Since I touched down on a runway in Anchorage in a blizzard, I’ve had the feeling of being magnetized to a place for reasons unknown. It was my first year out of college, when it seemed like I was stumbling along the path of least anxiety, hoping to get something right. Oddly, for me that path included moving to the farthest, strangest state where I knew the fewest people (zero, to be exact).
When asked why I came to Alaska, I’m often saddled with the time-old multiple choice: was it for money or love? My first position in the state was as an AmeriCorps intern working in a national park, so it’s safe to say it wasn’t the former. It was love in a way—just a love I didn’t know I had yet. It was the same love from the many stories I’ve heard in cabs and bars about people who quit their jobs in distant cities over the phone while visiting Alaska and stayed for 20 years.
Many arrive to fish or work in tourism and get swept up by the magic of an Alaskan summer. It’s a heady, incredible, exhausting time when day bleeds into night, freezers fill with fish and wild berries, and there seems to be no end to things to do under the midnight sun. I, on the other hand, spent my first months in Alaska in the fall, watching the days grow shorter and the streets quieter. Even when the sun made its sluggish appearance after 10 AM and set before 3 PM, and the November winds howled so fiercely I had to walk my bike home over ice-slick streets, I was smitten.
Alaska is not always an easy place to be. I gave up on reasonably priced produce, two-day shipping, and affordable vacations long ago. Functionality trumps style, and if it can’t be done in Xtratufs (the iconic brown and tan rain boots that litter every home), it’s probably not worth doing. It’s an unforgiving and inconvenient land, but few places compare. In its sheer vastness, it refuses to be paved over and tamed. The lines between urban and wild are blurred here, and plans are dictated by winds and daylight, fish runs and tides.
This month, just shy of my two-year anniversary in the Great Land, I stood in line at the DMV to register my license plates and hand over the last of my out-of-state identity (expired, but the kind people of the DMV understand what affect sunshine in southeast Alaska has on your ability to complete a to-do list). A state on an ID card is small thing, but it felt like a final acquiescence to a truth I’d known for awhile. Sign on the dotted line, and you’re home.
|Molly Tankersley is an aspiring dog mom and lover of outdoor adventures/
Over the past several years, she’s been exploring Alaska’s public lands and is currently living in Juneau working as a science communicator at a coastal research center. Read more of her writing here: https://scenicroutetravels.com/