Join Walk Sitka’s 2020 team in the APHA’s Billion Steps Challenge

Are you a regular walker, one who uses a pedometer or fitness app to track your daily step count? Then join the Walk Sitka team in the American Public Health Association‘s Billion Steps Challenge, a national event that runs from Jan. 1 through April 12, 2020. The contest ends after National Public Health Week (April 6-12).

This event is free, and the competition helps motivate people to get out and do more walking. Many people set a goal to walk 10,000 steps a day, and that adds up over the contest that lasts just a bit longer than three months.

Most of the final stats from the 2019 challenge aren’t available, but Walk Sitka’s Jim Rogers did finish in the top five individually with about 2.2 million steps. Another Sitka resident, Karen Hegyi, who was competing for a family team called AKtoAZ, ranked among the top 10 for the first several weeks of the challenge, but faded out of the top 10 after a back injury. There were a couple of teams from Alaska, including Walk/Bike Alaska. In 2019, there were more than 5,000 walkers on more than 400 teams in the challenge, and together they walked 1.56 billion steps. The top three teams were CrisfieldWalks, Falisha Got This 2019 and Wonderful Walkers.

In 2017, Walk Sitka only had one person walking (Charles Bingham), but he recorded more than half-a-million steps while averaging about 8,500 a day (finishing in the top 60 teams). In 2018, Walk Sitka had two people walking (Karen Hegyi and Charles Bingham), and Walk Sitka recorded more than 2.8 million steps (an average of 14,655 steps a day) to finish fourth overall. There was one other identifiable Alaska team in the 2018 Billion Steps Challenge — Anchorage Public Health DHHS — which recorded more than 14.5 million steps but only had an average of 3,529 steps per day to finish 176th overall. There were 400 teams in the 2018 event, who totaled more than 2.2 billion steps.

To sign up, click this link. Once you’re registered, you should be directed to this link. Click on the Teams link, then scroll through the team names to find the Walk Sitka logo. or type our name in the search bar Click the Join Team button and you’re in. The Walk Sitka team is open to walkers from Sitka, Alaska.

The challenge uses a website called WalkerTracker, which links to a variety of fitness apps for automatic registration of steps. But if you’re old school and use a pedometer clipped to your belt, there is a link so you can manually enter your steps.

Voices of Sheldon Jackson School and College to dedicate new interpretive signs on Dec. 28

A group called Voices of Sheldon Jackson School and College will dedicate several new interpretive signs detailing the history of the school at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28, at the corner of Lincoln Street and College Drive (across the parking lot from the old Stratton Library and Sheldon Jackson Museum).

The project began as a way to document the history of the closed school while there were still people around who attended or taught at the school. There are four main signs on Lincoln Street (two by the Youth Advocates of Sitka building and two at the campus entrance of Lincoln Street and College Drive), two signs behind the Laundry Building (across from museum), one in front of the Sitka Youth Hostel on Jeff Davis Street, and one by the old sawmill building (next to Sitka Sound Science Center). You can see images of the signs at this link.

There will be a short dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 28, and the public is invited to a short dedication for new interpretive signs about the history of Sheldon Jackson School and College. The dedication will be at the new signs at the corner of Lincoln Street and College Drive. A reception with coffee, tea and cookies will follow at the Laundry Building (also known as “Smoke Stack”), on College Drive, across from the Sheldon Jackson Museum. A new website dedicated to the school’s history is being built at

This project was made possible with the participation of graduates, former staff and other historians and experts on Sheldon Jackson history, and by the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Rasmuson Foundation, and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. For more information, call Rebecca Poulson at 738-7448.

Sitka to host its local Christmas Bird Count event on Saturday, Dec. 28

This year is the National Audubon Society‘s 120th annual Christmas Bird Count, and Sitka will be one of several Alaska communities to host a local event, with Sitka’s event set for Saturday, Dec. 28.

During this event, local teams will hike around various sections of Sitka in an attempt to count as many different birds they can find. There will be a planning meeting and slideshow to review local birds at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 26, at the Alaska Raptor Center. A post-bird count social event takes place at 4 p.m. Saturday in the house above Pet’s Choice Veterinary Clinic.

The Christmas Bird Count, which started nationally in 1900 with Alaska’s first event in 1941, involves thousands of bird-watchers, hikers, nature lovers and more each year. The count is for a 24-hour period and local events can take place from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 this winter to still count. This event is open to all ages, and many families participate.

Last year, on Dec. 29, 2018, in Sitka, there were 75 different bird species spotted by 55 Sitka participants. The most common bird seen was the Northwestern crow, with 503 counted. They also counted 476 common ravens and 295 dark-eyed juncos. You can find Sitka 2018 stats here. You can check out other 2018 stats (and early 2019 stats) by clicking this link.

In 2015-16, the Alaska Audubon Society reported 1,157 Alaska counters in 37 counting areas recorded 149 different species and 123,658 total birds. Kodiak’s Narrow Cape-Kalsin Bay recorded the most species in Alaska in 2015-16 with 74, followed by Sitka with 68 (Alaska overall stats aren’t available for the more recent Christmas Bird Counts).

For more information, contact Victoria Vosburg, DVM, at or 738-8661.

SAIL Senior Hiking Club sets next hike for the morning of Thursday, Dec. 5

The Sitka office of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Inc. (SAIL) has announced its next Senior Hiking Club hike and yoga event will take place from 9:30-11:45 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5. (NOTE: This is a time change from the past hikes.) Seniors should meet at the Swan Lake Senior Center for transportation to the Sitka National Historical Park Totem Trails trailhead for a short hike, then a senior yoga class at Yoga Union before the return trip to Swan Lake Senior Center.

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, 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.

In addition to the hike and yoga event on Dec. 5, SAIL will offer more activities for seniors in December. From 10-11 a.m. on all Tuesdays (starting Sept. 3), SAIL will join the Senior Walking Hours event from 10-11 a.m. at the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center. This is a great opportunity for seniors to get their walks in when the weather outside is cold and icy. For other events, check the calendar posted below.

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 Anna Hennessey at 747-6859 or email her at The calendar includes hiking, orienteering, kayaking, and other events for seniors, youth, and the disabled.

• SAIL events calendar for December 2019

SEARHC, Stride 365 co-host run for Brave Heart Volunteers on Saturday, Dec. 7

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Run Sitka’s Stride 365 program will co-host the 5K Run/Walk for Brave Heart Volunteers on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Runners should meet at 9 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. race start at the O’Connell Bridge Lightering Facility. The cost of the five-kilometer race and two-mile walk is a donation of $10. Proceeds this month benefit Brave Heart Volunteers.

Each month SEARHC and Run Sitka (#runsitka) host a Stride 365 event on the first Saturday of every month, with proceeds going to a different charity in Sitka.

For more information, please contact Heleena van Veen by email at, or by phone at 966-8914.