Essays and Articles

by Erin McKittrick:

Essays in the Alaska Dispatch News and other publications

Following Alaska’s vanishing ice

It was the middle of March, nearly a year ago. My family of four had flown into Nome around the time a lot of people fly to Nome. Iditarod fans filled the streets. But I was a hundred yards offshore of downtown.Erin McKittrick

February 28, 2016

Welcome to Umnak, a land of cows that assaults the senses

Umnak Island is part of the Fox Islands in the Aleutian chain, one step farther west than Unalaska. Population: 22 humans, 7,500 cows.Erin McKittrick

November 1, 2015

On 900-mile trip, Trusty Tusty is both cruise ship and Greyhound bus

This is the most remote run the Alaska ferry system makes. Every two weeks between May and September, the 51-year-old Tustemena leaves Seldovia for the 900-or-so-mile run to Dutch Harbor, stopping at Homer, Kodiak, Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass and Akutan along the way.Erin McKittrick

August 9, 2015

Tidepool wonder: Kachemak Bay low tide reveals richness in color, life

Claws scuttle across pearly pink ground. Crimson tufts erupt from the ends of tangled white tubes. A wavering tentacle probes from behind a thicket of brown. Then – a monstrous crash…Erin McKittrick, Jul 5, 2015

Visiting where the first Americans may have tread

The winds died. The craggy cliffs disappeared. The world turned flat and white. Sometimes, heading down the beach in the morning, when it looked just the same as yesterday and the kids wanted to play “Pooh and Piglet and the Sabertooth Tiger” and “Pretend Easter Egg Hunt in the Mud Melt Holes” -- just the same as yesterday – the world seemed endless…Erin McKittrick, May 31, 2015

Walking a windswept 500 miles to Kotzebue with 2 kids

Bryan Weyauvanna stepped off his snowmachine, gulped the last of his thermos of coffee, and gestured at one of the mountains behind Cape Woolley, pastel pink in the setting sun. “That mountain? It’s 3870 on the map, but in my language, it’s Singatook. And when you see a cloud up there, that means it’s going to be windy.”…Erin McKittrick, Apr 12, 2015

Getting up close and personal with Alaska’s coastline

By some measures, Alaska has more than 49,000 miles of coastline, more than the Lower 48 states combined. The closer you look, the longer the shore gets. With ShoreZone, it’s almost possible to zoom in until every barnacle and pebble stands out in sharp relief.Erin McKittrick

February 20, 2015

Mesmerized by maps: Dreaming of Alaska adventures

Spread out the maps and start dreaming. In winter, Alaska explorers pore over maps, imagining the possibilities of next year’s trip. Erin McKittrick

December 7, 2014

In Chickaloon coal debate, does what’s best for locals even matter?

In any economy, some people can work for their neighbors – fixing their roads, teaching their kids, selling them gas. But to bring anything in from outside, you need to have something that outsiders need.

October 25, 2014

When we talk, we talk about the weather

Perhaps we just have nothing else to talk about out here in the sticks. But weather is fascinating. Inescapable. I always seem to be plunging myself right into it, skating down a trail-turned-mudslide with a gaggle of gooey children, stumbling into the sting of driving snow, or holding a tent against the shuddering wind. Even getting sunburned.

September 6, 2014

Touring Kachemak Bay State Park with packrafts and children in tow

A 10-day journey with four young children in tow shows the beauty of Alaska’s oldest state park.Erin McKittrick

August 9, 2014

Two and Two Halves to the Malaspina

Despite storms flooding their tent, high winds pelting them with sea spray and a continuous stream of dirty nappies, Erin McKittrick has nothing but good memories of crossing Alaska’s Malaspina Glacier with her husband and two small children

UK Geographical, August 2014

The Alaska outhouse: A room with a view

Thousands of Alaskans live without indoor plumbing; for some, it’s due to a lack of alternatives. But for others, it’s a lifestyle choice, a chance to commune with nature on the walk down the path, with a view of the mountains and the woods.Erin McKittrick

June 10, 2014

Where biking to work, play is the only option on the shores of Kachemak Bay

I miss pavement more often than I’d like to admit. I fantasize about a beautiful paved bike trail winding through the hills, far from the dust clouds of the gravel road. Erin McKittrick

May 16, 2014

Spring in Alaska: Finding the state’s beauty during ‘the ugly season’

Spring in Alaska is the season of sea stars, sunglasses, seedlings and skis. Sometimes finding jaw-dropping wonder is as simple as a change in elevation.Erin McKittrick

April 29, 2014

Stopping to consider Alaska’s import-export ebb and flow

We build Alaska out of what we bring in from Washington state on four container ships a week. And then we send Alaska back – but 80 percent of those containers return to Tacoma empty.Erin McKittrick

December 14, 2013

Watching Alaska pass by, traveling by jet, van, ferry, foot and paddle

For someone accustomed to traveling by foot and raft, at a pace of 200 miles per month, even taking the ferry in Southeast Alaska can feel blisteringly fast. But there’s certainly time enough to contemplate the surroundings. Erin McKittrick

November 3, 2013

Living remote in a Seldovia yurt, but still very connected to modern Alaska

Television people making reality shows toss around words “grid” and “off-grid,” but they don’t really care about electricity, which is what connects us. They concentrate on pieces of disconnection evident in rural or rustic Alaska lives.Erin McKittrick

September 21, 2013

Now vs. Never vs. Later

Natural Gas in Cook Inlet and the pitfalls of short-term planning. The Case for Leaving Wealth in the Ground. (2012)

As the Beaches Wash Away

Global warming and its impacts on coastal erosion, as explored through an journey to Alaska’s Malaspina Glacier. (2012)

Running with Red Dog

As we traveled through the region, I tried to discover whether Red Dog Mine was a godsend to the local economy, a disaster waiting to happen, or maybe all of the above? (2010)

Reflections on Glacier Bay

- by Erin McKittrick. From the Journey on the Wild Coast, originally published in National Parks Magazine (Winter 2010).

The Dead and the Dying

A journey through the diminishing glaciers of the southern Kenai Peninsula with three generations of family. (2009)

Lost Forests on the Lost Coast

A short expedition to explore remediation, rebirth, and the aftermath of logging on the Gulf of Alaska coast (2009).

A Long Trek Home photoessay

- by Erin McKittrick. Published in Wend Magazine (Summer 2009).

The Fruits of Insanity

A cold and windy February odyssey in the Kenai Fjords. Or how a pair of unusual people feed off eachother to produce something a little bit wonderful, and a little bit insane. (2007)

Where Threatened Waters Flow

A journey through the watersheds downstream of the proposed Pebble Mine, through wilderness, communities, and an uncertain future.(2006)

Proposed Mine Endangers Bristol Bay

- by Erin McKittrick. From the Alaska Wilderness League Newsletter (February 2007, page 6.)

Site of the Proposed Pebble Mine

- by Erin McKittrick. A photo essay on my 2005 trip to the Pebble Mine site in Environment News Service. Or read it on my page


And read trip journals from over a dozen older trips on our old AK Trekking website.

by David Coil

Metals Recycling: A Necessary Start

A discussion on the complexity and necessity of metals recycling, focusing on aluminum as an example. (2010)

Reconsidering the “Value” of Gold

Thoughts on the arbitrary value of gold, as contrasted with the environmental destruction caused by mining it. (2010)

by Others

Walking on Oil

-by Andrew Mattox (2012). Modern day backpacking, synthetic gear, and the realization that we are all made of oil.

New Eyes, Old Ice: My First Glacier Experience

-by Mike Borden (2012). An account of a photojournalism trek to Grewingk Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula.

Circling the sound

- by Bjorn Olson and Kim McNett (2011). A journey essay describing an environmentally-focused circumnavigation of Prince William Sound in a homemade kayak during summer 2010.

Close Encounter with a Grizzly Bear

- by Mike Borden (2010). A detailed account of a dangerous grizzly encounter in southcentral Alaska, along with practical information about bear safety and bear spray.