When I joined the Army I thought I was running away from my parents and the cruel fate of a boring world. I was young and bull headed, I didn’t expect to miss them. What surprised me though, was how much I would miss Alaska.

I had been living in Alaska off and on for close to ten years before I enlisted. I had lived in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley and visited several other places in that great big state. I loved it there and when I left for Columbus Georgia, I had no idea what I was in for.

It had been snowing the morning my plane left Anchorage. It was a pleasant May morning and the mercury was resting right around thirty degrees. Fourteen hours later I stepped into hell.

In Georgia the temperature was already ninety eight degrees and the humidity was somewhere around seventy or eighty percent. The air was so hot and moist that I couldn’t breathe.

I was forced to immediately shuck the leather jacket I had been wearing and mourn my choice of jeans over shorts. The fact that I owned no shorts was a minor detail. For the next five months I sweated like I never had before in my life. I wasn’t alone though, everything in the peach state sweats; dogs, birds, buildings, automobiles, they all sweat. It was always hot in Georgia as far as I could tell.

After Basic Training, I was stationed in Colorado for several years and that helped ease my longing for Alaska. The eastern Rockies are very similar to Alaska in many regards. The mountains were once again a prominent figure on the horizon and the coniferous forest scented my morning runs with the sweet bite of pine pitch.

It wasn’t quite the same though. Colorado was nice, but it wasn’t…it wasn’t Alaska. There’s something about the place that anyone who’s been there can recognize, but may have difficulty explaining. Maybe it’s the bounty of fresh seafood, or wild game. Maybe it’s the beautiful summer sunsets, wreathed by the bloom of tundra flowers. Maybe, maybe it’s the Alaska State Dividend Fund.

Whatever it is, I miss it. I get less of that elusive something now that I live in the desert of the American Southwest. I still visit sometimes though, and with every trip it’s more difficult to return to the Lower 48.

  • The mountains(Illinois' highest point is ~1000 feet up)
  • The scenery - In my opinion the Seward Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Especially at night, in the middle of the winter.
  • The weather, at least in the Anchorage area. Not too hot and not too cold.
  • The odd hours of daylight.
  • The raves - the Anchorage scene is not very large, and as a result is pretty tight.
  • The water - Anchorage has some of the cleanest tap water possible.
  • The relative lack of pollution/smog.
Things I won't miss:
  • The people(I could never find many people who were into computers and coding)
  • The boredom - even Anchorage is not an exciting place to be a young person unless you REALLY like to camp/hunt/fish/hike/etc. Even when I was just back there for a month recently I quickly became a video game junkie.
  • The raves - Chicago gets tons of good names and there are some really cool parties thrown here.
Things I love about LIVING in Alaska
  • Aurora Borealis also called the Northern Lights. Ethereal yellow, green, blue, red, and orange whips and swaths of lights that shine in the Northern sky, usually when its very cold, from November through February.
  • Whales. Here on the Southern Kenai Peninsula we have several species that are seen regularly. Humpbacks can be seen in the open water breeching and sounding, flashing their mottled flukes at boats that come too close. Orcas, also known as Killer Whales run in huge pods of twenty and thirty into Katchemak Bay. Belugas, little white guys called Sea Canaries for the chirping noise they make, can be spotted all over the place. Mostly on Turnagin Arm just south of Anchorage.
  • Moose, the big dumb beasts, are all over the place. Lumbering onto the roads and into town, yes, just like on Northern Exposure. They're fun to watch, the calves are adorable, and come hunting season, they make tasty additions to our Wintertime diet.
  • Snowmachining People from the Lower 48 refer to this as Snow-mobiling. We have no real need for actual "snow machines" to make snow for us so... Of course we also like to call it rallying or sledding. Imagine skimming over six feet of fresh powder at seventy- or eighty-miles-per-hour. Imagine taking your machine, at great speeds, up inclines to beat the height and magnitude of your buddies tracks in a practice called high-marking. Imagine putting along and seeing moose, wolves, caribou, and the occasional lynx or hare. Its great fun, usually followed by a toasty, rustic trail cabin filled with friends, warm bunks, hot stew, and lots of schnapps.
  • Fishing I have spent countless hours on boats and river banks bringing in feisty salmon half my size and halibut three times my size. Our clean cold waters make them the best food ever. My favorite form of this sport is dip-netting on the Kasiloff and Kenia rivers.
  • Daylight During the summer solstice on a high place, one can watch the sun climb up into the sky, roll around and over us, then in the middle of the "night" just barely dip below the horizon and rise all over again. In the height of Summer the deepest darkness is merely a glimmering twilight.
  • Music We have a myriad of bands and musicians here. Our long Winters are conducive to practicing and our surroundings are nothing but inspirational. Our most widely known musical happening is the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival. Its held every summer and draws spectators and bands from all over the country and even the world. Then there are particular artists. Hobo Jim Varsos, Alaska's state balladeer, who writes songs in Nashville all winter. He just sold a song to George Jones for his latest album entitled The Rock, but Hobo sings it much better. Hailing from Girdwood is The Photon Band a hippy montage, that sounds like the Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, and Rusted Root all mixed up. And the quintessential bluegrass rock band from Anchorage, Yukon Ryder. My hometown's biggest star is, unfortunately, Jewel, but we've disowned her as much as she's disowned us.

Since, I'm still alive and well here in the Great Land, I miss none of these things. I lived Outside for five years and there were few things that I enjoyed as much as the simple pleasure of looking out my window here at home. There are so many things that I could list, but I won't. You lower 48'ers might all decide to move here.

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