folklore there are the
The hidden people. They live in places like lava flows, rock
piles and mountain ravines. They strive to be elusive and are
rarely seen by other people.
definition of huldufólk is hidden people, then Anchorage has
lots of huldufólk. Though our huldufólk are often not as hidden
as Icelandic huldufólk. In Anchorage we call them homeless
have lava fields in Anchorage. So our huldufólk hide in
the woods of our city
parks. Including Kincaid Park.
I’ve been surprised, but not that surprised, to see Anchorage
huldufólk hiking with large backpacks on Kincaid Park ski
trails. Or hitchhiking at night on Raspberry Road in the
park. And I’m definitely not the only one to have spotted Kincaid Park huldufólk.
Several times this year at Kincaid Park, I have watched and
waited to make sure a lone woman or teenager was able to ski by
a huldufólk on the trail without issue.
in Kincaid Park are nothing new. I remember once running in an
orienteering race at Kincaid Park in the early 1990s. I was
running down a hill north of the Nordic Skiing Association of
Anchorage equipment bunker when I stepped on something hollow.
It surprised me, but I kept on running. After the race I went
back to that spot and realized I had run over the plywood roof
of a camouflaged huldufólk hovel.
My wife and
I have been to Iceland several times. The huldufólk you might
occasionally meet while hiking mountain trails in Iceland are
little guys that are harmless and cheery, though you can’t
understand a word they say. They are not intimidating.
Icelandic huldufólk aren’t running from anything or hiding in
the lava fields because of past crimes or due to substance abuse
or mental health issues.
I feel a lot more comfortable being around Icelandic huldufólk than
Anchorage or Kincaid Park huldufólk.
Huldufólk townhouses in Iceland.
|Mid December 2018:
Moen Homestead Skis Presented To Anchorage Sons Of Norway
I recently presented the Moen
Homestead Skis to the Anchorage Sons of Norway club.
Information on these skis can be found on the picture to the
right and in the blog posts at the bottom of this web page.
A great home for these old skis!
Me with Martin
Hansen, Sons of Norway board member and former fellow Iditaski
racer from the 1980s.
The sign that will be displayed with
the skis in the entryway of the Sons of Norway Bernt Balchen
Lodge in Anchorage, AK.
Here is an article about the
Moen Homestead Skis that I submitted to the Nordic Skiing
Association of Anchorage "Nordic Skier" newsletter:
Year Old Surprise
years I had been driving by what could be Anchorage’s oldest
known cross country skis. I’d drive, run or bike past these
skis sometimes 4 or more times a day. I made many thousands of
trips past these ancient skis. But I didn’t have a clue they
were there, out in the open, watching me go by.
I live in
the Goldenview Drive area of Anchorage. Back in 1936 Harold and
Ruth Moen established a homestead in the South Goldenview area.
There is still a remnant of their old homestead where their
daughter Janey Moen and her husband live and have a horse
boarding stable. Also in this area is Moen Park and an old
homestead trail called the Moen Trail.
I had been
to Janey Moen’s horse stables a number of times. But this
summer I stopped by to attend a barbeque with a bunch of New
Zealand horsemen (some bloody fine Kiwi blokes I might add).
the barbeque I asked Janey some questions about the history of
her place. Come to find out, she has the bulldozer that made
the original Goldenview Drive. And she has a shed that was
actually an outhouse from the 1917 railroad construction camp at
Potter, that was dragged up to the Moen homestead with the
And then I
noticed some long, weathered, old cross skis leaning up against
the 1917 shed. “And what is the story with those old skis
leaning against the shed?” I asked. Janey replied: “My father
found them in the Potter work camp and used them to travel
between this homestead and the Potter railroad stop.”
heard that my head started spinning. From the last 12 years of
working on the Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project (www.alsap.org),
I’ve got a lot of ski history facts floating around in my head.
And numbers started lining up. March 4th, 1917 was
the first known cross country ski race in Anchorage. This shed
was from 1917. The skis were found near this shed. Could these
skis have been used in the first cross country ski race in
I knew these skis were old and needed to be rescued. So I
broached obtaining the skis and restoring them with Janey. She
thought it over, and a couple of months later she gave the skis
I then consulted with friends that are antique ski experts: Greg
Fangel of Tofte, MN (www.woodenskis.com) and my ALSAP cohort
Dave Brann of Homer. Cable bindings had been put on these skis
at a later date, so Greg said to remove them and make the skis
period-authentic. Dave advised me to be very careful sanding
the skis so no markings would be lost.
concluded that skis were likely from the late teens or the
twenties of last century. So, these skis could be up to 100
years old. Stamped markings on the bottom side of the tips
indicate these skis were manufactured, and not homemade. But
unfortunately, there is no way to know if they were used in
Anchorage’s first xc ski race in 1917.
Janey that if she gave the skis to me I would try and find a
good home for them. These historic skis were once a Norwegian’s
skis. And nobody embraces Norwegian heritage more than
Norwegians. So I contacted Tom Falskow, president of the
Anchorage Sons of Norway club.
excited about the skis and put me in contact with board member
Martin Hansen, who I knew from 1980’s Iditaski races. And soon
the Moen Homestead Skis had a place of display in the entryway
of the Sons of Norway Bernt Balchen Lodge in Anchorage. The
perfect home for a Norwegian’s skis, that are perhaps the oldest
skis with Anchorage history in Alaska.
upon these old skis, obtaining and refurbishing them and seeing
the enthusiasm as they were passed on to a good home was a fun
experience. And from this experience, there were a couple
takeaway points …
A sense of
heritage helps bond a community. Just ask any Norwegian. So
talk to old-timers, read about the past and keep your eye out
for relics of our Alaskan heritage. Your bonds to Alaska, and
fellow Alaskans, will only grow stronger.
And if you find something really cool from Alaska’s past, share
it with other Alaskans. You’ll find that others will be happy
that you shared. And that will make you happy that you shared.
Link to web
page with information about Anchorage’s first known cross
country ski race:
Link to pictures of 1917 Alaska railroad work camp at Potter
Creek (South Anchorage):
|Early December 2018:
Pants On Fire! But Not A Liar Liar.
I'd never refer to myself as
a "real Alaskan". That title is reserved for people that
were born in Alaska and have Native blood. Like my wife.
But that doesn't mean I hold back from kidding about Alaskans.
"You might be a real Alaskan if you own a pair of Carhartt
overalls ... and occasionally set them on fire!"
It happened. Winter
transportation welding project hiccup. Time to get a new
pair of Carhartt "ski trip warm-ups".
something's not right. My leg feels hot. Oh, I get
it now ... I'm on fire!"
Carhartt overalls make good warm-ups
for snowmobile-supported ski trips. That is, as long as
the Carhartts are not on fire!
|Early December 2018:
Earthquakes Show Obvious, And Not So Obvious, Risks In Our Lives
cracks in ice showing where sandy water spewed out. Big
Susitna River, late January 2016.
30th, 2018 at 8:29 AM, Southcentral Alaska got hit by a big 7.0
earthquake. After the quake and aftershocks ended, Alaskan
skiers had time to contemplate the earthquake-related risks in
their lives. The obvious risks that an earthquake can
present skiers with are when a quake happens while you are
skiing on a steep slope. Or while you are skiing on an
ice-covered river or lake. And of course there are the
risks when you are driving 65 mph to a trailhead and the road
you are on starts cracking and falling apart.
But this recent earthquake made me realize risks closer to home.
More specifically, earthquake risks IN your home.
Building codes exist for earthquake straps on hot water tanks in
your house. This is a good requirement. A full hot
water tank has a lot of weight, and momentum should it be
disturbed. Without restraint it can cause inlet plumbing
to fail and water to flood your house and cause massive amounts
But this quake made me realize that there seems to be an obvious
building code that is missing ... wood stoves should be anchored
to the floor. Just as hot water tanks are required to be
restrained, wood stoves should be required to be anchored.
But woodstoves do not have this safety requirement in Alaska.
If a wood
stove has a fire burning inside of it, an earthquake hits, the
stoves bounces around and dislodges from the stove pipe and tips
over ... that
would be very bad. A dampened-down, smoldering fire would
likely have an unlimited source of oxygen and the fire would
roar to life. The house would quickly fill with smoke and
the risk of a house fire would be very high.
of mine had a wood stove that did the earthquake dance.
And it almost detached from the stove pipe (see picture below).
Luckily no fire was burning inside the stove. But it
illustrated the risk of woodstove use in the event of an
chance of an earthquake causing a woodstove to tip over and
start a house fire is minimal. Chimney fires are a much
greater risk. But should this scenario ever happen, and a
fire inspector reports it to an insurance company, regulations
will likely follow. If homeowner insurance will not be
underwritten unless you have your wood stove anchored to the
floor, then building codes will require anchoring. And
stove manufacturers will start making stoves that can be
anchored, which they mostly do not do now.
A wood stove
that was moved by the 2018 quake, and almost dislodged from the
A modern Jotul wood stove leg.
Not designed to be anchored.
|Late November 2018:
Essential ... An Interior Ski Rack
I plan on
doing a bunch of van-based ski trips in the coming years.
So yes, I will be living in a
by the river. But unlike
Foley's river, my river should be frozen and have a
snowmobile trail on it!
Not surprisingly, the van I got was missing an essential.
A ski rack! And because of the rampant crime in Alaska, an
indoor ski rack. Skis inside might be a bit safer than
those in a rack or ski box outside. Emphasis on "might".
But then again, maybe I worry too much. After all, these
are cross country skis ... so they're probably not nearly as
high on the thief target list as compared to backcountry or
Anyway, it was a tight fit getting 4 pair of xc skis racked onto
the back doors. The key piece needed for this project was
a tray, for setting the tails of the skis in. I had some
diamond-plate aluminum lying around. so I decided to fabricate a
couple trays. I cut the aluminum, welded it into two
simple trays and mounted it on the doors with self-tapping metal
screws. I then added some hardware higher up on the doors
to position the ski tips and restrain them. I also added
hangers for poles. Nothing fancy, but it worked out okay.
This same technique could be used to make a Sprinter van door
ski rack for backcountry or Alpine skis. Or even
Simple aluminum trays for use as the
base for van door ski racks. If you don't have a welder,
you could make similar trays with a few more bends in the
aluminum and then use nuts and bolts to hold it together.
|Late November 2018:
When Short Poles Were The Rage?! ...
Recently Eric Fuglestad sent
this picture to me for use on the
Alaska Lost Ski Areas Project
(ALSAP) web site. It shows a skier named Chuck
ski racing in downtown Anchorage during Fur Rendezvous in
the early 1950s. I thought this picture was interesting
for several reasons: 1) That they once had races on downtown
streets of Anchorage as part of Rondy. 2) That so many
people are gathered to watch an xc ski race in Anchorage.
Heck there are even people on the roofs! And 3) holy crap
look how short Chuck's poles are! Bending over like that
for an entire ski race has got to hurt! He could use
another foot of length on his poles! His bare hands shows
he's a tough guy, and technique-wise he has got it going on.
But dang, Chuck could sure use some longer poles!
A historical note:
This picture is of Chuck Hightower. I know a bunch of
folks in a Hightower family that has lived in Alaska for a long
time. I asked them if this was their relative. They
said no, and that it was probably a Hightower from a family that
homesteaded in Girdwood. That Hightower family is
apparently memorialized in the name of a central street in
Hightower Road. So this guy could be one of Girdwood's
earliest home-grown cross country ski racers.
|Late November 2018:
Anchorage's Best, Though Forbidden, Low-Snow Skiing Venue
Here we are
yet again. Another year in Anchorage with warm
temperatures and little snow. This seems to be our skiing
trademark these days. They are now opening Alpine ski
areas early, with natural snow, in Vermont. And for the
last month there has been great xc skiing in BC, AB, Rocky
Mountain states, Minneapolis, New England and Fairbanks. But in
dark, wet, warm and grim Anchorage ... xc skiing is a very challenged
sport. Not enough snow to cover most trails. Too
warm for snow making.
Thanks to some meteorological nuances, and luck, at least there has been
half-way decent skiing on the Beach Lake Trails in Chugiak, AK.
A packed one inch or less of snow on smooth trails allows you to
get 44 millimeter time in.
skiing at Chugiak recently, I was driving home and figured I'd
go look at the Moose Run Golf Course on JBER (Joint Base
Elmendorf-Richardson). I figured Moose Run
would have great skiing conditions. And I was right.
A perfect white blanket covering manicured fairways.
But I didn't
ski at Moose Run, because "skiing of any kind" is now forbidden
at this military base venue.
not always been banned at Moose Run. Before a "one size
fits all" contractor was selected to manage all military golf
courses at US bases, Moose Run was the
go-to location for Anchorage Nordic skiers. The Alaska
state high school skiing championships were held here in 1982.
I remember racing Anchorage Nordic Skiing Association 'Chevron
Cup' citizen races here several times. And this venue was
frequently the savior for warm, low-snow years, like the one we are having
again this year, for local racing and recreational xc skiers.
There are decent-sized hills on the east side of this golf
course, so the terrain here is good for xc skiing.
So, what would it take to get Moose Run back in the low-snow
skiing game? How could xc skiing be made "legal" at Moose
Run again? It looks like Anchorage's future calls for more
minimalist, survival skiing much of the time, like we have now.
Moose Run is one of the best places for skiing on 1 inch of
snow. So how do we get Moose Run back?
To get Moose Run back, it will take advocacy. It will take
someone to champion the cause. Who will that be?
Well, I'm not the person. There are probably younger folks
in Anchorage more linked to cross country ski racing that should
be the ones to push this.
How to make this happen? In concept it seems that it would
be simple. Though in reality, probably not. In
concept one would go to the "top", to our Washington, DC elected
officials. Plead the case for Anchorage skier support, and
have Murkowski, Sullivan or Young get a federal military
exemption to allow skiing at the Moose Run golf course.
Allow the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage or vetted
volunteers to groom a minimalist track along the edges of the
golf course on occasion.
Dan Sullivan always seem to be very quick to arrange photo
ops with Anchorage Nordic skiers that have success. Well,
this would be a chance for them to actually DO something to support
Anchorage Nordic skiers. Something that is probably a
minimal amount of effort on their parts.
|Mid November 2018:
Home Depot, Your Source For Nordic Skiing Gloves
skiing glove time again at Home Depot.
"What? Cross country skiing gloves at Home Depot?
Come on! Really!?"
Yup. Home Depot is my go-to location for xc skiing gloves,
at great prices. The pictures below show what they now
have for sale for us Nordies ...
They started selling these
minimally-insulated gloves at HD this fall. I've been
using them and like them. They actually have reinforcement
between the thumb and index finger. Something that is rare
with budget Chinese gloves.
I wore these Firm Grip
insulated gloves a lot last year. I like them as they are
a good balance of warmth and dexterity. They are still for
sale at the Abbot Home Depot in Anchorage. The price of
them cracks me up. $3.30 a pair. Easy to stock up on
them for the years to come. Three pair for under $10.
|Mid November 2018:
"New Wave Nordic Skiing!" by Jeff Potter
writer and journalist Bob Woodward was a prominent voice of
cross country skiing in the 1970’s and 80’s. Without the
Internet back then, the Nordic community consumed articles in xc
skiing magazines. And Bob wrote many articles about cross
country skiing. Bob was a good writer and seemed to always know
what the Nordic world needed to know.
ago I read an astute and poignant comment of Bob’s about cross
country skiing today: “Cross country ski racing is alive and
well in the US. But recreational cross country skiing is on
The days when cross country skiing was cool just for the sake of
cross country skiing seem long gone. Now basically … it’s xc
ski racing, or nothing.
From watching the Nordic scene in Anchorage for almost 40 years,
I have my own saying: “Cross country skiing is something
kids do, until they can afford a fat bike or backcountry skis.
Then they get a Subaru and a dog that wears a bandana and they
rarely ever xc ski again.”
A common xc-exit path.
the old group pictures of the thousands of former Junior Nordic
participants in Anchorage. Then circle those who now
avidly cross country ski for recreation in their 30’s, 40’s and
beyond. Not many circles, that's for sure.
of recreational xc skiing phenomenon has been easy for me to
see. I did a “controlled experiment” for 35 years in
Anchorage. For over three decades I would ski after work at the
same time. The vehicles in the parking lot were the metric.
The cars told the story over time.
Today, when there is no Jr. Nordic session, only a relative
handful of cars are in the parking lot for skiing, most of them
for masters’ Nordic programs. The rest of the cars are for fat
bikers and dog walkers. Sometimes my vehicle is the only
skier’s vehicle in the lot.
But back in the 80’s and early 90’s it was much different. The
parking lots would be packed with vehicles owned by skiers. Not
Jr. Nordic skier parents. Not masters group skiers. Just lots
of skiers out skiing for the sake of skiing. Recreational
skiers. You sure don’t see this phenomenon today.
So now we
get to the “well dang it, what should we do about it” part of
the discussion regarding the death of recreational cross country
question is directed at me, my response is to go and ski. Do my
own thing. Use skis to visit new places, like I have since the
60’s. Set a “skiing for the sake of skiing” example. And maybe
share what I do by posting some pics and info on a
That’s my limit though.
But there are people that are much more passionate about
“saving” and resurrecting recreational cross country skiing than
I am. Some people think recreational cross country skiing
should be the coolest of sports again. They think that even though the ski
industry abandoned the recreational xc skiing sector and even
though a warming climate is limiting when and where you can ski,
that xc skiing should unquestionably be “the rage” again.
These skiers are driven to spread the word about the cult of
cross country skiing and to recruit new members. They
enthusiastically organize events for skiers of all abilities.
are Nordic skiing evangelists.
And one of
the leading Nordic skiing evangelists these days, in my opinion, is a guy in
Michigan named Jeff Potter. Jeff recently wrote a great book
about why recreational cross country skiing should be cool again, and how it
can be cool again. The title of Jeff’s book is:
“New Wave Nordic Skiing”.
many ideas about how to ski in low snow conditions, how and
where to find ski-able snow, fun events that attract people to
recreational ski no matter what the conditions, skiing mountain
bike single track, sharing ski sport with fat bikers and fun
ways to boondock on skis. And that’s just for starters. Jeff
lives in a snow-challenged part of the Midwest. So he is no
stranger to struggles when it comes to practicing the religion
of xc skiing.
“New Wave Nordic Skiing” is a good read. Lots of good ideas
and insight. And, as an Alaskan, it was fun to view how the
recreational xc ski world ticks in the Midwest.
Back to Bob
Woodward’s quote: “Cross country ski racing is alive and well in
the US. But recreational cross country skiing is on life
Recreational cross country skiing wouldn’t be on life support,
and it would be awesomely cool again… if there were more Jeff Potters
in the US.
|Early November 2018:
A Little Known Nordic Skiing Factoid
Did you know ... that the
preferred riding jackets of jackalope riders are Swix Nordic
|Late October 2018:
Update On The Moen Homestead Skis
I gave the Moen Homestead Skis
that I refurbished (see information below) to the Anchorage Sons
of Norway organization. The skis should end up being
their Bernt Balchen Lodge. This is a great home for
these historic Alaskan skis, with deep Anchorage roots. They were skis of a
Norwegian, so Norwegians should have them. Plus,
Norwegians are passionate about preserving and honoring their
heritage. Thank you to SoN members Tom Falskow and Martin
I am working with SoN on a sign that tells the story of these
skis, to be placed near where these skis are
displayed. This is a draft (subject to change) of what the
sign text might be:
The Moen Homestead
These skis were used by Norwegian-American Harold Moen, an
original Anchorage, Alaska homesteader. Harold came to
Anchorage from Wisconsin in 1936 and established a homestead in
what is now the Goldenview Drive area. Harold used these skis
to travel between his homestead and the Potter railroad stop.
found these skis in an old building at Potter that was once part
of a 1917 temporary camp used for the construction of the Alaska
Railroad. Many Norwegians worked in the Anchorage area building
the Alaska Railroad. And Norwegians staged the first known
cross country ski race in Anchorage on March 4, 1917. So
perhaps a Norwegian railroad worker left these skis at the
Potter camp. Harold put cable bindings on these skis after he
found them. The cable binding hardware was removed during
refurbishment of these skis to make them period authentic.
Stamped markings under the tips indicate these are manufactured
skis. Likely they were made in Norway.
Harold’s daughter Janey Moen gave these skis to Anchorage skier
Tim Kelley to refurbish, and to find a good home for them.
|Mid October 2018:
Anchorage's Oldest Cross Country Skis? They Need A Good
was given a pair of skis that may be Anchorage, Alaska's oldest
known cross country
skis. These skis are likely close to 100 years old, and were passed
on to me by Janie Moen, daughter of Anchorage homesteader Harold
From talking to Janie Moen about her father
Harold Moen, we believe this is the likely story behind these
In 1936 Harold Moen came to Alaska from
Wisconsin. He staked a homestead in South Anchorage in
what is now the Goldenview Drive area. His access to his
homestead was via a trail, now known as the Moen Trail, from the
Potter stop of the Alaska Railroad. At Potter there were
old buildings from the railroad construction work camp that had
been built there in 1917. In one of these old buildings,
Harold found this pair of cross country skis that may have been left
there 20 years before by Norwegians that had been working the
railroad construction. Harold added cable bindings to
these old skis and began using them to travel between Potter and
Many Norwegians worked building the Alaska
railroad. And these same Norwegians organized the first
cross country ski race in Anchorage in 1917. So it is
possible these skis were used in that first ski race. And
perhaps they were used to travel between Anchorage and Potter
back then. Harold Moen was also of Norwegian heritage.
I plan on refurbishing these skis. They are in rough shape, so
I will do what I can. Per the suggestion of
antique ski expert
Greg Fangel of Tofte, MN, I will remove the metal hardware
to make them period-accurate. I will leave the leather
straps on them.
I do not want to keep these skis. These are Anchorage skiing
historical items. Likely the oldest Alaskan skis in
Anchorage, with a local history. I would rather give these
skis to some organization
for historical display. I’ve reached out to several people to
see if there is a potential home for these skis that could be
arranged. Nothing definite yet. If anyone
has a good idea for their public display at a stable location, and can make it happen
… contact me. My email address is at the bottom of this web
site’s home page.
Side note: In talking to Janie Moen, I learned that the Potter
railroad work camp once had a baseball
diamond. Also, there
was once a "fort" at Potter. This was actually a WWII
lookout for invading Japanese warships. It was made
of sand bags and logs and perched up above Potter. I once
found a similar WWII lookout while hiking on the south end of
Fire Island. Not sure where the lookout was at Potter, but
I intend to poke around there to see if I can find the location.
Start of the
known cross country ski race in Anchorage, Alaska.
March 4th, 1917.
October 2018 Update #1: I made a first pass at cleaning up
the "Moen skis". I will eventually sand them with finer
sandpaper and put beeswax polish on them. A basic
discovery I made was that these are manufactured skis, not
homemade skis. Underneath the ski tips there are
faint stamp marks. One numeric stamp looks to be the
length - 230 (length in centimeters). The other stamp is
"00" on one ski, maybe "90" or "190" on the other ski.
Very faint, hard to tell. Also one one ski you can see a
faint stamp of an "A". Maybe this indicates the wood, ash?
Leather bindings were used up until 1929 when cable bindings
were invented. Here is a
Wikipedia article about the history of cable bindings.
Wooden skis prior to the 1930s had mortises through them for the
leather binding straps.
October 2018 Update #2: I finished cleaning up the Moen
skis. I sanded off the decaying wood and applied beeswax
polish. In removing the remnants of the cable bindings
that were mounted later on these skis, I found that hardware on
one side was attached with screws. But on the other ski it
was nailed on. This makes a statement about Alaskan
homesteading days in the 1930's. You used what you had.
No driving down to Home Depot or Lowes like today to pick up
whatever you need.
October 2018 Update #3:
VILDA, the State of
Alaska Visual Interactive and Digital Archives web site, has
pictures of the temporary work camp at Potter Creek that was
established during the construction of the Alaska Railroad.
When the railroad construction was finished, some of these
buildings were left here and that is where Harold Moen
apparently found these skis 20 years later (in 1936).
Potter Creek temporary railroad
camp, November 9, 1916.
Potter Creek temporary railroad
camp, July 1, 1917.
Baseball game at Potter Creek, July
Reference link. Note: baseball diamond was on west
side of the railroad. Seems like the tidal flats in this
area are now too wet for this activity. Probably because
this area sank a few feet during the 1964 earthquake.
1970's Vintage XC Ads
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