As dynamic or deranged as recent winters have been in southcentral Alaska, hundreds of recreationalists can be grateful for timely, informative conditions updates from Chugach National Forest Seward Ranger District Forest Technician Irene Lindquist. Lindquist emails interested locals and visitors site-specific news of snow cover, ice thickness, mud levels, and downed trees.
“I wanted to get information out effectively,” Lindquist says of the listserv’s inception several years ago. “I meant it primarily for people in the local area, but interest grew to Chugach National Forest visitors throughout southcentral Alaska and other land managers.”
During the summer, Lindquist sends infrequent Forest Recreation Updates because trail conditions typically change more slowly. Last summer’s notifications included a warning of high fire danger and of a bear carcass found just off Carter Lake Trail. Recent winters have seen weather whipsaws that changed trails from ice to snow and back. Traditional opening dates for motorized use were delayed and sometimes cancelled due to insufficient snow cover. Many trail users plan winter travel based in part on Lindquist’s approximately weekly Seward District Recreation Updates.
Subscription to the Recreation Updates listserv has grown such that rangers in the Glacier District of Chugach National Forest and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge regularly share conditions reports and recreational announcements with Lindquist to help get the word out. Individuals interested in being added to Irene Lindquist’s Recreation Updates listserv should email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research before setting out on a winter trip is essential, but even more so, Lindquist emphasizes, is each adult determining that they have the “right equipment, experience, and frame of mind.” Winter conditions can change rapidly. Ice thickness across a lake is not uniform. Equipment needs depends on group composition and type of trip. Lindquist notes that her first aid kid includes materials to care for her dogs and tools for releasing them from traps. Winter gear also includes extra layers, food, and hand warmers.
Terrain, weather, snowpack, and human decision-making all contribute to avalanche risk and every person traveling on or below mountains with snow should educate themselves on these factors. The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center provides educational resources, weather reports, and daily advisories at http://www.cnfaic.org/. Forecasters from the Center are offering a free “Fireside Chat” on avalanche awareness in Girdwood at the Glacier Ranger Station December 15th from 6:30-8 p.m. In Seward, a Center Forecaster will teach a free avalanche awareness class December 17 at the Seward Library from 1-3 p.m. Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center is the nonprofit partner for the center that helps sustain regular forecaster staffing all winter.
Chugach National Forest Recreation Updates are also available online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/chugach/home/?cid=stelprdb5402427, although post time has varied. This site, also found by searching for “Chugach National Forest Recreation Updates,” provides a useful record of recent trends and announcements. Recreationalists can also call Ranger District offices to ask for available conditions updates.
The Kenai Mountain-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area seeks to preserve and promote the natural and cultural history of the region. One of KMTA’s key partners in interpretation, education, and recreation is Chugach National Forest. Learn more at kmtacorridor.org.