1. Airline miles
Perhaps you don’t know, but that little state surrounded by a box in the bottom left corner of your US map is Alaska and, despite how it may look on that piece of paper, it’s more than four times the size of Texas.
The reason Alaska lies in that box thousands of miles from where it actually belongs is to make it easier for you Outsiders to remember we actually exist as a part of the United States. What it also represents is the fact that to get to another state is going to take some work. Hence the reason darn near everyone has an Alaska Airlines credit card. Alaska Air is responsible for many of the commercial flights between not just Alaska and the rest of the United States but around the state of Alaska itself. If we want to leave in a timely manner, most likely Alaska Airlines is getting us out.
2. Akutaq (Alaskan ice cream)
Fresh, wild berries mixed with fat, this traditional native Alaskan dessert cuts through all the modern crap tied up in our brains back to the survivalist core telling you that all you need to survive is in this food — don’t stop eating it. Someday soon I’m going to find someone with the ingredients to help me make the truly traditional recipe of berries with fish roe and seal fat.
3. Sporting goods stores
In Anchorage alone we have several independent chains such as Skinny Raven Sports and Play it Again Sports, national retailers like REI, Cabela’s, and the Army and Navy Surplus plus all the giant box stores and even a few more tiny local retailers hidden in random corners around the municipality. Then there is my buddy down the street who just fixes and rents out bikes on his own through Craigslist and word of mouth, and there are plenty of others like him.
With quick and easy access to mountains, rivers, forest, ocean, snow, and ice, an individual would have to be actively trying not to get involved in outdoor sports. If nothing else, just living here requires cold weather gear and a good pair of boots. Where else are you going to find reliable stuff?
Alaskan winters are cold, dark, and kind of depressing. Depending on where you live, it could be cold and dark all of the time. Summer time in most of the country is the opposite — the sun never sets and you want to stay awake because there is so much of the world to explore. Either way, coffee helps.
5. Checking the NOAA weather report EVERY morning
Two weeks ago I awoke to a gorgeous, sunny, warm morning of 42-ish° F. Thinking it was going to do nothing but get warmer (maybe even 50s!) and prettier I wore shorts and a pair of flower-embroidered burlap TOMS to bike to work. Over the course of my lunch shift however I watched as thick, grey clouds rolled in belching this wet snow-slush mixture upon the town. Once said shift was over I had to commandeer a few garbage bags to jerry-rig a poncho. It worked pretty well as far as my fleece jacket was concerned, but by the end of my four mile commute my shorts and shoes were completely soaked through. Never again. Always check the weather report. Preferably from NOAA — they rarely let you down.
6. Remote starting the car
Such a simple and beautiful piece of technology may seem frivolous to those that live Outside, but being able to push a button on your car’s key for a few minutes before leaving home or work in order to hop into a preheated vehicle is incredible.
7. Mountain views
The grind of daily life begins to get to me sometimes: go to work, go home, do whatever stupid chores I haven’t been doing. Then I look up and see the snow-covered Chugach Range standing powerfully to the east. We’re not talking beautiful backdrop mountains like what I grew up with in Seattle. We’re talking ‘I-could-ride-my bike-to-those-mountains’ mountains. I’m reminded each time I see them that this isn’t any day; this is a day in Alaska.
8. The small town feel
Alaska is by far the largest state by land mass, but in total population even Puerto Rico beats us. Heck, even North Dakota has more people than we do. North Dakota! Despite our sparse population, 40% of people live in Anchorage, as does the state’s largest airport, sea port, and major roads. Everyone travels through only a few routes, meaning running into someone you know is not terribly uncommon.
9. Smoked salmon
A friend’s wild-caught, expertly cold-smoked by the professionals at Trapper’s Creek, and freely shared at a potluck, salmon is better than anything you are going to find Outside. It’s like a cool slice of ocean storm mixed with quiet campfire is melting on your tongue.