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20 Things Us Alaskans Always Have to Explain to Out-of-Towners

Alaska Student Work
by Carole Milstead Apr 8, 2015

1. Yes, you actually can see Russia from Alaska.

No, you can’t see it from mainland Alaska. You have to be standing on the western side of St. Lawrence Island on a clear day. Then you can see the Kamchatka Peninsula of Siberia. Go out to Little Diomede Island which belongs to the United States and you will be able see Big Diomede Island, the most eastern point of Russia.

2. That was a mosquito.

No, the mosquito is not Alaska’s state bird. Yes, they are so big here they are often mistaken for birds. And, yes, they are voracious. You should see a swarm attack tires on a recently driven car (mosquitos are attracted to heat). When in Alaska, make sure you bring some kind of mosquito repellent.

3. Igloos are all around you.

Igloo is simply an Inuit word for house.

4. Texas is smaller than Alaska.

Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas. Alaska is actually one-fifth the size of the entire United States. And for residents of Barrow, AK to visit their state capital in Juneau, it would be the equivalent of driving across six Midwestern states.

5. How many people live in Alaska.

Alaska actually has more people than Wyoming — approximately 550,000 to 600,000 people.

6. Do we all live in the bush?

No! And I repeat, no, not all Alaskans live in the bush and have to fight to survive. That’s for reality TV. Most Alaskans I know would never give up their indoor bathrooms.

7. Denali is not always behind the clouds.

Denali (aka Mt. McKinley) is frequently covered by clouds in the summer. The mountain is 20,302 foot high and creates its own weather. The upper part of the mountain is covered by ice fields and snow. When warm air from below mixes with cold air above, clouds are formed. But give it a few days and the peak will probably show.

8. You can visit Alaska any time of year.

Winter is actually a good time to visit Alaska. Even though Alaskan days are short, we still enjoy blue skies and sunshine. If you want to see the Aurora Borealis, winter is definitely the time to come.

9. No, the Northern Lights are not visible every night in winter.

They can only be seen when conditions are right. Sunspot activity causes them. So if the sun doesn’t cooperate, no Aurora.

10. Do not get close to a bear to take its picture.

Tourist, you cannot outrun a bear. If you run from a bear, it will think you are part of the food chain. No snapshot is worth it.

11. Please do not tell us you visited Alaska when you never left Anchorage.

I agree that Anchorage is in Alaska, but there is much more to Alaska than Anchorage. You have missed Fairbanks, Seward, Homer, and Valdez, nor did you see Denali or any of Alaska’s other wonders. All you saw was Anchorage.

12. Yes, those big vegetables are real.

Vegetables grown in Alaska are not on steroids. Alaska has a long growing season because of the many hours of daylight in the summer, which, when matched with volcanic-rich soil, translates into huge vegetables.

13. Cow moose rarely cross the road alone.

You wonder why drivers hesitate to move after a cow moose crosses the road. This is because as soon as traffic starts to go, a calf may come bounding after mom. This is the usual, so drivers are cautious.

14. Driving is not possible to most of the places in Alaska.

Most of Alaska is impassable muskeg, mountain ranges, and ice fields.

15. Alaska and Hawaii are not neighbors.

Alaska does not sit next to Hawaii. It just looks like that on most maps. In fact, Hawaii is more than two thousand miles from Alaska.

16. Dog mushers are not abusing their teams by racing them.

Huskies or sled dogs are born to run, bred to run, and love to run. They are not being mistreated competing in the Iditarod or Yukon Quest Dog Races. I repeat, they really do love to run.

17. The word ‘Outside’.

In Alaska, ‘outside’ has two meanings. Outside with a capital ‘O’ usually means the continental United States. Outside not being capitalized means out of doors.

18. Snowmobiles, snow machines, and sleds are interchangeable words.

Technically, snowmobile is the correct word for a machine that people ride in winter over snow. Some even race them. However, in Alaska, we also call them snow machines or sleds.

19. Never attempt to “rescue” a baby animal that seems to be left alone.

Young animals are rarely abandoned by their mothers. And you do not want to be on the business end of a mad or threatened moose mom or bear mother. The mother is just out feeding and is not far away. As soon as the baby starts crying, she will come running.

20. Never tell an Alaskan that we are strange.

Alaskans are a breed of their own. We do not appreciate outsiders coming in and telling us what to do. We love our beautiful land and majestic mountains, and we love our way of life. Never forget that we are fiercely protective of it.

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