FAIRBANKS — Summer was slow in coming to Fairbanks, but with our first taste of 70-degree temperatures this week it looks like it’s finally here.
That means it’s time for my summer list of things to do, which is my annual attempt to publicly humiliate myself by biting off way more than I can chew. But what would a summer in Alaska be without big plans?
In keeping with my environmentally friendly green theme, I have recycled some items that were on my list last year and some that have been composting for several years.
As I do every year, I encourage you to sit down with a pen and pad or plunk yourself down in front of your computer and compile your list of things to do this summer.
Do it now and you might even be able to scratch one or two things off your list Memorial Day weekend. The sooner you get started, the more you can do.
So without further ado, here is my annual summer-list-of-things-to-do.
• Spend at least a dozen nights in a tent. I accomplished my goal of spending at least 10 nights in a tent last year and I upped the ante this summer to a dozen. As I say every year, any summer that requires two hands to count the number of nights you slept in a tent is a good one.
• Go packrafting. It’s the newest craze among Alaska adventurers because it combines hiking and paddling, which allows you to get places you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to. While packrafts are pricey at about $1,000, you can rent them in Fairbanks at Northern Alaska Packrafts. Proprietor Ed Plumb has been trying to get me in a packraft for the past couple of years and this is the summer I’m going to take him up on his offer.
• Hike the Pinnell Mountain Trail. I don’t know how many years hiking this 27-mile trail that is entriely above tree line in the Steese National Conservation Area north of Fairbanks has been on my list now, but it’s high time I scratched it off. I hear the views are incredible, as long as the wind isn’t blowing.
• Take a major float trip. I’m ashamed to say we didn’t take a single float trip last summer, in part because we spent two weeks driving a van back to Alaska from New York in July. But that’s no excuse. A summer when you don’t spend at least a few days on the water is unacceptable. I’ve still got my eye on floating the East Fork of the Chulitna River.
• Hike from Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Resort. The fact that I did this a few weeks ago has nothing to do with why it’s on my list. We do this 8.5-mile hike every year, preferably when the blueberries are prime for picking in late July and early August. It’s pretty enough that I won’t mind doing it twice.
• Go clam digging on the Kenai Peninsula. I had this on my list several years back and never did it. It’s making a return appearance because we’re heading to Kenai for a soccer tournament in the first week of August, which happens to coincide with some decent clamming tides.
• Hike Kesugi Ridge in Denali State Park. It’s been on my list the past two years and I’m hoping the third time is the charm. This 27-mile trail is supposed to be one of the prettiest hikes in Alaska, especially when the colors start to change in the fall.
• Go dip netting at Chitina. A mandatory trip for anyone who lives in Fairbanks and likes to eat salmon. It’s been three years since my wife and I went, and this year I’m hoping to convince her to make it a family trip so our 13-year-old son, Logan, can get his first taste of Chitina.
• Hike the Granite Tors Trail. I can’t remember the last time I hiked this 15-mile trail in the Chena River State Recreation Area, which is just 25 miles up the road from my house. It’s been burned over a few times since I last hiked it and it would be interesting to see what it looks like.
• Go red salmon fishing on the Klutina River. You don’t need a boat or guide and when the reds are running in the Klutina. I hear just about anyone can catch them, which is good news for someone like me.
• Mountain bike to a backcountry cabin — There are three possibilities that immediately come to mind — Lee’s Cabin in the White Mountains National Recreation Area via the Wickersham Dome Trail; Lower Angel Creek Cabin in the Chena River State Recreation Area via the new Angel Creek Hillside Trail; or Colorado Creek Cabin in the Chena River State Recreation Area via the Compeau Trail.
• Take a trip on the Chatanika River. After more than 22 years in Fairbanks, I still haven’t paddled the Chat, which is downright pathetic. There are lots of road-to-road floats along the Steese Highway that can be done in a day or two.
• Go rock climbing. I’m not a climber, and I’m not a big fan of heights, but fellow News-Miner reporter Sam Friedman has offered to take me rock climbing at Grapefruit Rocks. I might just take him up on his offer.
• Catch five different species of fish. I’m not talking about five different kinds of salmon, either. My goal is to catch an Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, red, king or silver salmon, northern pike and lake trout.
• Climb Mount Healy. This was one I finally crossed off my list last year, and it was so much fun we can’t wait to go back. At 5,715 feet, it’s the highest mountain I’ve ever climbed in Alaska.
• Bike Coal Mine Road. This rugged road that winds back into the Alaska Range south of Delta Junction is perfect for a day trip. It’s eight miles out and eight miles back, with awesome views along the way. I’ve never been all the way to the end, and I am hoping to get there this summer.
• Climb Donnelly Dome. Last year was the first year in the previous three or four that we didn’t make it up the 3,910-foot mound south of Delta Junction. We’re not going to miss it two years in a row.
• Do a century ride. My wife recently bought me a new road bike, and I figure there’s no better way to break it in than to pedal for 100 miles. We should be able to make it to Nenana and back in eight hours.
• Drive across Denali Highway. It’s been almost 20 years since my wife, Kristan, and I drove across the Denali. I bet it hasn’t changed much, but there’s only one way to find out.
Good luck on your list, and I'll see you on the trail, river or mountain top.
Contact outdoors editor Tim Mowry at 459-7587.