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,
Why I love Alaska, or Alaska is Awesome
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?
great post. I always think of Alaska as a beautiful cold wilderness, but actually know very little about it! I imagine it to be pretty different from the rest of the USA too, hopefully one day I will get to visit! 🙂
It is a cold wilderness about half the year, but it is surprisingly colorful and green in the summer. You should visit someday – it is a spectacular place!
“Why was the moose having a bad hair day?” – “Because it was out of mousse.”
😀😀 – Extremely corny jokes aside, this was a really amazing & interesting post! I love learning about different countries/cultures, and Alaska looks like such a beautiful place to visit! I think I’d be breathless just looking at it 😅
OH! Bad Joke about the moose, but that is okay – I liked it. I am glad you enjoyed it. Alaska does have a different culture from the rest of the US and many parts of the world.
PS: Funky outfit! 👍😀
Wonderful start to my morning.Your humor and honesty really bring Alaska to life. Stunning images as always. Looking forward to the next installment!
Thanks Laura. I am glad you enjoyed it.
I am a travel nurse and Alaska is on my “to go” list. Are all the photos yours? I know you said yes to the moose. But if the other ones are yours too-awesome.
Regarding Palin-I agree.
Regarding Denali-everyone calls it that anyways, so what’s the big deal? People just want to complain.
Regarding the whales-I’m not sure I would kayak. Not in fear of being eaten (because I’m told they don’t care for human meat) but because they are massive. I would probably accidently tip the kayak while trying to take a picture. 🙂
Yes, all the photos are mine except the one of Palin. Regarding the whales, there is no real fear of being eaten, that was a bit of a joke, but being tipped over is real. Last time I kayaked as we crossed the bay to get back home humpbacks were all around and it was very scary! I didn’t want to see how long I could survive in freezing cold water.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
It’s so great to see your loyalty to your adopted state. It is a unique and beautiful place and still on my bucket list.
Thanks Lyle. It isn’t that far away from Canada. In fact, I think it touches it, but I am not sure.
This is one of the best blog I have ever read just shear brilliance.
You write with the enthusiasm and vigor of a child telling you about an amazing birthday party – it’s refreshing to read! To be surrounded by such awe and beauty, though, such a perspective would create the homage-like ode of this piece. Continue telling the world about the wondrous place you live!
Thank you Todd. This is a spectacular place and writing about it is easy!
Brilliant! I too love Alaska, and yes I’ve been there, and you already know I lived for 10 years in its Canadian counterpart the glorious Yukon so I know the wonders of the far north very well. Except we don’t have no Sarah Palin. Sigh. You win. 🙂
You haven’t yet mentioned x-country skiing. I loved being able to put my skis on at the front door of my cabin and ski for forever in perfect wilderness.
Cross-country skiing isn’t going to make my list because sadly, I haven’t done it! I am usually one during Nov-Jan and miss out on it. I knew you lived in the Yukon, but which town? The Yukon makes Alaska look like a heavily populated state.
I actually lived in Atlin, a tiny town of about 400, at the end of 100km of uninhabited gravel road. It’s 50km south of the Yukon border. I spent summer/fall cooking in wilderness hunting or gold mining camps – outside of Ross River, Dawson City, Mayo and Whitehorse. I also lived in Whitehorse for a year.
WOW! I just Googled its location. That is very remote. You aren’t that far from where we are right now. Was there an airport? We have a ferry twice a week to Juneau, otherwise we have to fly. It is remote, but I’ve always thought the Yukon/parts of BC were worse.
I do think there was a small airport for light planes, but almost all air transport was by helicopter or float plane. We got into the wilderness camps either by float plane or helicopter, or by boat and/or horse. Supplies would come in by float plane.
I’ve driven up to Alaska and back, and I loved the Yukon! Except for the road quality – that could stand to be improved. 🙂
I loved how peaceful it was, I loved how clean the air felt, I loved how the animals just kinda go wherever they want as if they owned the place (the nerve!), and I loved how friendly people were.
It was my kind of place!
I’m glad you enjoyed. That road is spectacular and lonely – a great road trip in all. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Stop you are torturing me now! Yes we should have come this summer! I can hardly stand that we missed all of this. The moose from your window? One more of those Northern Light photos and I am banging my head against the wall…or getting the bear spray. 🙂
HAHAHA. The lights were out briefly last night but I was too tired to stay up for them. It is an awesome place, that is for sure. You’d love it.
Yes I know I would. Let’s keep in touch about next summer. Are you going to be at Glacier Bay again?
99% sure I’ll be back.
Excellent. We shall have to chat about next summer. 🙂
Alaska is fantastic – there is no other place like it. I really, really miss living there.
So many things I love, but probably my favorite thing is just that people are generally friendly. It’s a place where you can be eccentric and a little wacky – and that’s okay!
Also, Mendenhall Glacier. And the Moose’s Tooth. And karaoke with my coworkers at the Shed. And that goofy Mattress Dance guy (Anchorage local advertising legend).
That’s just off the top of my head. I will have to move back someday; just don’t know when.
Yes, the goofy mattress guy is great. I may have to add him to part 2 or part 3.
Amazing! I love Alaska too. Unfortunately, I have only been there once and it was cloudy the day I went to see Denali… 😦
I lived in Denali for 10 years and only saw it a few times a summer, but when it was out, it was amazing. I am glad you liked Alaska. Thanks for reading.
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I love that it is officially back to Denali now!!! Woot woot!!! 🙂
Agreed. It will be less confusing I think.
The photo in #14 is freaking spectacular. I hope I see a rainbow like that one day! And freaking tourists on the 4th of July with Corona…. there are sometimes no nice words to describe these sorts of people
I know, can you believe that? It was the birthday of America! She should have bought some Budweiser or Coors.