Alaska, the 49th state, has been my adopted home the last eleven years. This is part II of a series of why I love it here. To read part I, click here.
Until I saw a glacier, I didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. It is just a bunch of snow and ice, right? Well, yes, but to appreciate a glacier, you must experience it. First of all, glaciers are massive rivers of ice with ethereal blue crevasses, jagged edges and enormous, every changing caves. Tidewater glaciers are alive. They groan and crack and pop like a canon, and occasionally calve off shopping mall sized chunks of ice that send forth huge waves. Incredible.
18. In Alaska, you can escape the drama of the world
We live in a bit of a bubble here. Alaskans, and most of the seasonal workers I hang out with, stay a bit disconnected from politics, world affairs, and the daily news. I find politics and the world fascinating, but up here, it is easy to forget about all the crap going on out there, for better or worse. Take hurricane Katrina, for example. Back in 2005 when it happened, I didn’t understand the scope of the devastation or understand the tragedy until October when I returned to the lower 48. Natural disasters like Katrina and man-made disasters like ISIS and Trump are on the periphery here, and that is nice.
19. Autumn in Denali
20. Like-minded Friends
My Alaskan friends so are cool. When I first came to Alaska, I didn’t know many people who were living a life of sustainable travel. Here, I hang around with other seasonal workers who travel the world between jobs. This summer, I have friends and co-workers who will be taking off from Alaska and heading to work in Antarctica (3 people actually), Olympic National Park, Death Valley, Zion National Park, Key Largo, NYC, and Hawaii. In addition, I have friends who will be traveling the world. I have met up with my Alaskan friends in India, Italy, Honduras, Guatemala, and Thailand. I have found my people.
Oh, is that our championship softball team holding a trophy? How did that photo sneak in here?
Oops. Another one got in by accident.
22. Alaska is a big state, but a small community
Although Alaska is twice the size of Texas – you could divide AK in two and Texas would be the 3rd biggest state, I mean Alaska literally dwarfs Texas – it is a very small community. I can be 600 miles from home at a grocery store and run into someone I know, and anytime I fly back to the lower 48 I can be assured that I will be on the same plane as a friend or acquaintance.
23. Bald Eagles are everywhere
24. Sunsets and sunrises that last forever
In the lower latitudes, the sun lights up the sky with a sunset for 30 minutes or so each night. In Alaska, the sun glides along at a low angle, bathing the world in hours of golden light before slipping below the horizon and offering up hours of color after it has disappeared. In mid-summer, it comes back up a few hours after going away. This leads to dazzling sunsets all summer long.
25. Wild Berries
In summer and fall, the bushes are laden with juicy berries that make hiking difficult, because I am always stopping to eat berries. And because after a while I eat so many that my belly hurts.
26. Dive Bars
Dive bars in Alaska are usually friendly, convivial places filled with men wearing camouflage, hardened alcoholics, families, friendly locals, tourists and seasonal workers. They are the great melting pot of Alaska. Visit Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage or Clear Sky Lodge north of Healy next time you are there and you will know what I am talking about.
27. Seward Highway
In a state of spectacular highways, one stands above the rest. The 120 miles from Anchorage to Seward, along Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Peninsula, is breathtaking and diverse. Little detours to Girdwood, Portage Lake and Kenai Lake could make this 120-mile road trip last all day. The biggest challenge is trying to stay on the road while looking at all the scenery.
Sitting around a campfire with all of those cool friends that I discussed earlier, is one of the great joys of Alaska. We swap tales of travels, discuss winter plans, and
bitch about praise the tourists who are the reason we have summer jobs.
In the summer when it never gets dark, there is always the risk of losing track of time and saying, “OH [censored] ME! It is 3am! I have to go to work in 3 hours!”
In the fall, there is the risk of saying “OH [deleted] ME! Look at the northern lights!!!”
28. Midnight Sun
In the interior, the sun sets at 12:30am in mid-summer, and rises shortly after 3am. It never gets dark. In southeast Alaska, there is barely an hour of darkness during the summer before the sun rises again.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love it. After a hard day of work, there is time to go hiking, kayaking, or camping. The light gives you energy if you have an early morning work shift.
Each spring, however, I wake up at 4am with the sun blazing through my window and I flip out. “AH [banned] ME! I am late for work!” I then realize it is still technically the middle of the night and I have 4 hours before my 8am shift starts. After the adrenaline stops coursing through my veins, I go back to sleep.
29. The Solstice
June 21 is an unofficial holiday in Alaska. Parties happen all over the state as people celebrate the longest day of the year. There is a great festive spirit in most places, with bonfires, baseball games, and other activities, usually accompanied by heavy drinking, because Alaska.
30. Micro Brews
Alaska has an up and coming micro brew industry. My favorite is the Midnight Sun Brewery in Anchorage or the Denali Brewing Company in Talkeetna, but excellent craft beers are being made all over the state. Again, for half the year there isn’t much to do besides eat and drink, so it is no surprise that this state is full of
fat asses and alcoholics foodies and beer aficionados.
What U.S. city has the most coffee shops per capita?
San Francisco? Try Again.
New York? fahgettaboudit!
If you said Anchorage, give yourself 10,000 bonus points. If you’ve been reading along closely, you will note that we’ve been talking about cold, darkness, and hangovers, all things that are alleviated by a nice cup of coffee. The state is covered with drive-thru espresso bars like the south is covered with churches.
Speaking of coffee, let’s take a little break from this post, get some caffeine, take a potty break and return for Part III. (coming soon)
You can also use this time to look back at Part 1. I know I will.
Anyone interested in visiting Alaska?
Has this marathon post exhausted anyone yet?