Hundreds of people go for a group walk during the Women’s March On Sitka

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womensmarchonwashingtonalaskaIt’s too bad the weather was lousy and nobody showed up Jan. 21 for the Women’s March On Sitka. Actually, the weather was great (about 30ish with sunny skies) and about 1,000 people showed up to walk. Not bad for a fishing town of 9,000 people.

The marchers came out for a variety of reasons. Some were protesting the presidency of Donald Trump, especially his disrespect for women and minorities. Others were marching in support of health care and others marched for equality. The crowd was mixed about two-thirds female and one-third male, with several people marching with their dogs. There also were many families marching, including a few three-generation clans.

The event was one of nearly 700 similar marches held around the world in support of the Women’s March On Washington, including at least 17 in Alaska. In Sitka, the marchers gathered at the Crescent Harbor covered shelter, then marched up Lincoln Street to loop around St. Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Cathedral, then marched back down Lincoln Street to St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church.

There were so many marchers the lead pack of marchers was about 2-3 blocks of the last marchers, taking up a full traffic lane. The crowd of marchers wrapped completely around the roundabout that encircles St. Michael’s and the leaders were about 100 yards back down Lincoln when they finally met the last marchers.

A slideshow of scenes from the march is posted below.

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SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 26

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The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 1-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26 (note time change from usual schedule). Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead, which will be chosen by the group participating that day.

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 a month, usually on the second or third Thursday. There is a $5 fee, but 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 Steve Hutchinson at 747-6859 or email him at shutchinson@sailinc.org. The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for January 2017

Five Sitkans to give presentation about their Via Francigena treks on Jan. 26 at the Sitka Public Library

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img_8746Last year, five Sitka residents hiked part of the 2,000-kilometer Via Francigena historic pilgrimage trail from Canterbury, England, to Rome. The five — Bridget Kauffman, Ted Laufenberg, Connie Kreiss, Karen Hegyi and Julien Naylor — will give a free presentation and slideshow on their hikes at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, at the Sitka Public Library.

“There is so much variety along such a long walk,” Kreiss said. “The 30-kilometer stretch in England to the ferry in Dover is pastoral and a lovely introduction to England’s famous walking paths. Northeast France has canal systems to walk along, the numerous World War I cemeteries and battle sites, the vineyards of Champagne, miles of flat farmland — corn and grain production — and then the foothills and Dura Mountains into Switzerland. All along the way there are magnificent old cathedrals, and some monasteries and convents provided occasional hospitality for the night for pilgrim walkers. Italy has huge variety, starting in the French speaking Aosta valley in the north, down through the plains with flooded rice fields of the Po River Valley, through Tuscany with its hill-top walled towns and tourists, and on to Rome.”

img_8842According to Kreiss, Kauffman was the first of the Sitkans to hike part of the trail, hiking the last 400 kilometers from Aulla into Rome last spring. Kauffman was joined for the last few days of her hike by her husband, Laufenberg. Kreiss said she was the next to head to Europe, and she hiked nearly the entire trail from Canterbury to Rome, except for St. Bernard’s Pass between Switzerland and Italy due to deep snow. Hegyi and Naylor also walked most of the way later in the spring, starting from Canterbury.

“We all had different experiences,” Kreiss said.

“We hope to cover something on the history of this particular pilgrimage walk. It dates back at least to the Roman era, and some of the walk in England, France and Italy is on old Roman paving stones. I don’t recall seeing Roman roads in Switzerland, but I’m sure the route follows old Roman roads. After all we know, ‘All roads in Europe lead to Rome.’ The present walk is based on 10th Century documentation from Archbishop Sigeric, of Canterbury, who walked to Rome in 970 to meet with the Pope and then walked home again. His scribe made a record of each town they slept in, and that is the basis of the 79 stages of the current Via Francigena. The Via Francigena was made an official Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1994, and has been developed, more or less, by national and regional organizations in the four countries it covers,” Kreiss said.

img_8968“Walking it is probably similar to walking the famous Camino Frances in Spain to Santiago 30 or 40 years ago. People who live along the route often recognize you are a pilgrim as you walk along, and there are some places to stay which are only available to walkers with the special pilgrim’s credential (the little passport which you get stamped every day, so that when you arrive at the Vatican, you have proof that you walked the route). But it is more solitary than the Spanish camino and distances are sometimes longer between towns and accommodations. Probably less than 200 folks walk the entire route each year. Large numbers of walkers do some of the Italian portion.”

img_8139Kreiss said the five hikers will talk about their personal motivations for doing this walk, what to carry, what to expect, and about what we experienced along the way. They will talk about the variety of paths underfoot, the types of lodging, and of course the great food.

“We hope to inspire Sitkans to consider this long walk, or one of the easier pilgrim walks in Europe,” Kreiss said.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 12

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The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike will be from 1-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12 (note time change from usual schedule). Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the trailhead for Indian River Trail.

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 a month, usually on the second or third Thursday. There is a $5 fee, but 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 Steve Hutchinson at 747-6859 or email him at shutchinson@sailinc.org. The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for January 2017

Walk Sitka to meet on Jan. 17 to begin work on Walk Friendly Communities renewal application

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WFC_LogoWant to help make Sitka a better place for walkers? Walk Sitka will meet from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the Sitka Public Library (Gus Adams meeting room) to begin work on our Walk Friendly Communities program renewal application.

In October 2013, Sitka became the first (and currently only) city in Alaska to earn a Bronze level or higher Walk Friendly Communities designation. We earned a Bronze level in 2013, so let’s see if we can improve to the Silver or Gold level in 2017.

Over the past few years, Sitka has seen the completion of the Sitka Sea Walk, an expansion to the Cross Trail, a new multi-use pathway at the end of Sawmill Creek Road, and several other infrastructure improvements. Over the last few months, Sitka has received funding awards to build the second phase of the Sitka Sea Walk and the sixth phase of the Cross Trail, and the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is getting ready to redo a section of Sawmill Creek Road from the roundabout to Jeff Davis Street to make it friendlier for walkers and bikers (good bye power poles in the middle of the sidewalk). We also have had more education about being visible while walking and a cellphone ban while driving to promote safety, and launched the Park Prescriptions program at Sitka National Historical Park and other hiking/walking clubs to encourage people to walk.

During this meeting, we will start to list our improvements since our last application, and we will look for areas where we can improve our community to make it easier for people to walk.

To learn more about the application process, contact Charles Bingham at 623-7660 or charleswbingham3@gmail.com.