PictureRacers Running on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Background, downtown Anchorage skyline. Photo by Roy Neese.
Anchorage – Home to the World’s Most Spectacular Marathons and Other Smaller Races

The Visit Anchorage site says it very well when it notes… “With low humidity and summer temperatures that typically top out in the mid-70s, Anchorage is an excellent choice for avid runners who want to incorporate a race into their visit. "

They also note "Anchorage is at sea level, requiring no adjustment to a higher, heart-pumping elevation. There is no hustling through traffic or breathing in car exhaust - as most races take place on Anchorage’s award-winning trail system. Along the paved trails, runners enjoy wooded vistas that open up to expanses of the steely gray waters of Cook Inlet or the rugged peaks of the Chugach Mountain Range.”

2014 will see a number of major and smaller runs hosted in Anchorage.  Running in general is a big sport here, in part for the reasons noted above, and we’ve got many great places to train.  Part of the trail system, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is very popular with walkers, runners and bikers alike. 
You can see the diversity of our trail system by clicking on the link to the overall map at the bottom of the blog. Maps are presented in a bit more organized fashion on the Trails of Anchorage website, also found at the end of the blog.  

Marathon season begins in February.  Highlights for the year include the:

Other fun runs also happen each year.  We are really excited about the

We also just learned that the Color Run is returning to Anchorage on June 28th.  We are located one block from the start. Guests had so much fun at the Color Run last year - we’re really looking forward to a repeat experience.

11th Avenue B and B is a great place stay while in town for any race. Why?  Because you will get a restful sleep the night before in a convenient, quiet location; a fortifying breakfast, lots of fluids, lots of encouragement and if you have special needs, we  will help you with those. 

For the most up-to-date race list click here (maintained by Skinny Raven)  or here (maintained by the Municipality of Anchorage). 

For the trail system maps, check out the Trails of Anchorage (organized by area of the city)  and the Municipality of Anchorage's overall trail map.  

And remember,  you don't have to be a runner to participate.  Walkers are encouraged too.  Whatever your preference, we hope to see you soon, with your  shoes on!   

Star & caregiver Al Whitehead on a walk 11/24/2013. Photo by J. Polak.
I was born and raised in Anchorage and as far back as I can remember, Star the Reindeer has lived downtown, in a large fenced area off the west side of a house at 10th and I Streets.

That’s just a few blocks from our B and B breakfast table, where Star is a frequent source of questions. ”Hey.  What about Star the Reindeer?  What’s her story?”   The questions made me realize that Star has been an Anchorage icon all my life, but I don’t know much about why.  I did a little research to be able to share her story with you. 

To start, a little background on reindeer. Unlike their cousin the caribou, reindeer are not native to Alaska. They closely resemble caribou but are shorter and stouter and don’t migrate over long distances like caribou. Reindeer -including Star’s ancestors - were first imported to the Seward Peninsula (537 air miles northwest of Anchorage and home to Nome, Alaska) from Siberia in 1892, as part of a federal program to provide sustainable food sources to the Bering Strait Eskimos and other people of the area.

Star’s story begins with Mr. Ivan and Mrs. Oro Stewart opening Stewart's Photo Shop downtown on 4th Avenue in Anchorage’s oldest building in 1942. True Alaskan pioneers, they were known to be the type to accomplish their goals, no matter how unusual the goal might be. Mrs. Stewart wanted to adopt an Alaskan pet. There were no laws against adopting reindeer and the original Star came to Anchorage in 1962, selected for Mr. and Mrs. Stewart by reindeer herder Larry Davis of Nome.  She was named for the starburst of white fur between her eyes.  Star I lived to be 23 years old - roughly 15 years longer than the average reindeer.   Larry Davis selected every Star to follow (except the current one- who came from a reindeer farm near Palmer) to look like the first Star.

The Stewart’s were assisted in Star care over the years by Albert Whitehead. Whitehead came to Alaska in 1960 with the military. Shortly after his arrival, he met Ivan and Oro Stewart and began working for them part time. Over the years he evolved into their reindeer caregiver, moreso after Mr. Stewart died in 1986. On her death, Mrs. Stewart left Albert Whitehead a life estate to help take care of her reindeer.

Beautiful as she is, Star has not been without her controversies.  In October of 1973, she was ordered evicted due to changing zoning laws.  The Stewarts appealed and won. 

Including the current Star, there has been six.  Star II died in the mid-1980s when a newcomer to Alaska broke into her pen, killed and butchered her, and sold the meat. He spent a year in jail for his crime.  Star III died in 1986 when she ate plastic bags. Star IV enjoyed 14 years under Mrs. Stewart’s care.  She suffered from arthritis and could only tolerate weekly walks. She was assaulted in 1987 when a man climbed into her pen and broke off one antler. She survived that and died in May 2002. Star V was 2 months old when she came to Anchorage from Nome, arriving in July 2002. Sadly, she passed away unexpectedly of a bacterial infection, not long before Oro Stewart herself died that fall.

Star VI, the current Star, was born in April 2001 at the reindeer farm north of Anchorage. Originally named Noel, she was renamed Star by Albert Whitehead, who fell in love with her at first sight. Rejected by her mother, her growth had been stunted.   She is only four and a half feet tall, which makes her about six inches shorter than others her age. 

In April 2006, Star VI was nearly kidnapped. Whitehead found a hole in the pen's fence with a trail of hay leading out to the sidewalk.  Star had stayed in her cage, however, and was not hurt. 

You can often find Star VI and Mr. Whitehead on walks around downtown Anchorage, and kids visiting Star at her home. Star  may be a symbol of Christmas, but she’s also a symbol of Anchorage, and as it turns out, our founders and our rich history. 

The following sources were used in the writing of this article. Links to those and more about Star:

·       A link to a beautiful photo of Star and Albert can be found here… http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Star-and-albert-web.jpg

·       Watch this fun video…  among other things; you’ll see Star visiting our friend Terry Potter in her downtown wine shop, where there’s a lot of expensive wine.  Now, Star in a wine shop-  that’s Alaskan bravery!    http://www.alaskapublic.org/2012/12/24/star-the-reindeer-brings-magic-to-downtown-anchorage/

·       A great article about Star, and some old photos, can be found here.  http://www.litsite.org/index.cfm?section=Digital-Archives&page=Community-Life&cat=Communities&viewpost=2&ContentId=2717

·       This article contains information about Star’s attempted eviction.  http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1338&dat=19751003&id=JPAjAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yfgDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4741,941094

·       And totally off topic but fun- this article tells the story of the Stewarts, their amphibious car (which is still seen in Anchorage parades today) and a 1968 drive 165 miles down the Yukon River, from Eagle to Circle City.   http://www.amphicars.com/yukon.htm

·       Star also has her own Facebook page.  You can friend her at https://www.facebook.com/starthereindeer.  

                                                                                 Viva la Star! 

There is more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one way to eat your salmon.  A friend named Mike has the best pickled salmon recipe I've ever eaten, but I haven't made it in a long time and I'd kind of forgotten about it.  We recently came into some salmon around here, and Karen, my sister and next door neighbor, took home with her a big, fat, whole red salmon.  I thought to myself "What in the world is Karen (who is quite petite) going to do with that big, fat salmon?"  Answer?  She pickled it!  It looks beautiful and I can't wait to try it.  

Bonus Trivia question:  Who said.... "How comest thou in this pickle?"   

OK. Work at the APCA is pretty well behind me and I am on to putting full attention on the 11th Avenue B and B. It's looking good in the hood around here.  The landscaping is beautiful and the place looks great!  Welcome, all who come here.