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Winter Safety in Alaska: Don’t Make a Second Mistake

Alaska winter

When I first moved to Alaska, it was summer, and summers in Alaska are glorious – absolutely beautiful. However, I was warned. Winter is coming. If you want to survive Alaska and remain a resident for longer than a season or two, you need to find an activity that you can do during the winter months. This meant not only having the right clothing to go outside, but having the right clothing that would be good for staying outside for prolonged periods. The other important piece of information I was given about living in Alaska is that it usually isn’t the first mistake that kills you; it’s the mistakes that follow through poor decision making.

There are a lot of winter activities that people can engage in: skiing, cross country skiing, skijoring, snowshoeing, ice skating, and more. Trekking through the winter wonderland that Alaska becomes is amazing in its own right, as long as you can stay warm. Fortunately, I had a friend who introduced me to geocaching.

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt. Geocachers hide ammo cans or Tupperware, mark the coordinates and publish those at geocaching.com. Other cachers seek those boxes. They sign the log book, trade items, and enjoy the wonderful outdoors.

My friend and I had one rule about winter geocaching. If the temperature was lower than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, we stayed at home. Living in Anchorage the weather was relatively temperate, so those 10-degree days were fewer and farther between than some places inland.

One Saturday, early in winter, the temperature pushed up to 10 degrees, and we got our gear together. We chose our destination, got our warm clothes on and headed out to the car. I wore plastic pants to keep melting snow from making my pants wet. They had buttons so that I could reach into my pants pockets if I had to.

We went into the park hiked around and came to a stream. It wasn’t completely frozen over. There was ice on top, but the stream moved beneath. We could walk to the bridge, but it was far away and I was cold. More importantly, the arrow pointed right across the stream. I convinced my friend that we could cross using the branch that hung below the water. It would just be a short jump. He made it. I didn’t.

I fell through the ice. The stream ran into my plastic pants and into my shoes. I had wool on, so I thought I should be okay. My friend knew better. With the cache just feet away, I thought we should go get it. He said no. We were going to go get a pizza and go home. It wouldn’t look good for a director of health and safety (my job title at the time) to get hypothermia or frostbite because he was too dumb not to make the second mistake.

He was right. Getting wet wasn’t really an immediate issue. Staying out there would’ve created a bigger problem. So, we went back home. I took a warm shower and changed into dry clothes and then we ate pizza. Geocaching was one of two activities that I engaged in to make it through the winter. Subscribe to this blog and don’t miss when I post about the next one.

In Alaska, you may have to know how to protect yourself against long, dark winters and cold weather, but you do not have to know how to protect yourself against penguins, because there are no penguins in Alaska. I know because I wrote the book. Preorder the eBook on Amazon or preorder a hard copy coloring book here at penguinate.com.

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Moose Safety in Alaska: Don’t Pet the Moose.

Moose

I stepped out of my apartment door on the ground level and my breath misted as I bent down to pick up the Sunday paper. I stood up and about ten feet away from me was a moose. “Good morning, Mr. Moose,” I said and backed slowly into the apartment closing the door.

A lot of people are under the misconception that bears are the most dangerous animal in Alaska. The thing is bears are predictable. You can predict what a bear is going to do based on the circumstances. If you’re running, the bear will chase you; it’s predatory instinct. If a black bear attacks, it’s intending to eat you. If a grizzly attacks, it’s most likely protecting something, usually cubs, sometimes food or territory. Bears mostly avoid people, so as long as you don’t surprise them, you can keep yourself safe – for the most part.

Moose, on the other hand, are unpredictable. Moose are huge, so they don’t perceive threats the same way we would. In fact, it often seems that moose are unaware of people. Tourists will pet them on the nose, and nothing will happen. These tourists are stupid. A moose may not perceive a threat when a person approaches. It may not perceive a threat when the person reaches his or her hand out to touch the moose. It may not even perceive a threat when the person touches it. When the person turns his or her back, the moose could perceive a threat and attack. A moose can kick a wolf dead. So, while they look like big, dumb cows, they are the most dangerous animal in Alaska.

Protecting yourself from moose means just staying away from them. Even if they just get startled and trample you, they can cause serious injuries. Moose are wild animals and not meant to be petted. Admire their magnificence from afar, but if you see a couple of moose on a trail turn around and go back the way you came. Moose are docile until the moment they are not, and no one can say when that moment is.

When you go to Alaska, you don’t have to worry about protecting yourself from penguins. There are no penguins in Alaska. I wrote the book on it; available for preorder at Amazon.com as an eBookor as a coloring book on penguinate.com. Preorder yours today.

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Get a printed proof of ‘There Are No Penguins in Alaska’

There are no penguins in Alaska

You want a super exclusive version of “There Are No Penguins In Alaska”? Order in the next eight hours from my website, and I will send you a signed and numbered, limited edition printed proof. The number will be limited to however many people can get their order in within the next eight hours on Jan 17, 2019. That’s when I put my order in to the printer.

How Exclusive?

I already have 10 set aside. These coloring books feature all of the animals and drawings from Transcend Studio along with my words. There are black bears, grizzly bears and polar bears… But there are no penguins in Alaska. There are lots of animals, but there are no penguins in Alaska.

Before the Official Release

With 24 inside pages to color on A3 paper so that the book is roughly 8.5 by 11. There’s no better time to get this coloring book before its official release date. Once you have it, you can review at my website or on Amazon where it’s awaiting its release an eBook. Put your order in now because it expires soon.

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The Non-Kickstarter for ‘There Are No Penguins in Alaska’

There are no penguins in Alaska

There is a lot of misinformation about Alaska that Alaskans hear from tourists and see in movies and TV. Some people think the money is different. Some people think everyone lives in an igloo. Some people think that there’s gold lying on the beaches waiting to be picked up. And some people ask where they can see the penguins in Alaska. There are no penguins in Alaska.

When I left Alaska in 2012 and traveled through the Lower 48, I got asked a lot of questions about my time in Alaska. Does it really stay light for 24 hours a day in summer? How cold does it get really? What do you do for fun in the winter? What’s the best part of living in Alaska? Why did you leave? Did you see any penguins while you were there? I would answer each of the questions as well as I could. For the last question, I would point out that Polar Bears would eat the penguins and that there are no penguins in Alaska.

That trip gave me an idea for a book: “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.” The idea would remain just that until 2018 when I published my first book, “My Life in the Projects: A kid’s-eye view of HUD housing in the 1980s.” Once I realized I could publish books, I also realized I could publish my penguin book. The problem was I let my art skills degrade for a long time and was no longer up to the task of drawing what I needed to make “There Are No Penguins in Alaska.”

Well, my art skills haven’t improved much over the last year, but fortunately, I was able to find a couple of artists to do the work. Antonisa Scot and Oscar Feliz of Transcend Studio put together “There Are No Penguins in Alaska” and now it’s ready to be published. In fact, you can preorder it on Kindle and as a hard copy coloring book at penguinate.com. However, there is a catch.

In order to publish “There Are No Penguins in Alaska” as a coloring book at a reasonable price ($2 per book my cost to retail at $4), I need to order 750 or more copies. That’s $1500 for anyone playing along. I could get fewer copies, but the price goes up pretty drastically, capping out at $5 a copy for 50 copies. That’s only (Haha! Only!) $250 but then I would have to charge $10 per book to make any money. Who’s going to buy a coloring book for $10? Maybe you, since you’re reading this, but not most people. Most people won’t even spend that on a regular kid’s book or any eBook.

Other writers or artists, at this point, would probably launch a Kickstarter, or maybe they would’ve launched it sooner. I, on the other hand, realize that I will publish this book in one form or another, and a Kickstarter would take away from my opportunity to write more books before I start touring the inland states in June where I will sell my books at Lilac City Comicon in Spokane, City Cakes and Cafe in Salt Lake City, Ogden UnCon in Ogden and Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con in Las Vegas, as well as any other bookstores, coffee shops or venues on the way that will have me.

In lieu of running a Kickstarter, which would definitely kill one or both of the books I plan on finishing before June, I am offering a presale. The price for the preorder is set at $8 in case I have to settle for the higher printing costs and to account for shipping and handling, which is more expensive than people would believe. If I can get 80 preorders of the hard copy and/or the Kindle version of the book, I will find the other money I need to print the rest of them. Even if only two people preorder, I am still going to print them, just not in the massive quantity of 750 or for the cheaper price.

This is a challenge. I haven’t sold 80 of any single book, so this preorder, if it works, would make “There Are No Penguins in Alaska” my most popular book. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your interest and support. Please share this page to your social media network, tag me and add “#penguinate.”

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Bear Safety for Runners in Alaska

bear
Photo by Rasmus Svinding on Pexels.com

I went running in Juneau on a particularly stressful day, got to the end of the trail and headed back to the car. As I ran around the corner, I saw a black bear’s butt. The wind was blowing at me, and the black bear didn’t see me. I backed up slowly and quietly until I couldn’t see the bear anymore. Then I realized I had to go through the bear to get to my car, and my lunch break was ending.

Look, in Alaska, if you’re faced with an animal, bear or moose, you can be late to work, and no one bats an eyelid. “There was a moose in your yard? Huh. Well, glad you waited and are here now.” Even so, I don’t like to be late, but I was stuck as to what I should do. Then, I decided to sing. That way the bear knew I was there. “Look for the Bear Necessities” was the first song I came up with. There was another bear song, and then I decided to check the path. Whether it was the quality of my singing or just the fact that I was making noise, there was no bear, but I kept singing as I ran to the car.

When I got to the main trail, I saw another runner and warned him of the bear in the area. He said “Thanks” and started shouting “Hey Bear” as he ran past. I always thought that was a joke played on chechakos (newbies; greenhorns) when they came to Alaska.

Every year in Alaska, inevitably, there is a report about a runner who was attacked by a bear. Usually the attack takes place in or near Anchorage, and the runner is an experienced Alaska. The actions that a person should take depend on the type of bear. A black bear that attacks is probably going to eat you, so you need to fight back. A grizzly bear that attacks is usually just trying to eliminate you as a threat; these attacks generally take place when a cub is nearby. Cover up your neck and head while lying with your face to the ground.

It sounds easy enough. Yet, one experienced runner, who ran between a Grizzly mother and her cub and was knocked down by the bear, got up to run away. The bear knocked him down again. He got up a third time, and he got knocked down again. He told the news reporter he knew what he was supposed to do, lie down and play dead, but it was just too hard to do it with all those teeth in his face.

The problem with running in the Last Frontier is that three-fold: runners tend not to be aware of their surroundings intentionally, running is a silent activity, and running triggers the predatory instinct in bears – if it’s running it must be food, and when the bears are out, they are looking for calories.

As a runner (or a person in general), you should always be aware of your surroundings, no matter where you are. Bears may not exist in every state, but there are threats that are worse. Using earbuds to listen to music while running (I’ve been guilty of this) is a great motivator, and a great way to miss something you should have seen. It’s nice to have a beat to step to, but it isn’t safe, especially if it cuts out the other sounds you should be listening for, like the movement of underbrush or a footfall behind you.

Most runners like to run in silence, especially if they are working out and they are breathing heavily. However, your workout shouldn’t cause you to breathe so heavily that you can’t hold a conversation. In Alaska, shouting “Hey Bear!” as you run is a great way to deter an attack. Bears usually avoid people. By letting them know where you are, the bears will go around you, and you’ll never even know they’re there.

Running is a good stress reliever and can take off the weight quickly. Just be sure to be safe when you’re on the trail and always consult a doctor before starting any exercise regime.

While you may need to know how to protect yourself against bears in Alaska, you don’t need to worry about penguins because there are no penguins in Alaska. I should know. I wrote the book on it and you can preorder a hard copy coloring book from penguinate.com or an eBook from Amazon.

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‘There Are No Penguins in Alaska’ available for preorder

There are no penguins in Alaska

In case you haven’t heard, “There Are No Penguins in Alaska,” and I wrote the book on it. Penguins, polar bears and Eskimos all live in colder climates, so many people come to Alaska expecting to see penguins! However, there are no penguins in Alaska.

If you would like to know what kinds of animals live in Alaska, my children’s story, featuring the drawings of Antonisa Scott and Oscar Feliz of Transcend Studio, talks about bears, sea life, birds and more while imploring the reader to remember that there are no penguins in Alaska. It’s available on Kindle for preorder and will be delivered Feb 28, 2019. You can preorder a hard copy coloring book here at penguinate.com!

Alaska is a beautiful country with wonderful summers and long, dark winters. To experience it fully, you really need to live there. If that doesn’t appeal to you now, after going through this coloring book, it may, especially if you have an irrational fear of flightless birds because there are no penguins in Alaska. Get your copy ordered today!

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Raven Vs. Gull

“AAAAAAAAA!”  The man went running by screaming as loudly as he could.  His bag was flapping against his hip.  The raven noticed that it wasn’t latched.

The bear went by a moment later.  Seeing opportunity, the raven flew into the air and followed the two creatures through the wilderness.

It was obvious that the bear was toying with the man – running leisurely, catching up to the man, taking a half-hearted swipe at the legs and falling back again.

The man, on the other hand, was terrified.  He didn’t noticed when his hat flew off.  He lost a shoe at the last turn, and it looked like his bag was about ready to dump its contents.  He, also, hadn’t stopped screaming since the raven first spotted him running down the trail.

The bear was gaining on the man again.  He took a swipe and snagged his claw on the bag.  Something silver tumbled out as the man ran faster than the raven thought men could run.  The bear was too busy to notice what he had knocked loose.  Bear and man continued down the trail; raven lit upon the top of a pine.

He looked down at the trail.  It was a…  No, it couldn’t be…  But it was – a FISH!  The raven called out his claim to the fish at the same time that another call came from the tree exactly opposite to him.  Raven recognized the call as that of a gull.  He called back to the gull in the gull’s language.  The gull responded with a threat.  The raven returned the threat.  They eyed each other.  Both left their trees at the same time and clashed in mid air.  Black, white and gray feathers fell from the sky and onto the trail.

The birds returned to opposite sides of the trail.  The raven knew he was smarter and more sophisticated than the gull, but the gull was cunning when it came to procuring food to satisfy its voracious appetite.  He called to the gull.  The gull ignored him – its mind was consumed with the thought of its next meal.

The gull darted out from its tree.  The raven intercepted him.  The gull shouted “MINE!  MINE!  MINE!” as the two birds fell to the ground, claws interlocked, beaks snapping.  They pecked, snapped, scrabbled and flapped.  They scratched and screamed.  They hopped on each other – neither gained a clear advantage.

Both tired, they stepped away from each other.  Black eyes stared into gold eyes.  Both squinted.  Their chests heaved as they tried to regain their breath.  Then, the raven heard something.  He cocked his head to keep one eye on the gull and to look at where the other sound was coming from.

There, where the fish had been, sat three bloated magpies – clattering away like some old hens.  The fish was no where to be seen.

Author’s Note: Living in Alaska gave me time to explore the wilderness and watch animal behavior in the wild. My time wandering the streets of Anchorage, where a gull attacked me, and through the woods near and far in the rest of the state gave me the experience I needed to write this story. What life experience have you used to further your creativity?