Trails along Indian River temporarily closed due to bear activity

The Russian Memorial Loop trail in the Sitka National Historical Park’s east unit is closed.

The Riverview Trail also is closed between Sawmill Creek Road (to the north) and the pedestrian bridge over Indian River (to the south). Bear encounters are possible on other trails.

For more details, go to the Sitka National Historical Park website, https://www.nps.gov/sitk/index.htm, or call the visitor center at 747-0110.

Park management will reevaluate bear activity each day. Check https://www.nps.gov/sitk/planyourvisit/conditions.htm to
find out whether the closure has been extended.

Find tips for staying safe in areas where bears are active at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bears/safety.htm.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Friday, July 16 (CANCELED)

(NOTE: Due to Sitka’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases, SAIL is putting its ORCA program, which includes the Senior Hiking Club, on hold until further notice.)

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike event.

The hike will take place from 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Friday, July 16. Seniors should meet at the Sitka Cross Trail entrance at the Sitka High School back parking lot, and rides are available for those who need them. Participants should be prepared to wear masks and practice distancing while on the hike.

Normally, the group picks the trail on the day of the hike, but occasionally a trail is picked before the event. SAIL makes trekking poles available for hikers to use (trekking poles are great on ice or uneven terrain, and they help seniors keep their balance), and hikers are encouraged to bring ice cleats such as YakTrax during the icy months of winter.

SAIL offers Senior Hiking Club events for those age 60 or older once or twice a month, and now plans to alternate them on Mondays with Adventure Club events. For now the hikes are free, but usually there is a $5 fee and nobody will be turned away because of finances. The hikes are open to people of all abilities and fitness levels. To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, check out our January 2013 post introducing the club.

To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, senior and adaptive kayaking trips, senior cycling events, and and a variety of other outdoors skills and survival classes, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Maria Sakowski at 747-6859 or email her at msakowski@sailinc.org.

• SAIL events calendar for July 2021

St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church to host 2021 summer Scripture Walks in the Park at Sitka National Historical Park

St Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church invites the community to join it on Wednesday evenings for its seventh summer of Scripture Walks in the Park. The group will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays this summer, starting July 7, at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor’s Center.

“It was just an idea I came up with for a  summer offering. I thought it made sense to combine a casual walk with the beauty of God’s creation here in Sitka,” said Rev. Julie Platson, the rector in charge at St. Peter’s.

Also, don’t forget to get a Park Prescriptions card at the park’s visitor center to log your walks in the park, so you can have a chance to win quarterly prizes for each completed card.

For more info, please call the church at 747-3977 or email stpetersbytheseak@gmail.com.

Sitka National Historical Park launches new color-coded bear activity alerts

Bears once again are active in Sitka, and bear footprints have been reported in Sitka National Historical Park. In anticipation of the bears’ return, park staff have worked on a new bear plan that’s intended to better and more consistently advise people on park trails about recent bear activity.

This summer you will see signs at park trailheads that use and escalating color code (green-amber-red) to caution you about bear activity. If you do not see a sign, that means no bear observations have been reported recently.

  • Green signs mean bears have been in the area (overnight use, recent scat or tracks).
  • Amber signs mean bears periodically are using limited areas near the river. Nearby trails that have been closed will be clearly signed.
  • Red signs mean bears consistently are present throughout the park during open hours. Risk of an encounter is high. All trails are closed and clearly signed.

You can help park staff by reporting bear observations in the park. This can be done by calling into the new bear hotline (907-747-0145), reporting your observation at the visitor center, or telling any park ranger. Please include the date, time, and location of the bear sighting along with a quick description of the bear and what it was doing.

The area near Kaasdahéen (Indian River) is bear habitat. Bears are a part of our surroundings and the natural ecosystem at Sitka National Historical Park. Use the new bear activity codes as a guide to inform your decision about whether or not to use a trail. Realize that bears could be present at unexpected times. We hope you will join us in respecting the awesomeness, power, and laws of nature that govern bear behavior, and please be bear aware.

For suggestions on how to behave when a bear is nearby, visit http://www.nps.gov/sitk/learn/nature/mammals.htm.

Sitka Trail Works to host a summer of hikes, bike rides, other events in 2021

Sitka Trail Works will offer a variety of hiking, bike rides and other events as part of its annual summer guided hike series.

After losing much of the 2020 summer guided hike series to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sitka Trail Works will have Covid mitigation policies in place this year to prevent the spread of the pandemic. This includes pre-event screening. The events are led by volunteer board members.

The series opens at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, with a Sitka Cross Trail bike ride that starts at the Salty Spoke Bike Co-op (behind Hames Wellness Center). This bike ride will give cyclists a chance to ride the five new single-track mountain bike loops built off the Cross Trail by the Sitka Cycling Club last summer.

Other events in town include the Ben Grussendorf Forest and Muskeg Trail and Starrigavan Trail Loop hike on Sunday, May 16; a Herring Cove and Beaver Lake Trail hike on Saturday, May 22; an Indian River Waterfall hike on Saturday, June 12; a Mosquito Cove Trail hike on Saturday, June 26; a Gavan Trail to Harbor Mountain hike on Saturday, July 3; a Verstovia Trail hike on Saturday, July 24; and a Thimbleberry to Heart Lake to Sawmill Creek Loop hike on Saturday, Aug. 7. The in-town events are free, but membership donations are encouraged to help with trail maintenance. In addition, there is a National Trails Day maintenance party at a trail to be announced on Saturday, June 5.

There also are three out-of-town events costing $110 each (price includes boat trips to the trails). These events include the Mount Edgecumbe Hike on Sunday, July 18; the Shelikof Bike Ride on Sunday, Aug. 1; and another Mount Edgecumbe Hike on Sunday, Aug. 15. Space is limited on these trips, so register early.

Finally, there are two running events on the calendar, both with limited space. The Medvejie Solstice Run is on Saturday, June 19; and the Alpine Adventure Run is on Saturday, July 17. These events are hosted by other groups, but included on the calendar.

For more information and schedule updates, go to the online calendar at https://sitkatrailworks.org/weekend-hikes/. For other details, call Sitka Trail Works at 747-7244, or visit http://sitkatrailworks.org.

SEARHC invites Southeast Alaskans to Move For A Cause this May

Throughout the month of May, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) invites community members to hike, bike, walk or run for a cause.

Participants of all ages and ability levels can join SEARHC in its month-long “Move for a Cause” campaign that focuses on the mental and physical health benefits of activity.

Registration is free, and the number of miles logged, steps taken, or active outdoor minutes by participants will generate donations to Southeast Alaska Food Bank and CoastAlaska Public Radio through SEARHC. Online registration is free and open now at http://www.searhc.org/moveforacause.

Once registered, participants can log their time spent being active to support partners in community health. In light of food insecurities being faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for advocating local resources, SEARHC will make a donation in honor of every participant that logs all four weeks of activity to SouthEast Alaska Food Bank and CoastAlaska Public Radio through the Move for a Cause campaign.

“Together, we can make great strides in supporting our physical and mental health through activity and come together for important causes in our community during these challenging times,” said Martha Pearson, SEARHC Director of Health Promotion.

Throughout May, weekly prizes will be awarded for those who log their goals and activities. For more information, visit searhc.org/moveforacause or contact SEARHC Health Educator Heleena van Veen at 907-966-8914.

Walk Sitka team finishes fifth overall in National Public Health Association’s Keep It Moving Challenge

The four-person Walk Sitka team finished in fifth place overall in the 2021 National Public Health Association’s Keep It Moving Challenge, which started on Jan. 1 and finished on April 11. There were 214 teams total in the national competition.

Walk Sitka featured Jim “Radagast8” Rogers, Kim Riech, Carolyn Black, and Charles Bingham. Another Sitka resident, Karen Hegyi, was on the Ak2Az team that finished in third place, so Sitka walkers were well-represented in the overall standings.

Three of the top five teams actually were individuals competing by themselves. The top “team” was Wcaps, which was Nick Backstrom, aka NBack. He walked 2,350,091 steps during the 100-plus days of the challenge. In second place was Fairfax Walkers (another individual), with 1,706,759 steps. In third place was Az2Ak, which averaged 1,692,638 steps among the six members of the team. Another solo team, JaywalkersOfEdso, was fourth with 1,649,050 steps.

Walk Sitka finished in fifth place with an average 1,629,453 for its four members. Jim led the team with 2,150,044 steps (including one day where he walked more than 100,000 steps, or more than 44 miles). Other Walk Sitka members included Kim with 1,823,306 steps, Carolyn with 1,573,006 steps, and Charles with 1,076,040.

In addition to walking, participants could convert other physical activity to steps, such as biking, gardening, housework, dancing, shoveling snow, swimming, etc. “We had a total of 2,306 participants log over 800 million total steps and activities and convert 70 million activities into distance through Walker Tracker,” an email from the challenge said after it ended.

Sitka to host Herring Protectors 5K fun run/walk on April 10

It’s spring, which means it’s herring season in Sitka. While waiting for their hemlock bows to fill with herring eggs, Sitka residents can participate in the Herring Protectors 5K fun run and walk.

This event starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 10, at Whale Park, with registration open at 9 a.m. There is no entry fee, but optional donations will be accepted to support the Herring Protectors.

Participants are asked to please wear a mask until social distancing can occur. Beautiful herring masks will be given to the first 20 registrants. For more information, go to the Herring Protectors page on Facebook.

Pathways Coalition to host Keet Kids Run I Toowú Klatseen program this spring

The Pathways Coalition will offer Keet Kids Run I Toowú Klatseen, a 10-week, 10-lesson, virtual program for second-fifth grade students of all genders that helps build self-esteem, healthy relationship skills, and respect — all while safe at home.

The program, rooted in Southeast Alaska traditional tribal values and culture, is a free and adapted version of Boys Run I Toowú Klatseen, created in response to COVID-19. Students will be prompted to get moving with physical exercise, create art, journal, and more. The season starts in early March and will conclude in May with a celebratory and COVID-conscious five-kilometer fun run. More details will be available as the time approaches.

This season, participants will have the opportunity to connect with their coaches and teammates on Zoom each week throughout the season. Visit tinyurl.com/kkritkregister to register by Sunday, Feb. 28. The program will begin the week of Monday, March 8.

For more information, please email kjefferson@safv.org or call Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School counselor, Ms. Diana Fulton-Twaddle, at 966-1213. We look forward to practicing strength of spirit throughout this Keet Kids Run season. This program is sponsored by the Pathways Coalition, which is comprised by Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Youth Advocates of Sitka, Sitkans Against Family Violence, Sitka Counseling, and the Sitka School District.

SAIL to host first Senior Hiking Club hike since October

After a hiatus of seven months and another hiatus of four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike event, its first event since October and only its second hike since last March.

The hike will take place from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22. Seniors should meet at the Sitka National Historical Park visitor center for a hike on the totem trails, and rides are available for those who need them. Participants should be prepared to wear masks and practice distancing while on the hike.

Normally, the group picks the trail on the day of the hike, but occasionally a trail is picked before the event. SAIL makes trekking poles available for hikers to use (trekking poles are great on ice or uneven terrain, and they help seniors keep their balance), and hikers are encouraged to bring ice cleats such as YakTrax during the icy months of winter.

SAIL offers Senior Hiking Club events for those age 60 or older once or twice a month, and now plans to alternate them on Mondays with Adventure Club events. For now the hikes are free, but usually there is a $5 fee and nobody will be turned away because of finances. The hikes are open to people of all abilities and fitness levels. To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, check out our January 2013 post introducing the club.

To learn more about the Senior Hiking Club, senior and adaptive kayaking trips, senior cycling events, and and a variety of other outdoors skills and survival classes, contact SAIL ORCA (Outdoor Recreation and Community Access) program coordinator Maria Sakowski at 747-6859 or email her at msakowski@sailinc.org.