Tag Archives: alaska

Aquaponics: Weirdo’s Farm at Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

The Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn has an exciting common room that features a Little Martin guitar, a unique custom log bar with matching stools, two colorful handmade hula hoops, and a bookshelf that features a plethora of reading from Rod McKuen poetry to a book of black and white photos of Jacqueline Kennedy. Out of all features, the aquaponics project usually draws a crowd.

A lot of our guests are entertained by curiosity, nature, and knowledge. One guest commented about aquaponics, “It has all the entertainment thrills of a sports bar full of television screens. It just doesn’t have the deep fried onion rings.” Another guest wanted to know why I named the fish after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. To me it’s obvious — Jackie O was so elegant that I want GABI guests to envision her, instead of a dirty little fish from tropics, defecating on their spinach .

The components of aquaponics include botany, horticulture, hydroponics, and photosynthesis.

Guests are encouraged to spend several days at GABI to learn about aquaponics. Below is a list of different ways to have fun with aquaponics devised by Sean Mullen, Cornell University:

1. Identify components of the biotic and abiotic environment

2. Learn to differentiate between heterotrophic and autotrophic organisms

3. Understand nutrient cycling (nitrogen cycling in particular)

4. Measure levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate

5. Measure plant growth

6. Construct graphs of nutrient levels and plant growth rates (can supply crayons, sharpies, and butcher paper)

7. Generate a poem about the impact of nutrients on plant growth and we’ll post it on our blog.

A play pen of horny rabbits is the only educational system that could possibly be more entertaining then aquaponics. Besides giving hostelers something to do when not exploring the Chugach Mountains, aquaponics…

1. Can inspire people to further their education as seen in the below video.

2. Will improve a person’s health. Doctors have known for years that simply placing an aquarium in a waiting room will lower patients’ blood pressure and anxiety while they wait to receive prescriptions for their anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Can give a glimpse into what life will be like on Mars. Until McDonalds opens a restuarant on Mars, planetary pioneers are going to have to eat something. Nasa thinks aquaponics could be the answer.

4. Will provide a source of light and fresh vegetables during the long cold dark Alaskan winter.

For the past couple of years, I have had a desire to become a farmer. The aquaponics project has allowed me to start a small spinach, bamboo and basil farm. Here are some pictures of Weirdo’s Farm.

Weirdo’s Farm and Cafe

Side view

Weirdo’s fish are named Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

growing basil, spinach, broccoli, strawberries, bamboo

spinach and broccoli

Jackie O says, children who eat spinach will grow up Weird and Strong

There are many different aquaponic systems.  Because of space limitations and issues of aesthetics, Weirdo’s Farm is somewhat patterned off Earth Solutions aquaponic systems and an article found at Aquaponics.com.

Weirdo’s Farm and Cafe for one day is renaming the fish to Rebeca Suarez, Larry Whittle, Tara Hall, Mark Quinn, Tabor Kluza, Lynn Zeller, Cheri Darling-Perata, Annie Berical, Karlito Franz, Robin Doll, Jean Calomeni, Patricia Moore, and Mike Roberts.  In honor of friends who support Follettry.  THANK YOU!!

Thank You Jackie O

New Jackie O logo by Chris Mecham. Thanks Chris!

Open Mic at Maxine’s Glacier City Bistro in Girdwood, Alaska

Brandon Follett at maxine's glacier city bistro girdwood, alaska

Playing a Veronica and Mental Foreplay tune


With a reputation for fresh flavors, Maxine’s Glacier City Bistro fills with locals every Wednesday Night for open mic tunes. Traveler Brandon Follett checks out the scene and indulges in two of his favorite pastimes — eating and singing.

Tunnel Ends Cafe and Espresso located in Whittier, Alaska

Plenty of Parking for Vehicles and and Boats

Despite being surrounded on three sides by mountains and the other side by ocean, Whittier, Alaska happens to be one of the most car friendly towns in the nation. Not even the world’s best driver can navigate the mountains surrounding Whittier, but not to be bested by nature, a vehicle lover can drive through a 2.5 long tunnel into a city mostly paved in parking lots.

Nestled between parking spaces is the Tunnel Ends Cafe and Espresso. Finding this little eatery is like discovering an organic honey crisp apple among the candy bars, chips, soda and other such food staples at obese super markets. Biting into the sweet juiciness of the apple, I get distracted by a woman in grey sweat pants who doesn’t seem to notice her anatomically correct camel toe or the loud Black Eyed Peas ring tone coming from her duffel bag sized purse. I see her move a hand towards her lower regions and I think, “Thank god, she’s going to pick up the phone or adjust her sweats.” She does neither but snaps her thong. She seems too engaged in trying to discover the greater price value between a six-pack or liter of soda.

delicious omelet

At the omelet cafe, large trucks as unflattering as the sweat pants pull up next to the cafe to refuel. When the truck engine begins to rumble, the exhaust spews out smells and burps that make me realize just how hurt Uncle LeRoy must have been to subject himself to carbon monoxide poisoning. Cough Cough

Bless poor Uncle Leroy

Tasting the spirit of fall in the apple at the grocery store takes me back to autumn bicycle rides with a crispness in the air, reds and oranges in the trees, and the Boise River slowing down to a crawl.

The omelet has the same effects. Soon we are back enjoying the omelet and listening to Tanguy’s vivid description of France. Click here to learn more about CouchSurfing Tanguy.

No Yellow 5 at the Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

Jeremiah enjoying a Christmas cookie

The Christmas cookie baking party was a success.  The only person who did not have fun thought he was coming to a processed cookie baking party.  “What, no one brought yellow 5 or high fructose corn syrup?  How I am supposed to turn my cookies red and feed the craving? I’m going down to Tesoro to buy Christmas colored Oreos and a can of hairspray.”

At the hostel, cookie admirers and bakers of homemade cookies happily mingled. When the sugar rush got too intense, people stepped out into the snow towards the light.  As a hostel employee, I yell, “Follow the steps to the land of drink and fire.  If you stumble past the boulders onto the road, beware of the large red speeding truck.”  Cookie munchers switched into beverage drinking mode. When the beverage drinkers couldn’t handle the 15 degree cold, they warmed their hands with hot out of the oven cookies.  This cycle continued until the booze and cookies ran out.

If GABI can't pleasure your needs maybe the porch can

One might ask how a dry hostel can have so much baking fun.  A unique feature at GABI is that the deck has been built onto public property.

Girdwoodians haven’t had this much fun at GABI since the dedication when we served booze and ice cream.  Bar owners take note that Jack on the Rocks served alongside a warm sugar cookie or with a huckleberry ice cream cone are a wonderful marriage.

travelers and the Girdwood community love cookies

Girdwoodians and hostelers learn about new cultures through the cookie

Hostels are more delicious when they smell like a fresh baked cookie

Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn gets a mention in MaryJanesFarm Magazine

I had the pleasure of working for MaryJane the summer of 2006. While working at the Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn I tried to implement some of the values and business practices that MaryJane taught me. I am very proud to be associated with an amazing entrepreneural person who in 2001 received the Idaho Progressive Businessperson of the Year. A simple example of MaryJane’s brilliant business savvy is a bed and breakfast that does not provide private bathrooms but shared outhouses.  Check out this link to view her bed and breakfast.
LEED Certification UPDATE

St. Nicholas and the Schmutzli at the Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

St. Nicholas and the Schmutzli making their way to Girdwood, Alaska

December 6th was a rough day because this year I have been bad.

During the summer I accepted the use of a large black Dodge truck that sported a George W. Bush sticker. I didn’t even use the truck for its utilitarian value of hauling sheep or large flat screen tv’s.

Seaview Cafe located in Hope, Alaska

Amy and I drove the truck to Hope, Alaska to simply wander around for an hour. Usually I enjoy being a smidgen evil because I can always seek forgiveness in Christ and offset my carbon footprint through credit. These fun-loving, not-holding-myself-accountable ways changed when I met our Swiss guests.

They have been scaring me with stories about an individual who doesn’t listen to sob apologies. His name is the Schmutzli. Every 6th of December, he and Saint Nicholas visit families in Switzerland and hostels in Girdwood, Alaska. Saint Nicholas gives out fruit and nuts to good people while the Schmutzli kidnaps people who have been bad. The misbehaving people awake in a secret location somewhere in the Black Forest of Europe. Saint Nicholas has a very hungry donkey who loves carrots, and the bad people are forced to peel carrots until their fingers bleed. The Schmutzli adheres to the notion that bad people must be tortured into being good.

Click here to learn more about the Schmutzli

I tell the Swiss I don’t believe in St. Nicholas aka Santa Clause. The Swiss then giggle, “Really, you don’t believe in Santa and the Schmutzli? For the last 8 years, who has been giving out gifts of freedom? Yes, Santa Bush, and who is his helper? The CIA Schmutzli. And where did Santa’s helper take the bad people? To the land of rendition probably somewhere in the Black Forest. Check out the 2009/11/05 New York Times, Italy Convicts 23 Americans for C.I.A. Renditions.”

I prefer the December 25th holiday where I turn my thoughts toward the birth of Christ in a stable and the infanticide of the all the males in Bethlehem under the age of two. These images are much more joyous than dealing with the anxiety of being abducted by the Schmutzli.

Luckily, 2009 has been a great year for everyone at the hostel.

Here are some photos of making and eating Swiss bread babies on Dec 6th. Special thanks to Salome and Avi, THE SWISS.

The Swiss

A bread baby can represent one's alter ego

bread baby action

Bread babies are fun to make and fun to play with and when the fun's gone you can eat them

At GABI guests and the community can feel safe being themselves, i.e. playing with dolls

Amy discusses “late night snowy fun” with the NorthernLight

Stay in Girdwood without Emptying out your Wallet
By Damaris Craig

The Girdwood, Alaska Backpackers Inn opened last July and is ready for the snowy season and is providing skiiers and snowboarders without completely draining wallets.

The Backpackers Inn is a hostel style inn with some great rates for students. It isn’t located right by the Alyeska Resort but is just a short walking distance from the Tesoro gas station. Backpackers Inn is about a four-minute walk away from Tesoro, from the gas station you can take the Alyeska shuttle for just $1 and it will bring you right to the slopes.

“The shuttle runs until 2 a.m. on the weekends so you can get plenty of late night snowy fun in and not have to worry about missing the shuttle,” says Amy Johnson, co-manager for the inn.

The hostel is a great place to meet some new people also. If you want to go the cheapest route then the dorm style room is just for you. There is one female and one male dorm style room. The female dorm room has eight bunk beds in it, while the male dorm room has ten bunk beds in it. The cost to stay in a dorm room is only $25 a night. “Dorm style rooms are a great place to meet people who enjoy hitting the slopes too,” Johnson said.

Backpackers Inn also accommodates people who are not comfortable sharing a room with people they do not know. There are seven private rooms that have a double bed and an upper bunk. Up to three people are allowed to stay in a private room. The costs for private rooms are $50 a night for one person, $60 for two people, or $70 for three people.

The check-in time for the inn is between 5 and 9 p.m. They also offer free Wi-Fi available for all of the guests.

They even accommodate large groups by offering great group rates.

If you are interested in more information, or would like to make a reservation call the Girdwood, Alaska Backpackers Inn at 727-4678

Keep up on the University of Alaska Anchorage student news at The Northern Light

Les Deux Voyageurs visit Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

Les Deux Voyageurs in Alaska
July 25, 2009 Couch Surfing

We’re a Canadian+French photographer/writer couple who just moved to NYC after some years in Paris and we’re now in Alaska for 10 days!………..

July 28th, 2009 Couch Surfing

Ok, no one called or ‘texted’ us on our cell phone to offer a CS couch (or rug,cabin,garden space) for one night 😦

Hey you Alaskans, We’re still interested!
We’ll be in Fairbanks tonight (anyone here has a couch??).
Then, we’ll be riding towards the Denali for a few days, then to Anchorage (anyone around that road with a spare couch and wishing to share stories)…

Dear Alaskans, we’d love to meet some of you so text us on our cell and let’s meet!

Tanguy and Violette.

Couch Surfing and bartering are always a great way to meet people on the road or in your own community. Through our travels, Amy and I have met wonderful people through social networking sites like Couch Surfing, Warm Showers, WWOOF, Grow Food, and Help X . Check out Earthworm Envy to read stories, poetry, and watch videos about traveling via social networking sites. As far as bartering, my right leg bears a colorful example of bartering. Josh Petty worked on the tattoo “The Man on the Moon is Dead Impaled by Old Glory” in exchange for some Mental Foreplay for the Classics poetry and a Veronica and the Mental Foreplays CD.

Managing a hostel offers a unique opportunity to barter. We experienced this first hand when we stayed at the Bridge Street Inn in Cambria, California. There we made a video of lid sinks in exchange for room and board. Click here to watch the video. Now it’s our turn to give back to travelers and artists the opportunities that people have given us.

Knowing that we have only once couch, with very little floor space to make up a second bed, we contacted Tanguy to see if he would be interested in taking some photographs in exchange for a private room at GABI. Tanguy and Violette accepted our invitation. The art of story telling is not dead with Tanguy and Violette. Tanguy uses his whole body to tell a well-crafted story, my favorite of which is about the family sailboat that almost sunk in the Mediterranean.

We worked on the photo shoot, sat on the deck, hula hooped, and enjoyed an omelet in Whittier.

Thank you, Tanguy and Violette, for making the hostel that much more of a beautiful place.

Check out, Canadian+French photographer/writer couple’s work at these two sites:

Les Deux Voyageurs

Les Deux Voyageurs a New York

Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn by Tanguy Gilson

photo of Brandon Follett and Amy Johnson by Tanguy Gilson

Tanguy Gilson taking photos at Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

Tanguy GIlson enjoying the Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

omelet in Whittier with Tanguy GIlson and Amy Johnson

Picnic Puzzle Party at Girdwood Alaska Backpackers Inn

jigsaw puzzles and board games need a table like a video game that needs electricity

jigsaw puzzles and board games need a table like a video game that needs electricity

The large hamburger jigsaw puzzle and board games have been sitting on top of GABI’s bookcase since mid July. The managers and guests have been staring at the fun on the shelf for some time. The other day a guest said, “To have games but not a table is like being given a dog collar and leash but not a dog.” That was the tipping point. I was instantly mentally thrown back to some young adult gift giving trauma.

Dec 25, 2003 Boise, Idaho
Christmas morning, Amy and I were given gift certificates to use at a dog grooming facility.
In front of the family and the baby jesus idol, I yell, “Mom, you know we don’t have a dog.”
She replied, “But you have a dog leash and collar.”
“You gave us the dog leash and collar! Get us a dachshund half husky for Christmas. Don’t you think it would be great to have a dog to go with the gifts?”
“It comes down to time and money plus that sounds like an ugly dog. I have worked too hard pet shopping just to have you put that beautiful collar on a half breed mutt. By the way, in your stocking I got you dog toenail clippers.”
Now Mother only acknowledges me through e-cards. On Christmas she will send an e-card from Dog Breedz.com.

Merry Christmas Son

Merry Christmas Son and Amy

After I composed myself from the sudden stir of memories the picnic table was moved inside. To celebrate the new addition to the common room, we hosted a Picnic Puzzle Party.

The first guests to arrive were Matt and Parker. Not only did Matt bring his puzzle enthusiasm, he brought good news about the website that his company OTC has been working on. The hostel website now links directly to the blog and booking sites (thanks, Tanguy Gilson, for the suggestion). HOLY MOLY now we have two things to celebrate!!!

Rachel and Michael, our new neighbors who just moved to Girdwood, rounded out the group. Rachel baked “the best yet” chocolate chip cookies, and Michael connected puzzle pieces with celebratory dances.

Parker and Michael enjoying the hamburger puzzle

Parker and Michael enjoying the hamburger puzzle

chocolate chip cookies are delicious with a puzzle

chocolate chip cookies are delicious with a puzzle

Matt takes a break from the puzzle

Matt takes a break from the puzzle

hamburgers puzzles go with good food like wine is to cheese

hamburgers puzzles go with good food like wine is to cheese

Matt, Amy, Michael, and Rachel work up an appetite while sitting in front of the puzzle

Matt, Amy, Michael, and Rachel work up an appetite while sitting in front of the puzzle

OTC web design Matthew Bailey creative director

North Face Trail at Alyeska Resort

Girdwood, Alaska has some of the best day hiking in all of Alaska. Before heading back to the hostel, I recommend taking a walk through the Alyeska Resort. Half the fun of being a budget traveler is splurging at restaurants like Sakura & Sushi Bar.

Anchorage Daily News offers a great written description of the trail here.