January is the coldest month in Alaska (maybe it's the coldest month everywhere in the northern hemisphere, who knows?) but by the time the month is over it's hard to remember why I live here. I have to keep thinking of the good things about living in Alaska--and repeating them over and over. I can make it to May . . . I can make it to May . . . I can make it . . .
It's easy to focus on the cold, the darkness, the mosquitoes, the nasty smell during spring Break-up season, the way some retailers extort extra money for shipping things up here when it costs them no extra to ship, the lack of wireless service for iphones, I could go on and on. But I'm going to be Captain Positive and give you 13--shoot, make that 14!--reasons why Alaska is a great place to live.
1. Constant summer daylight. Yes, it's dark by 4 pm right now but come June we'll be pasty but we'll be cheering because it's bright all night long. Well it gets a little dusky around 2 am but with the bright white glow reflecting off our skin we can easily see well enough to play all night long. Though having grown up here and knowing nothing else but daylit summers when I left the state for college it was the strangest sensation to live somewhere that was both warm AND dark at the same time. Very odd.
2. Isolation. This could be thought of as a downer if you have family or friends Outside but our isolation keeps a lot of the problems plaguing places like California from reaching us--1500 miles of Canada is our buffer zone. Immigration just isn't the hot-button issue it is in Texas. Drugs, gangs, it's not like we don't have them but a lot of urban troubles take longer to get up here. Or maybe it's just our temperatures. I've always thought a criminal would have to be pretty hard-core to be out looking for trouble at 20 below.
3. Our governor. Now this is funny because I actually didn't vote for her but our Republican rookie executive is making quite a stir. What other state's governor makes the pages of Vogue? But beyond her face she's doing what most people consider a to be a great job so far. Her approval rating is through the roof--it's like Bush's. But in reverse. And the things she's getting done help to make up for the rat's nest of corruption among state legislators that the FBI's been uncovering bit by bit. Nasty business, very discouraging. What was I saying about the problems of the Lower 48 taking a while to reach us? Apparently bribery has no problem getting up here.
4. Strong economy. Speaking of politics, the Alaskan economy seems to be escaping so many of the troubles down south. Of course it's because oil is king here but with plans for a natural gas pipeline in the works the general feeling about the future is hopeful and positive. Keep driving those SUVs people! We'll keep you flowing in gas for years to come. A clean environment is highly overrated anyway.
5. Economic incentives. You've seen The Simpson's Movie, right? The part where Homer drives to Alaska and the guy at the border hands him a thousand dollars? The whole theater here busted up because though it's slightly twisted from the truth (the oil companies don't pay anyone like that) but only slightly (the state does). It's called the Permanent Fund Dividend and it was created back in the 1970s when the state put together a huge fund for investing extra oil revenues. Though there's a steady reserve of cash a portion of the fund is invested in the stock market and pays dividends to each resident of Alaska which fluctuates from year to year--according to how the stock market performs--and has been usually around a thousand dollars. It really helps to make up for that six months of winter thing. Really. Besides every man, woman and child receiving a yearly PFD we also have no state income tax and Anchorage doesn't even have sales tax (though some Alaskan communities do). Yes, they pay us to live here and I'm completely okay with that.
6. No creepy crawlies. Yes we have mosquitoes but we don't have snakes or any other reptiles. No scorpions and no poisonous spiders. Yup, you read that right--no yucky spiders. We have daddy longlegs (which aren't really spiders by the way) and little garden spiders but nothing hairy or scary. There have been reports of a spider called the "brown recluse" but it's pretty rare--as in "reports of it's existence are greatly exaggerated". Likewise no cockroaches or rats. I've heard reports of some places in Anchorage having cockroaches but I've never known anyone to see one and I've heard they're only in the scariest, dirtiest apartments which gives me some amount of comfort. A bit.
7. Fresh salmon. No nasty creatures here but plenty of salmon--as much as you'd care to eat. In fact, people go dip netting around the last week of July (I'll have to do a post on that sometime) where they'll catch 20 or 30 or more salmon and fill the freezers for the winter. If you like fishing down south and hate having places being "fished out" then Alaska might be the place for you--grayling, trout, dolly vardens, pike, salmon, halibut, cod, it's here and it's abundant. Hope you like seafood. I even saw someone catch a salmon shark down in Seward one time . . . though I doubt they ate it.
8. Great restaurants. Speaking of eating, Anchorage has amazingly good restaurants. For a city of 280,000 (I think at last count) you can get a great meal here--though it may cost you a bit. Andrew has associates that come up from Houston, Louisiana and the east coast who will comment on how good the restaurants are and I tend to take it for granted until I leave the state and go out to grab a bite to eat. Yes, Anchorage has good vittles--must be all the moose meat. Kidding. Kind of.
Besides good food we also have a fair amount of cultural experiences, again considering our size. Opera, symphony, dance, Native Alaskan arts, there's a good selection of excellent activities here though we're no New York City of course.
9. Skiing. And if we're talking great winter activities you can't forget the skiing. Cross-country and downhill. Until I left for college I never considered that there was any other kind of skiing beyond these two and it cracked me up when I said that I loved skiing and people asked "Water or snow?" D'uh. Snow! Is there any other kind? (Don't answer).
There are two little resorts in Anchorage and then there's Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, 30 minutes south of Anchorage. I've skied Colorado and Utah and the snow there is great but there's nothing like skiing Alaska. The conditions change in a moment and the snow can go from powder to cardboard icy in a weekend if you're not careful. Sound unappealing? Not at all! Risking death is just part of the fun! With over 700 inches of snow at the summit and about 600 mid-mountain, it has a 2500-foot vertical rise and you can basically ski right down to sea level. A black diamond run at Alyeska is a serious black diamond and learning to ski there prepares you for pretty much anything. Oh how I love to ski.
10. Good schools. Not much to say here except teachers are generally well-paid and the schools are good. Homeschooling is a popular alternative however and there is strong support for people who choose that option. The schools aren't perfect of course, what educational system is? But I've been pleased with the high quality of teachers my children have enjoyed over the years. Oh and we don't have HMOs here either.
11. Great tasting water. Yup, Anchorage's water was voted the best tasting tap water in the country. We get our water from Eklutna Lake north of Anchorage which is a glacier-fed lake. So unless the glacier disappears we're guaranteed amazing water forever. Take that Phoenix.
12. Low risk of skin cancer. Remember that "pasty skin" comment in number 1? Well it's not all bad either--because we're not aimed as directly at the sun as some places the risk of skin damage by harmful rays is less. I may be pasty but I'm wrinkle-free. Well nearly.
13. Hibernation. You know there's something to be said for long, cold, dark winters. Come October I can break camp, retreat to the hills and hibernate for the next six months. I don't have to pull weeds, mow my grass, wash my car or feel guilty that I'm not out jogging. I can sit inside by the fire, pull out my laptop and type till the caribou come home.
14. A straight shot to Hawaii. Best thing about living in Alaska? Being able to escape easily. We may not do road trips here but when spring break hits the entire population of Anchorage moves to Maui. Five and a half hours, four hundred dollars and you too can be scrunching sand between your toes when the winters are too much to bear. I'm really okay with that.
Technorati tags: Thursday Thirteen, Anchorage, Alaska
I LOVE #6...no creepy crawlies! I hate bugs but my husband especially hates SPIDERS! I've never been to Alaska but I've heard it's gorgeous! *elizabeth
AMEN sister! LOL. I wish I had blogged this myself... will be linking to your blog in my next post! Well written.
I'm with you. I couldn't give up the long summer daylight. I like being aware that I live on a big spinning planet; the seasonal changes here remind me.
I thoroughly enjoyed your post on living in Alaska. I have a friend who lives in Anchorage and wouldn't think of moving back to California!!!
It's gotten so bad here I would almost consider six months of hibernation...
I'm not sure what it is about this winter but it's been really pleasant. I haven't felt deprived at all--and in fact have enjoyed the feeling of hibernation where I can stay inside and catch up on things I was too busy to tackle this summer. I must finally be maturing :)
The bad thing about telling everyone the great things about Alaska is they'll all move up there. Then you won't be so isolated and they'll bring all the 'garbage' that's here in the lower 48.
I'm all for the no spiders.
I heard that Barrow had it's first sunrise of the year. (I know, they're at the other end of the state). No big spiders or cockroaches is a definite plus. Happy TT.
My husband checks the weather in Anchorage and Fairbanks every day. He says he thinks it would be interesting to live there. I think it would be fun. I imagine sitting in front of a fire, in my sweat pants, with a nice fleece blanket, some hot cocoa, and my laptop.....ahhhhh, sounds like heaven!
NO ROACHES OR SPIDERS??
Just this year I've killed a scorpion in my living room and a spider the size of my outstretched hand in my yard.
Oh, and then there was the time a roach crawled right over my baby...
Looks like I might need to move North...
My parents LOVED Alaska when they were there last summer. Someday I really want to visit and see it for myself.
In the summertime though. You can keep the winter, skiing or no skiing ;-).
You sure make a great case for the place - I've always wanted to visit but never have. Winter is really my favorite season. I much prefer cold weather to hot. You know... hot cocoa and all : )
You're not wrong about HAwaii. I lived there for 6 years before I moved to the UK, and I met quite a few people from Alaska in the winters.
I loved hearing about alaska. I have often thought I would like to live there, but read you only have 23% sunshine. Didn't seem like enough to me. Dont even know if it is true. Things is it isn't much better hee in Ohio. If I am gonig ot move it will be to a definite sunnier place. But I bet California can't hold a candle to your pristine beauty!
Thanks for the information. I have often wondered what would keep someone in Alaska. Now I'm wondering why I'm not living there!
I love your beautiful state, in July. You of course now have Tim thinking Alaska is a perfect place. Thanks Michelle! ;)
Loved your post! I just wrote yesterday I'd had enough of winter and was ready for spring.
Hearing all those good things makes me want to move right up there! Except maybe we will have to be snow birds and move down to balmy Michigan for some sun during January:)
I have been reading a book called "Arctic Homestead" - a family that moves to Alaska in the 70's...to claim land as homesteaders.
I've been fascinated with their story so far. On one hand it makes me want to do the same thing - on the other hand (the hand that is realistic) I know I could never do it. But it's fun to think about.
We do hope to at least travel to Alaska with the kids some day.
Yummm...I love fresh Alaskan salmon.
the alaska tourism people should pay you for this post! it made me want to come visit...
Alaska has always been at the top of my list of places to visit, and now you have just confirmed that I was right to put it up there! one day......
"Almost thou persuadest me.."
I hate brown recluses! (We call them fiddlebacks here.)
You're making it sound very attractive. Now if it were just warmer...
Ah! We've been colder here all month than Alaska...without the benefits of grandparents. I'm all with you on the water...water in Alaska just TASTES better. Long summer days. And no snakes. Or sharks. What more could you want? That's why we're coming "home" to Anchorage this summer to visit!!
You did forget one thing, though...the need to never, EVER dress up. You can go to the opera in jeans and a flannel shirt and nobody cares.
Ummm...I think I would be really good at hibernating! But I really, really don't like to be cold. Ever. That's why I live way down here in the South. The hubby and I have been dreaming of a trip up to your gorgeous state for months...this post will definitely be shown to him tonight.
I've never thought about traveling to Alaska, however after reading this and seeing pictures taken by friends who have traveled there, I think I'll start saving money :)
I 'learned' to water ski in Alaska, on a lake. Strange but true. I still think I saw a beaver floating next to me, or maybe it was an otter.
Either way, Alaska has its charms.
Thanks for the great list.
I wish we didn't have the creepy crawlies. That was one of the biggest shocks of moving to a more temperate climate for me. Without a real winter the bugs never seem to stop.
I'm sure it's all lies!
That all sounds great. I've heard (and always thought this sounded really nice as well) that there are community centers that, during the winters when it's dark nearly 24 hours, stay open 24 hours/day and have everything you could possibly need, like little indoor towns. Is that true?
As good as it sounds, I'm not sure I could take that level or length of cold.
I think my husband might move there for the lack of spiders alone...:)
You continue to make it very hard to live down here in the 48! I am so jealous.
Michelle, you're making me want to move! And, since David lost his job two weeks ago, it wouldn't be all that hard to convince him right now!
Excellent post! If it makes you feel any better, it's pretty darn cold here in the state of Michigan, and we can't brag about most of the other points you've listed (i.e. our Governor, economy, creepy crawlies, endless daylight in Summer . . .)
okey dokey...time for me to pack up and move to Alaska!
Yes Robin, there's a reason the tourist season is the summer--who visits in the winter? You've got to be a die-hard outdoorswoman for that.
And Sonya, if your husband checks the temps daily he'll be all over what I failed to mention--that Fairbanks is much different than Anchorage (right subarcticmama?) much more extreme in temps and a different terrain. All it's own set of good/bad.
edi--interesting book. My grandparents moved to Anchorage in 1949 into a one-room log cabin and I can't imagine the circumstances. The early homesteaders were amazing.
Maybe I'll have to do a flip side post on the not-so-good things. Though I don't like being negative :)
One of my "places to visit" has always been Alaska. I happened upon your site while searching for sugar egg recipes and had to giggle a little at your name... Why? Because you are Michelle Mitchell, a name I am often mistaken for, as mine is Michele Witchell. Love these kind of little quirky serendipitous moments.
I'll be back to check out more of your blog....enjoyed today's post. It's cold here in Wisconsin, brrrr...today -13 before windchill...but we are getting more daylight.
Best and warmest regards,
I so want to come to Alaska to visit someday. I think it is the coldest month everywhere....feels that way. I loved the Simpson's movie take on Alaska, and know the truth because hubby's cousin had his 2 sons while he was stationed in Alaska, so they will be getting the funds even though they have moved?
Penelope--well that depends. If you're absent from the state for reasons other than military service or school for more than 90 days you have to explain why. More than 180 days and you're denied. Among the questions they ask is if you intend to remain a resident, so if he moved this year he could still get the PFD for last year when he was a resident (it's like taxes and you get it for the previous year) but he shouldn't get it for the 2008 year because he's already gone. Otherwise that's fraud and they go after you.
So, when are you coming over? *wink*
Wow, I always wondered about your state. I have a friend from there and he always told me it's not what you think. Thanks for the great information!
Honestly? You've come darned close to talking me into Alaska. The deal breaker? I need the sun or I get homicidal. February in Colorado is tough enough; in Anchorage...well, not enough Prozac in the world. LOL! But you've made a compelling argument!
Dh has stopped in Alaska many times (Air Force) and liked it a lot. Said people were out in shorts with snow on the ground because it made it up to 50 degrees, lol.
I'd love to visit, but don't think I could stay. I went to Ohio for a week in January to visit dh's relatives, it was the coldest I've ever felt (into the teens), and I said I'd never go back. Southern blood, what can I say?
I really like the no spiders option. Now if you don't get mold, mildew and moss, then maybe Alaska is for me :) !!
All good points...
...but I don't think I'll be house shopping anytime soon. LOL!
Although the spider-free zone might be the thing.
Ooh, no spiders? That's a reason to move right there... LOL I had a former co-worker who used to live in Alaska and she missed it terribly - I've always wanted to visit and see why... :)
Minnesota is pretty cold now too....but I am sure you are worse! But, I'd be willing to take that chance with no spiders!!!! Ick! I hate those! Mosquitos, I can handle....they are our state bird!
Living in Oregon, I've known lots of Alaskans--we're just a straight shot down though the Yukon. (One of our groomsmen was fishing in Alaska for the summer and came down for our Portland wedding on a motorcyle) We always envied them their "free money giveaway."
But it's expensive enough getting HERE from Africa--I have no plans to move farther away. I'd love to visit sometime though.
edj--what's funny too is that when people get transferred up here they usually get cost of living increases because it's supposed to be so expensive to live here. But with all the economic perks I wonder if it isn't cheaper than California. Or Seattle.
Food is a little more, eating out and paying for services is a little more (high wages for wait staff and such) but things like utilities aren't and property taxes are at good levels, though not the way you hear people here complain about them. Gas prices stink but they stink everywhere, and at $3/gallon right now it's probably lower than most places. Travel isn't expensive because it's so close to international hubs like Tokyo and Hawaii. When I went to London, for example, we flew a straight flight over the north pole and got to Heathrow in a nonstop 9 hour flight. It's easier to get to Hawaii than Florida or Atlanta.
So it's a give-and-take I guess.
This was really interesting. Don't know if I'd want to actually LIVE in Alaska-- Hubby needs more winter sunshine than that, but it sounds interesting all the same.
I was in the northern Yukon in summer once and experiences 24 hour daylight. It was very odd to goto bed at midnight, while the sun was shining brightly.
I've been to Alaska once, but to the panhandle. Does that count?
50 comments? Oh my. Anyway, I lived in Fairbanks for 5 years in the early 70s, and I agree that Alaska is a fantastic place, though there wasn't much in the way of restaurants back then, the sun barely came above the horizon this time of year, and there were rumors of mosquitoes stealing small children. Also gambling, drinking, and the crime associated with that stuff. Still, when I moved to California in 1975, it was a shockaroo of culture shock.
Did you know that in Fairbanks, we didn't consider Anchorage to be part of Alaska? Too big city for the folks up there. Is that still true? Kind of like Northern Calif. and Southern Calif. sparring?
J--Honestly? No, I never hear that kind of sentiment. Maybe it's up in Fairbanks (what do you say Nicole?)
They're so far away from each other in climate and terrain and distance that there isn't much that I've seen, though I have to salute anyone who lives there--tough winters.
I so want to come to Alaska! And not only so I can get to Hawaii fast... I've always wanted to visit, and never really could understand what it must be like to live there, but you've done a great job of making that crystal clear.
I noticed your ice sculpture. We have a bit ice sculpture contest here next weekend, and this is one of the things I love about winter too. It's always during the coldest weekend of the year, and so crystal clear and beautiful. There ARE things that make up for the endless darkness. :)
Oh, you don't no how much I needed this list right about now. I think it's funny that you're holding out for May. We usually set our sights a little lower up here in Fairbanks (hmmph). Just let me make it until March. Brrrr.
Wow, you did Alaska good.
MMMMMMM Salmon, now I am hungry and I love the whole day of sunlight.
Maybe someday I will visit.
I am laughing at #5. Our little boy is a bit of a geography nut and knows where the states are. But when we were talking about Alaska the other day, he didn't say something like "oh, I know where that is", rather he said, "oh that's where they went to save Homer Simpson." :)
that's a great list - and Hawaii has to be a great balancer :)
You know, I've never been a fan of the cold (being an Alabama girl will do that to you), but this post made me want to consider moving to the way north. Excellent!
Hi, Michelle, thank you for the wonderful blogs! I came across you in my search on raising children in Alaska, as we are moving up your way in about 8 months. You blogs are wonderful and I love all the family information about living in Alaska. Keep up the awesome work :)
Oh I LOVE this post! I have such a fascination with Alaska. I have read a lot of travel books about it, a lot of non fiction, and I am dying to actually see it in person.
My husband, on the other hand, isn't just fascinated, he is obsessed. He is a huge outdoors person and the scenery and the wildlife makes him crazy. He saw the Richard Proenneke's documentary "Alone in the Wilderness" and is hooked. He bought the DVD and watches it at least once a month. He also read the book and downloaded all his diaries from the web. He's crazy.
Hopefully someday we will visit, but we live on the other side of the states so who knows when or how.
Thanks so much for the information. So SO interesting!
You did us Alaskan' proud!
I can't imagine living anywhere else.
Yes #6 was my favorite too. and No venomous snakes or no snakes...which coming from Southern Ca, made me very happy when I heard that!
I was only in Alaska once, but I LOVE that state. I have my dearest friends that live outside of Denali and I know how much they love it!
I cannot wait to return ONE day!
AND YES, great restaurants in Alaska...
My favorite (of my short trip to Alaska) was 229 which is on the left hand side just before the entrance of Denali! Hmmmmm
And one thing you left out on your list ,is AWESOME people! The people from Alaska are just soo friendly...wish we had more of that mentality here in Southern Cal
We are coming this summer and it JUST hit me that it won't be dark at night. I can't even imagine that! You always make Alaska sound really amazing! :)
"1500 miles of Canada is our buffer zone"
HAHAHA Happy to be your buffer! haha
w00t for no spiders!
And the sledding! And the kid-friendliness! :) I lived in Fairbanks from 1982-1987 (ages 4-9) and, of every place I lived during my childhood, it was the BEST place to be a kid. I mean seriously, where else in the world is it acceptable to step into a garbage bag, pull it up to your waist and then basically fling yourself off the edge of a gigantic pile of snow? :)
Your list makes me miss living up there! I miss something up there just about daily, this list was a big kick in the pants! Espacially the water...I miss the water like crazy. I have my big ol' filter jug in the fridge that I have to refill almost daily down here in the lower 48. The rest of my family has to drink out of the tap, all because I was raised (or should I say spoiled) with the most delicious tap water in the world at our home on the hillside up there in Anchorage! I know you don't like the moose wandering in your yard eating your trees, but I miss them too. Enjoy these insanely cold months for me! That is one thing that I can do without. I can't wait for spring too.
Makes me want to move! Especially that skin cancer and Hawaii part. ;)
M -- awesome. i love living here. wouldn't live in any other state.
and i was amazed to see our governer on a magazine cover the other day -- i think it said we have the hottest governer. cracked me up!
great day girl,
I love your governor too. I'd vote for her for Prez.
Oh yes - we love having visitors from Alaska - I have a couple of friends we call snowbirds :)
Hmmm. Methinks you're holding out on us.
First you give 13 reasons it's great to live in Alaska, then you turn around and tell how easy it is to escape from there.
I too grew up in Alaska but now live in Montana. It to has some of the same qualities as Alaska. I love Alaska and especially their good water. I have enjoyed your blog and it keeps me connected to my home state....thanks!
i'm off to craigslist to check out houses for sale in alaska!
I've been feeling very sorry for myself because it's winter and I hate the cold. But I live in... well... New York City. So if you can come up with all those reasons to love Alaska in the winter, then I need to buck up. Thanks for the positive energy.
I've just moved here and its all you say, we are so happy here.
but the murder rate. Its kinda shocked me.
I found this while poring over the web looking for ways to feed my Alaska obsession, as our impending move isn't until May of 2009. We'll be joining our best friends, godchildren, our son's godparents, etc (all the same people...)in Palmer while my husband moves his freelance DP self up there...
I found it on a day that I NEEDED to read all the wonderful (and honest!) things about the state...I just pulled it up again to show to my husband and noticed that you wrote it ON MY BIRTHDAY!!! Talk about a sign from the universe! Thank you thank you!
Great post! I love Colorado but I am envious of your life!
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