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Perspectives on Outings: Famous Last Words
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by Dan Soeder, Chapter Outings Chair | 2012

Dan steps aside after re-invigorating the Chapter's Outing Program - Thank you and Good Luck!

ALASKA! I spent a week in the 49th state back in June with my older daughter, Elizabeth. Beth lives on Maui, in Hawaii, where she works in a spa at one of the upscale hotels. I was planning to visit her in the islands, when she told me she was making plans to travel to Alaska. Since I had never been there, and the flight was about the same distance and cost from Pittsburgh, I said fine – see you in Anchorage. (It was actually her suggestion; I did not barge in, uninvited, on my daughter’s vacation.)
I posted most of my adventure on Facebook as we went, almost like a travelogue. This technology still amazes me. Some of the highlights are pasted below to help tell this amazing story.
We did several awesome hikes the first few days, including a long and spectacular trail along some Class IV rapids on the Eagle River, north of Anchorage, and across the snowfields (in June) at the Aleyeska Ski Resort south of town. The best king crab I’ve ever had was at Humpy’s in downtown Anchorage — freezing it and flying it to the east coast just ruins it. The second best king crab I’ve ever had was on the waterfront in Seattle, which was pretty outstanding, but this was even better. Beth, who works in the resort industry, tells me that the established restaurants set up deals with the fishing boats, and get the best of each day’s catch. Except for the mosquitoes, Alaska is amazing and wonderful. No wonder my late brother, Jim, loved it so much. I have a strong feeling that he is traveling with us. 
Summer Solstice in Alaska is like Mardi Gras, and parties are going on all weekend. We went to the 49th State Brewery in Healy, north of Denali National Park, for dinner, good beer, and to hear a band called H-3 (named after the freeway on Oahu). It was Caribbean Reggae music played by a Hawaiian band in Alaska under the midnight sun. You just have to love a planet where all that can happen. At 11:45 PM, the sun was still a red globe hanging in the north. We were 350 miles from the Arctic Circle, so it dipped below the horizon for like 20 minutes and then it was morning.
We hiked a couple of trails in Denali NP, but didn’t see any wildlife larger than a squirrel. When we got back to the parking lot, however, there was an enormous female moose and her two calves wandering around on the service road. The babies were cute but the size of small cattle; momma was definitely NOT cute, and bigger than a horse. She had a bad temper and was given free range of the parking area by all concerned for as long as she wanted.
We then headed down to Seward. Mt. McKinley was impressive, but Beth and I decided the Kenai Peninsula is the best part of Alaska. Mountains, glaciers, salmon swimming up creeks, waterfalls into cold ocean waters, shingle beaches, sea lions and whales are all within about ten miles of Seward. We took the wildlife/glacier cruise, where we saw three humpback whales, an orca, Dahl’s porpoises, several otters, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, four bald eagles, and a bunch of puffins. The captain took us close to one of the glaciers and turned off the engines, so we could hear the ice groaning and creaking as it moved slowly down toward the ocean. It was pretty bizarre, and then an iceberg would calve off with the sound of a gunshot. Glacial ice contains highly compressed air bubbles, and is a translucent, glowing blue color. I’ve never seen anything like it. They brought a chunk of the ice onboard the boat and made margaritas from this centuries-old, pre-industrial age snowfall. It was probably the purest water I have had in my life.
We came back to Anchorage after dinner at the Double Muskie, a legendary Cajun restaurant in the Alaska woods. We finished off the trip by having drinks with a couple of Beth’s friends at Chilkoot Charlie’s on Spenard, a legendary (and really impressively huge) drinking establishment. So THAT’s what they do all winter when there’s no daylight. Chilkoot Charlie’s contains an exact replica of the Bird Cage, a popular bar south of town that was partially swallowed up by subsidence during the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.
The reproduction of the Bird Cage maintains the same crazily tilted bar and all the other weird touches of the original. Alaska has left me stunned, and I was sorry to come home. But isn’t that the best way to end a vacation? It can’t possibly be seen in a week, and I’ll be back.
 Dan Soeder receives the Exemplary Outings Chair Award at SierraFest 2012 from Ann Devine-King, one of several outings leaders Dan has trained and mentored. Dan is stepping down as Chapter Outings Chair to devote more time to his job and farm. During his tenure, the number of Chapter outings offered each year has multiplied several fold. He will not be easy to replace.
For those who haven’t yet heard, this will be my last calendar as Chapter Outings Chair. I just don’t have the time available anymore to give this the effort it requires. The shale gas stuff has me traveling every other week, and farm stuff is taking my weekends. I really struggled to get the last few calendars out. If I can’t do it right, I’d rather not do it at all. Therefore, I need to step aside and let someone else handle it. If anyone is willing to take over the duties of chair, please talk to Jim Sconyers. I have enjoyed training, planning, hiking, bicycling and paddling with many wonderful people, and I hope the outings program continues to move forward.
Thank you for all that you do.  Dan Soeder, Past Outings Chair

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