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Twist Travel Magazine – Summer Issue
I’m so excited to share the summer edition of Twist Travel Magazine with you today!
Twist Travel is an online travel magazine that launched a few months ago (this is the second issue). Twist is the brainchild of my friend Andrea Fellman, an awesome ex-pat mom living the wanderlust life (Wanderlust Living) with her family in Barcelona (and previously Costa Rica) and Keryn Means, travel writer ( Walking on Travels ) and mom of 4. They’ve got an all-star line-up of travel-savvy contributors – writers, bloggers, photographers, entrepreneurs and on-the-road moms. I’m absolutely honored to be a part of it.
The summer issue of Twist Travel is all about celebrating the traditional all-American summer. It’s got an awesome Southwest summer road trip itinerary, a cool guide to exploring the hidden gems of San Diego and a great article highlighting the fun of spending the summer in New York City with kids. There’s a wonderful list of favorite summer beach and beauty products for moms, a resource to the best ice cream trucks across the States and a couple festive summer recipes for Fourth of July.
Finally, there’s my personal favorite article and contribution to the issue, a quick guide to summer outdoor adventures. My article is all about getting your entire family outdoors this summer to create amazing childhood memories that don’t cost a fortune! My article starts on page 42 and I’d LOVE it if you checked it out!
But that’s not all, there are also international features on traveling to London, Lisbon, Sintra and Tofino with kids. There are great international hotel recommendations and an in-depth review of a wilderness resort. Plus, there’s a wonderful article about the experience of traveling with just one of your children on a special trip by the founder of Flytographer. I totally want to do this with each of my kids now!
Each issue of Twist is jam-packed with amazing recommendations, great travel tips and advice, fun features on unique destinations and absolutely gorgeous photography. I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think!
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This is so neat! Great job on the article!!
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5 epic outdoor adventures that will make you feel powerful in 2024
Posted: January 8, 2024 | Last updated: January 8, 2024
Channel your inner adventurer. You may have seen "Nyad," the Netflix film about Diana Nyad, in which the American distance swimmer (played by Annette Bening) swims to Florida from Cuba outside the protective confines of a shark cage — at age 64.
“I don’t believe in imposed limitations,” she says matter-of-factly in one scene.
And neither should you.
But you need not swim with sharks for days, as Nyad did, to get the rush that comes with taking on a seemingly impossible fitness challenge. There are plenty of more realistic — yet still epic — outdoor adventures around SoCal to focus your fitness goals on and set the bar high for 2024.
Sure, there’s the Los Angeles Marathon in March, a 26.2-mile course from Dodger Stadium to Century City that participants start training for months in advance. Or the 15-mile Great Los Angeles Walk every November that you can start gearing up for now. But we’re thinking off the beaten track (or, in one case, on the beaten track, but on foot instead of wheels).
Whether you’re into long-distance walking, steep hiking, rock climbing, skiing or water sports, here are five SoCal-area outdoor challenges that will whip you into shape. Good luck.
1. Take an extremely long urban walk
Perhaps because Los Angeles is such an auto-dependent city, walking long distances through congested urban areas can feel sort of gleefully illicit, an iconoclastic journey that inevitably has urban pioneers navigating thickets of construction, crossing sun-scorched asphalt and trudging underneath freeway overpasses. Which can be a challenge — and kind of the point here.
Los Angeles is home to extraordinarily long and historic boulevards that crisscross our pop cultural landscape, popping up in films, song lyrics and novels. There’s Sunset Boulevard (21.75 miles, according to Google Earth), Sepulveda Boulevard (42.8 miles), Vermont Avenue (23.3 miles), Mulholland Drive (21.13 miles), Ventura Boulevard (18 miles). Pick one and make it a DIY adventure. Vow to walk the length of the street in a day — or over several days, picking up where you left off.
Step count aside, it’s a wonderful way to connect the cultural dots in the city, meandering through diverse neighborhoods, happening upon little-known shops and restaurants, passing sidewalk food vendors, tucked away public art and garage sales, not to mention a prism of people-watching.
Make it a personal pilgrimage. When he was in his early 20s, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold , spent months walking the length of — and eating his way along — Pico Boulevard, sampling Oaxacan restaurants, steak joints and Greek and Scandinavian delis, among other cuisines.
It provided inspiration for what would become an illustrious career as a food writer focused on L.A.’s lesser-known ethnic restaurants. But the journey also gave Gold a window into what he described as “the unglamorous bits of Los Angeles, the row of one-stops that supply records to local jukeboxes, the kosher-pizza district, the auto-body shops that speckle its length the way giant churches speckle Wilshire.”
Still need inspiration? These guys walked 50 miles to Redondo Beach Pier from Pasadena City College over more than 18 hours.
These four? They walked the length of Sunset Boulevard (extending beyond the city limits) in a day.
Their 2023 journey, Pedro Moura wrote, “reminded us all of personal experiences we had long forgotten, memories we will never forget and history we had only read about.”
Pro tip: Wear sock liners to help prevent blisters.
2. Conquer the SoCal trifecta — with a twist
The goal here is to surf in the ocean at dawn, ski in the mountains in the afternoon and — here’s the twist — rock climb in the desert at sunset. There are myriad ways to do this challenge, considering SoCal's many beaches and surrounding terrain. But here’s an especially efficient route.
Start at Santa Monica’s Bay Street Beach, at Bay Street and Oceanfront Walk. Paddle out just before dawn and watch the sunrise from the water. After about an hour of surfing (say, from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.), jump on the nearby 10 freeway and head east.
If you hit the road by about 8 a.m., you can reach Mt. Baldy Resort, the closest ski destination to L.A., not to mention the most affordable, by about 9:30 a.m., traffic depending. Half-day lift tickets run $30 to $80, depending on how much of the mountain is open due to weather conditions. Mt. Baldy Resort is open seven days a week during ski season, and the main lodge is at the top of the first chair lift, which has views of the Pacific, making it a destination unto itself. You can be on the slopes by 10 a.m.
Ski for about two hours and, with time for lunch, you can be on the road again by 12:30 p.m.
Joshua Tree National Park is about another two to 2½ hours east. Aim to arrive by about 3 p.m. Experienced climbers with their own gear need only to drive into the park and find a nearby rock formation to get started. (You can buy a $30 seven-day pass, the cheapest, on the way in.) But for everyone else, there are any number of private guides for hire in the area who can be easily found ahead of time online and who will meet you there with climbing shoes, harnesses and helmets. They’ll set up the ropes for you safely and offer instruction. Rates depend on how many people are in the group.
Climb for several hours and catch the sunset from the summit of an iconic rock formation.
Having worked up an appetite, enjoy a well-earned dinner at, say, the Joshua Tree Saloon or grab a slice of pizza (several — you earned it!) at Sky High Pizza before heading back to L.A. If the traffic gods are smiling, you could be home by 10 p.m. Sleep well.
Pro tip: Join the Loyalty Club program at Mt. Baldy Resort for free to receive credits toward new purchases, including future lift tickets.
3. Hike the Trans-Catalina trail in three nights
This is a 38.5 mile thru-hike that traverses the entire island of Catalina . Generally, the hike takes about three nights, camping along the way, but it can be done faster or slower. The terrain here is especially diverse, spanning urban sidewalks at the start and paved roads later to manicured gardens, a pine forest and dirt trails with ocean views. Catalina has more than 60 endemic species of plants and animals, so be on the lookout for Catalina Island fox and Catalina live-forever succulents, among other unique wildlife.
The elevation gain also fluctuates greatly on this hike — from sea level to more than 1,700 feet. The mostly dirt trail is well maintained but features near-constant ups and downs, many of them heart-poundingly steep.
Take an early boat from Long Beach, San Pedro, Dana Point or Newport Beach. The trailhead, at 708 Crescent Ave. in Avalon, is walking distance from “the Mole,” where boats arrive. If you’d prefer to wake up on the island, stay at the Hermit Gulch campground in Avalon, where you can camp or rent cloth tent cabins. It’s on the trail, so from there you can walk straight up, farther into Avalon Canyon.
Day 1 passes through the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden , built in the early 1930s as a tribute to William Wrigley Jr. (of the Wrigley chewing gum family) and brimming with 38 acres of plants . Climb up to the eastern summit at 1,450 feet, with stunning views of San Pedro and Mt. Baldy on a clear day. Black Jack Campground, 10.7 miles from Avalon, is an excellent destination for the first night. It’s a wooded area thick with pine trees, a luxury, as there’s little shade on the trail. All the campsites on the trail offer bathrooms and drinking water.
Day 2 highlights include the Airport in the Sky, a small airport on a mountain with a restaurant on site if you’re inclined to stop for sustenance. It’s at 1,602 feet. You’ll also pass a more than 2,000-year-old soapstone quarry. Little Harbor and Shark Harbor campgrounds, 18.9 miles from Avalon, are the only campsites on the backside of the island. They’re on the beach — the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty” was filmed there — so you can sleep on the sand or on grassy patches nearby.
Day 3 is the toughest of this adventure and leads to the most remote campsite. You’ll start out at sea level and head to the Isthmus, the narrowest part of the island at half a mile wide. The village of Two Harbors is there as well, with a general store to stock up on goods. Those destinations are at sea level as well, but to get there, you will have climbed more than 1,200 feet. After the Isthmus, you’ll again climb 1,600 feet and then back down to Parsons Landing campground, at sea level. You will have made it 30.8 miles from Avalon by this point.
Day 4 circles back, via a different route, to Two Harbors — and it’s the shortest day of the journey at just under 8 miles. It’s also comparatively flat: The highest point is an elevation of only 200 feet. At Two Harbors, you can board a ferry to the mainland. But stop first at the West End Galley for lunch or the Harbor Reef Restaurant for dinner. Celebrate with a Buffalo Milk, a creamy, banana-tasting cocktail with vodka and Kahlua.
Pro tips: Make camping reservations ahead of time ( catalinaconservancy.org ). Hiking permits are free, but camping costs about $30 a night, per person. Joining the Catalina Island Conservancy, starting at $35 annually, will cut costs by about 50%. For a splurge, have Catalina Backcountry haul your gear and set up your campsite.
4. Tackle L.A.'s most brutal stairway walks
Charles Fleming’s 2010 book, " Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles,” is something of a classic by now. When it first came out, I went down the rabbit hole, exploring a chunk of the 42 walks — including about 300 staircases — that Fleming maps out. Favorites? Walk No. 22, in Silver Lake, with its craggy succulents and lush foliage providing plenty of shade; and the silent film era-allure of the Music Box Steps, which Laurel and Hardy immortalized in the 1932 “talkie” film “The Music Box” — the duo comically hauls a piano up the narrow staircase in the movie.
I purposely skipped several chapters in Fleming’s book altogether. Too much of a challenge, despite majestic views, notable surrounding architecture and the promise of a strenuous, brag-worthy workout.
If your glutes are braver than mine, consider taking on the five most brutal staircase walks of them all. They are, according to former Times staffer Fleming:
Pacific Palisades, Giant Steps
- Distance: 3.6-mile walk, with 1,117 staircase steps.
- What makes it especially difficult: Beyond the sheer number of steps — one staircase alone is 500 steps — they’re also really long staircases with no breaks between them.
- Expect: "A stunning walk, a classic California space,” Fleming told me. It’s also a particularly fragrant walk, thick with oak and eucalyptus trees, a few pines and a ton of wild sage on the ground. So as you climb what he calls “the monster step walk,” take comfort in that small sensory delight as you huff and puff your way to the top.
Highland Park, Southwest Museum
- Distance: A 3.2-mile walk, with 568 steps.
- What makes it especially difficult: In addition to one very steep staircase, to get there you have to walk up Eldred Street, considered the steepest road in California . “By the time you get to the stairs — a long two blocks worth — you’re already exhausted,” Fleming told me.
- Expect: The walk includes the longest wooden staircase in Los Angeles, at 196 steps. Passing a portion of the historic, now-closed Southwest Museum of the American Indian is a highlight of this walk, as is the stretch along Sycamore Terrace, the views of Sycamore Grove, the coast live oak trees and beautiful old Craftsman homes.
Avalon-Baxter Loop, Echo Park
- Distance: A 3.5-mile walk, with 695 steps.
- What makes it especially difficult: It includes two long and very steep staircases — back to back — the Avalon steps and Baxter steps. In addition to other staircases.
- Expect: Stunning views of Elysian Park and downtown to Westwood. The walk traverses an area known as Red Hill, nicknamed for its history of left-leaning residents, writers and artists such as Woody Guthrie and Upton Sinclair.
Swan’s Way, Silver Lake.
- Distance: A 1.5-mile walk, with 369 steps.
- What makes it especially difficult: It’s one continuous, three-tiered staircase — “Some of the longest, steepest staircases in the city,” Fleming says. It’s all glutes and calves on the way up and quads on the way down.
- Expect: Painted murals on the staircases and interesting architecture along the way. Also: wonderful views of the Silver Lake reservoir.
Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood .
- Distance: A 2.6-mile walk, with 861 steps.
- What makes it especially difficult: It's a longer walk , with more than half a dozen staircases, and they're particularly long . One is 143 steps, another 148.
- Expect: “The most beautiful staircases in the city — artfully designed,” Fleming told me. They traverse what used to be the development of Hollywoodland , which debuted in the early 1920s, and they feature granite and wrought iron handrails. The route also features multiple tree overhangs providing shade along the way — so it's doable on very hot days — and it offers stunning views from downtown L.A. to the ocean. But the most dramatic view is of the iconic Hollywood sign , nestled in the hillside and presiding over the historic neighborhood.
Pro tip: This one should be obvious, but it's worth a reminder: Stretch, stretch, stretch both before and after the walks. Especially your calves, glutes and quads.
5. Kayak to hidden sea caves. How many can you find?
Who wouldn’t want to search out the so-called Painted Cave — one of the largest, deepest sea caves in the world — along Santa Cruz Island in a kayak? Consider it a maritime adventure.
Santa Cruz is one the easiest Channel Islands to get to, with more boat trips headed there per week than most of the other islands. And its craggy, rocky perimeter features tons of sea caves brimming with hidden wildlife. Many are easily accessible while paddling along the coastline. But a good number are tucked away, around jagged rock walls or hidden within larger caves. The four or five hours you’ll spend paddling to seek them out, however, will be well worth it.
From Ventura Harbor, it’s about an hour to Scorpion Landing — the only harbor on the island managed by the National Park Service and open to the public. Rent a kayak ahead of time at Channel Island Kayak Center or bring your own; as long as you reserve transport space ahead of time, Island Packers will take you and your kayak there.
From Scorpion Landing, paddle to the left, heading north along the coast of the island — a larger number of caves are in that direction, and you can explore caves for several hours. Start early in the morning; you’ll have a better chance of the wind being with you at the start and at your back upon your return. Be sure to check the weather, wind currents and tides ahead of time, all of which determine level of difficulty ( weather.gov ). At high tide, the cave entrances are harder to get into as the passage area is smaller; at low tide, there may not be enough water to get to the back of the cave.
Expect to see dynamic rock formations inside the caves — a mix of blues, reds and browns, depending on the light. The Painted Cave is so nicknamed because when the light hits the ceiling, it looks as if an artist watercolored it, with bouncing, multicolored reflections. You may also see sea lions resting on interior cave rocks or harbor seals outside the cave. Keep a safe distance and don’t disturb the animals. You’ll also encounter a prism of marine plants such as varying kelps. The waves are generally milder inside the deeper caves and rockier in the caves with openings facing the surf. A few are through-caves, but most require you to paddle out the way you came in.
Pro tip: Bring a helmet, should the currents push you against a cave wall, as well as a head lamp for dark passages. Upside: Steadying yourself against all that rocking — and the prolonged paddling — is an especially good workout for the core .
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times .
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Natalia Grace Docuseries Ends with Shocking New Allegation — Watch the Jaw-Dropping Final Moments
Ukrainian orphan Natalia Grace was initially adopted by Michael and Kristine Barnett before being taken in by Antwon and Cynthia Mans
Viewers of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks were left on the edge of their seats on Wednesday night as her shocking story revealed one final plot twist.
The Ukrainian orphan appeared to have her happy ending with the Mans family when they adopted her after she was abandoned by previous adoptive parents Michael and Kristine Barnett. But the closing minute of the Investigation Discovery show revealed that Antwon and Cynthia Mans were also growing to mistrust Natalia.
“Something ain't right with Natalia. This girl is tweaking," Antwon claimed to show producers in a voiceover. "I feel like she's the enemy in the house. And she said to us, we have held her hostage. Made us look like we're the enemy."
"Natalia is stabbing her family in the back over a complete lie," his wife added.
"She's done other things too, but this was a new low," Antwon continues. "Natalia does not have emotions for nothing but herself. We're done. We're done with her."
A final ominous title card on the gripping show read, "Natalia's story will continue."
Natalia's gripping tale began when she was adopted by the Barnett family in 2010. But Michael and Kristine, who are now divorced, claimed they soon became suspicious of her age.
This led to accusations that Natalia — who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita — was merely posing as a child, and was really an adult woman with sinister intentions against their family.
The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks dispelled the Barnett’s claim, with DNA tests proving that Natalia was around 9-years-old when they adopted her (rather than 22, as they had suggested).
The show finale also featured Natalia’s reunion with Michael. During the rollercoaster episode, Michael laid the blame for mistrusting and abandoning Natalia on his ex-wife, Kristine, and sobbed for forgiveness, which Natalia eventually gave.
The Barnetts had also claimed that Natalia tried to harm them and their biological children. They accused her of trying to poison Kristine's coffee and kill her by dragging her towards an electric fence. Natalia was also accused of placing clear thumb tacks on the stairs face up so that her adopted family would step on them.
Natalia has denied wrongdoing and says she was mistreated by the Barnetts.
Michael told Good Morning America in October 2019 that doctors allegedly treating Natalia told them "this person is a sociopath. This person is a con artist. You are all in danger."
In 2012, two years after the Barnetts adopted Natalia, the couple petitioned Marion County Probate Court to have her age legally changed to 22, changing her birth year from 2003 to 1989. The following year, the couple moved with their three sons to Canada without Natalia.
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The Barnetts were charged with neglect of a dependent. Prosecutors weren't able to charge them with neglect of a child because of Natalia's court-ordered age change to 22.
Michael was found not guilty of three counts of neglect and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent in 2022, the Associated Press reported. Charges against Kristine were later dropped, according to WTHR .
All 6 episodes of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks can be streamed on Max.
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Travel | January 8, 2024
Alps-Style Hut-to-Hut Travel Is On Its Way to Alaska
Several ambitious projects are poised to bring a long trail and 25 new huts to the Last Frontier
In early 2023, the U.S. Forest Service announced a plan to add dozens of new public-use cabins to Alaska’s trail systems. It’s the biggest cabin expansion project in Alaska in the last 50 years—and it stands to make the state’s wilderness even more accessible to hikers looking for lightweight, long-distance travel.
Dubbed the Alaska Cabins Project , the initiative is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit National Forest Foundation (NFF). Together, the two organizations aim to repair 10 existing huts and add 25 more to the Chugach and Tongass National Forests . Already, Alaska’s huts have made outdoor recreation possible in a region where the weather and wildlife usually deter all but the savviest adventurers. Thanks to the existing cabins, families and novice hikers alike have been able to enjoy a night out in the Alaskan wilderness—without having to worry about torrential rain or grizzlies.
“They’re amazing,” says Patrick Shannon, the NFF’s Pacific Northwest and Alaska director, who stayed in the Windfall Lake Cabin outside of Juneau this summer. “You hike about three miles through the rainforest to get there. The Forest Service provides a canoe and a rowboat, so you can go out onto the lake. And unlike with [European-style] huts, you reserve it for a night, so it’s yours. People are allowed to come in during the day if they need to dry off, but at night, you have it to yourself.”
A long legacy of Alaskan huts
Right now, about 200 cabins are scattered throughout the Chugach and Tongass National Forests, which together comprise millions of acres of densely vegetated landscape. The state’s first huts were erected in the 1920s as part of an effort to get more people comfortably recreating in the state’s vast public lands, according to James King, the U.S. Forest Service’s Alaska region director of recreation, land and minerals.
Then, in the 1930s, Theodore Roosevelt launched the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression, and the cabin-building campaign went into overdrive. Over the next decade, CCC crews built dozens of cabins in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests and hundreds more in the Lower 48. However, few of these CCC cabins ever became hut-to-hut systems. At the time, the focus was on base-camping overnights and family car camping—not on long traverses. Traverses were always thought to be more of a European invention. Americans, who relied on their cars rather than public transportation to get to and from trailheads, preferred to hike in loops or stay put.
That said, hut-to-hut travel does exist in the U.S. in a few select places. In New Hampshire, hikers can travel between fully staffed stone lodges perched strategically along the length of the White Mountains. In Colorado, mountain bikers and hikers often link the primitive wooden cabins dotting the San Juan Mountains. Other systems exist in Tahoma State Forest in Washington, Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, and Yosemite National Park in California.
“The huts in the U.S. reflect our culture,” says Sam Demas, a self-professed “hut nut” and the co-author of Hut to Hut USA: The Complete Guide for Hikers, Bikers, and Skiers . “We occupy the two ends of the spectrum. At one end, we are a backpacking culture. In the U.S., you want to go out and not see anyone and feel like you’re out there on your own. That appeals to our libertarian self-sufficiency ethic.” The U.S. also reigns supreme on the other end of the spectrum: car camping, which epitomizes ease and convenience.
“Huts are a middle ground between those two extremes,” Demas says. And American huts—which tend to be smaller and more spartan than the fully featured hostelries of the Alps—reflect both.
“[American hut systems] are also a reflection of private enterprise and capitalism as a dominant modality for developing almost any enterprise here in the U.S.,” adds Laurel Bradley, Demas’s co-author. Some of the more famous huts in the U.S. are run by national parks, the Appalachian Mountain Club, or other nonprofits. But the majority of America’s hut systems are small family businesses, Bradley says.
“Many of these hut systems were launched during the 1980s on the back of the cross-country ski craze,” she explains. A handful of these systems are still in operation. Most of these—and the country’s other remaining hut-to-hut chains—are short. Many require only one to two overnights. The longest take just four to five. For example, both the White Mountains Hut Traverse and Yosemite’s famed High Sierra Loop are 49 miles. For Demas and Bradley, that presents a serious void in America’s recreation opportunities.
“We’re convinced that there’s something incredibly therapeutic about the hut-to-hut experience,” Demas says. “It’s a pilgrimage. You begin to feel the effects after about five to seven days. If you really want to transform your life, you have to do a longer pilgrimage, and that’s not possible in the U.S. going hut to hut.”
Though, when Alaska’s vision comes to fruition, that could all change.
The Alaska Cabins Project
Right now, hut-to-hut hiking is hard to come by in Alaska. The state’s few existing traverses are short and tend to occupy more remote or technical terrain. Top of mind are the three cabins in the Delta Range , which are managed by the Alaska Alpine Club (AAC). These huts are spaced about 4 to 12 miles apart, and glacier travel is required to reach them.
The state’s other major hut operator is the Mountaineering Club of Alaska (MCA). The nonprofit’s eight huts comprise two different hut-to-hut hikes. The first is the 23-mile Bomber Traverse in the Hatcher Pass area in the Talkeetna Mountains just north of Wasilla. This route threads through glaciers and alpine meadows, connecting three cabins. The second MCA hike is the 40-mile Eklutna Traverse in Chugach State Park , popular among ski mountaineers. Both routes are classics but, again, fairly technical.
The Alaska Cabins Project aims to change that. The endeavor is in many ways the offspring of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act , which was introduced to Congress in 2021 by Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio. It became law in November of that year. “The act set aside $18 million specifically for cabins, and the lion's share of that funding came to Alaska,” says the NFF’s Shannon. The first of the cabins was completed this past summer (though its name and location won’t be released until it’s available for booking). Five more are on the way in 2024. After that, the USFS plans to build six to seven cabins per year.
The 25 new huts are designed to be easily accessible—many less than a mile from roads or parking areas. And they can be booked 300 nights a year. They’ll be dispersed across Southcentral and Southeast Alaska, with the bulk of them relatively close to communities near Anchorage and Juneau. Some will go on to become part of longer hut-to-hut traverses, including the ambitious Alaska Long Trail , a proposed 500-plus-mile trail system connecting Fairbanks and Seward. Others will be stand-alone cabins designed to give local families an easy weekend getaway in nature.
These near-town cabins, King says, are designed in part to help alleviate the current reservations bottleneck. Right now, cabins are often booked out three to six months in advance. King hopes the additions will make it easier for local Alaskans and tourists alike to secure a stay. They’re also intended to give more people access to southern Alaska’s most stunning vistas. “We’ve been trying to select sites that are unique,” King says. “Many of them are at the edge of a lake, ocean or river, or on a ridge with beautiful views.” These are the places Alaskans love most; the build sites were all suggested by locals during a lengthy public comment period. During that period, the USFS asked people what style of cabin they preferred and where they’d most like to stay. The agency then narrowed the suggestions to 25 new sites. All 25 are due to be completed and open to visitors by the end of 2027.
“For years, my whole family stayed at one of the cabins in the [Chugach] National Forest every year,” says Lang Van Dommelen, a lifelong Alaskan and a master’s student at University of Alaska Southeast focusing on outdoor recreation and rural development. It was a family tradition he treasured. But during the pandemic, the cabins’ popularity soared. It soon became too difficult to get a reservation, and the Van Dommelen family had to put an end to their cabin tradition.
Van Dommelen says he’s excited about the proposed cabin expansion—like everyone else, he likes the prospect of easier reservations—but he does have some mixed feelings.
“One of the proposed cabin sites is in the Berry Pass Area [just south of Chugach State Park near Alyeska Resort ], which is really popular with a variety of users. It’s a longer hike, but mellow and approachable, and there’s really great tent camping all over the area,” Van Dommelen says. Because tenting is not permitted within a certain radius of forest service cabins, “putting a cabin on Berry Pass would block off a lot of the accessible camping to other users,” he says. (He and the rest of his family provided similar feedback to the USFS during the public comment period.)
Other proposed sites have existing access issues, like parking shortages. However, the USFS says it’s prepared to address these.
“The USFS is already aware of parking constraints,” says Kenzie Barnwell, who works closely with the USFS in her role as the Chugach Stewardship Coordinator for the National Forest Foundation. “We will definitely be looking to address those if they continue to be a problem.”
While the Alaska Cabins Project isn’t in itself a hut-to-hut system, it will dovetail with a number of other initiatives designed to bring Alaska to the cutting edge of long-distance recreation.
Two of the new huts will fill in gaps along the existing Resurrection Pass hut system, making a 75-mile traverse from Hope to Seward possible—as long as users can get the appropriate reservations. New cabins would also make it conceivable to do a 32-mile loop starting and ending at Mendenhall Lake just northwest of Juneau.
Then there’s the Alaska Long Trail (ALT). Alaska Trails , a statewide nonprofit organization, is currently working with the Alaska Long Trail Coalition on a new cross-country route of the same name. The Alaska Long Trail was first conceived of in May 2020, just as the state’s public lands began to overflow with locals eager to escape the confines of their homes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Then, in 2021, the Alaska state government approved $13 million in funding to help make it happen.
The trail, which is currently under construction and does not yet have a proposed finish date, would go right by six of the proposed cabin sites, including the Berry Pass, Turnagain Arm Area, Center Creek, Carter Lake, Trail River Campground and Meridian Lake cabins. Ultimately, developers hope to add a number of other huts along the long trail route, making it possible for hikers to link up portions of the ALT and the Alaska Cabins Project systems.
The Alaska Long Trail corridor is also within spitting distance of several existing cabins, including the Dale Clemens Cabin and the Crow Pass Cabin.
However, the ALT isn’t the only new hut-accessible route coming to Alaska. The nonprofit Alaska Huts Association (AHA) is currently in the midst of a second endeavor, dubbed the Glacier Discovery Project. When finished, this new system of cabins and trails will enable hut-to-hut travel along the Placer River corridor. Visitors will be able to reach the cabins via the Glacier Discovery Trail —and via train.
The Glacier Discovery Trail shares the Placer River Valley with the Alaska Railroad. In 2007, the USFS partnered with the rail company to help shuttle visitors to valley trailheads. The train currently offers three whistle-stop drop-offs, which will correspond with the AHA’s three upcoming huts.
The first of those huts—the Lars Spurkland Memorial Hut— is due to open in 2024. The cabin will sleep 18 and offer views across Spencer Glacier. Each of the three huts will be two to four miles apart.
When these long-distance trails and hut-to-hut systems are complete—hopefully in the next few years—Alaska could have a robust recreation infrastructure that rivals anything you’ll find in the Alps. And that could open up a world of opportunities—for visitors, for locals, and for the state as a whole.
If you build it, they will come
“Right now, Alaska is a natural resource-extractive state. That’s how we manage our budget,” says Van Dommelen. Currently, oil revenues provide about 85 percent of the state’s income . “In the future, I’d love to see an economy built around things like tourism and outdoor recreation.” Right now, he points out, recreationists travel from all over the world to hike classic long-distance routes like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail in the Lower 48. Van Dommelen thinks it’s high time Alaska offered that kind of opportunity.
Demas and Bradley seem to think similarly. The demand is there; all the United States is missing is the supply. “There’s a huge market for people our age who want to go hut to hut,” Demas says, referring to middle-aged to retirement-aged folks. “Right now, they have to go to Switzerland or France or New Zealand, but they would love to do it here. Likewise, Europeans would love to come to the U.S. for hut-to-hut hiking.”
Demas is hopeful that American land managers will start to catch on soon. All it takes is one hut stay to understand that it’s the most efficient, economical way to put more people in the backcountry with less impact, he says.
If all goes according to plan, the Chugach and Tongass huts could become that case study for the rest of the country.
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