outposts

Driving in Circles on the Tundra: Bethel, Alaska: 93 Cabbies and 10 miles of Road

Los Angeles Times
November 30, 2007
By Alex Tizon

A tiny round-faced woman stands in a field of ice, a solitary figure in the tundra, waiting for a ride. From one hand dangles several plastic grocery bags. With her free hand, she flicks a finger as if inscribing a single scratch in the air, an almost imperceptible gesture. A taxicab appears from a cloud of mist. It is an old, white Chevy, so splattered with mud there is hardly any white to see. On the roof glows a green sign that reads “Kusko.”

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The Battle for Kauai: Locals Say No To The Superferry

Los Angeles Times
October 8, 2007
By Alex Tizon

LIHUE, Hawaii – The woman in the sun hat wants to crack someone in the jaw. It’s been a bad day. Actually, for Kaiulani Huff, it’s been a bad few decades. She has watched as her home, the island of Kauai, changed from a wild garden of secret places to — in her eyes — an overcrowded amusement park for rich people. “Welcome to Disneyland,” she says one day while driving around the island. “See the natives. Watch us dance the hula. Clog up our roads. Buy up all the good land. And please, help yourselves to our beaches!”

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Mrs. Leu, Tear Down That Wall

Los Angeles Times
May 26, 2007
By Alex Tizon

BLAINE, Washington  – The invisible line that divides Canada and the United States runs along a shallow ditch just beyond Shirley-Ann Leu’s backyard, so close she could cross the border in a single hop.  At 72, Shirley-Ann, a retired hairdresser, shows no such inclination. But some in her care — namely 11 Pomeranians, two toy poodles and a young neighbor girl whom she baby-sits — appear to her all too eager to jump the ditch and roam wild across Canada.

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3 Days of Minus 20

Los Angeles Times
May 16, 2007
By Alex Tizon

BEAUFORT SEA – For three days in March I camped on a drifting slab of ice, 200 miles north of Alaska, as close as I’d ever get to the top of the world and to knowing what it would be like to live on an ice cube. The cold crept through my boots and socks, into my toes and up my legs. It numbed my fingers and face and froze the moisture in my eyes. It swept into my lungs.

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Living On the Wet Spot

Los Angeles Times
April 20, 2006
By Alex Tizon

WAIULUA, Hawaii – In the place where Albert Spencer lives, it is a waste of time to measure rainfall by the inch. From January through March, a total of 6 feet of water has poured onto his parcel in paradise. The rain falls in continuous misty sheets with occasional squalls as though someone had turned on a giant faucet. The air thickens with moisture. Palm leaves drip and dribble. Earth turns sloppy, and walking outdoors gets noisy.

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80 Eyes Watching the People

Los Angeles Times
March 28, 2006
By Alex Tizon

DILLINGHAM, Alaska – From Anchorage it takes 90 minutes on a propeller plane to reach this fishing village on the state’s southwestern edge, a place where some people still make raincoats out of walrus intestine.  This is the Alaskan bush at its most remote. Here, tundra meets sea, and sea turns to ice for half the year. Scattered, almost hidden, in the terrain are some of the most isolated communities on American soil. People choose to live in outposts like Dillingham (pop. 2,400) for that reason: to be left alone.

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The Sky is Falling in Alaska

Los Angeles Times
February 10, 2006
By Alex Tizon

HOMER, Alaska — It is, in the world of volcanoes, one of the little guys, a bump on the sea, a molehill among mountains. Some days, Mt. Augustine barely peeks above the mist that settles across Cook Inlet in south central Alaska. Residents of this fishing town 70 miles to the east have been keeping an eye on the volcano, which woke up Jan. 11 and dusted the inlet with ash. The mountain has been erupting intermittently ever since. It is the focus of attention for the region and the talk of the town for Homer, the nearest community of any size.

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A Real Hole in the Wall

Los Angeles Times
August 16, 2005
By Alex Tizon

KALAPANA, Hawaii – Highway 130 runs through the heart of the Puna District, the diamond point that makes up the easternmost tip of the Big Island, gliding straight into what is often called Hawaii’s last frontier. This is a place where mongoose far outnumber people and run free across fields and forests and newly hardened rivers of lava, a region where the planet’s most active volcano, Kilauea, has poured out its molten discharge over the last two decades, enough to fill 200 million dump trucks. Human settlements resemble outbreaks of weeds in a vast moonscape.

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Where Native Hawaiians Rule

Los Angeles Times
July 21, 2005
By Alex Tizon

WAIMANALO  –  From Honolulu, it takes an hour to drive here, heading north over dagger-like mountains and then east through rolling farm country to the outermost corner of the island known by some as the Hawaiians’ Hawaii. Tour buses circling the island don’t stop here except to gas up. Those who step off the bus won’t find hula dancers greeting them with leis, or five-star hotels, or even two-star ones. They’ll find a sleepy, rough-edged, working-class town of 10,000 people, some of whom don’t like tourists and don’t mind saying so.

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The Lure of Life on Lava

Los Angeles Times
March 8, 2005
By Alex Tizon

MAUNA LOA – Even now, with a bad back and knees as stiff as bamboo, Walter Rowsell, 67, believes he can still outrun the lava. Let it come, he says. Let it flow as fast as it can. If it gets him, it gets him.

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