Friday, March 17, 2017

World Folktales and Fables - Forest Service Style

Next week is World Folktale and Fables week. The week celebrates storytelling and encourages us to explore and learn lessons from stories and legends that have been passed through the ages. I have always been fascinated by fables and just by stories in general, the way we make a history of who we are from the stories our parents and grandparents  and friends tell us. How the stories change with time and how we change with them. 

When I found out there was a week dedicated to storytelling, I got a bit excited. I would write a legend about the Forest Service. It would be fun. So I sat down to THINK about writing a story. Hmmmm what would I write about? First I should probably pay bills, make something to eat, ohhh does the bathroom need to be cleaned?

I am fortunate enough to know someone who does write stories. I have been graced with one written just for me and it is one of the best gifts I have ever been given. I called her up and babbled some excited nonsense about her writing a story for about a Forest Service legend and she was very calm and intrigued but not what I would call "over the moon" about the idea. At least I didn't think she was... I was wrong. I told her I needed it in March. It was January. I had it the next day.

So here, is a gift to all of you who love and use public lands. A fable, a folktale, a story about the Forest Service written by a person who has been part of the Forest Service for 17 years and knows its joys and foibles. She retires at the end of this month and I like to think of this story as part of the legacy she leaves with all of us who remain. Thank you Teresa.

A Forest Fairy Tale

by Teresa Haugh

In the deepest part of the forest, a wood nymph stepped out onto a rock in the middle of a creek, scarcely noticing the bite of icy water on her feet. She leaped over to a clump of spongy moss and shook the snowflakes off her hair.

“Shhh,” she said, patting the small furry creature that waited for her on the other side.

She paused to listen to the wind whispering through the thick canopy of Sitka spruce and mountain hemlock, aware that many sets of eyes were following her. The others were hiding in the recesses of the forest, covered by fallen logs, concealed in an eagle’s aerie, or squeezed between hibernating bear cubs, sharing the warmth of the den. It wouldn’t be long, now.


The nymph, called Alseide, an ancient name for “grove dweller,” looked down to see a grey mouse with quick feet running in circles around her. She bent down and scooped it up in both her hands, and raised it to eye level. She spoke softly, and her breath soothed its nervous twitch. “Run, now. It’s time to hide.”

She sat it down. Mousey scurried to the underbrush and buried itself under a thick pile of leaves. Alseide nodded her approval. She signaled the Great Horned Owls, who had sentry duty. They would stay on guard until that which was to come, was over. Their presence gave her comfort.


The earth’s floor shook, and the others moaned from their hiding places.

“Ah!” she cried. Alseide didn’t dare show fear, but she couldn’t help herself.  She stepped into a tree and let her essence meld into the strong trunk. It was the superpower of all wood nymphs. She was one with the tree. But why did she still feel the danger? The very roots of the giant conifer were undulating as if they were floating on the ocean and not buried beneath the rich dark loam of the forest floor.


“Stop it!” Alseide cried. Tears from her face ran with the tree sap. The small furry creature that had waited for her was squealing in terror. Her hand reached out like a branch and thrust it to safety behind her. She drew her arm back.

A far distant rumbling started. Alseide felt only grief. The boom-booms could only be the sound of her fierce enemy. The one she had fought before. The one who had taken the others and swallowed their young and choked off the life-giving waters of the creek. The one who had buried her and left her for dead. The one…Avalanche.

She heard the rocks sliding… slowly, patiently, then building momentum. Stone upon stone, grinding down to the valley floor. To her forest. She bowed in sorrow, unwilling to watch the demise of the others. She waited, but nothing happened.

She raised her head to the Great Horneds. “Go!”

Swiftly, the beating of their wings lifted them above the canopy and they disappeared.
Avalanche is torturing me, she thought. Why is he biding his time? Please, just let it be over.

Before she could form another thought, the tree with which she had become one registered a prick of pain. The owl had sunk his claws deep into an upper branch.

“Great Horned, how goes it with our foe, Avalanche? Second in wickedness only to his cousin Fire?”

The owl squawked.  “Alseide, we are saved.”

Alseide shook her head. How could it be?

“You have an advocate,” Great Horned informed her. “One who is strong and powerful.”

“Stronger than Avalanche?” Alseide had never heard of such.

“Your advocate came with a powerful cannon. Two booms! More than Avalanche could handle. All the rocks and ice and snow that your enemy threw down were diverted to the other side of the mountain. Have no fear.”

Alseide bowed her head in thanks. After a moment she said, “Please Owl, tell me his name. I must know who it is that saved us.”

“His name is strange, milady. He is called ‘Ranger.’”

(illustrations by Charles Lindemuth)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

49 Historic Sites in the 49th State

This year America celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Alaska was still celebrating its first decade of statehood when the Preservation Act was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966. Since then, the act has empowered the U.S. Forest Service to identify and preserve the state’s rich cultural history, including heritage sites that date back to time immemorial.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary, the 49 Sites in the 49th State website was developed by the Alaska Region and partners such as the State of Alaska, Native corporations and tribes, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, and others to help state residents and out-of-state visitors explore. The site features many historical sites and treasures such as the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Lost Whaling Ships in the Bering Strait, and M/V Chugach ranger boat, the last of 10 Forest Service ranger boats that once plied the waters of the Tongass and Chugach national forests.

A historic photo of the M/V Chugach ranger boat considered the best handling as well as the most seaworthy oceangoing vessel in the entire ranger boat fleet. Photo credit: Forest Service

In addition, the Forest Service will also host a series of celebratory events over the next year. A new historic property sign was unveiled at the Three Lakes Shelter on Mitkof Island. The Petersburg Ranger District led interpretive hikes in the surrounding forest for kids and adults following the ceremony. The shelter was originally built in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program created in 1933 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. It is one of 39 Adirondack-style shelters built on the Tongass National Forest between the mid-1930s and the early 1940s.
The historic Cordova, Alaska courthouse and post office

This fall, there will be an open house and plaque unveiling for the Cordova Post Office and Court House, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. At that time, it was reported to be the oldest post office buildings in Alaska still in use as a post office. Currently, the building functions as the office for the Chugach National Forest’s Cordova Ranger District.

(this article was written by Teresa Haugh-public affairs specialist for the Alaska Region)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bear Week is Coming...

Please join in celebrating bears and sharing information on living and recreating bear-friendly in our Girdwood Community. All activities are FREE!! Visit

Bear Theatre

April 15th 6:30pm @ Girdwood School
Come see our youth in a playful twist on the classic tale of the Three Little Pigs, who learn how to clean up their bear-attracting pigsty.

Bear Basics

April 16th 2-4pm @ Girdwood Community Room
Adult oriented bear aware basics - What to do if you see a bear? What do you do to avoid bear encounters? Learn how to use bear spray.

Bear Movie

April 16th 5-7pm @ Girdwood Community Room
Come see mini videos produced by local youth about bears, followed by a fea-ture length Disney Bears. Pick bumper sticker from last year’s winning art.

Bears Alive

April 17th 2-5pm @ Alaska Wildlife Cons Center
Come see a 2pm black bears presentation with root bear floats, 3pm bear feed, 4pm electric fence demo, 4:15 bear walk. Mention Bear Weekend for free entry.

Attend events and complete bear checklist to earn tickets to enter a drawing for bear friendly prizes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Calling all 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders! We want to hear your story! Entries due by May 31!

Share your bear story in this bear story contest for a chance to have your story read at an International Conference!

Save up all of your bear related questions because the winner of the contest will be having dinner with bear experts from around the world and will have her or his story read at the International Bear Association Conference in Anchorage on June 16, 2016.

The winning story and runner up stories will be shared and read at bear events to help increase the awareness of bears and conservation of bears in Alaska.

We are especially interested in stories where you have learned something. Think of some of the main bear safety messages:
  • If you see a bear, Don’t Run! (you could make them think you are prey)
  • Don’t Feed the bears (trash, garbage, bird seed, or food)
  • Avoid being near bear foods (bears follow their stomachs)
  • Make Noise (so bears can hear you and stay away from you)
  • Travel in a group (safety in numbers)
  • Carry a bear deterrent (and learn how to use it)
To enter – write your essay in the window below. Remember, no more than 400 words.  Be sure to include your name, grade level and how to contact you.

Don't forget to enter by May 31.

Thank you for sharing your bear story with us. We look forward to reading it. Please note that by sharing your story, you agree that your story may be included in future Bear Aware publications and messages for educational purposes in our Alaska communities without further consent.