In Alaska, summer is a chance to explore the great outdoors. For lifetime residents or people who have just arrived, taking a few precautions can keep outdoor adventures fun for everyone, and may even save a life.
Already, fire officials in the state predict an "above normal" wildfire danger this summer. This is due to a warm spring and thin snow pack. Many areas are also seeing an early melt-off, which is creating drier foliage ripe for ignition. The Division of Forestry's web page has several resources available for determining if your excursion will be in a fire danger zone, and how to prevent wildland fires.
The Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation also has several resources for campers, hikers, and wildlife observers. Trail maps, cabin rentals, and boating safety information are available, as well as a Glen Alps trailhead webcam. A list of trails open for pedestrian use only is now online, and nearly all trails are closed to ATVs and snowmachines for the season.
Bear safety is also being emphasized as more and more people take to the trails. Encounters with bears rarely involve aggressive attacks, officials say, but outdoor enthusiasts should still brush up on what to do when confronted by a bear. Also important, officials note, is caution when approaching any wild animals, even the smallest and cutest. Alaska Fish and Game has compiled "Signs of Alarm" for animals of all shapes and sizes, and how to remove yourself safely from the situation if facing a wild animal.
They might not have teeth, but that doesn’t mean plants are harmless. The Alaska Public Lands Information Centers have put together a list of plants pets and their humans should avoid. Many of Alaska's flowers and greenery are beautiful to behold, but dangerous to touch or consume. A list of safe-to-eat berries and where to find them is also available.
A unique feature to Alaska is the length of deceptively solid-looking mudflats along the coast. When the tide goes out, the upper silt layer looks perfect for walking on, but many park officials and community members warn against treading out past firm land or rocks. Many have been trapped in the silt and are unable to pull themselves out due to the suction phenomenon that occurs with wet silt. As the tide begins to come in, rescue workers often worry about the possibility of drowning and hypothermia from the cold water.
Whatever your plans are this summer, getting there may also require a little extra precaution. Pedestrians, bikers, and inattentive sightseers will be out in full numbers, and being aware of them and your surroundings could save a life. Always practice correct traffic procedures when driving, and keep careful watch whenever you near a crosswalk, bike lane, or observation point.
Alaska’s in-town trails are always improving, and in the last few years, construction of new paths has given pedestrians safer ways to get their destination or enjoy the fresh Alaska air. Many highway overpasses and busy intersections throughout Anchorage can be safely crossed by utilizing the “underpasses” or tunnels and the overhead walkways. If one of these is not available, increased traffic can create dangerous situations for pedestrians if crosswalks are not used. On average, the pedestrian walk signal lights up every 30-60 seconds, even at the busiest intersections, allowing walkers and bikers to get to their destination in a timely manner.