Category Archives: Featured Content

Ice Fishing Tragedy

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

 

Apologies for getting this out a little late, but tragedy for two men who died during an ice fishing trip last week.

The Fairbanks News-Miner with more:

Troopers were alerted by a search and rescue team just after noon Friday that two men were overdue from a snowmachine trip to go fishing outside of Noorvik. The men, Richard R. Patterson, 34, and Fred Melton, 44, left just after midnight for the trip up the Kobuk River.

They had not returned by noon and search team was sent out. They discovered a hole in the river ice about 1.5 miles upstream from Noorvik. The men’s bodies were recovered about two hours later. The men were transported to the State Medical Examiner for autopsy. Alcohol was not a factor.

Condolences to the mens’ loved ones.

Ariel’s Still Flying High

Ariel Tweto 5

 

 

The following story appears in the November issue of Alaska Sporting Journal, on sale now. 

 

 

-By Chris Cocoles

Photos by Ariel Tweto

Ariel Tweto can’t stay on the ground for very long. Neither can she stop smiling, laughing and making her friends and family giggle.

It’s no wonder this tiny sparkplug from tiny Unakleet, Alaska, is part of one of the state’s first family of flight. Her parents, Jim and Ferno Tweto, co-own and operate Ravn Alaska airlines, an important carrier throughout the Last Frontier. The family business has been featured on the TV series Flying Wild Alaska, which returned to the airwaves this year on the Outdoor Channel after originally appearing on the Discovery Channel.

Ariel’s become quite the success story, having been one of the driving forces behind her family’s show getting on the air in the first place.

“I’m so happy with all the decisions I’ve made so far,” she says. “You might regret some of the stuff you do. But I’m going to hold onto these moments.”

Ariel Tweto.

Ariel Tweto.

THE FRIENDLY SKIES

Flying Wild Alaska focused on the Tweto family’s role in their aviation company, then known as Era Alaska.

“We tried to make it as honest as possible and actually show the real Alaska, including the bad things about it,” says Tweto, who turns 28 this year. “And then I hope we were able to get people excited about aviation. That was another one of our goals. So many people are so scared (of flying), and we wanted to highlight and show the honest aspect of flying. We hoped we would get a younger generation excited about flying.”

The airplane was certainly inspiring to the Tweto patriarch. Jim Tweto came to Alaska on a hockey scholarship to the University of Alaska Anchorage. His career as a goalie wasn’t going to take him to the NHL so he took up work as a welder in the Nome-area village of Unakleet, currently populated by 712.

“When he went to the village and first met my mom, he built boats. And my grandpa (Ferno’s father) was one of the first native pilots who lived up there,” Ariel Tweto says. “All of my uncles flew and my dad just fell in love with it.”

Jim started his own company, a one-plane operation that took off (literally) around the time Ariel and her sister, Ayla, were toddlers. In 1990 he partnered up to form another successful venture, Hageland Aviation, and eventually Jim Tweto and partners Mike Hageland and John Hajdukovich eventually molded Era Alaska into a regional powerhouse of the skies. Today, the company is called Ravn Alaska and has a fleet of over 70 planes.

“My parents are still working every day. And they never take breaks,” she says. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from my parents: They don’t stop working. They wake up at 6 and sometimes in summer they stay up until like 11 or 12 at night. Last year was the first time in like 20 years they went on a vacation (to Hawaii). I asked them why they don’t take more vacations and they say, ‘We just like working.’”

Ariel’s mom jokes that she likes to work as much as her daughter likes to travel. But the work-hard, play-hard mantra also rubbed off in a good way.

“They made us work hard as kids,” Tweto said of herself and two sisters. “They set rules for us, disciplined us. A lot of families don’t have parents who are supportive like ours. I’m just really fortunate that they were supportive, but they made us work hard. I definitely think we’re a family of overachievers.”

 

Ariel Tweto 4 Ariel Tweto 2

LOVING LIFE

Tweto can boast two hometowns now: Unakleet – “I go there at least once a month” – and Los Angeles, which she fell for like so many others seeking the Southern California lifestyle after she attended Chapman University in Orange County. Furthermore, Tweto stays busy enough with multiple projects in the works.

“I haven’t been to my house in L.A. in a couple months because I was (out and about so much),” she said during an interview in late spring. “I go to L.A. and usually can last maybe 10 days or two weeks and then I have to get out.”

“I met some amazing friends there (in Southern California) and I love the weather and being warm. But I love Alaska; there’s no place quite like it. It’s where my best friends live and my family lives.”

Some of the friends Tweto met in Los Angeles visited her in Alaska and plan to go back north, perhaps even staying permanently. That’s the magnetic appeal the Last Frontier can have on ambitious Lower 48ers looking for a challenge or new start.

Tweto encourages anyone making a trip to Alaska to be around during the Iditarod sled dog race every March.

“It’s so much fun. Everyone is so excited because the (day)light is back; the sun is coming back out and the weather is warming up. You sit and talk to the mushers and hear their stories. You’re out there and the (sleds) are finishing, you run into a bar and have a beer and then you run back outside and cheer for the next one,” she says. “It’s so much fun and it’s just gorgeous at that time of year.”

Tweto, no stranger to the outdoors, also loves to come back in June and July to fish. Heading to the Kenai Peninsula or joining at a friend’s fish camp for a week is a favorite Tweto summer pastime. Last year around this time, a Kenai salmon trip netted some big fish, including one that the diminutive but feisty woman temporarily lost the battle to while winning the war.

“I fell out of the boat,” Tweto says with her classic shrugging-her-shoulders-and-laughing-it-off candor.

“The fish was so heavy and I just got super excited, so I took one step back and flipped over. Oh, well.”

Last year she went to Scotland with her friend, former CBS talk-show host Craig Ferguson (see sidebar) and his family. In the spring Tweto traveled to Rio de Janeiro as part of a TV commercial for a Brazilian beer company. The Tweto sisters, including Flying Wild Alaska regular Ayla, visited their father’s homeland of Norway in the summer. The Philippines beckon in the coming months.

“It’s fun living out of a suitcase,” Tweto says. “If someone told me I had to stay in one location, I couldn’t do it.”

 

Ariel Tweto 3 Ariel Tweto 7

A GREATER CAUSE

But it’s not just about frequent-flier miles, fishing and fun in the sun. There’s a method to Tweto’s madness.

“For me it’s about meeting random people and hearing their stories,” she says. “I feel if you see someone walking down the street and start talking to (him or her), you’ll learn something.”

She has also become a licensed and accomplished pilot and hopes to get her commercial license soon. She has the same passion for aviation as her parents did dating back to their humbling start in the industry in Alaska.

“They are more proud of the fact when we (successfully) follow through with a plan,” Tweto says. “I knew I was going to do it, because when we have a goal we’re going to accomplish it, even if it’s something like learning how to bake a pie.”

At some point, Tweto would love to have her own television empire. She has aspirations to someday be the “Eskimo Oprah.”

“Everyone in the villages really never sees Eskimos on TV,” Tweto says. “I’d love to have an adventure show and a talk show. I love that (Oprah Winfrey) does so much and she’s such an inspiration for me. One thing about Oprah is she connects with people, and I like that. She built an empire and I just want to build my own brand and inspire people.”

She also wants to help others like her. Tweto started a nonprofit, Popping Bubbles (facebook.com/arieltwetopoppingbubbles).

“I go to rural communities around Canada and Alaska and talk to (the kids). It started out as more of a suicide prevention thing, but now it’s just as much about kids setting goals and dreaming big,” Tweto says. “I’m from a small community and now I get to travel the world. I try to get them to get excited about traveling and adventure – setting goals.”

Some stories she’s heard from the kids in isolated Native Alaskan and Canadian villages can be heartbreaking to stomach. She talked to one group about the effects and tragic consequences bullying can have on victims. Afterwards she was asked to give the speech in neighboring communities. “It’s very emotional,” Tweto says. “I definitely didn’t think it would turn into an actual organization. I’m really happy about it. It can be draining because you’re talking about suicide and issues like that.”

Clearly, Tweto is taking the fight (and the experience) to the world rather than sitting back. Sitting still and settling down can wait for later.

“I can’t be in one place for more than two weeks, which is horrible for my personal life, since I’m 27 and still single,” she deadpans. “I haven’t met anyone yet who understands that I like moving around and don’t like having to text anyone and say where I’m at. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do – so sorry.” ASJ

Editor’s note: Follow Ariel Tweto on Instagram and Twitter (both @arieltweto)

 

Ariel Tweto sidebar

LATE NIGHT STAR 

Ariel Tweto is no stranger to the couches and comfy chairs of late-night television. She’s been a guest on the Late Show With David Letterman, but Tweto was something of a folk heroine during Craig Ferguson’s run on CBS’Late Late Show.

“I think I was on like 15 times or something like that,” says the star of the Discovery Channel/Outdoor Channel series Flying Wild Alaska. “He’s the best.”

On Tweto’s last visit, she talked about spending Thanksgiving with Ferguson and his wife, Megan Wallace-Cunningham. She was also part of a group of family and friends who visited Ferguson’s native Scotland together.

“Can we just sit here for a while longer? It’s sort of sad,” Tweto told Ferguson as her last appearance on the show was imminent. “Thank you for everything. You did change my life.”

“Did I?” Ferguson asked.

“You did. You opened so many doors that I wouldn’t have gotten to walk through. I didn’t even try to memorize that line, but that was pretty good.”

“He’s such a great guy,” she told the audience in Los Angeles about the affable Ferguson. “He’s amazing.” –CC 

State Of Alaska Cuts Could Affect Fishing Industry

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As someone who spent about 15 post-college years working at newspapers, I can relate to budget cuts. Through runs at two once top 50-circulation publications, those papers are now shells of their former selves. Good, talented people were given “severance packages” – the modern-day way to give someone the heave-ho (laid off), and page counts are now absurdly small and overpriced.  I was just in a Dallas Walmart with a friend who wanted to buy a Saturday Dallas Morning News, which has traditionally been one of the best papers around. I knew the days of feeding a rack with a quarter were over; still, I sheepishly asked, ‘What’s that going to cost? 75 cents?” Try $1.50!

But I digress. Newspapers are not the only industry that’s suffered cuts during our long stretches of recession. A report on KFSK in Petersburg had some disheartening news for Alaska’s fishing industry:

Because of Alaska’s budget crisis, state agencies cut spending this year and are planning additional reductions in the next few years. For the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, those cuts have meant less monitoring of fish runs, a change that will lead to more conservative management and less fishing opportunity. That was the message from Fish and Game officials to a commercial fishing industry organization that met in Petersburg in late October.

ADFG commissioner Sam Cotten told the board members of the United Fishermen of Alaska at its fall meeting in Petersburg that the department is looking at several years of budget reductions.

“Last year I think we took an 18 percent cut and the governor’s asking for another 10,” Cotten said. “And the legislature’s not going to be satisfied with that. So it isn’t a matter of whether our budget’s going to get cut it’s a matter of how much. But we would like your help on the where part.”

The story also talked about the state “consolidating administrative staff,” so that’s not exactly a good sign for everyone involved. But it’s hardly a shocking development.

 

 

 

 

Alaska Ports Lead The Way In Seafood Landings

Dutch Habor led the way with 761.8 million pounds of fish landings last year. (US GOVERNMENT WORK)

Dutch Habor led the way with 761.8 million pounds of fish landings last year. (US GOVERNMENT WORK)

This just in: Alaska has a huge presence in the commercial fishing industry. So it shouldn’t be a major shocker that the three Alaska ports ranked 1-3 in the U.S. in terms of seafood landings last year.

Here’s the Alaska Dispatch’s Laine Welch with more:

“The Alaska port of Dutch Harbor continued to lead the nation with the most seafood landings – 761.8 million pounds, 87 percent of which was walleye pollock,” said Dr. Richard Merrick in announcing the national rankings in the annual Fisheries of the U.S. report for 2014.

It’s the 18th year in a row that Dutch Harbor has claimed the top spot for fish landings. Kodiak ranked second and the Aleutian Islands were third, thanks to Trident’s plant at Akutan, the nation’s largest seafood processing facility. In all, 13 Alaska communities made the top 50 list for landings: Alaska Peninsula (8), Naknek (10), Sitka (14), Ketchikan (15), Cordova (16), Petersburg (20), Bristol Bay (23), Seward (27), Kenai (34) and Juneau (45).

In terms of the value of all that seafood, Dutch Harbor was second at $191 million, coming in behind New Bedford, Massachusetts, for the 15th consecutive year. The relatively small 140 million pound catch at that New England port was worth nearly $330 million at the docks, due to the pricey Atlantic scallop fishery, with prices ranging from $12.50 to $14 a pound, according to the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

Prepping for the Alaska Big One

KETCHIKAN FAMILY READY IF MAJOR QUAKE HITS

alaskatank

Rodney Dial lives in Ketchikan. The former U.S. Army Ranger appeared on National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers last season and has spent most of the profits from his tattoo parlor to protect his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Megan, from a potentially massive earthquake and tsunami (most of Southeast Alaska sits on the Ring of Fire). Dial, an experienced diver, has a tankless, solarpowered scuba system and has hidden many of his emergency supplies underwater, in part to prevent possible looting.

Rodney surveys the ocean to find his cache, which has been watertight-sealed and dropped to the floor of the sea.

Rodney surveys the ocean to find his cache, which has been watertight-sealed and dropped to the floor of the sea.


He also has a customized but street-legal tank he calls the “WarMachine.” We caught up with Dial and got a detailed look at his operation:

Chris Cocoles Was there an event in your life that prompted you to decide to do this?

Rodney Dial I am a life long Alaskan and remember being told at a young age of how my family was involved in the (Anchorage) Good Friday Earthquake in 1964. My grandmother was working in the downtown JC Penney Building that collapsed. It was a memorable moment for my family that stressed the importance of being self-sufficient in an emergency situation. Growing up,my family learned how to harvest local resources, prepare for disasters and become familiar with the Alaskan environment.

CC Would you call prepping a passion or obsession?

RD Some would probably see our level of prepping an obsession, but for us it is just good family planning.We are concerned that too many Americans and even some Alaskans are becoming too“soft.”(They’re) relying on someone to save them in an emergency, expecting water to always flow out of the tap or electricity to always be on. Many people have never experienced any real hardships in life and, for some reason, believe they never will. We find that method of thinking dangerous and potentially a life endangering gamble. In essence we see prepping as the duty of every good American/Alaskan.

CC Has your Army Ranger career and diving background been a big aid in your prepping ability?

RD My Ranger training and subsequent Jungle Expert Certification pushed my boundaries as a young man and made me realize that with proper planning and the right mindset, I could survive in any environment. Tobe certified as a U.S.Army Jungle Expert I received training in the jungles of Panama and had to survive for three weeks with the supplies I carried on my back. My 24 years of diving experience have given me a unique ability to obtain significant resources in an area most people are unable to access. This allows a constant ability to provide food and other resources for my family.

CC You spent a lot of time in Central American jungles. Can you share some of that experience?

RD In 1985 I joined the U.S Army and became an Army Ranger. I did several deployments in Central America, including Honduras and Panama. As a Ranger, we were expected to jump in (parachute) into remote locations with only the supplies on our back,be able to complete missions, survive and return. In Honduras and Panama the focus was preparation for a guerilla style war in a jungle environment.

CC Does it take a creative mind to figure out the best ways to protect your family from a major catastrophe?

RD To some degree a creative mind is important to identify risks that a family may face in an emergency and unique ways to prepare. Of more importance however, is knowledge; the knowledge of how to prepare and provide the basics to support life. For example, the woods and ocean around Ketchikan are filled with plants and animals that can be harvested to provide food. Without that knowledge a person could starve in an emergency or eat something poisonous.

CC Your “WarMachine” is insane. Do you take pride in that vehicle like an owner of a classic car would?

RD War Machine is like a member of our family – we take care of it and know that someday it may take care of us. We look at it this way: in any protracted emergency, no matter how well a person has prepared, there will ultimately be a need to obtain some critical item or resupply; perhaps it’s something as simple as antibiotics. In that moment, you can expect that many other individuals will also have resupply needs, some far more desperate than you. People in a life-or-death survival situation can become dangerous and unpredictable. War Machine will help assure that when we have the need to resupply we will not be an easy target for those who would contemplate violence towards us as a means of their own survival. War Machine is a constant work in progress. In the near future we will be repainting the vehicle in an urban camouflage pattern, adding communication devices and other protective upgrades.

CC Do you and your family travel much or do you stay mostly around Ketchikan, just in case?

RD We do not travel much and use nearly all available discretionary funds to improve our self-sufficiency.

CC Iwould guess a nAlaska earthquake similar to the 1964 Anchorage quake your family lived through, would be more worried about an ensuing tsunami than the actual quake given what those waves have done in other parts of the world?

RD We agree.Our current home is located over 200 feet above sea level and the home foundation is anchored to bedrock. Since Ketchikanis a coastal community, the concern is that a tsunami could damage our ports and ability to receive supplies from the outside world. For the show we proved a “proof of concept” that we could store and recover supplies cached underwater. We have refined that process and now store supplies in bays and protected waterways largely protected from the areas a tsunami would likely affect. We use GPS coordinates to mark the supply cashes in case a tsunami were to obliterate terrain features used to identify drop locations. We also assure that our supplies are deep enough to be protected from the surge of a tsunami.

CC Inwatching the show, is your daughter, Megan, who seemed a little unimpressed with your planning, coming around to what you are trying to accomplish?

RD Megan, like most children, has lived a comfortable life and it is difficult to convince her of the need to prepare. She has however, been exposed to far more survival information than the average child her age. We feel confident that she has the knowledge necessary to identify local resources she could obtain in an emergency situation. As she grows older we hope to involve her more in the prepping process.

CC Talk about the four P’s you have targeted in terms of prepping:plan,prepare,position and provide. What are the challenges each of those variables throw at you when trying to prep for something catastrophic?

RD The greatest challenge for most people who are new to prepping is knowledge and money. Knowledge is the most important and only takes effort. We were able to obtain significant knowledge on the natural food sources by just asking local native elders. Our current efforts harvesting and processing devils club are a prime example. Knowledge is free in most cases and just takes effort to seek it out. Knowledge will allow you to plan and prepare. “Position and providing” requires money inmost cases and can present difficulties for some in reaching an acceptable level of security in a short amount of time. When money is tight, I recommend that people take small,but constant steps to improve their survival abilities, such as saving one can of food per week or one other action item as funds allow.

CC What was your experience like on Doomsday Preppers?

RD Our experience on Doomsday Preppers was challenging, but very rewarding. In a way it was a full-scale drill for our family, putting to use the skills we have learned and, at the same time, identifying areas we needed to improve. After the filming we reevaluated our family disaster plan and identified several areas for improvement. We have worked on improving our family skills and supplies ever since.

CC Do you hope the show has opened people’s eyes about the idea that you should be prepared for whatever curve balls are thrown your way?

RD One of the great things about Doomsday Preppers is that it is forcing people to think about thewhat if’s and realizing that some level of family preparedness is a good thing. Not all of the potential disasters prepared
for on the show will apply to all people; however, something positive can be learned from every episode.

CC Is it important for anyone, even if they don’t go the measures you’ve taken to be prepared, to just have some kind of plan in place, even if it’s a simple plan?

RD We really feel that it is the duty of every American to have at least a minimum capacity to survive some unknown(incident), for at least 72 hours. A person’s failure to plan will likely endanger others who may be tasked with risking their lives to save them.

CC You’ve mentioned Alaskans are always preppers of some degree. Is that a case of you have to be hearty and resourceful to make it in your state? And you can’t afford to not be prepared for the unexpected?

RD The Alaskan mindset seems more independent than our fellow Americans in the Lower 48. The high cost of living has also helped spur Alaskans to become more self-sufficient, from something as simple as knowing how to hunt/fish or even harvest wood to heat their home. Most of my friends and neighbors have enough supplies to survive for several weeks and the ability to defend their homes if needed.

CC You seem like a level-headed guy. Do your friends and neighbors think you’re a little eccentric?

RD Probably, although we have always felt that most Alaskans are preppers by Lower 48 standards. Most Alaskans I know have enough food and water to survive for at least a month or two and have some knowledge of the local environment. War Machine probably is seen as a little intense by some; however, you know you live in a great state when your community doesn’t have a problem with you owning and driving a tank down Main Street. Only in Alaska!

Story by Chris Cocoles – ASJ Photos from National Geographic

Hockey’s Willie Mitchell Stands By Soccer Player’s Stance Over Fish

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Hockey player Willie Mitchell, who we profiled in 2014 when he was a member of the Los Angeles Kings, has been an advocate for protecting wild salmon from fish farms in his native British Columbia.

Mitchell, now the captain for the NHL’s Florida Panthers,  offered his support to see  a B.C. soccer-playing teen who spoke out against her team being sponsored by a fish farming company.

Here’s CBC with more:

The captain of the Florida Panthers, Willie Mitchell, tweeted on Friday night he would sponsor 14-year-old Freyja Reed after she was told to stop protesting about the fish farming company who sponsors her soccer league.

Mitchell called Reed’s case “outrageous” and said the ability to “speak up for what we believe in” is reason why it’s a “privilege” to live in North America.

  1. Willie Mitchell  @Willie_Mitch33 Oct 23

    The ability to speak up for what we believe in is why we are so privileged to live in N.A. Freyja Reed I will sponsor you!

  2. So outrageous! Youth being bullied about her opinion-one shared by legislators & business leaders. RT to support.

The hockey player, originally from Vancouver Island, is known for his interests in wildlife conservation.

Anissa Reed, Freyja’s mother, said Mitchell has already taken the first step to follow through on his tweet — her daughter heard from him via a Facebook message on Saturday.

Kudos to Willie, who’s a super good guy and someone I really enjoyed interviewing, for standing by Freyja in a rather ridiculous moment of petty behavior by her soccer team.

 

 

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CrossFit For the Outdoors

KETCHIKAN HUNTER FOCUSES ON STAYING IN SHAPE

From inside an old gym bag an electronic quack of a duck is pulled. It’s Jason Gentry’s ringtone. The waterfowl season is over, but it’s always on his mind. Gentry hears it and since he’s done with his 1,000-meter row, 50 bar over burpees and 50 shoulder to overheads, he checks to see if it’s his son. It’s not, so he returns to recovering from the latest workout of the day at Ketchikan CrossFit.

Gentry isn’t a guy with two lives – hunting and working out. He’s got three at least. He’s a husband, father of three (ages 13, 11 and 10), CrossFit junkie and waterfowl hunting fanatic. But he’s found a way to splice it all together.

CATCHING THE FEVER
Gentry’s teenage years were spent in Barrow, Alaska, but he didn’t grow up a hunter or fisherman. He moved south (sort of; everything is south of Barrow) to Fairbanks for college and his first job. After Fairbanks was Anchorage, then Wasilla, Fairbanks again and now Ketchikan
– his favorite so far – where everything has come together.

He started powerlifting 10 years ago in a garage gym with a friend when he lived in Wasilla but “needed to do something conditioning-wise.” He ended up joining Ketchikan CrossFit (907-617-4940; ketchikancrossfit.com) two years ago when he continued his southern migration. CrossFit has become a way to satisfy his passion for fitness and get in better shape for the type of hunting he wants to do. Or maybe there was an element of necessity after hunting with a buddy,
Joseph Lanham.

“He had his 100-pound pack and was carrying decoys, and I’m back there struggling with a backpack and a water bottle,” Gentry says. Gentry is all about hunting now – ducks, deer, goats; he wants a shot at everything. He, like other hunters, doesn’t like limitations, especially when
“just over that ridge” becomes “just one more ridge,” and then there it is – the buck of a lifetime.

Jason2YEAR-ROUND SHAPE
Participating in outdoor activities is inherently dangerous, but limiting activities for fear of being injured is arguably worse. Internet searches for “hunting-shape workouts” start at a baseline of zero. That is, step one is walking, meaning that between season’s end and season’s beginning, the level of fitness is pretty low.

If you’re carrying 20 extra pounds that you gained over the year, you’re not going to shed that by solely going on long walks three weeks before opening day. Establishing healthy habits are important, and for Gentry, CrossFit provides not only that, but accountability and encouragement, something that you don’t get from the poster you tore out of a magazine or found online.

Internet searches also have critics railing against CrossFit. It’s been blamed for joint deterioration and injuries, but Gentry says that all exercise poses a threat, and gyms that focus on increasing weight without supervision is where a lot of injuries occur. Classes
at Ketchikan CrossFit range from one to eight, which provides instructors Kevin Manabat and Jeff Williams the freedom to keep a close eye on each of the members.

“With CrossFit, like sports, there’s always a risk of injury,” says Manabat. “As a gym owner and a CrossFit coach, I try to minimize the risk of injury by teaching and holding a standard for
movement patterns. Being a smaller box (nickname of a CrossFit gym) isn’t necessarily a downfall; it allows me to have a lot of one-on-one coaching with each individual and truly becoming each member’s personalized coach.”

Where a traditional gym might hold a buffet of muscle isolation machines to be shared among the masses, a Cross-Fit gym is somewhere between hiring a personal trainer and just working out
with a couple friends in a home gym. “Since we’re such a tight-knit group,” says Manabat, “I get to see and know everybody’s strength and weaknesses; plus in a class setting it’s easy for me
to keep an eye on each individual and make corrections or to modify or scale as needed.”

In his more than two years of Cross-Fit, Gentry has not scaled much, nor has he sustained an injury from working out. Last spring he set a trio of state lifting records in the deadlift (485), squat (410) and bench press (250) for his age and weight. That amounts to a lot of
duck decoys.

“It’s fun watching Jason Gentry work out,” says Manabat. “He’s a big 220-plus-pound guy who moves heavy weight like nothing, then turns around and cranks out a bunch of body weight movements like he was a gymnast.” But not everyone is at the level of Gentry. This is the time of year when people are trying just to get into hunting or life shape. Gentry agreed with the idea of self-improvement, but not if it’s dictated by a calendar.

“Every day should be January 1,” he says. “The reason I don’t stop is because I know what it feels like to start back up. It hurts too bad and I don’t want to do that again.”

jason3FOR THE FAMILY
So it becomes more than just working out to get in shape for long hikes. It becomes concurrent, complementary lifestyles, not merely training for one season. For Gentry, it’s not just about wanting to be in shape for himself or for his hunting trips; he wants to be in shape mostly for his family. “Everyone says you have to ‘keep up with the kids,’ and (my wife and I) are all over the place, but none of that is worth anything if you’re not in the physical condition to enjoy it.”

Gentry loves giving his kids the childhood that he didn’t have when it comes to the outdoors and appreciating the cycle of things and the gift of game resources in Alaska. “I want to experience hunting, not just for me, but for my kids,” he says. “Being physically fit makes me more
successful at work and at home. I’m also an example for my kids. With our national obesity level over the top, it’s nice for my kids.”

He also likes to see how his kids are taking to the outdoors. “The first ducks I brought home,
(my kids) were saying, ‘ewww,’ but now they’re feathering; they’ve got their hands bloody; they’re naming the ducks and they have a love for the outdoors.” Though his daily schedule is exhausting, and working out would probably be the easiest thing to leave out, he doesn’t.

“I refuse to sacrifice that hour of the day. I’m 40 and in the best shape of my life. I want to take my kids on these adventures and excursions. That’s even more motivation.” ASJ

Gold Rush Season Premiere Friday

One of the Discovery Channel’s flagship shows has been Gold Rush, which we profiled in the December, 2014 magazine. The show’s sixth season premieres on Friday. Here’s the Discovery Channel with more:

As the Klondike winter comes to an end, a new mining season begins. And this year, the tables have certainly turned. There are bold new challenges, new equipment and massive power shifts. It’s a battle like never before among the crews as they push to find the most gold yet. Gold mining is a dangerous business and you never know who’s going to come out on top. Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH returns for its sixth season on Friday, October 16 at 9 PM ET/PT, with the pre-show, The Dirt, at 8 PM ET/PT.

Last year, Todd Hoffman rose from the ashes and brought his crew back from the brink of bankruptcy. This season he has gold-rich ground, a seasoned crew and is in position to keep his hot streak alive. But Todd’s a big dreamer and this year even his crew is blown away by the staggering season goal he sets. For the first time, he’ll have three generations of Hoffman men working on the claim as Hunter, his 16-year old son, keeps the family tradition alive. The only thing standing in Todd’s way could be his ego. Can he keep it in check and finally give young Parker Schnabel a run for his money? Or will his lofty season goal backfire leaving the Hoffman crew disappointed yet again?

Meanwhile, Parker Schnabel has his hands full. Last season, he mined an unprecedented $3 million of gold. But it came at a price as he drove his crew into the ground leaving many questioning whether they would ever work for the young mine boss again. Parker, who turns 21 this year, finds out the hard way that one season of gold mining has nothing to do with the next. He’s forced to draw on everything his beloved Grandpa John has taught him in order to avoid a disastrous season. Parker has to do more than find a lot of gold this season, he has to figure out how to become a leader of men.

Tony Beets, aka “The Viking,” is a Klondike legend. As winter closed in at the end of last season, Tony was finally about to resurrect his million dollar, 75-year-old gold mining dredge. But this year, he has to get the machine, which hasn’t run in 30 years, to actually produce gold. Tony desperately needs the dredge to start paying for itself but more than anything, he wants to shut up the naysayers that think he’s crazy to gold mine the old fashioned way. This season it’s all hands on deck as dredging for Klondike gold becomes a family affair. Can the Beets, the first family of Yukon gold mining, revive an ancient way of pulling gold out of the ground or will the massive undertaking turn into a giant money pit? Tony’s out to prove that the old timers had it right…that dredging is the future of gold mining in the Klondike.

Also returning is the GOLD RUSH pre-show “The Dirt,” a series of one-hour shows, beginning 8 PM ET/PT on Friday, October 16, where the miners give the inside scoop on all things GOLD RUSH and where fans can get access to behind-the-scenes, cutting room floor material that never makes it into the show.

Season 6 of GOLD RUSH is full of shocking twists and far more gold than our miners have ever seen before. The question is…who gets it all? Tune in on October 16 to see all the drama unfold on Discovery’s #1-rated show GOLD RUSH.

Photo by Discovery Channel

Photo by Discovery Channel

 
Here’s my interview with Parker Schnabel (above right) that appeared in the December, 2014 issue of ASJ:

By Chris Cocoles

Parker Schnabel is just 20 years old, so please forgive the young man if he’s not satisfied with finding over $ 1 million in gold last year.
“We’re going all out this season – I’m setting a 2,000-ounce goal for us,” the Haines, Alaska, resident tells his crew from his claim on Scribner Creek in the Yukon, during a Season 5 episode of the Discovery Channel hit, Gold Rush.
Schnabel’s rookie season running his own Klondike operation brought in quite a haul – 1,029 ounces worth a cool $1.4 million. You know that had to bring a smile to the face of Parker’s grandfather John Schnabel, an Alaska-toughened 94-year-old who has battled through an aggressive prostate cancer to see his original mining company, Big Nugget, handed down to his wunderkind of a grandson.
At one point, John visited Smith Creek, a Southeast Alaskan mine site the family’s patriarch has vowed to find gold at before he runs out of time, and found his son, Roger and grandsons Parker and Payson. It was an emotional moment for the family.
“I think my grandpa was really pleased to see us up here working together, side by side,” Parker Schnabel says. “That’s a big thing, and at his age he’s gotten pretty sentimental about family.”
It’s become the most human element of Gold Rush. Sure, it’s about striking it rich; but for young Schnabel, it’s about carrying on a family tradition at the youngest of ages and doing quite nicely for himself.
We caught up with Parker Schnabel and talked success, family and his clashes with landlord and fellow miner, Tony Beets.

Chris Cocoles I’m sure you get asked this all the time: you’re 20 years old having  this success and leading your own crew, but have there been moments when you’ve asked yourself what you’ve already accomplished before the age of 21?
Parker Schnabel It’s a little surreal sometimes, for sure. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m awfully lucky; I’ve had a hell of a lot of good opportunities. It’s not like I started at the very bottom shoveling ditches or anything. Really, a whole lot of it has to do with being at the right place and the right time, and I don’t forget that.

CC But you’re clearly way ahead of the curve from a business sense.
PS I grew up doing this, watching my dad run a business –  and a pretty successful one. And I was pretty lucky because he didn’t really keep any secrets from me. He was letting me watch what he was doing. I’d sit in his office during meetings while he’d hire people and fire people; anything I wanted to see as a far as a business goes, I could. It got me into a position where, two years ago, it wasn’t all completely foreign. So while a lot of it is a little scary and daunting, if you just tear into it it’s not that bad.

CC What kind of positive influences have you had from your family?
PS My grandpa was the one who was doing the gold mining. My dad runs a construction business. But it’s the same idea. You’re trying to move dirt from Point A to Point B as smooth as you can. And it’s not like I’m the most organized person in the world. I pay my bills as long as I have money in the bank, and that’s about it.

CC What I love most about the show is the dynamic of the relationship between you and your grandpa. How much of an impact has he had on your young life?
PS It’s pretty easy to say that none of this would be happening if it weren’t for him. But he’s definitely a big part of my life and my whole family’s life. He’s one of a kind – that’s for sure.

CC Is there one moment that stands out between your relationship?
PS There’s no one thing, really, I don’t think. I basically spend three to four months a year with him for almost 10 years, from the time I was 8 until I was 18. When I’d get out of school I’d still be staying at home. But I would go there every day. I can’t really say there’s one specific thing that defines us.

CC Is there one word that defines what it takes to be successful in finding gold? Persistence? Patience?
PS Stupidity? Honestly, it’s probably that you have to be a pretty stubborn. You look at the guys who have been in the Yukon for a while mining like Tony and a lot of those other guys, you’re a long ways away from anything that you need. If you need parts or some steel, things like that, you’re not going to be able to get it anytime soon. So you really have to work with just what you’ve got and to make due what you have there. And I’m not very good at that; I don’t have the greatest imagination. But the guys on my crew like Gene (Cheeseman) and Mitch (Blaschke), and another new mechanic I brought in, Mike Beaudry – they’re some of the best of the best when it comes to that kind of stuff. We can pretty well make do with whatever we have laying around.

CC As a team, have you built it around each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
PS For sure, especially this season because it’s our second year together for most of them. And now that we kind of know what everybody’s good at and bad at, things go together fairly smoothly, usually. [pauses] Maybe I shouldn’t put my foot in my mouth too far in case a few things don’t work out too well.

CC Over the course of time, have you found yourself needing to earn the respect of a crew that’s mostly older than you?
PS There are always issues with that. I don’t really think it has to do with my age; maybe it does. But I haven’t had those kinds of issues before with people. I’m going in blind to certain extent and I do the best I can. But it’s still tough. I would say it’s still an issue. When you watch this season you’ll see there are still some of the same issues with my crew as there were last season. And it’s just part of the game.

CC Does it sort of feel like a big family that you know will have moments of insanity?
PS Yeah, one big dysfunctional family.

CC What about Tony Beets? I’m sure at times he’s been both a mentor and the enemy along the way.
PS Tony is a tough guy to work with. He’s very demanding as far as the way he wants things done. And that’s OK, but it changes too. You think you’re doing everything perfectly fine, he’ll see you doing it and won’t say a thing; and the next day, you’re doing the worst thing you could do in the world. And that I don’t really appreciate. He’s probably the toughest guy who I’ve ever worked with.

CC What was life like growing up in Haines? Was it normal or pretty unique?
PS For Alaska and the town I grew up in it was normal. There were a lot of kids I grew up with, who, at the same age I started doing what I was doing, they bought a fishing boat and started commercial fishing. Or there were other people who don’t really own a business but are running a business. Everything is obviously smaller, but it’s still a lot of responsibility. I still (had time to) play basketball. I played all four years of high school. And it wasn’t like I was some social outcast.

CC Was the haul you had last season with over 1,000 ounces in gold a surprise?
PS Last season was [pauses], we were surprised with it, but, at the same time, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have anything to base it off of. We didn’t know what the grade in the ground was going to be as far as how much gold we were going to get every day or every week, or anything. We didn’t how to deal with permafrost or any of that kind of stuff. So anything would have been a surprise – either 500 ounces or 5,000 ounces.

CC It had to be awfully satisfying to accomplish what you did.
PS Yes, it was. And it put us in position where there is a huge amount of startup cost with a new operation.

CC On an episode recap show your mom and you talked about wanting you to go to college. But what’s in store for you in the future?
PS There are a lot of things I want to do, like getting back to college. But, at the same time, I’m getting the opportunity do something (special). I’m not going to learn any more than I am now sitting in college.

CC I guess what you’ve done is already quite the education.
PS Two days ago I was having lunch with the COO of Discovery Channel. That’s not going to happen sitting in some college classroom, as fun as that sounds. ASJ

Editor’s note: New episodes of Gold Rush can be seen on the Discovery Channel on Fridays at 9 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Central. Check out Parker Schnabel on Facebook (facebook.com/pages/Parker-Schnabel/266076300104716) and Twitter (@goldrush_parker).

Trapper Squares Off In Court

Photo by David Duncan

Photo by David Duncan

 

 

Somebody call Judge Judy, or, for older fans of some of the early days of reality TV, this guy. A trapper is facing off in Southeast Alaska court with a woman who allegedly sprung his traps.

The Peninsula Clarionvia the Juneau Empire, with details on the case:

In John Forrest’s eyes, anti-trappers have been springing his traps, stealing his catch, destroying his equipment and generally hindering his livelihood for years. The offenders have always remained faceless, and they’ve always gotten away with it.

“It’s an ongoing issue,” Forrest said of such incidents from the witness stand Monday in Juneau District Court.

Last winter, that changed. Forrest finally found out, through “a number of coincidences” as his attorney put it, who had sprung several of his traps on Davies Creek trail in December 2014: Kathleen K. Turley, whom he sued last month seeking $5,000 worth of damages.

Except Turley — who rescued an eagle ensnared in one of Forrest’s traps that day — isn’t who Forrest thinks she is, her attorney Nicholas Polasky argued before Judge Thomas Nave during a small claims trial Monday. Polasky described his client as a born-and-raised Alaskan who hunts grouse, deer and brown bear, has animal skins and hides on the walls of her house, and raises meat rabbits to butcher and eat.

“She’s a hunter,” Polasky said in opening statements. “She’s a person who’s not against trapping and is not the type of person that we think Mr. Forrest probably thinks that she is.”

‘Dropped’ Survival Show Features New Twist

 

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Last year, we introduced you to the Keefer Brothers of Dropped: Project Alaskaa Sportsman Channel series that saw brothers Chris and Casey Keefer use their outdoor skills and creativity to survive the Alaskan wilderness. The new season of the show is premiering this month a bit of a twist.

A father-and-son team from Fairfield, Utah will appear this season as the show alters its format a bit.

KSL in Salt Lake City had the details:

Kaid Panek said he and his father, RL Panek, both love hunting, camping and spending time in the outdoors. RL Panek always had a life goal of hunting moose in Alaska, but his dream was put on hold when he was diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer in 2011. He underwent radiation and surgery to have the tumor removed and was declared cancer free by the end of the year.

After the near brush with death, Kaid Panek told his father to book an Alaskan moose hunt.

“We told him it was time — that he needed to start chasing some bucket list items,” Kaid Panek said.

In 2013, RL Panek booked a hunt in the Yukon, and while preparing for it, began watching the first season of “Dropped,” a reality TV show featuring two brothers who get dropped into the wilderness and have to hunt for food and survive 28 days in rugged Alaskan terrain.

“He got hooked on the show and loved what they stood for and their mission,” Kaid Panek said. “And it was just kind of a, ‘How cool would that be?’ “

Typically, “Dropped” features brothers Chris and Casey Keefer, but for its fourth season, the producers decided to invite two guests on the show. A video contest was created to select the participants and RL Panek decided to enter with his son. They made a submission video and were shocked when they were contacted by the Keefer brothers.