Dyea resident Kathy Hosford points to the endangered eagle nest along the Taiya River, which she hopes can be saved. See story below. - Andrew Cremata
Skagway accepts Fulda Challenge
Participants will bike over the summit on Feb. 4
By JEFF BRADY
Biking up to the summit of the Klondike Highway is a challenge in the summer, but imagine trying it in a cold north wind or a snow storm during the first week of February.
Thats what 18 extreme athletes from Europe and Canada will likely encounter next month as part of the third annual Fulda Challenge, a winter Extreme Arctic Adventure event sponsored by the German tire company and Tourism Yukon.
Fulda representatives Holger Bergold and Susan Huff came to town last month to cement preparations for the event, which will take participants from the Southeast Alaska coast to the Arctic Circle.
The 10-day staged Fulda Challenge begins on the summit of the Haines Highway with a 2,000-foot snowshoe trek up to a mountain peak, and a ski back down to the highway. The nine two-person coed teams then will drive their black Toyota SUVs, clad with Fulda tires of course, down to the Haines, Alaska ferry terminal.
While waiting for the ferry to Skagway on Feb. 3, their second event will be changing tires on those vehicles.
The teams will arrive on the ferry that Tuesday night. Team members will camp in tents on the lawn just south of the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad depot, where meals will be catered by the Haven Cafe. That evening they will attend a historical presentation at the National Park Service auditorium.
The rest of the 85-person entourage mostly European media will stay in a local hotel and B&Bs. Between Sgt. Prestons, The White House, and Mile Zero, about 40 rooms are available, said Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue.
We will need all of them, replied Bergold.
This week, Donahue said he could use a few more rooms, so if you have an extra bedroom at home, give him a call at 983-2854.
Originally, the teams were going to race jet skis in the bay, but Bergold said the event would have been too difficult in the wind. Instead, the teams will bicycle from Skagway to Fraser, B.C. on the morning of Feb. 4.
Dan Henry of Skagway Fish Co. said he will donate the 18 mountain bikes needed for the event. The bikers will climb 14 miles to the 3,280-foot summit, and then cruise another 8 miles to the Canada Customs station at Fraser.
If held this week, that would have meant starting at about minus-10 degrees Celsius and finishing at about minus-30, in a north wind.
Crazy, yes, but these are extreme athletes selected from 40,000 who signed up to participate. Of those, 100 were invited for trials last summer in the Italian Alps, and eight European teams were selected. There will be two teams each from Germany and Great Britain, and teams from Austria, The Netherlands, and Switzerland.
A separate application process was held last fall for a Canadian team, which was nailed down by a Dawson City, Yukon couple, Greg and Denise McHale. He is an RCMP officer, and she is a fitness instructor.
They answered a newspaper ad which described the event as such: 2,000 endless kilometers following the notorious Gold Rush Trail. Sweating at -50 Celsius. Ice-cold nerves in snowstorms. you will sleep in a tent beneath the northern lights, in the middle of a bizarre and inhospitable nature. There, songs of lament are heard by no one ... only the wolves howl in sympathy. It will test your limit!
Fulda initially was involved with the Yukon Quest sled dog race eight years ago, but after three years their sponsorship was viewed as too overpowering for that event, Bergold said. So we created our own event with Tourism Yukon to promote all kinds of winter sports, he said.
The Fulda Challenge, now in its third year, helped develop the Condor flights from Frankfort to Whitehorse in the summer, Bergold said, and with the help of Thomas Cook Travel and Toyota, it has become a mega marketing event in Europe.
This year, organizers decided to take the event over the border into Alaska.
Many major European TV stations will be covering the Fulda Challenge. We change the routes and the venues to keep the press interested, Bergold said.
Donahue volunteered the AB Hall for a media center in Skagway.
After the bike ride over White Pass, participants will drive on to Carcross, where they will camp for the night. On the following day, they will have a high-speed handling event in their vehicles on the ice of Lake Bennett, Bergold said.
The teams will then base in Whitehorse for a couple days, where they will race a railroad handcar and snow machines, cross Miles Canyon on a rope, and cross-country ski. Then its on to Braeburn for hovercraft races on the airstrip, and to Carmacks for a climb over the Yukon River bridge. From there they go to Eagle Plains up the Dempster Highway for a half marathon at
the Arctic Circle. The event finishes in Dawson City with an ice fall climb, an ATV race, and an awards ceremony at Diamond Tooth Gerties casino.
For more about the event and participants, visit its Website at: www.fulda-challenge.com and click on the English flag, unless your German is good.
DOT to present proposed road routes into town; Council to reconsider resolution against road
The Department of Transportation will present alternatives for the proposed Juneau Access road route into Skagway at an open house from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 21. Brief presentations will be held at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
The departments previous chosen route was by Lower Dewey Lake, which received a lot of public opposition, and the department is reconsidering the Congress Way approach, according to city officials.
Recently, DOT distributed a boxholder outlining several road and marine alternatives that have emerged from the screening process for the revised Environmental Impact Statement:
1) No build - using three mainline ferries supplemented by a year-round shuttle ferry between Haines and Skagway, and the new fast vehicle ferry operating from Juneau to the upper Lynn Canal communities five days a week in summer and two days a week in winter.
2) East Lynn Canal Highway - Highway to Skagway with ferry terminal at Katzehin for a shuttle ferry to Haines; also 2A: Highway to Skagway, but with a shuttle ferry that crosses Berners Bay, versus a road around the bay; 2B: Highway to Katzehin terminal with shuttle ferry to Haines and Skagway; and 2C: Highway to Skagway with shuttle ferry to Haines from Skagway. In all alternatives, mainline ferry service would end at Juneaus Auke Bay terminal.
3) West Lynn Canal Highway - A shuttle ferry would cross from a terminal at Sawmill Cove north of Juneau on Berners Bay to a terminal at William Henry Bay on the west side of Lynn Canal, and a highway would be constructed to Haines, crossing the Chilkat River delta via Pyramid Island, connecting to Mud Bay Road. A shuttle ferry would operate between Haines and Skagway.
4) Marine Alternatives - 4A: Fast Vehicle Ferry (FVF) service to Haines and Skagway from Auke Bay terminal; 4B: FVF from Sawmill Cove terminal on Berners Bay. 4C and 4D: same as above with day boat service to be detailed in future Marine Segments Report.
The road alternative is favored by the Murkowski Administration, which has proposed $128 million (half the estimated cost for project) in its new capital budget part of a $350 million request in federal transportation project funds. The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce also recently endorsed the road alternative. The revised draft EIS wont be ready for public comment until next summer, and is due to be completed by November 2004.
The Skagway City Council will be discussing Juneau Access at its Jan. 15 meeting, and may change language in a previously passed resolution that supported better ferry service over a road. The meeting will be at 1 p.m. so school students may attend as part of Local Government Week.
Dyea domicile destiny in doubt
By ANDREW CREMATA
There is a misconception among many visitors that Dyea is a ghost town. As one walks through the woods along the Taiya River, discarded objects from a lost era can be seen tangled among the roots and mosses that line the forest floor. Buildings that once bustled with commerce lay in ruins and various states of decay while squirrels take up residence in their fallen frames.
One home may soon fall victim to the forces of nature.
The Taiya River has seen its share of change over the years, but the last two years heavy rainfall and lack of snow has forced its banks further and further into the woods, undercutting the forest floor. This home is now perched precariously on the eroded edge of the river. Soon it will fall in, and what has been a landmark of the area since the 1950s will be lost.
Can the home be saved?
Kathy Hosford believes it can, but this is no home made of timber and nail. This is a home made from branches and twigs. It is the nest of our national symbol, the bald eagle.
For the last half-century Dyea residents have looked upon this nest with fascination. Tourists still stop to take photos. While this home hasnt had permanent residents in some time, many a weary winged-traveler still uses it as a place to rest, or to dine on some of the fine-finned fare that lives on the other side of the rivers surface.
Hosford began to notice the precarious position that the nest was in and thought that the display case at the airport, which sits empty, would be the perfect new home for this well, home.
Hosford is passionate and quite animated when talking about the nest. She relates, There were Eagles in it two years ago. Maybe a short-term nesting, but its been empty since then. There is a road leading up to it, there is a spot for it at the airport. Its meant to be.
Many share her perspective and she has been able to rally support for the project from White Pass, Temsco Helicopters and AP&T. Others who remember this nest and recognize it as something worth saving have also donated their time and skills to see the project get off the ground.
One might think that moving a nest from tree to display case would be simple, but before the first branch of the tree holding the nest can be cut, someone has to cut through the red tape.
Getting the approval of the National Park Service was the first step. Hosford sent a letter to Superintendent Bruce Noble of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park outlining the basics of her plan. Noble responded by letter lending full support for the project and providing the necessary forms that must be filled out and sent to the proper people.
When asked over the phone if the Park Service is in favor of the idea he said, Yes. As long as we get a detailed proposal from Kathy, and guarantees that there will be no damage to park resources and no safety issues.
One of the forms provided by Noble is an application for a permit to move the nest. Karen Laing is in charge of the federal Migratory Bird Permit Program in Juneau. She said by phone, In my eight years, nobody has ever tried to do this.
In fact, in her memory, she has only received one application to move a nest at Bradley Lake. Flooding endangered the nest, so it was moved with the young in it to save the family, she concluded. It was successful.
What about moving a nest for the sole purpose of preserving the nest itself?
Laing answered, As long as it is for educational or scientific purposes then it can receive approval. I have some concerns about the cleaning of the nest. Who will do it? Who will maintain it? Some museums use simulated nests for display, this may be an option to consider.
Laing made it clear that her department has no position on the issue until they receive an application, and that application would have to be made by the City of Skagway.
Where does the city stand on the issue?
Mayor Tim Bourcy responded, I support the endeavor. What will the citys commitment be? What will be the cost of preservation? The council will weigh-in and it is ultimately their decision.
The decision will have to be made soon. Mike Jacobson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has informed Hosford that the nest needs to be collected by March 1. Once the river thaws and the erosion under the tree continues, securing the nest could become a safety hazard.
In the meantime, Hosford is still gathering support and ideas for the nests removal. The Skagway Bird Club recently added their support and Hosford is still seeking input and ideas regarding the technical and logistical aspects of the nests transport and cleaning.
Standing under the nest on the snow-covered ground, she points up to the nest and says, This goes way beyond a nest on display. This is history. History that will be lost if we dont act fast.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
RUN DEER RUN This mule deer preferred racing the news wagon rather than jumping the guard rail and getting off the road. The photo was taken on the Klondike Highway along Windy Arm before the lake froze last month. JB
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