News Archive

June 15, 2017
GOLD RUN CREEK --- This clear waterway running through boreal swampland marks the farthest Cora and I will be from a highway during our summer hike along the route of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. If we chose to bust overland southwest toward Banner Creek, we would have to cover at least nine boggy miles before we reached the Richardson Highway. Backtracking to the nearest pipeline access road would...
June 8, 2017
RIKA'S ROADHOUSE -- Sitting in the shade of a poplar, I watch the Tanana River flow by. It's flat and tan, dimpled by eddies and darted over by swallows that sound like they are chewing rubber bands. I slept last night with my wife, daughter and dog in the upstairs of a handsome, two-story log structure that has stood since before World War I. Tonight, Cora and I will sleep there again. Judy...
June 1, 2017
Who is this girl, hair in braids, emerging from the tent with a full backpack? She is 10 years old, a recent fourth grade graduate, out here with a friend from her class. Within the 20-year-old tent they share, they stay up for hours, chatting and giggling. It is mountain music. The girl, my daughter Anna, spoke to me a few days ago as I walked beside her. "I'm never coming out here again to hike...
May 31, 2017
Nothing makes Greg Shipman and his colleagues happier than a challenge. “We have to be ready for whatever walks through that door,” said Shipman, manager of the machine shop at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. Often, that means creating something mechanical for scientists. Earlier this spring, their work took a more prosthetic turn. A radiologist at Fairbanks Memorial...
May 25, 2017
When I walked this same path 20 years ago, I averaged six miles each day. After a few weeks in 2017 of hiking the path of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, it seems easy to do 10 miles a day. Back then, sometimes my backpack weighed 60 pounds. I'm trying to keep it half that weight now. I started from Valdez with a load of 32 pounds. Most of the reduction is due to clever people who have engineered...
May 24, 2017
Scientists developing a project to study the Earth’s crust in China are looking toward EarthScope, a similar project in the U.S., as a model for multidisciplinary science and open data sharing. Representatives from the SinoProbe project visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute this week after the 2017 EarthScope National Meeting in Anchorage. The 16 Chinese scientists...
May 18, 2017
I walked around the chain-link fence of Pump Station 12 of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, apprehensive about the human encounter to come. It was time to send a weekly column. I needed a Wi-Fi signal or a cellular bar or two. I had walked more than a week through air devoid of communications waves. With Cora on a leash and me having not spoken to anyone all day, I reached the gate of the pump station...
May 11, 2017
In the early going of my second hike across Alaska along the route of the Trans-Alaska pipeline, I chose to walk the highway rather than the pipe's route to get up Thompson Pass north of Valdez. The road added six miles to our day. But I tried the pipe route up the pass 20 years ago and it was like trying to climb a 90-meter ski jump. Most of my mileage so far on this trip has been on the...
May 4, 2017
PORT VALDEZ--We have launched on the pipeline hike version 2.0, 20 years after the first time. I'm now sitting on the muscled root of a Sitka spruce by the pleasant rush of a creek. A bald eagle shrieks from the top of a tree nearby while a diesel ship engine thrums from the Valdez Marine Terminal a few miles away. These rainforest woods, so different from my boreal forest home, have already...
May 1, 2017
The monetary impact of changes in snowfall due to climate change is likely in the trillions of dollars. Professor Matthew Sturm, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, reported in a recent paper for the American Geophysical Union that the costs of snowfall changes are “measured in trillions, not billions, of dollars.” Sturm collaborated on the invited paper with Michael...