Good morning and greetings, Arctic Circle fans. It’s time to play, name that guest blog, as today we are heading due north to the Yukon. Jerry Hoffman, my former radio partner and a Bill Mazeroski look-alike, journeyed to the state called America’s last frontier to file this post. So here, in mostly his own words, I bring you the Don King of the central coast and former model for the Men’s Wearhouse, Jerry Hoffman.
Just returned to Santa Cruz after two weeks in the other Sunshine State, Alaska! 14 days without a cloud or UFO in the sky. Temperatures were sub-zero most the time, and reached 30 below in Fairbanks on my departure morning. Just the way I like it on a vacation. Luckily I had packed my thermal shorts.
It hovered around zero in Anchorage upon our arrival via the Alaska Railroad, and warmed up to single digits while skiing the Alyeska Resort, about 45 minutes south in Girdwood. The sights along Seward Highway adjacent to Turnagain Arm were spectacular, as ice chunks of all sizes along with tiny harpoon-throwing eskimos floated by with the tide. This was the inlet with no outlet pass that stymied Captains Cook and Crunch over 300 years ago, and forced the nautical explorers to turn around again in their third navigation journey through the glaciers and fjords along the Alaskan coast.
In a land where Rocky and moose routinely visit any neighborhood or roadway, a variety of wildlife is ever present. Soaring eagles, cliff-skirting white mountain goats, and communing caribou were commonplace. Snow covered mountains and volcanoes rose from every coastline on the Kenai Peninsula, thousands of feet in all directions. From Anchorage, Mount McKinley, the highest point in North America, except for any party after the Grammy Awards, can be seen 240 miles northwest by the way the humungous ravens fly or the eagles on Friday.
I was joined on this ”once in a lifetime” experience by 25 other journalists and a spokesmodel for NASJA. Our North American Snowsports Journalist Association annual convention was based at Alaska’s only destination ski resort, but four days of making turns in glorious sunshine at Alyeska was just an appetizer. No “freshies”, but vivid visibility, as the mountain ran the lifts till 5:30pm daily. Many groomed runs maintained their corduroy surface throughout the day with cold temperatures prevailing and very few folks or avalanches on the slopes. By late afternoon, off-piste (off the trail) skiing and riding improved as the sun softened conditions and my blemish-free clear skin.
This adventure to our 49th State, however, was not about the skiing or frostbite. A museum visit, the Iron Dog Snowmachine race and the World Championship of Ice Sculptures were Fairbanks highlights, which were barely bearable for this beach boy, as multiple layering and an ever present electric blanket never seemed to defrost my sinewy muscled body. Anchorage offered the ceremonial start to the 39th running of the Iditarod along with the Reindeer Run, where the antlered animals chased thousands of costumed party people with cease and desist orders.
The late February, early March activities made for a festive atmosphere, but apologies for so few still images capturing those moments. I did, however shoot and write video blogs covering these and other stories. Links to those are available at my website at www.12sportsonline.com. Just click the snowflake.
Our final day was spent sitting on the dock of Resurrection Bay. We cruised the waters outside of Seward on the south end of Kenai Peninsula and witnessed the beauty of darting dahl porpoises and Miami dolphins beside our vessel.
Despite the cold, clear nights, only glimpses of the Northern Lights (photo #6) were viewable. The aurora borealis did not put on the show we had hoped, breaching whales failed to make an appearance, and there was no new snow to blanket the incredible landscape and terrain at Alyeska, but the total package of Alaskan scenery, heritage and the grandeur of it all will be a memory to last a lifetime, or at least till my next guest blog here at Sunrise Santa Cruz.
Thank you, Jerry, for the up close and personal look at our Kodiak state. I would have accompanied my longtime friend up north, but that might have meant putting on pants and I chafe very easily. So now, here are a few more fun facts about my favorite state whose record low is minus 80 degrees. The record high is 100 degrees, from which they coined the term, “baked Alaska.”
Our 49th state was discovered in 1741, when Danish explorer Vitus Jonassen Bering sighted it on a voyage from Siberia. In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward offered Russia $7,200,000, or two cents per acre, for Alaska. They settled on a little under six cents. The purchase was sometimes referred to as “Seward’s Folly” by those who were apprehensive about Alaska making any contribution to the progress of the United States. Obviously, they saw Sarah Palin coming down the pike.
The name is based on the Eskimo word Alakshak, meaning great lands, peninsula and ”dammit, it’s cold, get back in the igloo.” Alaska is almost twice the size of Texas, or as big as England, France, Italy, Spain and Capitola combined. Much like my accountant, the state capital, Juneau, is not accessible by land, only by sea plane, hot air balloon, glass bottom boat, ferris wheel, submarine, ship of fools and subway, where foot longs are still just $5. There aren’t a lot of folks living in this land of the frozen tundra. If New York City had the same population density as Alaska, only 16 people and a woodchuck would be living in Manhattan. Which of course leads to the inevitable question, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
About five percent of Alaska is covered by glaciers and insurance, which encompasses more than half the world’s active glaciers. There are more than 3,000 rivers, three million lakes and one bait shop in Alaska. It has 29 volcanoes and contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the United States. And believe it on not, KGB fans, Alaska is only 50 miles from Russia, which, of course, Sarah Palin can see from her house.
For our scenic snack pack, photo credits for the first three shots go to Jerry Hoffman and photos four through six to Dino Vournas, the VP of the NASJA. My thanks to both gentlemen for these great shots of the place where I go when I want to swim with the orcas.
On to the late night. “President Obama went on ESPN to announce his NCAA tournament picks. Or, as Japan put it, ‘Really?’ President Obama is facing criticism for going on ESPN to pick his NCAA brackets when there are more important issues on his agenda. When he heard this, Obama said, “Wait . . . Was today my fantasy baseball draft?”–Jimmy Fallon “The situation is deteriorating in Libya and Japan and the stock market is collapsing worldwide. President Obama finally took decisive action. He named Duke, Kansas, Ohio State and Pittsburgh as his Final Four.” –Jay Leno
Newt Gingrich explained why he fooled around on his first two wives by saying he loved this country so much that it led him to cheating. He was so passionate about it he had to take his pants off. When I hear the National Anthem I just put my hand over my heart.” –Jay Leno “Newt Gingrich knows that before he throws his giant hat into the ring, he has to explain his past positions — specifically, why those positions were so often on top of women who weren’t his wife.” –Stephen Colbert
“Al-Qaida has now launched a woman’s magazine that will have everything from fashion to terror advice. Unfortunately, women are not allowed to read it.” –Jay Leno
“Al Qaeda has launched its own women’s magazine. I bought a copy, and I tell you right now, those ankles are totally airbrushed.” –Jimmy Fallon
“The day after daylight-saving time is supposed to be the worst day of the year for car accidents, because the lower sun in the sky makes it hard for people to read their tweets while driving.” –Jay Leno ”I forgot to set my clock forward, so a lot of these jokes may not be funny for another hour.”–David Letterman “It’s daylight-saving time, when we lose an hour of our lives. It’s like nature’s version of Facebook.”–Craig Ferguson
“Charlie Sheen is expanding his live tour. If you only get to see one live stage show featuring a man suffering from an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder this year, this is the one to see.”–Jimmy Kimmel “Charlie Sheen — he’s our new national pastime. Sorry baseball, call me when your foul lines are drawn with coke.” –Stephen Colbert “The Mexican government admitted that it has allowed the United States to fly unmanned drones on its territory to help fight drug smuggling. Well, they’re unmanned when they fly over Mexico, but when they come back, they have a few hundred people hanging onto them.”–Jimmy Kimmel
So another guest blog bites the dust. Because of the heavy rain on Saturday night, I missed shooting the “supermoon,” the largest full moon in the last 18 years, but that’s the way the hail falls. If you like hail, then you would have loved Saturday morning, when it was coming down harder than the writing section of Jason’s recent SAT tests.
So enjoy the first days of spring and the greatness that is college basketball’s March Madness. And if you have a moment, pray for the people of Japan and then maybe someone can explain to me why we’re bombing Libya. We’ll catch you in the field of the Sweet 16. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kemba Walker fans.