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Colleen Mondor

Paramotor The Iditarod Race (Scary Tree)

Paramotor enthusiast Chris Reynolds effectively captured the sense of fun these ultralight aircraft provide in this recently-uploaded video of seven pilots cruising above the Iditarod this year. Flying from Willow and Big Lake to the "Scary Tree" location on the Yentna River, the pilots took full advantage of clear conditions to see not only the race but even enjoy a little "wing walking" along the way.Paramotors are essentially powered paragliders that typically use two-stroke motors between 80cc and 350cc. Electric paramotors are being developed, though they currently do not have the distance capability that gas-powered designs offer.As the video shows, "Scary Tree" is a popular spot to watch for Iditarod mushers, and Reynolds does an excellent job of capturing the variety of traffic that came out to see the recent race up close. Reynolds, who lives in Big Lake, has shot multiple paramotor videos that can be found on YouTube and Alaska Public Media's website.There are several places to learn paramotoring or paragliding in Alaska, including Paragliding Alaska in Wasilla and Midnight Sun Paragliding in Anchorage.Colleen Mondor can be contacted at colleen(at) Send her an email if you know more places to receive paramotor or paragliding instruction in Alaska.
Alaska Dispatch

Amazing America with Sarah Palin

"Get red, wild and blue, America," urges former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in the newest advertisement for her new TV show, Sportsman Channel's "Amazing America."Long-time Palin watchers may raise an eyebrow to hear her lose the trademark Minnesota-meets-Alaska accent for an unfamiliar, country-fried drawl in the opening, but she mostly drops it in the rest of the commercial.If the clips in the new trailer are any indication, the new show will be full of "The First Lady of the Outdoors" meeting interesting characters who participate in in thrilling activities like stock car racing, professional wrestling, running with bulls and duck calling. Plus lots of target practice.The show premieres on the Sportsman Channel April 3 at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Tara Young

Bigger Than Life - Ice Caves

Firefight Films producer Christopher Carson says he and his crew, based in Juneau, wanted to find awe-inspiring winter spots in Alaska to shoot for a video project called "Bigger Than Life." When the Firefight crew mulled over how best to represent the sublime beauty of the state, Mendenhall Glacier and its ice caves came to mind. “For me it was the raw beauty and power of the glacier that really inspired me to film the glacier. There are stumps exposed that we filmed in the glacier that date back over 2,000 years. And while our climate is warming, it's amazing to see all the beauty and our new set of land being carved by this massive block of ice. When you’re in the ice cave, you are in pure awe of the beauty that lies around you. This feeling is surreal and empowering,” says Carson. And it’s captured in the footage they shot.Firefight Films and DSLR Pros teamed up to collaborate on the project. They used a DSLR Pros DJI Phantom Cannes P2 Kit drone to access places and spaces that a regular camera crew could not reach. "We chose this highly sophisticated piece of aerial equipment for its stability and complex navigation throughout the ice caves," Carson said. The drone was fitted with a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition that had its video feed transmitted back to the crew so they could monitor the drone was shooting, since most of the spaces were unreachable by the crew. “This extremely sophisticated technology helped us achieve these beautiful shots. This was an extremely difficult shoot with so many variable and things that could go wrong during the filming," Carson said.For more on Firefight Films, check out their YouTube and Vimeo channels.For more original videos, curated videos and photos, check out Alaska Dispatch's Multimedia page and subscribe to our Instagram, Facebook and YouTube feeds.
Tara Young

Girdwood glass blower Darby Andrews is looking ahead to the possibilities for his small business if voters approve the legalization of recreational marijuana and his most popular wares lose their stigma.Andrews, a U.S. Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm, said Alaska's attitude toward toking up is very similar to a saying from his military days: "Don't ask, don't tell."When Andrews returned from war in the early 1990s, he had a blood clot in his leg. He said he had to find work that he could take breaks from when it was convenient, so he started looking into the arts. He played with leather and hemp before one day finding his friend's 7-year-old daughter playing with a small torch, melting glass."I saw it and I was like, 'Ooh, me next!'" he recalled. That day he made two glass beads, which he sold to a traveler at a bar that night. He was hooked; he went back to his friend's the next day.By 1995 he was traveling around the Last Frontier, peddling his products at festivals around the state. His business evolved away from the small festivals selling directly to customers, and it now includes more repair work, custom designs and sales to shops in Alaska and Outside.Read more: Glass blower sees clear opportunity if Alaska votes to legalize marijuanaWatch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)
Tara Young

A Moose Mystery | The New York Times

Moose are dying off at an alarming rate in the Lower 48. Minnesota's moose population has declined so much that the state and local Chippewa tribes' annual moose hunt was called off last year. The moose population mortality is still a mystery to scientists who have been desperately been trying to figure out the causes. According to Michelle Carstensen of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Health Program, who studies moose, “It isn’t one thing that’s killed the moose so far in this study; it’s been predator-related causes, and it’s been health-related causes.” The health-related causes have included disease and parasites. Climate change is a contributing factor to the moose decline as well. Moose do not fare well in warm weather, and the warmer temperatures have made moose more susceptible to brain worms, liver flukes and predators.While Minnesota is experiencing moose deaths at an alarming rate, other states within the moose’s southern range -- from Montana to New Hampshire -- are at risk as well. Rick Sinnott wrote in Alaska Dispatch about whether this phenomenon could happen in Alaska. His conclusion was that it is too soon to tell, but a tick hitching a ride on a host person or pet from the Lower 48 could lead to infestation in the state. Alaska moose are vulnerable to winter tick infestation. And without early detection, and a strategy of eradication, there will be no way to avoid infestation. 
Tara Young

Harvesting Ice: From the ice point-of-view

Each year the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, uses tons of ice to create breathtaking works of art. It takes the handy work of an army of dedicated volunteers to cut the ice from a local pond.A clever Fairbanks filmmaker decided to shoot the process from the point of view of the ice. Eric Muehling, an app developer specializing in interactive multimedia, strapped an underwater GoPro to the forklift that moves the ice from the pond after it’s been scraped free of snow and sliced by chainsaw into smaller blocks. Some of the blocks weigh up to 4,000 pounds and must to sit for several days to acclimate to the temperature before they can be carved. Up to 1,000 blocks are harvested from local ponds before the competition begins. For the festival's single-block competition, the blocks are 5 by 8 feet; for the multiblock competition, they're 4 by 6 feet. The blocks are as tall as the ice is thick -- some 30 inches this year.The World Ice Art Championships started in 1988, and today the competition features 70 teams from around the world. It runs through March 30, 2014.
Tony Hopfinger

Alaska dog musher Aliy Zirkle explains why she stopped in Safety during Iditarod 2014

In the early morning hours of March 11, musher Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers was on her way to winning the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. But in the end, she lost by just 2 minutes and 22 seconds to Dallas Seavey of Willow. Minutes after finishing the race, Zirkle, a crowd favorite, talked with KUAC and Alaska Public Radio Network trail reporter Emily Schwing about the decision to stick around the Safety checkpoint, about 20 miles from the finish line in Nome, during a fierce windstorm. It was a decision that ultimately allowed Seavey to pass Zirkle and take home the win.Correction: This article originally did not identify KUAC trail reporter Emily Schwing as the reporter conducting the interview. We regret the omission.
Alaska Dispatch

2013 Red Cross of Alaska Wilderness Rescue Heroes

On Sept. 16, 2012, rescue personnel from Anchorage Fire Department's Station 11, located in Eagle River, were dispatched to respond to a report of a kayaker stuck in a log jam on Eagle River. Sr. Capt. "We found ourselves engaged in one of the most challenging successful rescues of an individual that we have been involved in in the river setting," Sr. Capt. Jeff Bayless says in the video. Bayless responded with a crew that included engineer Robert Van Dussen and firefighter/paramedic Craig Paulus.In this video, produced by the Red Cross of Alaska, Bayless, Van Dussen and Paulus describe their company's rescue, which earned them recognition as 2013 Red Cross of Alaska Wilderness Rescue Heroes.When it became clear the rescue would require the use of a chainsaw, Paulus "did what I regard as the truly heroic act of the day," Bayless says. "He got out of the boat, stood on the kayak, hung on to the tree, and held our customer close while we took the boat across the river to get the chainsaw.""It was one of those days where we demonstrated what we practice for," Bayless says in the video.Bayless, 51, died during a training exercise in Anchorage on March 7, 2014.
Tara Young

Jeff King knows what it takes to lead a winning team of sled dogs. The four-time Iditarod champion is a 23-time veteran of The Last Great Race. “I love dogs, I have a way with dogs," King says.  "It’s very clear I have some of their chemistry. And it is a never-ending joy for me to be with the dogs.”King's way with dogs has lead him to dozens of victories in an array of races across Alaska and the Lower 48."The training is fun, the lifestyle is fun, and friends you make getting there are fun," says King, 58.  "The dogs become one with you, that’s the fun part. Personally, I’m a very goal-oriented person so I love preparing for something. I enjoy the race, too, but I’m glad it’s only 1,000 miles and not 5,000 miles. I like the preparation and then watching them (the dogs) perform. "I take tremendous pride in the preparation of the dogs, and the equipment that we’re using. That’s the addictive part for me." Perhaps no one has done it better over such a long career. Since his rookie Iditarod run, 18 of King's 22 completed races -- he scratched in 2012 -- across Alaska ended with the Denali Park musher among the top-10 finishers, including third place last year. He's earned nearly $853,000 in Iditarod prize money. Still, King says it’s difficult to wrap your head around running a 1,000-mile race. “I think of it as 10 days on a dog sled, each day I go 100 miles."I’ve been on the trail 22 times, I know all of the sections. If you drive cross-country you don’t think about the whole trip, you think about how far you are going today. How are we going to get to Reno before we go to Salt Lake, before we go on to Omaha? I’m thinking of the trail split up into segments.”The road trip analogy is accurate. Depending on how each segment goes, King makes adjustments. “You run until you run out of gas, and then you stop and fill the gas tank,” which for mushers means feeding and resting the dogs. Then it's off to the next section.Watch all of the videos from our musher profile series Voices from The Last Great Race, see slideshows from the trail and more on our Iditarod page. See this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great voices from the Last Frontier. Contact Alaska Dispatch videographer Tara Young at tara(at)
Tara Young
The 79th annual Anchorage Fur Rendezvous festival, known to locals simply as Rondy, features perennial favorite events such as the outhouse races, carnival, fur auctions, dog mushing sprints, and the contemporary classic, Running of the Reindeer. Rondy has been a favorite pasttime for generations of Alaskans. Originally dreamed up as a way to entertain miners and trappers when they came into downtown back in the ’30s, the festival now brings visitors from all across Alaska and the Lower 48.More than a week of fun-filled events, Fur Rondy never ceases to delight with its northern sense of humor. The outhouse races feature different charities’ DIY outhouses, which race across a course on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. There’s snowshoe softball, Frostbite Footraces, a beard competition at the Miners and Trappers Ball, and costumes galore. Don’t forget to pick up a beaver skin hat or lynx hide at the fur auction. There’s a little Alaska for everyone at this most unusual winter festival.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)
Tara Young

Can Dallas Seavey secure a third consecutive Iditarod title for his family? Seavey, the 2012 winner, comes from an Iditarod legacy family. His grandfather Dan Seavey competed in the first two races, and his father Mitch Seavey is a two-time champion back defending his title. Dallas grew up on the Kenai Pennsula, working in his dad's kennel. He was surrounded by training and racing sled dogs his entire life, so it’s no surprise that he took up the sport full time in 2008. Within seven months, Seavey and his wife Jen went from having no sled dog paraphernalia, “not one brass snap,” to fielding a sixth-place Iditarod team, he said.Growing up around mushing gives Seavey an edge. At 26, he knows nuisances that only the top tier of competitive mushers master. “Mushing is the worlds biggest Rubik's Cube,” he said. “Every time you adjust one little thing, one little feeding, it affects everything else. So you have to have a complete understanding of every athlete that you’re working with, a complete understanding of the sport, of the trail. So when you make a change, whether it’s the foot ointment, or the harness that you use, or the run lengths that you’re doing, or the rest types that you’re doing, you have to understand how that is going to effect everything else.”Watch all of the videos from our musher profile series Voices from The Last Great Race, see slideshows from the trail and more on our Iditarod page. See this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great voices from the Last Frontier. Contact Alaska Dispatch videographer Tara Young at tara(at)
Tara Young

DeeDee Jonrowe, a two-time runner-up, will race her 32nd Iditarod this year. It takes a ton of tenacity to make a career out of competitive dog mushing, but Jonrowe says she was never a natural athlete and needed determination to excel. “I always wanted to be an athlete, and I was always active, but as far as being a gifted athlete ... (I'm) not necessarily gifted, but with huge drive.” She says her desire to be competitive keep her from smoking and drinking because she needed every breath of air, every inch of muscle mass. In addition to mushing, she's an avid recreational runner and has competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Jonrowe, 60, started work as a biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the 1980s. She says it was her dream job because she loved Alaska and the outdoors. But the more time she spent indoors writing reports, the clearer it became she needed to make a switch. Jonrowe moved on to work as as a commercial fisherman, a fleet observer buying fish, and a fish-buying representative for several years. She then worked as a sport fishing guide in the summer, running dogs in the winter. That was the beginning of a long and thriving career as a competitive dog musher that includes 16 Iditarod finishes in the top 10, including the last two races across Alaska.Jonrowe hasn't missed an Iditarod start since 1986, overcoming an array of struggles to make sure she and her dogs are on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage the first Saturday of every March. She's dealt with a traumatic car accident, a battle with breast cancer that started in 2002 and, this year, the loss of her father to cancer. But Jonrowe's drive and determination make her one of Iditarod fans' favorite mushers."More and more people kind of kick back and give up. I don't give up. I'm kind of ramping up. And people say, 'Well you wouldn't get it, you're an athlete.' And I say, 'No, that's not how it is. I just haven't given in yet.'"Two years ago, she won the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for superior dog care, and she's twice been named the race's most inspirational musher. Watch all of the videos from our musher profile series Voices from The Last Great Race, see slideshows from the trail and more on our Iditarod page. See this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great voices from the Last Frontier. Contact Alaska Dispatch videographer Tara Young at tara(at)