In 1967 we had been married for two years and were living in Denver, Colorado. Liska was substitute teaching in junior
and senior high schools, and Dick was working for the U.S. Geological Survey, in their Water Resources Division office
(WRD). One day Dick heard that the Anchorage, Alaska WRD office had a job opening in his field. We knew hardly
anything about Alaska...only that it was cold and beautiful. We were young, adventurous, and had no real ties in Denver,
so we were attracted to the idea of life on the "Last Frontier." After all, we would have the option of moving back to the
"Lower 48" after two years, so what did we have to lose? Dick applied for the job. After many months of waiting, we
finally heard that he was accepted!
We left Denver in July and spent the next three weeks driving to our new home. All our friends and relatives were very
curious about Alaska, and begged us to write a letter describing our impressions. So, that Christmas, we wrote a
"Christmas Letter" to everyone. And thus was born an annual tradition....
Our first impressions of Alaska were that the land is incredibly vast and that the features of nature are not only beautiful -
but also enormous! There are huge areas of muskeg, tundra, high mountains, wide rivers, tremendous glaciers, many
lakes, and of course, the ocean coast with lovely fjords and islands. What is particularly fascinating, is watching the
geological changes in the land itself. The 1964 earthquake visibly changed the landscape of Alaska, as we can still see
today. The disastrous Fairbanks flood was only one of many floods occurring here. For example sometimes a glacier
dams a stream, melts and then releases a flash flood. The glaciers themselves are truly impressive, complete with
water-carved canyons as in Utah, except they have blue walls instead of red ones!
Although there is a lot of beautiful untouched nature here, unfortunately it is clear that where man has been he has left
scars. But, luckily, man has not been to too many places yet! We are just a short drive from magnifi-cent untouched
wilderness. One of the most glorious sights is that of the setting sun casting a vivid pink glow on Mt. McKinley, which
arises majestically on the horizon. Wildlife is abundant. We have seen deer, moose, caribou, grizzlies, Dall sheep and
many other animals. There is no doubt about it - Alaska is breathtakingly beautiful!
The weather leaves something to be desired! During the late summer, it rained most of the time, but the temperature was
pleasant in the 60's and 70's. The fall was beautiful, however; cold, crisp, clear days. But now! B r r... It gets light at 9:30
and dark at 2:30 and the temperature hovers around zero constantly, although the days are still clear.
Anchorage is beautifully situated with Cook Inlet to the west (gorgeous sunsets) and the lovely snow-capped Chugach
Mountains to the east. Downtown Anchorage is full of big department stores, many gift shops and an incredible number
of bars and nightclubs. The rest of the city is very spread out with many pretty wooded areas between the new housing
developments and the older sections of town. Anchorage is truly a transportation center. It has four bustling airports, for
a population (including both military bases) of 150,000. There are many parks, and lots of ski trails, and lakes for
iceskating. The only things wrong with Anchorage are the sky-high cost of living, and poor zoning laws which create
problems. It is also interesting to note the blend of Eskimo, Indian and Russian influences.
Anchorage has culture! There is a community theatre, orchestra, concert series (with international artists), a university,
film society, art galleries, museums, library, movie theatres plus many active interesting people who organize fun things to
do. You can't get bored in this town! We joined a folk-dancing group, the Mountaineering Club of Alaska, the
Anchorage Film Society, and a conservation group, activities we are deeply interested in and are enjoying immensely.
The people in Anchorage are different; there is a real "esprit de corps" here. People are full of enthusiasm for life and
everyone has one thing in common - they all love Alaska!
Dick is very happy with his job (still with the U.S. Geological Survey). Although most of his work is in the lab, he had an
exciting time this fall. He spent three weeks on glaciers doing glaciology studies, staying in A-Frame huts, getting flown
about by helicopters and skiing on the glaciers collecting data. Then he spent several weeks flying all over the mountain
ranges in this part of the state taking aerial photographs of glaciers. Liska joyfully accompanied him on three of these
incredibly beautiful flights. Dick will probably also spend some time on Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands in the near future.
Liska is enjoying substituting French, German and English in the local high schools and translating on her "off" days.
Altogether we feel very lucky and happy about our wonderful life in this most beautiful part of the world and we would
be delighted to have visitors any time!
The first big event for us this year was buying a house! We found a cozy little home surrounded by a big yard with woods
behind it. In the spring, the woods are full of wildflowers; in the summer we hike along the many trails; in fall we pick
berries; and in winter we cross-country ski there. There are moose and meandering creeks. It's almost like living out in
the country, yet the house is within walking distance of Dick's lab. We had a small, but flourishing vegetable garden
dur-ing the summer. Twenty hours of daylight does wonders for plants!
In the spring we had the good fortune of making friends with one of Alaska's most gifted Eskimo artists, Florence
Malewotkuk. Consequently we developed an interest in native arts and crafts, and we are slowly collecting Eskimo and
Indian artifacts. In May we bought a foldboat (a "cross" between a canoe and a kayak) and with it we glided quietly
across isolated lakes watching wildlife.
Our summer was highlighted by trips and visitors. In early July, we spent a week camping in the Yukon. The wildflowers
were incredibly beautiful, and we fell in love with Dawson City, a historic town at the confluence of the Yukon and
Klondike Rivers. We spent one rainy day exploring the famous Klondike River gold-rush area, and found many deserted
log cabins, some complete with fur-nishings. On the Yukon River, near Eagle, Alaska, we discovered a poverty-stricken
Indian village where we watched an old Indian woman weaving birch baskets.
Among our visitors were Liska's parents who spent a wonderful, sunny three weeks here in Alaska. We took a leisurely
ferry trip with them from Valdez to Whittier. On the way we saw many seals basking in the sun on ice floes near massive
Columbia Glacier. A place we took all our visitors to is one of our favorite places in Alaska- Homer, a picturesque
fishing village at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. We spent many weekends beachcom-bing (and finding fossils!) on
Homer's wild beaches.
Our most exciting adventure this year was our trip to the Eskimo towns of Nome and Kotzebue in the Arctic. It was a
fascinating introduction into the life and culture of the Eskimos. The barren tundra underlain by per-manently frozen
ground (permafrost) was an intriguing sight. We also enjoyed watching Eskimo dances, panning for gold, seeing dog-sled
teams, reindeer, fish and seals drying on beaches, and especially the beautiful arts and crafts. However, it was sad to see
how poor the Eskimos are. The economy is based on a little fishing and hunting, but primarily on welfare and tourism. It
is a hard life.
Back in Anchorage, we settled down to a busy fall and winter of... picking and canning berries (Alaska is simply
carpeted with berries in the fall)...folk dancing...work (Liska as an editor and translator; Dick still enjoys glaciers, well
logging, and chemistry)...conservation activities...classes (Dick - math; Liska - knitting)...con-certs...watching sled-dog
races..cross-country skiing...ice skating...watching spectacular displays of Northern Lights...spending cozy weekends in
friends' cabin near Mt. McKinley...all in all, it is a very exciting and challenging life here in Alaska and we love every
moment of it!
Our most exciting moment of the year occurred at 7:06 a.m. on August 18, when our son David Karl was born. By now
he is over 3 months old and has brought us tremendous happiness and joy. We feel so grateful to have such a healthy,
cheerful and alert son. When David was less than one month old, we took him for a weekend in the wilderness, staying at
the primitive cabin of our good friends Kurt and Mindy Rein. David loved the adventure and we've done quite a bit of
travel-ing and hiking with him since. He adapts beautifully to everything we do.
This year was full of Alaskan fun and adventures. In February we enjoyed watching the World Championship Dog Sled
Races in the woods right behind our house. One day while cross-country skiing, we bumped into two moose on the
other side of our back fence. We tried a new sport this year - ice fishing; however, it wasn't a very lucrative pastime -
altogether we caught one 4-inch fish! In April we took a trip to an old fishing village, Ninilchik. We hiked along the
deserted beaches and discovered huge ice columns cascading hundreds of feet off the cliffs. We went clam-digging there,
and also discovered many fossils. At the end of April we went into the woods and tapped some birch trees. The result?
-delicious birch syrup! The first week in June we took the spectacular train ride on the Alaska Railroad to Mt. McKinley
National Park where we hiked and camped for a couple of days. On the way back we had the train stop in the middle of
the wilderness to leave us off at a secluded campsite. We spent a rainy day camping in total isolation - hoping that the
baby wouldn't arrive early! The next day we flagged the train down (with a pair of underpants - the only white thing we
had) and continued on our way back. Over 4th of July weekend, Dick and Liska's brother Martin backpacked into the
Talkeetna Mountains where they found countless beautiful caribou antlers. We spent a weekend in Homer during the
summer and were fortunate to hit a very low tide. The sand was strewn with a dazzling array of starfish, sea anemones,
hermit and decorator crabs, sea ur-chins, limpets and snails! In October we went to Homer again - this time with
two-month old David - and found a fisherman who casually gave us a huge pile of shrimp. We spent an entire day
cleaning and shelling them. Now we know why shrimp is so expensive - what a job! On the same trip Dick was
wandering along a beach and tripped over a dead seal, which he skinned. We are now having the sealskin tanned.
There was a lot in Anchorage to keep us busy. Our garden produced an abundance of rhubarb, lettuce, peas, carrots,
potatoes, rutabaga, raspberries and strawberries. This year we both became very active in the Moun-taineering Club of
Alaska. In May, Liska became editor of their monthly newsletter "Scree" and in October Dick was elected treasurer of
the club. Liska is very happy with her new role of mother- staying home caring for David and translating in her spare
time. Dick too loves his new role as a father, but he still has to go to work every day. He did get out into the field quite a
bit, however, which he always enjoys.
We are eagerly looking forward to our visit "Outside" (which is what Alaskans call the Lower 48) next spring. We
tentatively plan to be in Colorado at the end of March to beginning of April; in Wisconsin the middle of April; and in
New York at the end of April. We are very ex-cited about seeing our families and friends, and especially about having
everyone meet David.
Now we have been in Alaska for more than two years and it really feels like home. We never tire of seeing the sunrise
over the nearby Chugach Mountains or the sunset behind the snow-capped Chigmit Mountains. We love the beautiful
cold winters when everything is cozily buried under big puffs of pure white snow...when the telephone wires become
thick white ropes silhouetted against the bright blue sky...we cherish the possibilities of hiking for miles and miles without
ever seeing a sign of man...where else could one float peacefully on an isolated lake in summer with only wildlife and an
un-forgettable view of Mt. McKinley for company?...and how we enjoy always meeting new people who have vibrant
ideas about maintaining this serene way of life in Alaska...our way of life