ANCHORAGE – A two-story white house in Midtown doesn’t look like any other on its block, but the sounds inside are familiar. Last Friday afternoon, laughter emanated from a toothy grin on the face of 1-year-old Athina Tziolas. She chewed a cookie while in the arms of her mother, Zoi Maroudas-Tziolas.
With the curious mind of a child her age, there was only one thing that was able to keep Athina’s attention: food. Although foods like kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are staples of healthy fare, for children they usually aren’t a favorite.
Zoi Maroudas-Tziolas is working to change that.
Meet John and Cheri Francis of Alaska Ghost Hunters
Cheri was lying in bed when she heard the whisper, “Did you hear that?” She awoke thinking it was her husband John, but he was fast asleep. She heard footsteps walk across the ceiling and concluded it was guests on the floor above her.
The next day, she realized they were on the top floor.
That same day she was taking a nap, when John heard a voice next to her bed saying, “Wake up! Wake up!” He was recording at the time and caught the sound. When he played it for Cheri, she already knew the voice—the same one from the night before.
Gathered together on a couch, I listened to their ghost stories by the light of the fire, thankful for its warmth with chills from running down my spine. But they weren’t just out to scare me; John and Cheri Francis are ghost hunters.
Winter Project mixes high-octane action with vivid storytelling
Last year was a bad snow year for Alaska, and this year isn’t off to a good start either.
But however badly the lack of snow last winter cramped your style, imagine raising more than $156,000 to finally make the full-length film of your dreams about extreme snowmachine riding in Alaska, only to have Mother Nature try and stop you.
This scenario sets the opening scene of the film Winter Project, which will have its world premiere this week at the Bear Tooth. Hybrid Color Films, who brought you the snowmachine short Black Sunday, presents their first feature-length film that has come a long way from the Kickstarter campaign it was born from. If you have been around Anchorage since 2013, you may remember it.
From October 31 to November 30 last year, the film’s crew and stars rallied the support of 1,031 backers to fund the making of Winter Project. They proposed an estimated goal of $140,000 and ended up raising $156,501.
On any given Thursday, you can hear the sound of their skates glide across the smooth, waxed floors. The soft thud as the skate hits the wood, followed by the whir of the wheels and bearings spinning. Then the clap of gear hitting gear, the crack of one helmet colliding with another and the slap of bare skin as a skater goes down. Sometimes, you can almost hear the bruises forming.
Erase what you think you know about roller derby. Forget Ellen Page and the movie Whip It (except the feminist bad-ass part), forget the costumes and the short skirts—keep the tattoos and add uniforms. Think hockey, mixed with speed skating and some Xena the Warrior Princess thrown in for good measure.
Allow me to cordially re-introduce you to the Rage City Rollergirls and the select few skaters who make up the elite Rage City All Stars, as they prepare for their season-opener bout.
In 1982, two young seniors at Montana State University started dating. They had known of each other growing up in the Mission Valley, she in Bigfork and he on the family farm outside of Pablo, but it wasn’t until college that they officially met. The next year, Roger and Kathy Starkel would get married and begin their life and business together.
“It’s been nothing but fun since,” Roger said.
Nearly 40 years later, the Starkels are about to be the recipients of the Ronan Area Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Producer of the Year’ award. While he still says the award is for “old guys,” Roger said he and Kathy are honored for the recognition.
Yet, this achievement pales in comparison to the innovations and advancements Roger and Kathy have brought to the agriculture industry.
She’s in familiar company — several of her siblings, her husband Todd and her parents are all part of the team. In two years, they expect a member of the third generation will join the crew, a grandson who has played the patient in many training courses throughout the years.
There are 14 members on the active roster — seven are from the Umphrey clan. However, the situation isn’t abnormal for the Mission Valley Ambulance. The whole group is mostly made from a core of three families.
When he returned to Honduras this fall, one year later, he met the 16-month-old baby whose life he helped to save while helping a dental and medical volunteer trip.
“There is no doubt that that child would have died had we not been there,” Babineau said.
The rain came down in torrents, each drop stinging my already cold skin.
“I can’t cross it without getting wet,” I shouted, trying to be heard over the thunderous rush of water streaming in front of me. “I have to change shoes.”
What would have been a milky stream on a normal summer day had turned into a treacherous tirade pouring down from glaciers above. Across the raging whitewater, I saw where the trail carried on, nearly 200 feet from where I was standing on the boulder-strewn bank.
I set my pack down and it squished into the mud under its own weight as I changed into my Chaco sandals. My waterlogged toes looked like a child’s wrinkled fingers after a long bath, and the duct tape protecting the blisters on each of my toes had begun to curl as it peeled away from my skin.
Once I had reassembled my pack and hoisted it to where it had formed into the curvature of my back, I assessed the situation. Most of the pools were too deep for me to wade through and one misstep would overthrow my top-heavy load and I would easily be rushed downstream, head held under water.
The only solution was to climb higher to find a shallower pool to enter the unrelenting barrage of liquid. I led the way, climbing on all fours up jagged mounds of rock. I hit a roadblock when I reached a boulder whose flat face I couldn’t ascend.
“Phil, I’m going to need you to push the back of my pack while I climb up,” I said.
He nodded in agreement. I stepped as high on the rock as I could.
“On three. One… two… three!”
I pushed through my toes and Phil shoved me from behind. Suddenly, I knew it was going to end badly. I felt my foot slide out from beneath me and the combined weight of my pack and my body slammed against the rock with all of the impact taken in by my right shin.
The river drowned out my screams.
A ski bum's glacier getaway
The sun beat down, making me sweat and warming my skin. As I sat in the early July heat, I sunk my hands into the refreshing white stuff below me— snow.
That’s right. Snow.
Surrounded by soaring peaks and stunning arêtes, I took a deep breath of the fresh Rocky
Mountain air. The brisk oxygen chilled my nostrils as I inhaled.
I exhaled as I stood up. With my board strapped to my feet, I jumped, turned and accelerated down the slushy hillside to a chorus of cheers from an on-looking crowd.
Note: This article ran in the Lake County Leader July 18, 2013. It was also published in the Bigfork Eagle.
From the floppy ears right down to their fluffy little tails, its is hard to deny how cute bunnies are.
They may be cute and cuddly but domestic rabbits have the potential to cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem on Finley Point near Polson.
In April, raw milk stirred up a commotion in the Montana Legislature. The debate didn't die with the bill, but is in a stalemate. The future of raw milk could hold big things for small farmers if a compromise can be made.
Note: This article ran in the Lake County Leader July 4, 2013. It was picked up by the West Shore News and the Bigfork Eagle.
Want to buy something illegal but don’t know where to find it? Check Craigslist.
That is where many have gone to find raw milk, which was kept outlawed by the Montana State Legislature in April. You can’t find it by searching ‘raw milk’ but type in ‘milk’ and over 100 ads pop up. With some sifting, you will soon find ads for cow shares, to receive a portion of what the cow produces, and some more blatant ads for raw milk.
Any sale of raw milk in Montana is illegal, but the debate over raw milk isn’t black and white.
Noxious weeds threaten ecosystem, economy
Tiny, white bunches of flowers span the test plot in St. Ignatius. To the untrained eye it looks like a field full of baby’s breath, but the land is full of whitetop, a weed plaguing Lake County and the entire state of Montana.
Summer is in full bloom, and so are weeds. They may look pretty, but what invasive weeds do to an ecosystem, and an economy, is downright ugly.
This is the first article in a two-part series on noxious weeds I wrote at the beginning of my tenure at the Leader. Invasive weed species, if not managed, could have irreparable effects on this agriculture-based economy.
FLATHEAD LAKE — They come in small numbers and slowly take over everything in their path. As they ruin the lives of natives, they leave the landscape changed for the worse. It’s not a rebel army or a plague of locusts; it’s noxious weeds.
And they are waging their own biological war.
According to the Montana Weed Control Association, Montana currently has 32 state-listed noxious weeds in every county of the state. Western Montana has a much larger problem given population densities where weeds are primarily spread through travel vectors.
In Lake County, residents see the brunt of the problem.
“We’re pretty inundated with noxious weeds,” Tom Benson, director of Lake County Weed Control, said.
Benson said no single entity has the budget to deal with noxious weeds and that education is a key component in preventing the spread of weeds. What needs to happen is a bridging of the gap between education and weed control, he said.
Aquatic invasive species have taken the forefront of the noxious weed discussion. While many residents of Lake County are aware of the eminent threat of zebra mussels, two lesser-known menaces are plaguing Flathead Lake.
Rookie reporter Jessica Stugelmayer tames the rapids
Published in the Lake County Leader
Fresh out of college, and ready to conquer the journalism world, I immediately agreed when Leader editor Bryce Gray offered me the last seat in the boat. I wasn’t scared, mostly.
Hop aboard the “Fool Bus” with the Flathead Raft Co. and prepare for a wet and wild ride. The company has many adventure tours that include kayaking, river boarding and, of course, whitewater rafting.
How a hobby changed a life
Published on MakeItMissoula.com
See the full story and additional photos by clicking here.
People often find solace in alcohol. For Martha Gergasko, a good beer was the key to her salvation.
Just three years ago everything seemed to be coming together for her. Gergasko had graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in biology. She had a job in Billings as a resident technical assistant and planned to make contacts with Zoo Montana. Her dream to work as a zookeeper was becoming a reality.
Then the mash soured.
Gergasko has a phobia of driving and a condition of her job was driving large vans from office to office. In the middle of a behind-the-wheel-instruction course, she had a panic attack and could not continue. She notified her employer she could not take the position.
“So I moved home, dream crushed,” Gergasko said.
Home is where the brew is
Gergasko’s kitchen features a kegerator and other home brewing equipment.
Her father, Mike Gergasko, had begun home brewing beer at their family home in Santa Fe, N.M. while Martha was attending college.
When Martha returned home from Billings, Mike asked her to help with the latest batch to cheer her up. As they worked on a brew, she said her inner mad scientist kicked in and she was hooked.
Read all of Jessica's writing on Muck Rack