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Showing posts from 2020

Barbara Falls or Southfork Falls (Winter Wonderland)

The hike to Barbara Falls (also known as South Fork Falls*) can be done in any season. The frozen winter (silent) falls can be as spectacular as the noisy summer falls. There are two ways to get to this 60 foot beauty in Eagle River, Alaska. The easiest and shortest way is to drive to the gate at the bottom of Ken Logan Circle. Then walk about a half-mile on old roads from the end of Ken Logan Circle (in a neighborhood off Hiland Road.)   Please respect private property. Depending on your route to the falls, you may be walking in a right-of-way on or near private property. Short Route:  Take the Glenn Highway about 10 miles north to Eagle River Loop and exit toward the mountains. Turn right at the first light onto Hiland Road. Continue uphill about 3.3 miles and turn left onto River View Drive into a neighborhood. Veer left as it becomes Waterfall Drive, then follow until it dead-ends into River Park Drive. Continue right to Ken Logan Circle. Most of the circle is signed off-limits t

Pack Llamas on Alaska's Public Lands

Pack llamas have historically played an important role on our public lands by both recreational and commercial users.  Low environmental impact has long been recognized as the pack llama’s advantage over traditional pack animals.  “A llama’s foot is split into two toes, with a toenail on top and a leathery pad on the bottom. The print left in the soil is quite similar in appearance to that of an elk or deer. The design of a llama’s foot allows it to spread on soft ground, thereby distributing weight over a slightly larger area. They are much smaller than most equine pack stock with the average pack llama weighing between 300-400 pounds.”  The Impacts of Llamas as Hiking Companions  (An International Llama Association publication ).  These sure-footed pack animals are also used by public agencies for trail and park maintenance as they are in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, there have been proposals by government agencies to ban llamas from our public lands based on a perceived &q

ILR Joins Fight Against Alaska Llama Ban

The International Llama Registry (ILR) has joined with Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association (GALA) "in a legal challenge to attempt to reverse the recent ban by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service of llamas on the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Llama owners and organizations have been successful in reversing proposed bans in several other situations beginning in 1996 by demonstrating there is no scientific evidence that llamas pose a disease risk to other species in the wild. We are hopeful that this lawsuit will reverse the decision that has been made in Alaska. The effects of this Rule are not confined to the ANWR. This Rule also threatens the llama species and industry as a whole because it mislabels llamas as disease vectors, which will serve as the leading statement for the undesirability of llamas as carriers of disease to wildlife and domestic animals. The Rule therefore threatens the continued use of llamas as pack animals throughout

Hike to Heritage Falls (Featured Winter Hike)

Why I Like This Hike:   This section of the Historic Iditarod Trail starts from the Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC) and makes for a splendid hike any time of  year especially in the winter after a fresh snowfall. The well-established trail is truly an all-season hike with potential for wildlife viewing and doable for all skill levels. Background : The Historic Iditarod (aka Crow Pass) Trail which spans the Girdwood Valley to Eagle River is considered one of the best trails to hike in the Chugach mountain range because it offers such diversity including glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife. Not only a great hiking/backpacking route, it's also an historic portion of the Iditarod Trail that led from Seward to mines in the Interior. A bit of trivia not known by many is that this trail was rebuilt in the 1970s with girl scout labor. Moose on trail near ERNC How to Get There:   For driving directions to the trailhead at the ERNC go to this link  ERNC Website .  Or go to Google

Final Rule by the USFWS banning pack llamas in ANWR

In April 2020, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a proposal to prohibit the use of pack llamas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as part of a proposed regulation package. The rationale for this ban was based on a perceived camelid "disease risk" which is not supported by science. (For background on the proposal go to this blog post - USFWS Attempting to Ban Pack Llamas in ANWR ) The llama user group made extensive comments during the open pubic comment period which closed June 8, 2020 and also participated in a public meeting held via teleconference due to the pandemic.  Public comment and public testimony clearly demonstrated the USFWS camelid "disease risk" hypothesis was indefensible. Furthermore multiple procedural violations by USFWS were noted. (Go to this link for more on procedural violations -  NEPA Violations ) The USFWS ignored science and came out with a final rule effective August 31, 2020 which prohibits/bans use of

Reflections Lake

Why I Like this Hike:  With easy access right off the Glenn Highway, the improved two mile trail around Reflections Lake is an excellent choice for young children, families or handicapped. It's also an all-season hike which borders wetlands with a wildlife viewing tower. How to Get There:  Reflections Lake is located at the Knik River Access ramp just north of Palmer on the Glenn Highway.  Google Map - Reflections Lake I stopped there recently and was pleasantly surprised to see improvements made to the trail around the lake - bridges, interpretive signs and even a viewing tower. Reflections Lake was originally a gravel pit used for construction of the Glenn Highway. Through the years it became an informal shooting range and repository for abandoned vehicles and junk appliances. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a cleanup of the mostly lead contamination (from shooting) so that the site could be restored as a park. It’s now a quiet retreat just off the

Eagle and Symphony Lakes Loop (Featured Fall Hike)

This hike through the beautiful South Fork Valley and over the mountains into Ship Creek offers stunning views of alpine lakes (Eagle and Symphony), tarns and valleys surrounded by rugged, glaciated mountains. During September and early October (until the first snowfall) you will have the added bonus of vibrant fall colors.  The trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes starts from the South Fork trailhead parking lot and is well established. This section can usually be hiked in October and well into winter depending on snow conditions. Go to this link for info about the Eagle & Symphony Lakes trail:  Hike to Eagle-symphony-lakes To take the loop back to  the South Fork parking lot, proceed to the west side of Symphony Lake where there are several camping spots if you decide to camp here for the night. If you decide to take the loop back, you will need good weather and navigation skills. Don't attempt this in the winter or in adverse weather, because you are hiking on ridges whe

Camelid Hypothetical Disease Risk - Myths & Misinformation Debunked

(Excerpt from comment to USFWS by Phil Nuechterlein) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing a regulatory addition to 50 CFR § 36.39 (k) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) stating that all domestic camelids are prohibited. USFWS concerns that camelids present a disease risk to wildlife in ANWR are clearly misguided and lack scientific evidence. The USFWS proposal to ban pack llamas unfairly eliminates a user group based on the false and misleading portrayal of pack llamas as a "disease threat" to wildlife. Although we have never packed for profit, the USFWS policy implicating pack llamas as a disease threat unnecessarily harms all of us that use pack llamas, including commercial llama packing enterprises in the lower 48 states. Rumor mongering knows no regional boundaries. The references cited by the USFWS as a basis for this proposed camelid prohibition in ANWR are not credible nor have they been peer reviewed. These same references have been evalua

Llamas Low Environmental Impact Make Them the Logical Choice for ANWR

As a recreational user of pack llamas on public lands in Alaska for almost 40 years, I have some very serious concerns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed regulatory addition to 50 CFR § 36.39 (k) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) stating that all domestic camelids (pack llamas) are prohibited. I appreciate that ANWR is located in a pristine, tundra environment and understand that USFWS is mandated to protect the fragile environment, including the wildlife, in this unique refuge with a world class reputation. However, I must question USFWS’s logic (and motive) in banning the use of pack llamas within ANWR for a plethora of reasons which I will explain in my objection to this proposed rule.  For many years it has been widely recognized that llamas have far less impact on the environment than traditional pack stock such as mules and horses. Low environmental impact has long been recognized as the pack llama’s advantage over traditional pack animals. An

Hike to Eagle & Symphony Lakes

Fall Colors Along the River (Symphony Lake) About This Hike:   This hike through the South Fork Valley offers stunning views of Eagle and Symphony Lakes, tarns and valleys surrounded by rugged, glaciated mountains. During September and early October (until the first snowfall) you will have the added bonus of vibrant fall colors. This trail is considered easy and can usually be hiked well into winter depending on snow conditions.  Directions to the trailhead: Take the Eagle River Loop/Hiland Road exit off the Glenn Highway just past the weigh station. Turn right at the traffic light onto Hiland and continue about eight miles up the road. Take a right onto South Creek and follow it to West River Drive and take another right. The parking lot is on your left. Google Directions  (Eagle Lake & boulder field in the foreground)  The trail to Eagle and Symphony Lakes starts from the South Fork parking lot.  It has become  extremely popular and the parking lot fills quickly even on weekday

Upper Ship Creek (August Featured Hike)

If you want to get off the beaten path for a more wilderness experience close to Anchorage, take a  hike in the upper Ship Creek drainage in Chugach State Park. To avoid snow and harsh weather in the passes and upper reaches, I generally hike there June through mid-September although you may be able to hike into November depending on weather.  My preferred access point is the South Fork trail head  (although there is access in Arctic Valley.) To get to the trail head, take the Eagle River Loop/Hiland Road exit off the Glenn Highway just past the weigh station. Turn right at the traffic light onto Hiland and continue about eight miles up the road. Take a right onto South Creek and follow it to West River Drive and take another right. The parking lot is on your left. The trail starts out on a boardwalk for a short distance and then turns into a trail that traverses the right side of the South Fork valley as you head away from the parking area. To access the Ship Creek drainage

Why Llamas Could Become Coronavirus Heroes

Llama antibodies show more and more promise as a cure for Corona Virus- Inspired by llamas’ unique antibodies, scientists create a potent anti-coronavirus molecule NBC News - Llamas serve surprising role in coronavirus antibody treatment Llamas hold great promise in the fight against the coronavirus and this has been getting more and more attention lately, especially in mainstream media.  Llamas have something most animals don't. "This strange property of producing these small simple antibodies," said John Aitchison of Seattle Children's Research Institute. It does not make llamas sick, but does allow them to naturally produce antibodies called nanobodies, which are collected in blood samples. The next step is to isolate specific nanobodies in the lab, find ones that work to combat COVID-19 and produce them in bacteria. The idea, eventually, is to make a treatment for coronavirus patients that may be administered deep in the lungs to keep COVID-19 from spreading