Dear Travelers to Alaska: Please Don’t Visit Until You’ve Understood These 9 Things

by Lindsey Parkinson Jul 7, 2016

1. Property rights are held sacred.

The United States as a whole is all about private property but in Alaska, it’s on another level. People come here to get away from society so those “No Trespassing” signs are no joke, you may be shot and you would be the one in the wrong. Someone can shoot if they feel they themselves or their property are threatened which can be quite liberally interpreted.

2. Moose are dangerous.

Everyone seems to worry about bears and yes, overall bears are more dangerous, but the sheer number of moose makes the chance of a negative encounter much more likely. Moose are the largest deer in the world: 6-feet tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 1200 pounds. If a moose charges it’s generally a feint to encourage you to leave but if it’s not they’ll kick you and possibly trample you to death. For comparison, the absolute largest black bears won’t get beyond 600 pounds.

3. Road system Alaska is not bush Alaska.

The state is sparsely populated and enormous making infrastructure often prohibitively expensive. As such many villages and towns are only accessed by boat or plane and what many of us have become accustomed to is considerably scarce here. Internet for example, fresh produce, even potable water. If it’s expensive to bring things in, so is taking them away. Each town has their own small dump and old vehicles and buildings may lie around for years because it’s either not worth moving or pieces may come in handy later.

4. Alaska Native culture is incredibly diverse.

There were and still are many native groups across Alaska fighting to keep their cultures and languages alive alongside the influence of all of us coming from outside. Learning about these cultures will make your time here much more meaningful.

5. Weather is vastly different depending on where you’re going.

Please research the weather before you come. I’ve loaned many a pair of wool socks, knit hats, and padded jackets to Couchsurfers who came unprepared. Even during the summer, the record lows are below freezing in my home of Fairbanks, and if you’re visiting the mountains in or around Denali National Park it can be freezing and windy no matter the time of year.

6. If you’re trophy hunting or fishing be mindful of subsistence hunters.

Trophy hunting tourism is nothing to laugh at, many people make their living supplying the needs of visiting hunters but hunters and fishers should be mindful of Alaskan needs as well. Hunting, fishing, and gathering are popular past-times of nearly all Alaskans and where many calories come from throughout the year, particularly in the more remote regions. Consider asking your guides or a wildlife manager at the local Department of Fish and Game if locals gathering the food they need to survive use the area you are planning to visit. If so, ask about alternatives. Alaska is a big state with lots of places to hunt that aren’t so traditionally or emotionally tied but still just as good.

7. If you happen to be here when sh*t hits the fan — you’re screwed.

97% of food in Alaska comes from outside the state. If any sort of emergency occurs — earthquake, tsunami, longshoremen strike in Seattle — which causes a disruption in the food chain the majority of the population will be out of supplies in days.

8. Visiting Anchorage is not the same as visiting Alaska.

Ask any Alaskan outside of Anchorage about Anchorage and they’ll be sure to tell you about “the closest city outside of Alaska”.

9. We’re a resource economy.

Currently, that resource is oil so things aren’t that great around here. When we first became a state in 1959 Alaska had an income tax, a way to show the region was ready to handle the responsibilities of statehood, however, after the oil boom why did we need silly things like taxes? So much money was coming in from oil there was enough to set billions aside as a state retirement account for the lean times and in the interim pay citizens the interest — that money Alaskans get for being Alaskan. The legislature is only now considering reinstating an income tax for the first time since 1980 and cutting back the Personal Fund Dividend to a yearly cap around $500 or $1000 (some years payouts were $2000/person) and saving the rest of the interest for actually running the state. In the meantime, we gut university departments, social services, and education. Prepare yourselves for vehement arguments on both sides.

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