Copper River Record April 27, 2018
Sourdough Campground was full of excited and rambunctious junior high students this past week! Led by the National Park Service at Wrangell – St Elias with the Bureau of Land Management’s Glennallen office and Campbell Creek Science Center, the Copper River Native Association, the Copper River School District, and WISE, we were joined by groups from Kenny Lake and Glennallen to camp out for lots of adventures!
There was no shortage of fun activities to keep kids busy and active. CRNA and NPS brought plenty of cross country skis to explore the ¾ mile loop around the campground when the snow was good. When the afternoon sun turned the snow to slush, we traded in our skis for snowshoes! Everyone got to try on snowshoes of different sizes, lengths, and shapes and learn about the different conditions different snowshoes are good for. There is no such thing as one perfect snowshoe!
The highlight of the snowshoeing was our creative portion. We gave kids a scenario of being out on a snow machine adventure but their machine breaks down far from home or other people during a deeply snowy winter, much like this one. If they’re post holing past their thighs, how are they going to get out? Giving them just a few techniques and tools, we challenged them to create their own emergency snowshoes using spruce boughs, willow, twine, even learning how to rip an old t-shirt into long strips to tie pieces together. We ended with a competition using one person to step on each snowshoe to see how it held up. The one that sunk the least was our winner! It was so much fun to see the kids get creative and excited about using their resources and figuring out the best way to get strength, floatation, and durability out of their homemade pair. We were proud of all of them!
Wednesday was our crossover day with Kenny Lake leaving and Glennallen coming in, but they overlapped for a couple hours. Just enough time to start a new Chosen Frozen tradition! Two of our staff brought out old dog mushing sleds and some rope, and we broke the kids into two teams with kids from each school and decided to have a kid-pulled sled race! After an extensive 10-minute mushing commands lesson, each team got one practice run of the campground loop, and then it was time to race! Coats, jackets, and sweaters were being shed left and right as we prepared our teams to run. We staggered our starts and raced for the best time, in the end crowning our champions of the newly named “iKidarod!” It was a fun and silly adventure for everyone, including the helicopter that flew over as we were racing and circled back to wave at us!
On top of all that, we also went ice fishing on Dick and Paxson Lake where there was even more snowshoeing and skiing, we threw atlatls, and learned how to skin ptarmigan and gut salmon. Each night we ended around a warm fire (maybe with some s’mores) sharing fun stories and adventures as the sun set behind us. Everyone left with smiles on their faces and stories to tell, definitely more tired than when they arrived! Thank you so much to all the incredible people who helped us make this happen, especially to Russell Scribner the new Education Specialist at NPS. We can’t wait to do it again next year!
Copper River Record April 12, 2018
By Robin Mayo
Like many outdoor pursuits, Ice Fishing can be a little intimidating for a novice. The lingo seems a teensy bit silly, with pop-ups, jigging poles, and shanties. To those who think of fishing as a lazy summer pursuit, the weather can be daunting. And of course, there is the fact that a very thick layer of ice, possibly topped with a blanket of snow, is between you and the fish.
If you are curious about ice fishing but not quite sure how to get started, we hope you will come join us this Saturday for the 8th Annual WISE/BLM Family Ice Fishing Day. There will be lots of holes already drilled, gear and bait ready to go, and fishing enthusiasts to share their knowledge. We will also have a camera and viewers to catch a glimpse of the mysterious world under the ice. The BLM crew is planning a special surprise, the nature of which we won’t disclose here in case it doesn’t work as planned.
The event will be on Saturday, April 7th, from 10am to 3pm at Silver Lake, near mile 11 of the McCarthy Road. As of this writing, DOT was working on grading the road, but expect mud, ice, and possibly falling rocks along the bluff. Parking is along the McCarthy Road, then you will need to be prepared to walk down to the lake. A small sled is useful to help haul your gear and tired kids. There is quite a bit of snow and overflow water on the lake, so waterproof boots and ice cleats are recommended. You will also want to bring chairs, warm clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Although the April feels warm, ice fishing is less active, and that wind can be chilly.
As well having fishing gear to loan and bait, we will have chili, soup, cocoa, and coffee. There will be a fire pit on the ice for roasting hot dogs and s’mores. There is no admission charge, but donations are encouraged to help pay for food, bait, and equipment. Volunteers are also welcome, if you’d like to help out please call the WISE office at (907) 822-3575.
At 3 pm, we will have prizes for youth, including cool schwag donated by local business TuffKids Outdoors, and some shiny new ice fishing combos ready to go. After fishing with us, you can plan to continue the outing in Chitina, where Uncle Tom’s Tavern will have a fishing derby, prizes, and a pig roast in the evening.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocked Silver Lake last summer with thousands of 2” to 3” Rainbow Trout, and we’ve been hearing reports of some great fishing this spring. One fish was rumored to be 30 inches and 8 pounds, but perhaps that was just a fish tale. No matter how you measure it, ice fishing is a whole lot of fun, and something like a miracle when a bright shiny fish takes your bait and emerges into the sunlight.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.