Monthly Archives: January 2015

Good tidings — Unusual winter tides avoid stormy possibilities

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Unusually high “spring” tides sprung on Cook Inlet last week, bringing  the potential to exacerbate bluff erosion, especially the unstable slopes around the mouth of the Kenai River. Luckily, the high water did not coincide with high winds or other stormy weather.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Unusually high “spring” tides sprung on Cook Inlet last week, bringing the potential to exacerbate bluff erosion, especially the unstable slopes around the mouth of the Kenai River. Luckily, the high water did not coincide with high winds or other stormy weather. The tides also retreated to lower-than-average levels, as seen here Thursday looking north from the mouth of the Kenai River.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Credence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty might talk about a bad moon rising last week. But luckily for Kenai, though a particularly close new moon caused extra-high tidal ranges, there were no hurricanes ablowin’ at the time, thus avoiding any rivers overlowin’, much less any rage and ruin to the unstable bluffs along the river mouth.

Cook Inlet was awash in its highest tides and widest tidal ranges of the year last week. Anchorage on Wednesday saw a high tide of 33.1 feet at 7:48 p.m., followed by a low tide of minus 5.2 feet at 2:55 a.m. Thursday, for a tidal range of 38.3 feet. At Homer, a high tide of 22.3 feet at 2:55 p.m. Wednesday was followed by a low of minus 4.9 at 9:16 p.m., for a range of 27.2 feet. And at the mouth of the Kenai River, a high tide of 24.9 feet at 4:42 p.m. Wednesday was followed by a low of minus 4.5 at 11:31 p.m., for a rage of 29.4 feet.

The tide reached a high of 24.1 feet at the Kenai River mouth on Wednesday.

The tide reached a high of 24.9 feet at the Kenai River mouth on Wednesday.

The high highs and low lows were created by a conjunction of factors having to do with the position of the moon. A little Earth science 101 refresher, here — tides are essentially long-period waves rolling around the planet as the ocean is affected by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. Twice each month, tidal ranges are a little larger than average as the Earth, sun and moon are nearly in alignment. As seen from Earth, that’s either a full moon — when Earth is between the moon and the sun — or a new moon — when the moon is between Earth and the sun. In both cases the gravitational pull from the sun and moon combine and tug a little harder at Earth’s oceans, making high tides a littler higher, and low tides a little lower.

These are confusingly named “spring tides,” which have nothing to do with the season of spring, but come from the idea of “springing forth.” Spring tides happen twice every 28-day lunar month, all year-round.

In addition to spring tides, the moon also exerts a little extra pull on our oceans when it is nearest to the Earth. That’s called perigee, or a “super moon,” and it also results in slightly higher tidal ranges. Three or four times a year, a new or full moon will coincide with a super moon. This month’s new moon was Jan. 20, and the lunar (pear-eh-gee) happened about a day and seven hours later, on Jan. 21.

All together, that’s called a perigean spring tide, and that combination of factors causes even higher tidal ranges than either factor alone.

That’s what happened last week. Along most coasts around the globe, the effect to tidal ranges is only a couple of inches. But since Cook Inlet already sees some of the highest tidal ranges on the planet, the effect of a perigean spring tide can be 6 inches or more beyond average.

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Filed under Cook Inlet, ecology, Kenai, Kenai River

Ultimate adventure — Soldotna mountaineer treks through TV land in NatGeo show

 

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. Tyler Johnson takes in the view from the summit of Cho Oyu on the Tibet-Nepal boarder in 2007.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. Tyler Johnson takes in the view from the summit of Cho Oyu on the Tibet-Nepal boarder in 2007.

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part story about a Soldotna mountaineer’s adventures in TV land.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When Tyler Johnson agreed to be a competitor on the first season of “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” he had no real idea what he was getting himself into, and even less idea when he was getting into it.

It was Friday, Aug. 19, 2012, when Johnson, originally from Soldotna, a civil engineer and 1995 graduate of Skyview High School, was called to a casting meeting Monday in Anchorage. He had just stepped off a plane after spending two months working in Bethel, and thought at first the call from a Los Angeles number was a telemarketer.

“He’s like, ‘You want to be on TV?’ I’m like, ‘All right, I’m about ready to hang up.’ ‘No, you interviewed for the show, you know, the thing in the spring?’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, we want you to be on the show.’”

Oh, right — that interview. Catalina Productions had been seeking candidates for a new reality show for the National Geographic Channel, where experienced outdoorsmen would navigate through extreme backcountry environments in Alaska. A buddy recommended Johnson, so he did a seven-minute interview to LA over Skype.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. The Alaskans team, from left, Vern Tejas, Tyler Johnson and Marty Raney, traveled to the infamous bus from “Into the Wild,” where Chris McCandless lost his life, in an episode of “Ultimate Survival Alaska.” Episodes in Season Three air Sundays on the National Geographic channel.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Johnson. The Alaskans team, from left, Vern Tejas, Tyler Johnson and Marty Raney, traveled to the infamous bus from “Into the Wild,” where Chris McCandless lost his life, in an episode of “Ultimate Survival Alaska.” Episodes in Season Three air Sundays on the National Geographic channel.

“For the show, Season One they wanted people who know how to operate in the wilds of Alaska. … And it was really broad questions. They ask these really grandiose questions, like, ‘What’s the hell-raising, scariest thing you’ve ever …?’ I was like, ‘Well, uh… .’ I thought there was no chance of getting this.”

The interview quickly slipped his attention, subsumed by work — at the time he was co-owner of a busy engineering company — being dad to his daughter, Evie, now 11, and fitting in his own outdoor adventures.

But then, the call. He went to the meeting, curiosity piqued, and found the rest of the eight-member cast of Season One, including dog mushers Dallas and Tyrell Seavey and Brent Sass, and veteran mountain guides Marty Raney and Willi Prittie.

“Yeah, it was legit,” Johnson said. “They interviewed 500 people and picked eight.”

At first he thought the show was a race with a substantial cash prize at the end. He was less interested when he realized it was more of a wilderness survival expedition. And even less so when he realized the time frame.

“I was like, ‘Hey, did anybody ask when we’re leaving?’ ‘Uh, we’re leaving Friday’ — and this is Monday — for two months. And we can’t have cellphones, we can’t call home for two months, and they gave me a five-day notice,” he said.

But producers also said the magic word — adventure.

“They said they were going to take us to all these places,” Johnson said.

Arrigetch Peaks, the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. Places on an Alaska adventurer’s dream list, just not often within their budget.

It was a random. It was an unknown. It was adventure. He was in.

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Filed under entertainment, mountain climbing, outdoors, skiing

Trading up trains creativity at a good clip — Tustumena Elementary students raise funds, fun with paper-clip auction

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

While some people merely see a paper clip as an item to hold loose sheafs together, Shonia Werner, a sixth-grade teacher at Tustumena Elementary School in Kasilof, sees this simple object as much more. For her, it is a gateway to teach children the fundamentals of communication, negotiation and economics.

“This seemed to be the perfect way to give the kids ownership over their own success in our auction,” she said, referring to the school’s Mighty Meatball spaghetti dinner and fundraiser, where ticket sales and auction items generate money for end-of-the-year field trips.

The idea was inspired by two different factors, once local and one not.

“The trade-up auction was introduced the second year of the fundraiser. The first year, 2008, we solicited donations from local businesses, but it became evident how often different groups ask those businesses for donations and it was also adult volunteer intensive,” she said.

Not wanting to burn out businesses already feeling charity fatigue, and wanting to do more to integrate the children into their own fundraising effort, changes were made.

“We needed something that allowed the students to have more ownership over their own effort. It was about the same time (that) a story came out about a person who had traded a paper clip on Craigslist and kept trading subsequent items until he had traded up to a house,” she said.

Werner was referring to Canadian Kyle Macdonald, who made news in 2005 when he traded up a red paper clip for a pen, doorknob, camp stove, generator, keg of beer, snowmachine, two-person trip to British Columbia, box truck, recording contract, year’s rent in Arizona, day with Alice Cooper, KISS motorized snow globe, a role in a movie and, ultimately, a two-story farm house in Saskatchewan. Werner thought this would be an exciting way to engage the children and raise much-needed funds. She gave everyone in the class a paper clip and a month prior to the fundraiser — to be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 — to trade up for whatever they could.

While 12-year-old Margie Brown hasn’t gotten close to trading up to her own piece of real estate yet, she is enjoying the assignment so far, she said.

“I think it’s one of the better projects we’ve done,” she said. “It’s challenging, but I’m doing my best.” Continue reading

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Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce: Rehoming a home sweet home

By Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter

To the Other Woman,

I am jealous of you. Thinking of you lying in my bedroom, waking to walk across the hardwood floor that I picked out and helped install. Part of me chameleons into shades of cold, jade-green jealousy as I imagine you looking through the French doors into the greenhouse addition that I designed and nurtured.

A small part of me hopes you can’t make the geraniums grow the way I did. But that is the small me. The bigger me wishes good things for you, and as hard as is it for me to let go of all I cherished so deeply, I do wish you well.

This house was like our first child. We planned and hoped, and when it looked like it was going to happen we were sure we couldn’t afford it. We had NO idea what we were doing and most anything we figured out, we did so by doing it wrong — at least our kids thought so at times.

Speaking of kids, this house grew five of them, saw my grandmother through her elderly years and sheltered many who had need. This house welcomed friends, relatives and strangers. This house was where people were fed, entertained, disciplined, taught, consoled, wronged and forgiven. Because of these things, this house became a proper home.

To save you time and tears I have humbly put together a packet in the hall closet. It is chock full of owner’s manuals, instructions for appliances great and small, as well as paint cards with the rooms listed on the back should you decide to touch up rather than repaint a particular room. Consider this your Dr. Spock book of your home.

Also in the closet is a notebook full of things you need to know, like, what to do when there is sand in the water in the spring, what to do in case of spider mites, where things are planted in the garden, how to propagate geraniums and other such homey discussions. Consider this your unsolicited crazy garden lady advice.

We strove to have every last detail finished, but like a novel, a garden, the kids and ourselves, the job is never quite finished. It’s a work in progress and not without flaws and scars.

Some scars show faintly, like the thin line across the kitchen floor where our neighbor, Kyra, showed off her Rollerblading skills. (Yes, I yelled at her — and love her to this day.) The ketchup stain on the living room ceiling and the growing handprints in the bathroom are long painted over. Where the puppy ate the Linoleum in the laundry room is only covered by a rug.

As I walk through my home for the last time I realize you will not be walking into the same home you choose to buy. Gone are the warm fall colors, the scones and scented candles, the music.

It is once again only a house.

You will make it a home.

Funny how an empty house echoes. I am sure that we left behind a little laughter.

  • Grounds for Divorce No. 3,478: Finally finishing those honeydos — for the “Other woman.”

Jacki Michels is a freelance writer who lives (and loves) in Soldotna.

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Filed under Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce, humor

Plugged In: Don’t lose it, use wise photo storage

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Writing a witty lead paragraph for this week’s article about protecting photo files and other electronically stored data was simply too elusive. What can I say? I’m at a loss. But hopefully your data won’t be.

Memory cards and apparently lost photos are a common cause of severe heartburn. The digital memory used inside photo memory cards, flash drives and other solid-state media is not bulletproof. Far from it. Memory cards fail fairly regularly, perhaps even more often than spinning mechanical hard disks. However, as with all electronic file loss, user error, rather than hardware failure, is the most common cause of lost data.

Never use memory cards as the primary storage for important photos or data. Promptly copy all important photos and other data files to a hard disk that’s backed up regularly. That way, you’ll have at least one copy.

Some cameras, such as the Pentax K-3 and some upper-tier Nikons, have two SD card slots and allow you to simultaneously write each photo to both cards, providing an extra measure of protection against hardware failure. Still, even that feature doesn’t protect you from user error and accidental file deletion.

After you’ve finished using a memory card for any important photos, remove the card from your camera and immediately slide the small tab found on all SD cards to the locked position. Locking the card is an extra protection against accidentally deleting files or formatting the card. Do not unlock the card until you have assured yourself that all important files have been saved to a different primary location. A memory card can be read when locked, but no files can be saved to it.

Memory cards are small, easily damaged and often lost when casually placed in a pocket for a few days. Rather than trusting to luck, immediately put a used memory card back into its plastic case and then put that case into a larger envelope that won’t be misplaced or easily lost when pulling something else out of your pocket. Label that envelope by date and subject.

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No dice on ice — Games to play out without winter elements

Redoubt Reporter file photos. The Peninsula Winter Games are usually accompanied by ice sculptures around town, which are a highlight of January for residents. This year, however, weather remained too warm for enough ice to form. This bear was a creation for the 2013 games.

Redoubt Reporter file photos. The Peninsula Winter Games are usually accompanied by ice sculptures around town, which are a highlight of January for residents. This year, however, weather remained too warm for enough ice to form. This bear was a creation for the 2013 games.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

There isn’t much beyond the calendar date to put the winter in the annual Peninsula Winter Games this year, but the event is going ahead as scheduled this weekend, even without some of its seasonal attractions.

Unless there is a dump of snow by Saturday, the ice bowling and kick sled races won’t be happening. And no matter what the weather brings by the end of the week, the ice sculptures that decorate businesses around town in advance of the games will not appear.

“We’re not going to have ice this year for the games themselves. The ice here locally that Rotary usually cuts is just not thick enough. It’s gaining but now it’s losing now with this heat we’re getting, this warm-up. So we won’t have the ice, but we’ll have all the other games,” said Tami Murray with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Unseasonable warm weather this winter has kept water flowing much later than usual, and even when it has gotten cold enough to form ice, a warm-up to above-freezing temperatures has followed.

According to the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 was the planet’s hottest year on record. This was Alaska’s warmest year in as far back as weather data has been recorded, since 1918.

That’s been bad news for snowmachiners, skiers, dog mushers and, now, fans of the annual ice carvings.

“All the businesses are bummed, but they appreciate that we’re not going to just put it up and it melts the next day,” Murray said. “We could do that, too, if we bought ice, chances are it’s going to melt so that’s another reason we don’t want to put all that money into it and not make any money, and then it thaws.”

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In the business of community — Soldotna Chamber offers awards, appreciation

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ron and Kathy Sexton, of Trinity Greenhouse, are the 2014 Pioneers of the Year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ron and Kathy Sexton, of Trinity Greenhouse, are the 2014 Pioneers of the Year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Though the point of the 2014 Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Award presentations was to enumerate all that the winners do in the community, the recipients instead praised Soldotna for what it’s given them — a great place to call home.

“Thank you all very much, this is home and we give back to our home, so, thank you,” said Steve Horn, a professor at Kenai Peninsula College, who was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year at the banquet held Jan. 13 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.

Horn supports many local organizations and events, said chamber president Ryan Kapp, often showing his heart for local causes through people’s stomachs by manning the grill at community functions.

“His wife told us that community is like family to him, and that, quote, ‘He’s just a good guy.’ We couldn’t agree more,” Kapp said.

The recipient of the Commitment to Customer Service Award spent more a decade planning to move to the state. Since Eric Dahlman, manager of Sportsman’s Warehouse in Soldotna, had an opportunity to move up in 2011, he has made the most of it, getting out and enjoying the outdoors as much as he can, and taking every opportunity to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with his staff and customers.

The Pioneers of the Year found their opportunity to come to Soldotna in 1974, moving up from California with extended family and a general contracting- and camper-building business in tow. Ron and Kathy Sexton, owners of Trinity Greenhouse, have a long history of seizing opportunities, as well as cultivating their own. Alongside building custom homes and commercial buildings, Ron invented a quick-measure shortening dispenser. While in Seattle getting parts made for the device, he saw an ad for Sunglo greenhouses, and he and his brother became distributors in Alaska.

“They always had an interest in horticulture so it was a natural fit,” Kapp said. “They grew plants to show off the greenhouses and quickly realized the need for quality plants. One year later in the spring of ’77 they were open for business with a commercial-size greenhouse. It almost sounds like he had business ADD, doesn’t it?”

Sexton cheerfully conceded Kapp’s joke.

“Forty years has flown by,” Sexton said. “Our family is more than happy to have Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula as our home. It’s been a real pleasure, a great joy, a great adventure. … Nothing ventured, nothing gained is in a lot of my sayings I use, and it’s always onward and upward.”

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