Alaska, the 49th state, has been my summer home the last 11 years. Even though there are myriad challenges living so far away from civilization, and even though the weather tends to go from bitterly cold and icy in the winter to rainy and gloomy in the summer, I love it here. I really do.
Alaska has a way of getting under your skin; the incredible nature stirs the soul. I have been on boats surrounded by frolicking whales; I’ve seen the northern lights dance across a star-filled sky; I’ve been humbled by the sight of the highest peak in North America bathed in the pink glow of sunrise. This land is full of majesty.
However, there are reasons beyond the spectacular nature that have caused me to fall in love with the state. I have compiled an eclectic list of the top 49, since this is the 49th state. Some will be obvious, like #1, and some will be surprising, like #42. When taken as a whole, you will understand why I have been unable to break away from this state for over a decade.
Without further ado,
1. The Aurora Borealis
This needs little explanation. The northern lights are truly mind-blowing, one of the most spectacular natural phenomenon you will see anywhere on Earth.
2. Mayor Stubbs
Talkeetna, a small town 100 miles north of Anchorage, is a quirky and fun place. Perhaps the best thing about the town is the mayor. Mr. Stubbs has been the mayor for over 15 years and is regarded as one of the most intelligent politicians in Alaska, of course, when your competition is this
it isn’t that difficult.
Oh, and Stubbs is a cat. And he is running for president.
3. Because I can see Russia from my house
Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. (I promise not to make fun of Palin anymore.)
4. Because I can see moose from my house
I took these photos from my living room when I lived in Denali.
Flying in a plane or helicopter over Glacier Bay or around
Mt. McKinley Denali is one of the coolest things you can do anywhere. And since I work in the tourism industry, I have been able to do it for free many times.
Whales are flippin awesome! I had no idea until this summer. Although seeing them close up from a kayak is a spiritual experience, I prefer to see them from a boat so I don’t get eaten on accident.
7. Funny Tourists
I have worked in the tourism industry my entire 11 years here, and
although some tourists can be giant pains in the ass all tourists are wonderful people who fill me with joy and I’m glad each and every one of them has visited our fine state. They sometimes ask ridiculous questions or do hilarious things, like this guy:
or have the audacity to bring Mexican beer to our lodge on the 4th of July. Unacceptable.
8. The Iditarod and Fur Rondy
What other state has a carnival in the dead of winter? What other state dumps tons of snow all over downtown to have a dog sled race? The Iditarod ceremonial start and Fur Rondy in Anchorage has to be one of the most unique and fun winter festivals in the world.
9. The Rain Forest
Most people don’t realize that the entire south-central and southeast coast is a rainforest. The trees and ground are covered in moss and full of interesting mushrooms. It is an enchanted land.
10. Delicious seafood
I don’t fish. I think fishing is boring until you catch something, and then it is gross. But my friends fish and they share their fresh caught salmon and halibut, and that is delicious. Plus, seafood is on everything here, from pizzas to nachos to tacos.
11. Ghetto Carrs
The Carrs grocery store on Gambell in Anchorage, affectionately known as “Ghetto Carrs,” is a meeting point for drug addicts, alcoholics and crazy people and everyone has a story about it since driving by is practically unavoidable. Sadly, it is a great place to shop if you can get inside without being harassed or stabbed.
12. Denali, a.k.a “The Mountain,” a.k.a.
Because seeing the tallest mountain in the world (from base to summit) never gets old, and because…
13. The Denali name change irks Republicans
How dare Obama rename Mt. McKinley after a popular SUV! What an outrage, especially since President McKinley
was the first person to climb the mountain never went to Alaska and was instrumental in the purchase of Alaska from Russia is regarded as a mediocre president.
14. Road Trips
There are only a few roads in Alaska, but literally every single mile offers stunning views of mountains, lakes, wilderness, glaciers, rivers and streams. It never, ever, gets old. Getting in a car and driving in Alaska is always great fun, unless you run into road construction, or your car breaks down, but…
15. If your car breaks down, everyone pulls over to help
I have owned a few really crappy Alaskan cars, whose sole purpose was to drive about 750 miles a month without breaking down. Sometimes they failed their mission. Anytime I was stranded on the side of the road, Alaskans pulled over and offered to help. Once, a biker gang pulled over and offered assistance – anywhere else that might have been scary. Once in mid-town Anchorage, I was stranded in the center lane of a 3-way highway and a lady drove the wrong way down the road so she could pull up and jump start me. These are great people!
16. I don’t have to wash my car
And after you return from that road trip, there is no need to wash your car. Between the snow, rain, freeze/thaw cycles, mud, dust and dirt, washing the car is an exercise in futility and few people do it.
Let’s take a break. I’m getting a bit worn out from all this blogging and we still have 33 topics to cover!
If you are ready for part II, click here.
Have you been to Alaska?
Do you love it too?
Note: I got the idea for this post from the Lost Ogle, the best website from my home state of Oklahoma. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?