Photo: DCrane/Shutterstock

13 Fears Only Alaskans Understand

by Jennifer Gracey Nov 1, 2016

1. Missing out on the PFD.

The pain of missing out on PFDs is way too real. We can’t even talk about it.

2. Forgetting to plug in your car.

Talk about a reminder that you don’t get to park in the warm garage. It also means driving down the road while peeking through the windshield space you managed to scrape clear and counting down the seconds until the heater kicks in so the windows defrost. That is, if you were lucky enough to get your car to start in the first place.

3. Being told, “Sorry, we don’t ship to Alaska.”

Just when you allow yourself to do a “Eureka! I’ve found it!”, happy dance for that item you’ve been searching for high and low, some person on the other end of the line says, “Ooo… you’re in Alaska? I’m very sorry but we don’t ship there yet.” Every Alaskan has shaken their fist in rage over this at least once in their Last Frontier tenure. This is our battle cry, “We ARE part of the continental United States you foolish shipper person you!”

4. Summertime camper caravans.

As if on cue, in spring they emerge from hibernation en mass. Be it north, south, east or west, no Alaskan who drives the state highways escapes getting stuck behind the slow moving, heavy laden and multi-wheeled ‘home away from home’ behemoths. In some areas, it’s a season-long night and day parade. Getting stuck driving behind three (or five) of them is the ultimate test of any Alaskan’s patience. Road rage Alaskan style is: “How many miles till the next turn out?”

5. The captain announcing, “We’re sorry…delay…no…de-icing fluid…”

Winter holiday season is that ‘magical’ time of the year which never fails to include chaos on the tarmac when you’re trying to get somewhere on time for Christmas festivities. Between excessive ice buildup on aircraft wings and the battle to remove it in a timely manner for departure — the inevitable happens and airport reserves run dry. Why do we bother? It happens every single time.

6. Car trouble at -20°F and below.

Flat tire, busted axle, dead battery or snowbank, the ‘what’ in this case is an afterthought. It’s all about the ‘when’ and at -20°F (or vicinity) a bum vehicle is no laughing matter. We only hope on the day we break down that we remembered to shove the extra wool blanket, headlamp, and pair of boots in the back end so we won’t become the newest character in ‘Frozen.’

7. Bad salmon runs.

Nearly as painful as missing out on PDFs, this cuts the Alaskan heart and soul deep. Salmon is one of our top prides and joy as a state. We love our “Wild Alaska Salmon” labels and we especially love getting knee deep in rivers and hitting quota. A bad salmon run doesn’t only hurt Alaskans, it hurts everyone who visits and the animals, too.

8. Getting between a mamma bear and her cubs.

There are some things in the far north that you just don’t do and this is likely the fastest way in Alaska to help fur and fury find you. This is definitely a fine example of Alaska’s version of “top 5 worst nightmare scenarios.”

9. Devil’s club and cow parsnip.

Walk into a patch of either and you’ll come out hurting. Devil’s club is Alaska’s closest resemblance to a cactus with thin spiny thorns and giant leaves. Mistakenly lose your footing, grab one of these babies and you’re pulling needle-thin, organic daggers from hell out of your palm for a week. Come into contact with cow parsnip, on the other hand and you’re looking at blisters the size of balloons and an itch that won’t die. While there is no peace in either case, at least the genius in charge of naming “devil’s club” got that one right.

10. Spruce bark beetles

In the iconic words of Shakespeare, “A plague on both your houses.” Though, in this case the houses be trees and the plague be beetles. Topping out at 1/4 of an inch long these wee buggers have done more damage to Alaskan forests than any other thing. They kill the spruce and we end up with tons of dead trees standing around waiting to burn. Lightening strikes or some forgetful fool who doesn’t properly extinguish their campfire and wild fires explode out of control. Alaskans collectively loathe spruce bark beetles almost as much as our honorary state bird, the mosquito.

11. “No burning” bans in summer

That usually means no camp fires, no burn piles, no sparklers, pretty much nothing with an open flame in summer until some decent rain hits. Alaskans really, really dislike being told what we can and cannot do in general but, when you’re not allowed a decent camp fire for smores and hot dogs roasted on a stick… well, some things are just too much.

12. That it will be too light to see the 4th of July fireworks AND that it will be too cold to see the New Year’s fireworks.

Clearly, seeing a decent fireworks display in Alaska poses peculiar challenges. It’s not dark enough in summer and too cold in winter. Between ‘no burn’ bans and the climate challenges, talking about fireworks celebrations puts Alaskans into a strange mental space.

13. Being away from Alaska in summer.

Of all the fears Alaskans contend with, our number one chart topper is missing summer. Ask any Alaskan and they will tell you without batting an eye, “Alaska is the best place in the world to be in summer.” The heart break of missing Alaska in all her green glory during summer darn near kills us and we have to remind ourselves regularly, “You can take an Alaskan out of Alaska but you can not take the Alaska out of an Alaskan.”

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