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.