In The Rearview Mirror 2017 pt. 2

Flashback Friday



    The first day of April we went skiing into the mountains of Denali National Park. The ability to go skiing into the mountains of Denali is truly out of this world, or to just be able to go skiing in areas like that at all. Definitely something I took for granted while I was living there, now I understand what a different world I actually used to live in. Back in Madison Spring was well on its way. Went on a couple of trail runs and also planted the garden. Then, I signed up for a half marathon, and because I am the way I am, I wanted to run the route before the actual race. That combined with the fact that you actually do need a lot of training before committing to something like that made me hurt my chin, and I ended up not doing the real half-marathon. But, I did finish the half-marathon I ran on my own a week before the actual race, and celebrated with Swedish chocolate in bed. 


    By may we had full on summer. We went to Minneapolis and celebrated W's brother for graduating from law school. Garden was going really well, surprisingly well actually. We had some nice after work sessions at a local bar, that also has the most adorable dog. We went up to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. A forest that appeared to be infested with ticks. We went there for memorial day weekend, and managed to snag the very last spot at the campground at about 5pm in the evening. The days there were rainy, but we did manage to go on this amazing mountainbike trail, 12 miles in mixed weather conditions. We had everything from sun to hard on rainfall (which makes for an interest bike ride on slippery rocks). 


    We went on a couple of more mountainbike trails closer to Madison and then I went to Puerto Rico for fieldwork. I spent about a week in the rainforest on private land but also in El Yunque National Forest. Such a beautiful island and made me think of all the people that we met while we were there, later on when the hurricane hit. Especially this old nice lady who lived in a very simple house on top of a mountain. I still wonder what happened to her house and how she is. The rainforest has all sorts of poisonous and thornlike creations. Which is pretty interesting since there aren't any real large herbivores on the island. After having spent more than a week treading though the rainforest I finally got an hour or so at the beach. I never saw San Juan except for the airport. Not your regular type of tourist trip to the island I bet. Back in Madison I celebrated Midsummer by making a nice strawberry cake. I also managed to harvest my first beets, already in June, unbeliavable. 

In The Rearview Mirror 2017 pt. 1


Flashback Friday

First quarter of 2017

    I can not believe that 2017 passed so fast. My first whole year in Madison, Wisconsin. As always a lot of things happened during the year. In January we celebrated the second day of the new year by going downhill skiing, and in February we all of a sudden had 61 degrees F. Finally came March with a trip to my favorite place in the world, Alaska. 


    We spent the second day of the new year at Maverick Mountain, which is an old ski resort that just recently got reopened again. We drove there on January 1, braving bad road conditions and snowstorms. When we finally arrived we went to the hot springs, well they were hot springs but not really that hot unfortunately, but still fun (could also be because the temperature was between -20 to -30F). The next day we braved the cold (-20F) and were the first people on the ski lift. We skied in our down jackets, and I got tired after only a few runs. Before we traveled back to Madison we went to the Madison river outside Bozeman for a short hike and saw some cool wolf tracks. It was still cold in Madison once we got back, of course, but we did some curling indoors. 



    February brought some weird weather. It was cold, but then all of a sudden we got 60 degree weather. We went to Devils Lake state park on a very icy hike. We made some sausages with our new attachment to the Kitchen aid that we got for christmas. We went up to the Northwoods, no skiing but pretty hikes and lights. I finally got my sign up for my office, and felt like an official research specialist, finally. And then before you knew it, the ice on the lakes had melted. 



    February might have thawed the ice on the lakes and made the trees disoriented, but we still got snow events in March. I made the Swedish baked good Semla, but the mini version, for the second time this year. We also went to Guillermo del Toros exhibition at the art museum in Minneapolis. I love that director. Going through the exhibit was a mixture of wow and oh and eek. We also finally went back to Alaska for about a week. We went skiing to Castner Glacier, east of Fairbanks, on a sketchy ski trip that could have ended up in one of those pools of water by the trail. We also timed our visit to Denali and were lucky to be able to borrow our dear friends dry cabin there. What a trip.


Winter Travels and the White Mountains part. 3


Flashback Friday

Winter travels

    Last time I wrote about our winter travels in the White Mountains I left you with the story of our time at the first cabin, and the fact that it slowly started to snow, something that turned into a windy snowstorm during that night. If you want to read more about the beginning of this trip you can click on the below pictures.


Cold Snowy Wintermorning

As we awoke the next morning a thick blanket of snow was covering the cabin and all the forest surrounding us. We could not see the tracks we had made the night before. The wind had ben howling all night, to the point where I was wondering if the cabin would blow away or not. We made sure the day before to haul in enough wood for the next people to start a fire, and more wood for us to keep the cabin warm during the night. During the night we had taken turns tending the woodstove, but the fire was almost out once we woke up. It had been hard to keep the fire burning, and we burned through all the wood, and then some. The cold didn't bother us too much since we still needed to prepare for our next trip, the trip to Elezar's cabin. W had already waxed the skis the night before, and we started the fire again, and brought in some more firewood. Water is never an issue on these winter trips, since you have all the snow in the world surrounding you. You do need a small amount of water to start melting the snow though, otherwise it will burn and evaporate immediately. 

Leaving Lee's Cabin

    After a semi slow morning, packing and cleaning the cabin we were finally on the road again. There was a thick new layer of snow, and we kept breaking trail, which gets very hard after a while. Once we got to the turnout to go towards Elezar's cabin we started to doubt where we were going. It's not as easy to follow a trail if there isn't any trail. But a quick look at the map told us to go along the forest patch. So we did. We finally saw a man and his dog come up towards us on the trail, pushing his fatbike. He said he was suppose to meet his friend last night, but he had never showed. That made me worried. During the rest of our trip towards the second cabin we never saw this other guy, hopefully he made it to a trailshelter and was just resting up before continuing. 

Breaking Trail

    It was Sunday and no other person could be seen, well except the fatbike guy and his dog, that we had met earlier. We were breaking trail almost the whole way to Elezars cabin. There is a race that goes through the White Mountains, called the "White Mountains 100". That is a 100 mile race that you can do on foot, skis, or fatbike. It's very fun to follow, because each year is different. Some years the trail is more beneficial to skate skiers, whereas other years the fatbikers are the winners, and so on. All this BLM land allows for this enormous area, an area to roam free, to ski, skijour, dogmush or snowshoe if you are in to that. You can book these cabins to, for very cheap. They don't have any electricity or running water of course, but you don't really need that anyway. After about halfway towards the Elezar's cabin a couple of snowmachiners came through and broke trail for us. The first time ever I really appreciated the sound of a snowmachine. 


Slushy Snow

    Some of the areas we ski over are semi submerged in water, because there are creeks that you can't necessarily see with all that snow. Scraping off that wet slush from your skis is a must, before it turns to ice and make it even harder to ski. But can we talk about the weather? After a pretty grey morning the sun started to peak through the clouds, and now we could actually see blue sky! Maybe we could even see some aurora in the evening....wishful thinking I'd say. 


Towards Elezar's Cabin

    And then finally we came to the turnout towards Elezar's cabin. There, up the hill is where it lays. We were again left with breaking trail towards the cabin, and this time we also knew that this meant the cabin would be cold. I admit, I was a bit tired. It's hard to ski far, and also hard to break trail. It's about seven miles between Lee's cabin and Elezar's cabin, so not that far after all. 



    We arrived pretty early in the afternoon and got a glimpse of a beautiful sunset later on. After we got the fire going and some hot drinks we got the cribbage board out and started playing. It's a pretty nice feeling to be on your own, out in a cabin far from everyone else, a place with no cell service or electricity. I went out several times during the sunset to try to take some pictures of the beautiful light. 


Endless Mountains

    There is something about that calm, that calm you only get away from eveyrone else. I miss it. That absolute silence, no loud noises, no cars driving by your window. Absolute solitude, well, apart from being with your partner of course. It makes me feel more alive, to be able to be out there, in the wilderness. Disconnected from everyone. I miss it.



    As the darkness fell over the cabin on top of this hill I had high hopes, high hope of some northern lights. The night was a bit cloudy, and I left my GoPro out in case that aurora decided to stop by. It didn't. Still the moon casted a bright light over the cabin that night. A reminder that even in the darkest time there is always a light out there for us.


The Wall

    The final morning we woke up early. We had a long stretch back, well about 12 miles or so. Both of us were also a bit nervous. Nervous that the car wouldn't start, and we aimed to be back before the dark was setting, just in case we needed to get some help from any passing car on the highway. I managed to snap a few pictures before we started our journey. The final stretch of trail also includes what some people refer to as the Wall, its a 1 mile hill, including a climb of about 600 feet. It's a struggle. However, we were semi lucky since we got all that snow the other day. The way towards Elezar's cabin had been smooth traveling down the Wall. I can not imagine going down that hill in a luge like track, which I know is often created in these areas. 


    We finally arrived back at the car, and the final stretch we were passed by some other snowmachiners. W skied fast back towards the car, because if the car did not start, at least there were some other people there to get a jump from. But, we were lucky, my car started on the first go and we were happy, happy but tired. When were you last out on a winter adventure?


The Death of one's Wilderness


It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extra ordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations. - Jimmy Carter


National Parks and Wildlife Refugees a story that is not always nice

    Back in the day, when the first National Park formed in 1872, Yellowstone National Park, it was not only to protect the wilderness, but to also create the human perception of a wilderness, an uninhabited wilderness, pushing the Native American's out of their wilderness.

“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” - The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act

    Ignoring the fact that in reality what was created, was a rather unnatural habitat with the subsequent fire suppression and the predator elimination. Also, ignoring the fact that this land was partially Native American land. This perception that no one should live inside these parks, including Native Americans was also shared by environmentalists and writers, such as John Muir. 

    The wilderness act that was stated in 1964 defines the wilderness as:

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." - 1964 Wilderness Act

“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Source: Birth of a National Park

"Secretary of the Interior Lucius Lamar felt the new national parks should be managed to preserve "wilderness," in his mind defined as uncut forests and plentiful game animals." Source: Ethnic Cleansing and America's Creation of National Parks


    In fact, the Native American have a lot to teach us about sustainability and living off the land, caring for the environment, because if we do not, we wont get that much in return. We can have wilderness out there, along with people who are sustainably caring for their land. It is when we start to get greedy that things start to take a turn towards the dark side.

    Nowadays the view of the Native American's use of the land is somewhat changed, and in 1996 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was put in place. 

“The National Park Service recognizes that site-specific worship is vital to Native American religious practices. As a matter of policy and in keeping with the spirit of the law, and provided the criteria listed in section 8.2 for use of the parks are not violated, the Service will be as unrestrictive as possible in permitting Native American tribes access to park areas to perform traditional religious, ceremonial, or other customary activities at places that have been used historically for such purposes." - NPS Management Policy

    Today we also have the Native American Policy which is suppose to improve the government-to-government relationships. 

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature

    In 1995 Professor William Cronon wrote an article that highlight this exact issue, the problem with wilderness as it is created by us humans due to our perception on how a wilderness in fact should, or should not be. Back in the day the wilderness was defined as desolate, barren or a wasteland, and it was concluded that wilderness is indeed based on your own consciousness. The reason why I am bringing this up is because it seems that some politicians are stuck in this perception of wilderness as a wasteland.


Once Alaska is in your blood you will never shake it

    As you all know Alaska has a special place in my heart, just like many other place do too. When I walk out into nature and see all these mountains, rivers, deep deep forests, sandstone formations, open vistas, tundra, glaciers and many many other views I feel it in my heart. Of course this does not only happen in Alaska. You know that feeling of such joy that you don't really know if you should laugh or cry. It's not only Alaska I love, I love the wilderness, with all these great open spaces that comes with it. I want to keep these wild places wild, and would rather not develop any of these place for oil or natural gas. Did you know that back in the day the government wanted to test a nuclear bomb up in Alaska, because there is nothing there to be destroyed? I let you think about that for a moment, but that is a whole different story than the story here today. 


"No other region of America has seen less human impact than the northeastern corner of Alaska"


The Sacred Place Where Life Begins

   There is a place far up north in Alaska, where caribou go to calve between May and July, some people call it the "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins", whereas others refer to it as the 1002 area. Regardless of what you call it, both areas are within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Few things gets me as riled up as the increasing environmental issues this country are facing for each day that passes. The fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is nothing new, in fact it has been going on for decades. The Gwich'in people depend on these areas, largely because they depend on the caribou, and the caribou depend on the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain. This area has always been seen as a sacred place, for thousands of years. 


America's last truly Great Wilderness

    Many people are calling the ANWR America's last truly great wilderness. The Gwich'in calls it home. As I said, this battle has been going on for decades, more than 40 years, today is the closest we have been to develop parts of this refuge into an oil drilling environment. I can not understand how we as humans can become so greedy, so greedy of more and more and more, that we are willing to sacrifice our most beautiful parts of this world, the wilderness. But then again, the thought of beauty and wilderness can mean very different things depending on who you ask.

"man's endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and to destroy would inevitably evolve into a war against himself, a war he would lose unless he came to terms with nature." - Rachel Carson

Gwich'ins Battle

    I share, once again, the short but very important documentary about the Gwich'ins fight against the greedy politicians who want to squeeze every little bit of oil from these barren wastelands, as they refer it to. This is the Gwich'ins story:

 “A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be. And we're surrounded by the greatest of all wildernesses -- the universe.”  - Gary Snyder, NY times 1994

    What is your definition of the wilderness? Do you believe that a wilderness has to be free of any people or can you see a place as wild, even though people are actually living there?