Top 100 Things I Love About Living in Alaska
Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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Top 100 Things I Love About Living in Alaska

Iceberg at Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau Alaska


1. It sounds horrible I know, but sometimes I feel very safe here because we are so far away from all the major cities that might be targets for terrorist attacks.

2. When I first moved to Southeast Alaska I hated how it was foggy or overcast most of the time and that it rained so often. Now I've started to really love it. I like feeling all nestled in, with the mountains on all sides, and the low hanging fog surrounding my house like a caress.

foggy mountaintop from southeast alaska juneau

3. I love the people here. Not just Southeast Alaska, but everywhere in Alaska that I've lived or traveled I've met extraordinary people. I think there is something about this state that draws very independent and eccentric types. Most people don't just "end up" in Alaska...it's a place and a life style you pretty much have to choose. When I'm out working in my yard there are always people out walking their dogs or going to the cafe or local bar for a drink. They always stop and say hello and sometimes bring me plants from their own gardens to share. It really has that small town neighborly feelingly, but without all the gossip and people butting into your business.

wetlands of southeast alaska juneau

4. I love the sea food. I was born in Nebraska and the only seafood I had ever tried there were fish sticks. Frozen fish from the store tasted "fishy" and we couldn't afford crab or lobster. Here, you can eat as much salmon as you can catch in the summer, and there is always a friend with crab pots who will invite you over for a feed from time to time. And don't even get me started on the halibut! My friend Chris who was taking out sports anglers in Homer Alaska once brought home some halibut for us to try that was so fresh we ate it raw with soy sauce like Sashimi.

5. Great blue grass and old time music. I never really cared for that type of music at first but there are lots and lots of music festivals, especially for bluegrass. Many of the most surreal moments in my life happened at the Talkeetna Blue Grass Festivals I used to go to (near Talkeetna Alaska) when I was in college. Here in Juneau we have the very exciting Alaskan Folk Festival in the spring, and during the winter the Alaskan Bar has live bands all the time... some of the best and most exciting blue grass I've ever heard.

sun shining through the clouds in southeast alaska juneau

6. Wonderful downhill and cross country skiing that's still affordable for people in the lower middle class income bracket.

7. I like the fact that there are no roads in or out of with the Juneau/Douglas area. Instead we have the Alaska Marine Highway which is a system of ferries you can take here in the Southeast. At first I didn't like it, felt a bit of Island fever, but now when I go and visit my sister in South Central Alaska and we get stuck behind 50 slow moving RVs, I really appreciate our "no roads" status. It is an issue here, the Juneau/Douglas area is pretty split down the middle between those who want to keep it roadless, and those who want to build a road to Skagway. They've done some initial studies though and keeping that long of a stretch of highway safe from avalanches would have an astronomical cost.

alaskan sunset gastineau channel southeast alaska

8. I live right across the Gastineau Channel from several major avalanche paths. I love it when I get to watch one happen; they are very loud and dramatic. I just hope I am never involved in one personally. People in Alaska die every year from avalanches. Especially people who ride snowmobiles (I dislike the noise from them immensely although I wish their riders no ill will).

9. The Northern Lights. These are the most magical mystical things you will ever experience. And you really do need to experience them. Nothing I can say would even remotely give them justice.

Douglas Island treadwell water pump house at sunset

10. Outdoors activities. If you like to camp, back pack, hike, bike, kayak, mountain climb, snow board, fish, ice skate, etc. There is no better place to be. Juneau also has a nice indoor hockey rink, climbing wall, and an Alaska Club that has lots of tennis courts and two top notch gyms. I've recently learned about an affordable archery and shooting range that I hope to get some practice at soon.

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11. Clean air. Juneau has amazingly fresh air, despite all of the cruise ships that visit us every summer.

fog through trees on sunny day in southeast alaska juneau

12. You aren't hated when you travel over seas. I love to travel and when people used to ask me where I was from I'd say "the United States" and people always wanted to argue with me about my country's politics etc. But when I say I'm from Alaska, the reaction is just the opposite. People instantly get excited and want to know all about it.

alaskan mountains at sunset taken from Eagle Crest Ski Resort

13. Wild life. There is such an abundance here. I miss seeing lots of moose, which there are tons of in the Anchorage city limits and in South Central Alaska in general. Here in Juneau we have lots of black bears, some grizzlies, recently we had a glacier bear (they are kind of a light blue gray from living on and around glaciers) and sometimes wolves, lots and lots of amazingly large eagles, sea birds, ravens, harbor seals, stellar sea lions, otters, different kinds of whales, I could go on and on...

eagles flying near ravens in southeast alaska juneau

14. Sailing. I always had this very romantic idea about sailing. It seemed like something for the rich and famous, something you read about or saw in the movies. Here in Southeast Alaska almost everyone owns boats. You see them parked on the street in front of people's houses the way you see parked cars in other states. Some friends took me out on their sailboat a couple of times and I got hooked. When they moved to Vancouver for school, I bought their 22 ft. Catalina from them which now resides down in the Douglas Harbor only a few blocks from my house. Since I bought her (the Rozinante) I have learned to sail and the sailors I've met here are nothing like the snobs I expected of members of a yacht club. They are all friendly, down to earth people who just happen to have a real joy for being out on the water with the wind in their sails.

image of sailboat seen under the spinnaker of another sailboat

15. Home-brewing. Now, I know that home-brewing is all the rage everywhere now, but it was a big thing in Alaska clear back in 1988 when I moved here. There are more people making home-brew here in Alaska than anywhere else I've visited in the states. I have gotten quite good at it over the years.

16. Small planes and bush pilots. There are more planes per capita in Alaska than anywhere else. As far as means of transportation go, they are right behind boats. I know a lot of people who have their private pilots licenses and many more who own their own planes. I wanted to take ground school but Juneau isn't the best place to learn to fly. The airport here gets all kinds of crazy currents and there is almost always some kind of cloud coverage. Still, I have had many friends take me up for plane rides over the year and it is always exciting.

aerial view of tidal plane or alluvial flow in Southeast Alaska

17. For a town the size of Juneau (City and Borough of Juneau which includes Auke Bay, Thane, and Douglas) there are lots of cultural opportunities. We have many nice production companies including the Perseverance Theater which is the largest in Alaska and right across the street from me here in Douglas. We also have an excellent symphony, and lots of galleries. I've already gotten three solo exhibits here, including one at the city museum. That would never have happened for me if I lived somewhere else. We are also the state capital, which makes it an interesting place to live during the legislative session.

18. No traffic! (really, every time I watch the news about congested freeways in LA or Austin Texas or where ever, I feel so relieved to live here).

photo of the mendenhall glacier juneau alaska

19. The Light, or lack of it. Alaska is an extreme place. In the winter, it gets, and stays, dark for a really long time. It's not as bad here in the Southeast as it was in Anchorage, but it still is dramatic. In the summer when the days get really long and the sun barely sets at all, just dips low in the sky and comes right back up again, I have so much energy I barely sleep at all. When there is a warm sunny day here people practically break their faces they have such big shit eating grins on their faces (OK, gross expression but you get what I mean). There is sort of this hive mentality, like we are all brethren and we have survived a harrowing ordeal... and the boundless joy that settles all around you once the spring and summer comes, can only be truly appreciated in a world that also knows true cold and darkness. (I went to graduate school in Hawaii and when you have perfect weather everyday people start to take it for granted after awhile. There's no risk of that EVER happening here).

photo of the Auke Bay harbor, juneau alaska

20. There are no cockroaches, termites, killer bees or snakes.

21. It almost never gets too hot. In this age of global warming, no one here even needs to own an air conditioner.

22. There is plenty of water for the entire state. No forced water conservation or water disputes. Plus, it's really clean and tastey. Most of the Juneau/Douglas area opperates on hydropower!

image of Alaskan muskeg from Southeast Alaska Juneau

23. The indigenous peoples of Alaska are amazing! I've had many wonderful opportunities to get to know Alaskan Natives over the years. I could go on and on and on about this. At my current position at the University of Alaska Southeast I got to participate in a cultural infusion project where I went to Kake, a Tlingit bush village, and learn about traditional subsistence food preparation including building a smoke house, filleting mounds of salmon and halibut, how to harvest gum boots and various sea weeds and kelp, and the harvest of two harbor seals (which was tough on me) but every single part of the animals were used, including tanning the hides, braiding the intestines, and using rendered seal oil to can fish.

detail photo of blueberry bush blossoms

I have also learned a lot about the oral story telling traditions of various cultures, had chances to talk with tribal elders, attend a traditional elder burial ceremony, and teach a class for the Early Scholars teens from the JDHS high school (Alaska Native honors students who study their own cultural history and languages).

In Juneau I get to go to Celebration, a biennial festival of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribal members organized every two years by Sealaska Heritage Institute. On my campus there is a Native Alaskan student organization (open to all students) named Woocheen, an organized drumming circle, and an annual Native Oratory competition. My sister in Anchorage is married to an Eskimo (no, they don't live in an igloo) but they have their own distinct art, languages, and culture. The more I learn about the First Nations people in Alaska, the more awe and respect I hold for them!

tree in fireweed and tall grasses southeast alaska juneau

24. The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. Each year the State of Alaska pays every Alaskan resident (man, woman, and child) a cut of the revenue generated from a fund built with money from oil taxes. In 2005 the checks were for $845.76, in 2008 the checks were $2,069.00, and in 2010 the amount was $1,281.00. The amount of the checks is not determined by the price of oil, but by the "realized gains" of the fund, averaged out over 5 years. Every October when the checks come out there are big PFD sales as local businesses compete for the influx of cash into the state.

25. No state income tax. In addition to getting money back from the state each year, Alaskans don't have to pay a state income tax. Some cities like the City and Borough of Anchorage don't charge a city sales tax either, though other cities like Juneau, do have a modest 5% citywide sales tax.

mendenhall glacier in southeast alaska juneau

26. Excellent customer service. My best friend who lived in Alaska for over 10 years recently moved to Washington DC and he said he was stunned at the difference in attitude when it comes to customer services in places like stores and the post office, etc. He said that he had always taken for granted how nice and helpful (and responsive) people are who work retail or in government agencies here in Alaska.

Here's an example, I mailed a tube with art prints at my local post office and got half way to work when I realized I hadn't signed them. I went back and asked them if they could find my tube for me and let me sign the prints and give it back and they said "sure no problem" and even let me take it home so I could lay them out flat in a nice clean spot to sign them.

Or the recent example of the owner of the Art Matters framing shop here in town, who gave me loads of free framing brackets and pads for a show I was working on when I hadn't purchased anything from her store. She just said to mention her if anyone asked me about getting work framed (which I have)...People here talk to you, they smile at you, and for the most part they sincerely want to help you.

27. Alaska is a great place for survivalists! Let's face it, the world is becoming an increasingly unstable and frightening place by Westerner standards. If everything in the US heads south in a serious way (economic collapse, super-virus, zombie invasion, etc.) Alaskans would probably be better off than in most places. Alaska is not densely populated and due to frequent power outages etc. many of us already have wooden stoves, generators, kerosene lamps, manual appliances, and board games...not to mention hunting rifles, fishing and camping gear, smokers, canners, and access to a clean water supply. A lot of Alaskans have a primary home in a larger city or town, and a small cabin out somewhere secluded. Be honest, would you rather live in NYC or Douglas Island Alaska, if the Sh*t hits the fan???

28. Mind-blowing natural beauty. I have traveled a lot and I've seen some beautiful places in the world, but for my tastes, nothing compares to the beauty of the Last Frontier. There is so much diversity within the state, from temperate rain forests to frozen tundra, and all of it breathtaking in its own way. Every single day I see something that takes my breath away.

29. Well, I know I called this my top 100 list, and I have a zillion more reasons why I love living in Alaska, but I'm getting very sleepy and I need to go lie down. I'll finish this up another time.

 

beautiful image of the moon rising over the mountains in southeast alaska

 

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