49 Reasons I Love Alaska, Part II

Why I love Alaska

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.

17. Glaciers

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

Because this:

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.

21. Softball

Denali Softball Champs 2012

Denali Softball Champs 2012

Oh, is that our championship softball team holding a trophy? How did that photo sneak in here?

Denali Softball Champs 2014

Denali Softball Champs 2014

Oops. Another one got in by accident.

22. Alaska is a big state, but a small community

Alaska is bigger than Texas Map

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

Bald Eagle Alaska

Because ‘Murica!

24. Sunsets and sunrises that last forever

Denali Park Sunset

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

Bear Spray Story #3

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

Turnagain Arm Sunset and Ice Floes

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.

27. Campfires

Campfire

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

Otto Lake Sunset WIth Pier

Photo taken at 12:30am.

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.

31. Coffee

Anchorage Coffee Shop

What U.S. city has the most coffee shops per capita?

Seattle? Nope.

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? 

25 Comments on “49 Reasons I Love Alaska, Part II

  1. Pingback: 49 Reasons I Love Alaska, Part I | Planet Bell

  2. If anyone reading your first post didn’t want to pack up and head to Alaska (in the spring), reasons 17-31 certainly add to the draw. For me, only 1324 days until I head that way! Wonderful images as always.

    • You will love it when you visit. In your neck of the woods you have bucolic villages and ponds and cute farms, up here is raw, spectacular wilderness. Both are beautiful, but this will be different. Thanks for reading along!

  3. Glaciers look serene and dangerous. That Denali place looks so beautiful or is it your photography skills?

    P.S.- loved the fact you’ve tagged Trump as a disaster 👏

    • Glaciers are very dangerous – you can hike on them with the proper gear and experienced guides though. Denali is just that beautiful – a team of the world’s best photographers could never capture it. And yes, Trump is a disaster.

  4. That’s awesome. It seems you can do everything there but sleep. Just curious how long do you expect to work in summer and travel in winter or is this the retirement plan?

    • It is difficult to say. We would be interested in working/living overseas but haven’t pursued anything too seriously. We are really happy right now, but there also a lot of challenges with this lifestyle. Maybe I’ll follow up with a post about how it isn’t always rainbows and puppies.

  5. #22: I have long said that Alaska is the world’s biggest small town. I loved how I would just run into people all over the state. People from the villages that I met while in college in Fairbanks – I would see them randomly in Anchorage or Juneau. And then there was the one time my husband and I went to Chena Hot Springs (outside of Fairbanks) and I ran into a couple Anchorage colleagues – that was a fun night!

    #26: Some of my favorite friendships started by striking up conversations with strangers at dive bars.

    #27: Yes. That is all. And Seward itself isn’t too shabby once you get there, either!

    And NO I’m not getting tired of this marathon post – you are making me smile!

    • Thanks for the comments and the input. #22 is pretty crazy, right? We were in a grocery store in Juneau and saw friends we first met 10 years ago in Denali. They are living in Skagway and we are in Glacier Bay. We were thousands of miles away from were we met and hundreds away from were we were living and it was just natural to bump into them.

      Agreed about Seward. That is one of my favorite towns in Alaska – lots to do in that area alone. And yes, Dive bars, always great in AK.

      Thanks for staying with me on this!

  6. I enjoy your sense of humor. It reveals you to be very much an Alaskan at heart even though you are seasonal (for now). So much fun to revisit through your blog and photos. I am also getting homesick as it’s been nine years since I moved Outside. I lived in Eskimo villages of Gambell and Chevak as an educator.

    • Outside, you speak like a true Alaskan. I have not made it up the villages – I bet that is a cool experience. Did you get to see much of the state when you worked there? Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. OMG I *LOVED* the endless summer daylight! I first went north for only 6 months visiting from Australia – May thru Oct and fell in love with it still being light at 11pm. One year I was cooking at a camp outside of Dawson City and spent solstice on the biggest hill near town along with about a hundred other people. The sun never set. We watched it get to the horizon, move along it for a bit and then start to rise again. Magic! And the fall colours! And the berries! I remember making pies with the buckets full of saskatoon berries I’d picked. As for escaping the drama of the world – major stuff happened and it would be 6 months before I knew – this was in the times before internet and in camp we only ever had a radio to order supplies. The Far North has a special light and a special magic not found anywhere else.
    I’m not mentioning softball. I already mentioned skiing 🙂
    Alison

    • Alison, I can see by the passion in your comments that the far north had an effect on you too. That special light, special magic is so true. It could also be that the air is so clean up here. I am glad you participated in a solstice party – that is a right of passage.

      I can only imagine before the days of internet how disconnected you must have felt. Even with the internet, it feels like all the drama in the world is on a different planet of sorts. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Very interesting article. My buddy and I visited Alaska a couple of years ago and loved it. I can relate with pretty much all of your reasons to love Alaska even though I was only there for two weeks. I thought it was particularly interesting that Anchorage has the most amount of coffee shops per capita, crazy! We could sure use some of that real coffee down in here in Chile!

  9. Pingback: 49 Reasons I Love Alaska, Part III | Planet Bell

  10. You know that WE just love reading your Alaska stories, don’t you? This just makes me want to go there as soon as possible…but, but, how come you didn’t include the bore tides in your list? I found that phenomenon pretty interesting specially when it comes with a surfer and his board, makes for good photos!

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