Winter Living in Alaska – Can I really see Russia?

If you’ve kept up with the weather, social media, or live in the USA – you know that Alaska has seemed to play games and switch weather patterns with the lower 48. I think it’s fantastic – I’ve been cross-country skiing my little legs out in this ridiculously warm weather while seeing the posts of negative temps across the country. I keep thinking, “Come on people! It’s not so bad!”

But enough about the weather, it made me start reflecting on when I moved to Alaska coming up on 3 summers ago. There’s also been a lot of hype lately about the crazy questions people ask Alaskans, whether it’s tourist that come here or when we travel outside (aka to the other states). Let me give you some famous examples and remind you that these questions are real, we have all been asked them and you will quickly realize that our children obviously need to be taught geography in a better format. For fun, I’ll give you the correct responses to these questions – for some education.

  • Can you drive to Alaska from the United States? Yes. Please refer to your world map.
  • Do you have different currency? Well, we are a state, so we use US currency.
  • If you’re so close to Hawaii, why are your climates so different? Again, please refer to your world map.
  • Do you live in an Igloo? No, but I saw one in someone’s yard once when I was working in Barrow. It was for fun, not function.
  • What’s it like on the big Island? I don’t know, I haven’t been to Hawaii.
  • If it’s dark all year long, how do you tell what time it is? For half the year we gain light, and half the year we lose light (just like everyone else, actually, just at a faster rate). So during the summer the sun sits at the horizon and essentially it never “sets”. In the winter, we get less daylight, but we do get daylight. Farther north, like it Barrow, it sets and does not rise for 2 months of the winter, but there are a few hours of dusk.
  • Can you really see Russia? Only in western Alaska, from places such as Little Diomede where Russia is 2 miles away and from the end of the Aleutian Chains. Neither place I intend to live. From Palin’s house, she in no way can see Russia.
  • Do you need snowshoes or a dog team to get everywhere? No, my car has snow tires and we have planes. I might try snowshoes for fun and my cross country skis can get me places, too. 

Now onto the reason for my rant. When I was moving to Alaska, I had already been here twice. I came once in the winter to Fairbanks and once in the summer when I traveled the Parks Hwy from Fairbanks through Anchorage and down to Homer. Believe it or not, even people that live in place like Alaska can tell you the most ridiculous things – because they literally don’t know what they are talking about. I have embraced an amazing life here, one that took me some stepping outside of my box to settle into, if you will. I love being outdoors, traveling the state, and  seeing everything I can when I visit new places. The only people I knew when I moved here were not the kind of people that did that and so I had a lot of misinformation about this AMAZING place other than the fact that it is, really it is, beautiful. Here are some things that I was told before I moved here and learned on my own, weren’t so true. So as you read these – realize they very much – aren’t true. This list is much longer… I just picked a few.

  • You can’t drive into the Denali National Park. You can only take a day-long bus in.
  • Once you enter Denali, there are no gas stations for hours.
  • In fact, I was told you can’t hike, backpack, or bike in Denali. All of which – are incorrect.
  • Anchorage is a city with nothing to do. You’ll hate it.
  • You aren’t allowed to visit villages.
  • You can’t go outside when it’s below zero.
  • You’ll frostbite your lungs! (Here I will insert my favorite quote – “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.”)

 There are also the things that no one told me about, but I learned quickly:

  • “Square Tire” – When it gets around -20 or colder, your tire freezes flat, and when you start driving, it feels like you have a flat. Once your tire warms up (around a mile or so) it rounds back out.
  • A dry winter means dry skin. Moisturizer is your friend.
  • You can’t get auto start on European cars. Yep – every winter I think about a second car.
  • Leather seats – are cold on your bum. I mean… cold. Note to self: Get cloth seat covers.
  • Winter tires are really better than all-season tires.
  • Carry lock de-icer with you. My cabin-door once iced up while it was -35 out.
  • The rating of your winter clothing – is extremely important.
  • If it’s -60 outside, you’re still going to work!
  • If you need to travel in the winter, fly there. Sometimes, the roads are closed.
  • “The odds are good, but the goods are odd” – this refers to dating life for women in Alaska. There are plenty of fish in the sea, but the sea is rough, and the pickings aren’t always ideal. Sometimes we luck out, though. 🙂
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