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If you’ve ever flown into Alaska, the first thing you notice as you peer out the airplane windows are the mountains, row upon endless row of snow-peaked ruggedness. The best word to describe them is a word often overused to describe lesser things: majestic.
Majestic should be reserved for the sort of rare and surpassing beauty that generates awe, like those mountains, especially around 3:00pm in the winter when the set sun casts a purple blanket across the snow. The moon rises behind them, a glorious, massive pale-yellow celestial that captivates, and causes you to stare regardless of how cold it is.
This was the view I saw out my front window my first night in Alaska after spending a day walking around my new college campus in sub-zero temperatures, a view I re-experienced every night for months, and then years after.
I had finally found my place in the world.
I moved to Alaska in 1996 in an attempt to flee as far away from Los Angeles as I could. That’s not hyperbole, I literally wanted to move as far away geographically as possible within the United States. I settled on choosing between Maine or Alaska. I’d been to Maine once and loved it, but Alaska was sexier so it won the contest. Alaska also held another huge advantage for me: it’s never hot.
I hate being hot. Growing up in southern California, I was often hot. I used to sleep sweating with my window open every night of the summer, a fan on my desk trying its best to make a difference.
There comes a point where you simply run out of layers to remove when even the pool water is as warm as a bath and you have to make tough choices regarding your electric bill. When it’s that hot, the sand on the beach burns your feet. You find yourself going to the grocery store to buy things just to be under air conditioning for a few hours. Or, if overseas, you may end up violating your sacred principle of only eating local fare as you duck into the nearest McDonald’s, grateful that at least there you can be sure of getting ice in your drink.
There were far more reasons to leave California than the heat, but moving reinforced my long-held theory, which has since been confirmed after more than twenty years in Alaska:
It is far easier to get warm when you are cold than it is to get cool when you are hot.
So I propose we play a game. Make your case for home, the place you’d choose to live above all others. Give us some reasons why we should consider it.
Here is my case for Alaska:
It may be over before you know it, but summer in Alaska holds the potential for the most thrill-seeking four months on Earth. World class hunting, fishing, rafting, hiking, climbing, flight tours, day cruises, river cruises, float trips, train trips, are all available within a short drive or chartered flight from my front porch. But don’t worry, we also have some of the world’s best first responders on land or sea. Live here long enough and you too may get a free ride in an Air National Guard Blackhawk.
Predators that outweigh you
Bald eagles and whales are great and all, and it’s kinda cool to see a moose giving birth in your front yard (this happened to my buddy last week), but the best thing about the animals in Alaska are the deadly ones. Why? Because the creatures that can kill you here are big and you can shoot them. No snakes hiding in your tent, no scorpions, or tornado fish, or creepy crawlies infecting your bloodstream. Just keep a loaded shotgun handy and you’ll make a good fight out of it.
Hear me out. In the Lower 48, a winter storm shuts down cities. Not here; winter doesn’t stop us. Our airport never closes, snow doesn’t cancel our plans, the roads are always driveable, stores are always open, and people manage their daily routines regardless of the weather. I was late to work by thirty minutes once after driving fifty miles in a ten-inch blizzard. I learned to just leave earlier next time.
Most wildfires in Alaska are beneficial but the ones that aren’t are quickly contained. The 8o mph winds that rock the third floor of my house every February and March are not called hurricanes, they’re just windy, wear a beanie, use the other door when entering a store, kind of days. Last year our 7.0 earthquake yielded zero deaths, and roads were rebuilt in a couple of days.
This one took a little longer to reopen (a whole week):
There are plenty of other reasons I choose Alaska but I’ll simply end it with this:
Our meme game is wicked strong.
Send your kids to Alaska; we’ll send them back hardy.
Of course, they may just decide to stay.