FAIRBANKS — This year, it’s going to be all about multi-tasking.
In compiling my annual summer list of 20 outdoor things to do in Alaska, I specifically loaded it with things I can do at the same time in hopes of scratching more things off my list than I have in past years.
For example, if I do an overnight hiking trip in Denali National Park and Preserve (see item No. 18), I can also check off hiking a new trail (see item No. 1), spending a night in a tent (see item No. 4) and camping in a new spot (see item No. 20).
Another possibility is that I float the Chatanika River (see item No. 14) in a packraft (see item No. 5) and camp on a gravel bar (see items No. 4 and No. 20) and catch an Arctic grayling (see item No. 7) while also finding a geocache (see item No. 3).
At that rate, it will only take me a few weekends to check off the 20 things I have on this year’s list. Of course, we all know that’s not how it really works, but a guy can fantasize, can’t he?
And realistically that’s just what my summer list of things to do is, a fantasy. There’s no way I can accomplish everything that’s on my list, but I can think I can, especially at this time of year when we have the whole summer in front of us. Talk to me in another month or two, though, when reality has set in and see what I have to say.
As is the case every year, I encourage you to sit down and compile a list of things to do this summer. Stick it on the refrigerator or type it into your smart phone.
Dream big, dare to fail and, most of all, have fun enjoying Alaska while doing it.
Here’s my list of 20 outdoor things to do for the summer of 2014:
1. Hike a new trail. Rather than making the mistake of naming specific trails that I want to hike as I have in past years, i.e. Pinnell Mountain Trail, Kesugi Ridge, etc., I took a new tack this year by making it more generic in hopes that it would be more feasible. That said, both those trails are still on my short list of candidates for this item but this opens the door for other possibilities, too, that might not be quite as arduous.
2. Do the Dome Grand Slam.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work, though I have yet to make it work: You mountain bike to the top of Murphy Dome, run to the top of Ester Dome, and hike to the tops of Donnelly Dome and Wickersham Dome. If you’re really tough — and stupid — you do it all in one day.
3. Try geocaching. A new addition to the list. It’s all the rage among GPS nerds, which I am definitely not. But I do own a GPS, which I have never even tried to use, and this would be a good way to learn how to use it.
4. Spend at least a dozen nights in a tent. It’s on my list every year and it’s one of the few things I can accomplish, even if it means camping out in the back yard. As I say every year, any summer that requires two hands to count the number of nights you slept in a tent is a good one.
5. Try packrafting. This is the summer I’m going to scratch this one off my list. I made a promise to Fairbanks’ packrafting guru, Ed Plumb, owner of Northern Alaska Packrafts, who has been badgering me for several years to give packrafting a try and this is the year I’m going to take him up on his offer to take me out on a trip.
6. Do an epic mountain bike ride.
Last year, my wife, Kristan, and I rode the Compeau Trail to the Little Chena Dozer Line to Chena Hot Springs Road, an epic six-hour ride that was one of the highlights of my summer, at least once it was over. This summer, I’ve got my sights set on a 22-mile out-and-back ride on the Angel Creek Hillside Trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area (see item No. 17).
7. Go fishing. Whether it’s with a fly rod, spinning rod, halibut rod or a willow branch that I cut with my jackknife and tie a piece of fishing line and hook to; whether it’s for Arctic grayling in the Chena River, rainbow trout in Quartz Lake, northern pike in Minto Flats, king salmon in the Klutina River or halibut in Prince William Sound, I need to go fishing more, or at least some, this summer.
8. Get a moose. For the first time in 16 years of hunting, I came home empty handed last year and it was not a good feeling, which I am reminded of every time I open our freezer. We’ve still got enough moose burger to get us through the summer but the freezer will pretty much be empty (except for salmon, I hope) by the time hunting season rolls around.
9. Try rollerskiing. Another new one. It’s against my better judgment and I don’t own a pair of rollerskis but my 15-year-old, ski-crazy son, Logan, has been bugging me to try this since he started doing it last year as part of his summer ski training program. Borrowing a pair of rollerskis won’t be a problem; staying up on them may be.
10. Go stand-up paddleboarding on the Chena River. Yet another newbie. Stand-up paddleboarding hasn’t achieved the growing popularity of packrafts in Alaska, but I’m starting to see more SUP boards in Fairbanks and I think I know where I can get my hands on one. I tried it once in Australia several years ago, but I think the water is a little colder in Alaska, so I’ll be more motivated to stay on my board.
11. Climb a mountain. This is Alaska; we have more mountains than people, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one to climb. Actually, though, it is because getting to them isn’t easy and mountains in Alaska are pretty big. That said, I’m not talking about Mount McKinley. A few candidates on my short list include Mount Healy, Mount Prindle, Panorama Peak or Rainbow Mountain, aka Rainbow Ridge.
12. Go rock climbing. I’m not a climber and I’m afraid of heights so why do I keep putting this one on my list? Because, as climbers are fond of saying, it’s there. That and the fact that my climbing co-worker, cops reporter Sam Friedman, keeps bugging me to go to Grapefruit Rocks.
13. Go dip netting at Chitina. Something that should be on the list of anyone who lives in Fairbanks and likes to eat salmon. Even if you don’t like salmon, dip netting in the Copper River at Chitina is the quintissential Alaska experience — you’re standing on the bank of a raging, glacial river, surrounded by the snow-capped Wrangell Mountains, scooping 6- to 10-pound red salmon out of the water. It’s awesome.
14. Float a new river. Another situation where I decided against naming specific rivers I want to float, as I have done in past years. This shouldn’t be too hard, either, since I still have yet to take a float trip on the Chatanika River or paddle the Tanana River from Fairbanks to Nenana even though I’ve lived in Fairbanks for almost 25 years, but I’m hoping for something a little more sexy, say the Delta River or Birch Creek.
15. Do a century ride. I put it on my list last year and the farthest I think I rode was 30 miles. This year my plan is to enter the Chena Hot Springs Classic on June 28 and bike from Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs and back to my house at 15 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road, which should be about 105 miles. My butt is already sore thinking about it.
16. Grow a red tomato. OK, so this one isn’t necessarily a physical activity, but it’s not easy to do in Fairbanks, especially when you don’t own a greenhouse. But I scored a free half dozen tomato plants from Jens Sorenson, the News-Miner maintenance guy, and I’m going to grow them on the deck in front of my house.
17. Bike to a backcountry cabin. I didn’t do it last year and I’m determined to do it this year, especially since I can kill two birds with one stone by biking the Angel Creek Hillside Trail to the Upper Angel Creek Cabin in the Chena River State Recreation Area (see item No. 6).
18. Go hiking in Denali National Park and Preserve. This is another new one I added to the list this year. I’ve biked in Denali but I’ve never hiked in Denali. Even if it’s just a day hike, I think it would be neat to see the Denali backcountry from ground level and it would be a new trail (see item No. 1).
19. Go swimming at Chena Lake. I’ve lived in Fairbanks for almost 25 years and I’ve never gone swimming in Chena Lake, which is why I added this one to my list this year. Last summer probably would have been the summer to do it because it was so hot, but I’m sure we’ll have a few hot days this summer. It will be worth a case of swimmer’s itch to scratch this one off my list.
20. Find a new camping spot. The idea is to camp somewhere where I’ve never camped before, whether it’s pitching a tent in a state campground, spending the night on a gravel bar somewhere or sleeping in the car in a highway pullout on the way home from Chitina (see item No. 13).
As always, hope to see you on the trail, road, river or mountain top.