Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Advertisements
Posted on 1 Comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.