KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song

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An Unforgettable Flight: Landing on Ruth Glacier

by:  Alberto Garcia, KTNA

This summer, one of KTNA’s interns, Alberto Garcia, has been taking a look at the Upper Valley from the perspective of someone from Outside.  Alberto’s time with KTNA will be over soon, but he did have one uniquely Alaskan adventure before leaving, a flightseeing trip and glacier landing.  He took a recorder along, and has this report:

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I ride into Downtown Talkeetna on my bicycle the morning of July 21st and as Mt. McKinley comes into view, I stop for a second to admire the splendor of mountain scenery. I didn’t know at the time that in just a couple of hours I’d actually be standing closer to Denali than most people ever will.

I arrived at the KTNA studio that morning, my mind still in awe from how beautiful the mountain looked that morning. Most days the weather is not favorable and the mountain hides behind gray skies and rainclouds.

I had wanted to take a flight to the Alaska Range since early on in my internship at KTNA. When I was told that Talkeetna Air Taxi would fly me up to the glacier at 11am, I could barely contain my excitement.

At 10:30am, I pedaled over to East Talkeetna, checked myself into the flight and waited patiently for my name to be called. I slipped some covers over my boots and the staff there handed me some sunglasses. I didn’t pay much attention to these details but they would come to make sense once I was in the air and on the glacier.

Once my name was called, a family of 7, a couple from Utah, and I proceeded to board a plane that the young pilot, Alex Land, referred to as an “Otter.” The Otter is the biggest plane Talkeetna Air Taxi flies, with enough capacity for ten people and the pilot.

Before boarding, Alex asked if somebody would like to ride in the co-pilot seat. My hand shot straight up right after he asked.

“We do have rows of seats along each wall, next to the windows.  We also have one co-pilot seat available.  Does anyone particularly want to sit there?”

I made my way up to the seat, buckled up and put the headphones on. The feeling was beyond surreal.

A knot tied in my stomach as my excitement turned into a bit of nervousness. The plane made its way to the runway and in less than thirty seconds we were airborne.

The view out the window was incredible. Everything I saw below me seemed significantly smaller. The rivers, trees, houses roads and railroad appeared to be model replicas of some kind of environmental exhibit. Bright sunlight shone through the plane windows so wearing sunglasses was a must.

Ahead of me, the mountains grew bigger. The glaciers were covered in thick layers of snow and royal blue water seeped through cracked ice.

As the plane flew around the mountain, my view from the co-pilot seat was like something out of an action movie. The mountains appeared to shift left and right and I felt adventurous and rather childish, pretending I was a fighter pilot shooting down invading alien spaceships.

The plane began to descend on a clearing on Ruth Glacier. We landed and exited the plane. The moment my feet touched the ground and I took my first steps, I realized why I needed to wear the boot covers. I was walking on snow!

Never in my life had I seen so much of it, having grown up in South Texas. I grabbed a fistful in my hand, made my first snowball and tossed it several feet away. As I tossed it, my view shifted from the snow to mountains that surrounded me, all in their majestic glory. Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter, and “The Great One” were all staring me down as I gazed on and I felt insignificant standing below them.

I was entranced so much by all the beauty of the nature that surrounded me that I forgot I had a camera on me. I was in the moment, embracing a sight so unbelievably breathtaking and I was filled with joy, excitement and euphoric emotions all around.

After walking around some more and taking pictures and videos, I decided to ask pilot Alex Land a little bit about where we were exactly.

“Where we’re at right now is called the Mountain House, it’s part of the Ruth Glacier. We’ve got Don Sheldon’s cabin on the little ridge there, and we got the Great Gorge around the corner there looking up to Denali on the left.”

After talking to the pilot I spoke to Ray Harding who was visiting Talkeetna all the way from Utah with his wife and who flew to the glacier on the Otter with me. He shared some thoughts about his experience on the glacier.

“It’s much more inspiring than I thought it would be. The grandeur of the peaks are much more visible from the glacier than they are from the distances where you normally view. It’s very inspiring. it’s got this spiritual feel to it because of the closest to nature that you feel here. Very nice.”

As we all began to board the plane to fly back to Talkeetna, I took one last look around and I felt truly humbled. It was a view that i’d only seen in dreams and now it was a real memory; a memory that I will forever hold dearly in my heart. The plane took off and I waived goodbye to the mountains, knowing that one day I’d return to re-live the most wonderful experience of my life.

Susitna Salmon Center to Host Grand Opening and Community Art Project Wednesday

Artist Katherine England with part of the salmon totem project that will be unveiled at the Susitna Salmon Center on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Susitna Salmon Center in Downtown Talkeetna is celebrating its grand opening with fish-themed art and education, and they’re giving the community a chance to pitch in on a special art project.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited the Susitna Salmon Center on Tuesday, and has this report:

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One of the things the Susitna River is known for is its salmon.  All five species can be found in the river, and sport fishing is common when state regulations allow.  This week marks the grand opening of the Susitna Salmon Center in Talkeetna.  The Center is on First Street near the ballfield in downtown.  The building contains an art gallery with works by Alaskans as well as an education center.  As part of its grand opening, the Susitna Salmon Center is unveiling a special piece of artwork dedicated to the river’s famous fish.  It’s a six-foot salmon totem with each species represented by a sculpture mosaic.

Katherine England of California put the project together.  She has done a number of projects for non-profits in the past, and says that this was an opportunity for her to not only create a unique, locally themed piece, but to learn more about the subject matter as well. Read More »

Close Encounter Between Plane and Whale in Southeast Goes Viral

by: Greta Mart, KCAW – Sitka

A 48-second YouTube video catching the swift reactions of a Sitka floatplane pilot went viral this past week. KCAW’s Greta Mart tracked down the pilot and the man who took the video to bring us the full story of how a routine flight in Southeast Alaska made waves on news programs and websites around the world.

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“…And a close call for the pilot of a pontoon plane in Alaska who just narrowly missed landing right on a humpback whale near Angoon…take a look here you’ll see just before the plane hits the water, the pilot then pulls up and then lands safely a few feet later…”

“My name is Rob Murray. I’m chief pilot at Harris Air in Sitka.”

On the morning of July tenth, Murray was flying four passengers into the small Southeast community of Angoon, coming down for a landing in Mitchell Bay.

“I didn’t see the whale…I was definitely looking right at the spot where the whale turned out to be…the first thing that I saw was just before touchdown was the spray, so thank god the whale decided to exhale because that is what I saw.” Read More »

Melting Permafrost May Help Curb Greenhouse Gases

by: Emily Schwing, KUAC

Scientists have long believed melting permafrost emits large amounts of carbon-rich greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere resulting in a warming climate.  But a new study published online by the journal Nature on Wednesday indicates ancient lakes that formed after permafrost fin the Arctic first melted roughly ten thousand years ago may in fact have a net climate cooling effect over long time scales.  As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports, the the study also increases the total amount of carbon estimated in the frozen soils of the Far North by more than 50 percent.

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Katey Walter Anthony is an Associate Professor at  the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology.  She studies methane emissions from Arctic thermokarst lakes.

“Until now, we have understood these thermokarst lakes, or lakes where permafrost thaws, to be a really important source of methane, a greenhouse gas that causes the climate to warm.” Read More »

Borough Seeking Input on Transportation Plan

The Mat-Su Borough is soliciting public input in order to update its Long Range Transportation Plan.  The plan was last updated in 2007, and was intended to act as a guide for borough-wide transportation improvements through 2025.  The update currently in progress will run through 2035.  While the plan covers the entire borough, the focus for the update is on fast-growing areas such as Knik Goose Bay Road and the Big Lake and Meadow Lakes areas.

The goal of the LRTP is to allow infrastructure to keep pace with growth.  It involves plans for roads, trails, airports, and public transportation.  While the update is focused more on the core area of the borough, the rural areas are also covered.  Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, and Sunshine all have lists of community desires listed in the 2007 plan.  For Talkeetna, that includes items like the wish to continue as an “end of the road” community.  Trapper Creek’s largest item is the improvement of the Petersville Road, and Sunshine has requests for pedestrian access and general safety improvements, especially along high traffic roads and the Parks Highway. Read More »

Government Hill Residents Protest Demolitions for Knik Arm Bridge

by:  Anne Hillman, APRN

On Tuesday potential demolition contractors were shown buildings the state wants torn down on Government Hill in Anchorage, and protesters chanted and held signs protesting the demolition as premature. It’s the result of planning for a bridge by the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, or KABATA, that has now been taken over by the state. Local home owner Marjorie Ellis did not mince words in her criticism of that bridge idea:
“Everything they’ve done is to destroy Government Hill, which is the oldest community in Anchorage.”

Funding prospects for the bridge hang on seeking a federal loan. But
Jill Rees of the state Transportation Department says right of way
acquisition has to run well ahead of any construction:

“You can’t wait until you’re ready with the financing to start building the bridge.  You might be three or four years down the line, at that point, of just getting properties purchased.  Also, especially in the Anchorage Bowl, prices aren’t going down.”

The demolition is planned for November.

NSI to host Smithsonian Exhibit and “Key Ingredients Festival”

Beginning in August, the Northern Susitna Institute will host a traveling Smithsonian exhibition.  N-S-I’s Executive Director and Program Coordinator joined KTNA’s Phillip Manning during this week’s Su-Valley Voice and discussed the upcoming festival.

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Smithsonian and Talkeetna aren’t necessarily two words that most people would expect to hear in the same sentence.  Next month, however, a traveling exhibit will be coming to the Upper Valley, hosted by Northern Susitna Institute.  It’s called “Key Ingredients:  America by Food,” and it’s part of a nationwide tour.  The exhibit will be in Talkeetna for six weeks, from August 1st to mid-September.  In addition to the Smithsonian’s contribution, Upper Valley residents will be heavily involved in the event.  Executive Director Joe Page says that NSI has reached out to the community to help fill the calendar. Read More »

Su-Valley Voice for July 16th: Northern Susitna Institute

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The player above contains Su-Valley Voice for July 16th, 2014.  My guests were Joe Page, Executive Director of Northern Susitna Institute, and Larry Hutton, Program Coordinator for NSI.  We discussed what’s going on at NSI this summer, including a discussion about the upcoming Key Ingredients Festival, which begins August 1st.  The next live Su-Valley Voice will be Wednesday, July 30th at 10:00 am.

Classics for Kids–The Adventures of Mark Twain #8

KTNA volunteer Cari Sayre continues The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain.

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