You think moose are extra-large, dumb cows that like to walk through town on occasion.
There are two things every Anchorage visitor wants to see: the Aurora Borealis and a moose. I shouldn’t judge too much because when I first moved to Anchorage I was in the same situation, but now as a bona fide resident I can tease these silly, cow-chasing Outsiders.
Moose are definitely something to be wary of, dumb + huge = dangerous, but they aren’t all that special. Some towns have deer, we have moose. Actually, we have 1600 resident moose.
You consider above freezing temperatures any time between November and March as warm.
In Fairbanks during the winter it is automatically assumed that when someone says “twenties” or “thirties” they mean “negative twenties” and “negative thirties” (Fahrenheit), so compared to the rest of Alaska, Anchorage is a pretty warm place. However, when people from Outside (aka the lower 48 or elsewhere) first visit or move here it can be a bit of a shock. A standard year won’t see above freezing temperatures until March and snow is still possible into May.
You’ve met, or your friends have met, the Palins.
Just 45 minutes up the Alaska 1 Interstate (yes, we have Interstates) lies the town of Wasilla where former Alaska governor and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin lives along with the rest of her family. Approximately 35% of the workforce in Wasilla commutes each day into Anchorage and Anchorage already holds 40% of Alaska’s population. Travel between the two cities is commonplace. Eventually, someone makes the connection.
You hate reality television featuring Alaska.
It’s not reality. Trust me.
You have a strong, probably negative, view of Chris McCandless.
The very barebones story of Chris McCandless is he left his prosperous family in Virginia to travel around the country eventually hitchhiking his way northwards to Alaska where, in 1992, he starved to death in a VW bus near Denali National Park.
To some, McCandless was a free spirit, representing anti-consumerist ideals and a throwback to the old days of exploration around the United States. To others, he was an uneducated squatter and poacher who got what was coming to him. I’ll let you make your own opinion. We definitely have ours.
You own bear spray, a gun, or both.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, approximately 250 black bears and 60 brown bears live in and around Anchorage. Not to mention the moose.
I personally subscribe to the philosophy that guns make big animals angry, so I opt for carrying bear spray when exploring wooded areas around the municipality. Essentially pepper spray on steroids; bear spray produces a strong cloud of capsaicin, the spicy compound in peppers, with a range of up to 20 feet for ten seconds. Nothing wants to stick around in that. Whether you belong to the gun or spray camps, if you want to go out during the summer you should be able to protect yourself.
You drink coffee.
When I moved to Anchorage, I quickly learned that many people and events around here only provide coffee as a hot beverage.
Anchorage and Seattle are neck and neck as far as which city contains more coffee shops per capita. In 2005, Anchorage was ahead at 2.8 shops/1000 residents; in 2011 Seattle held the lead. Despite the best efforts of Kaladi Brothers (the Anchorage version of Starbucks), Alaskan free spirit keeps our number up due to roadside, drive-through coffee stands in nearly every available parking lot.
You never expect fruits and vegetables to last long.
95% of the food consumed in Alaska is shipped in from Outside. Those extra days in transport mean a shorter shelf life and higher costs once finally reaching a store. That Chilean apple or Californian avocado is not going to last as long in the kitchen when it spent several days being barged across the northern Pacific to reach Anchorage.
You, or your neighbor, work for an oil company.
Alaska has oil, many entities want that oil. Most major US or British energy companies are here extracting a piece of the fossil fuel pie along with the necessary offices, field workers and contractors. Much of the reason Anchorage is the relatively large size it is comes from the oil boom of the 70s.
You’ve seen the Iditarod.
The Last Great Race stretches over one thousand miles from Willow, 80 miles north of Anchorage, to Nome. A day before the true beginning of the race a ceremonial start winds eleven miles through Anchorage beginning at 4th and F downtown, stretching a mile and a half through city streets before breaking onto the bike paths and trails that connect parks across the city.
I watched the night before the ceremonial start as dump trucks piled high with snow came in to town to line the city streets with what would hopefully be enough slush to protect the sleds from harsh concrete the next morning. It mostly worked.
You know what skijoring is.
For those who want to race sled dogs without investing what amounts to their whole life in time and money managing an entire dog team, we have skijor racing. It’s cross-country skiing with the aid of dogs for additional speed. One to three dogs are attached to a skier, then let loose to see which group can complete a five to twenty kilometer circuit the fastest.
Hearing explosions is not abnormal.
The majority of Alaska is unpopulated, which Air Force and Army folks at the neighboring JBER use to test new aircrafts, technologies, and practice the proper way to blow something up. Those of us living in east Anchorage can sometimes hear said practicing.
I actually applied for a biological field research job that would take place on a base where, if I had gotten the job, I would have had to learn the proper procedures when one comes across unexploded military ordinance. That’s not a standard field practice.
At least some of the meat in your freezer is wild.
I’ve mentioned moose and bear, both of which have a hunting season, but Alaska also contains fish, shellfish, ducks, ptarmigan, wild sheep, and caribou. Subsistence hunting and fishing is still critically important to countless people across the state and a great supplemental food source even for those in the larger towns that have access to regularly stocked stores. Wild meat is cheaper, healthier and, at least for now, abundant.
Vegetarians, don’t you worry, our wild blueberries and lingonberries are killer.