Folks, I cannot begin to tell you how wild living in Alaska is. First, I am pleased to tell you that living off grid is possible. It is inconvenient and incredible all in the same moment of time. I don’t advocate for an off grid lifestyle and I couldn’t care less about how anyone chooses to live, but I am pleased to share that I have yet to keel over in the absence of convenience.
As it turns out, a day in the life of living 80 miles from town, smack dab in the middle of 730,000 acres of beautiful panoramic view, is much more simple than I had imagined it to be.
Truth be told, I feel slightly spoiled. During business hours we can fire up a huge diesel generator that powers the Tetlin Visitor Center, thus giving light and power to both the Center, and more exciting in my opinion, our RV way out back. This power creates a nice environment for guests to stop in and learn about the land, animals, and migratory paths that are protected here. With power we can also provide media for their viewing, along with a hot cup of coffee.
Most exciting, because we have a power source we were able to install fifth generation satellite internet, so I can now use WiFi to text family and friends and have access to the joys of social media while on site. This is a huge upgrade from driving 80 miles to town just to get access to slow and less than steady 3G cell service. I am winning at life over here people!
So let’s be real, life continues before and long after business hours. I mean the sun never sets so I have given up on bed times and a sense of being tired. Therefore when we need power in the RV, outside of business hours, we have a Honda 2000 generator that suits us well. An example of the joys of this tiny generator provides is the ability to use a toaster, or microwave, or the beloved A/C unit that gives life when the temperature creeps up to 70 degrees on a hot day. I am also being quite serious about that, 70 degrees is too hot to handle after adjusting to the cold weather here.
The less than convenient part of using a generator when you wake up and want simple amenities, is that you have to walk outside to pull start the unit, all the while watching for bears, performing this half awake in the rain, all because you just want some coffee and 5am came way too soon.
Honestly though, it’s not that bad. I just know for certain that when I move back to the lower 48, I will never take plumed-in electricity for granted. In fact I dream about electronics that work all hours of the night and coffee pots that brew with a timer. Until then, I am making excellent use of the quiet time, and becoming a world-class board game champion over here. (Thank you to everyone who considered my potential boredom and gifted me games before I left for this adventure, you rule!)
Anyway, when I say that the Interior of Alaska is wild, it really is. You could drive for hours and never cross a town, live for weeks and never see another human, or find yourself settled in on the Great Alaskan Highway and see hundreds of people who travel the world to reach Alaska on their most thrilling vacation yet. I have met so many individuals who are simply beaming with life over this adventure.
If you have seen the photos I post, you probably notice how everything in the Interior looks the same. It really does for the most part, with only a few mild changes over hundreds of miles. There is pure beauty in each direction. The Boreal forest consists of Black and White Spruce trees, Aspen, Birch, Poplar’s and wild flowers. The wild flowers are everywhere. I have never seen so much water in my life; there is a lake, river or stream in every direction.
Working with Fish and Wildlife has been an incredible experience and I have so much fun every single day. Part of my job is to reach out to travelers and teach them about the land, culture, and the species who reside in the part of the world.
The strangest thing that I find myself educating the public on is animal safety, although I find that often this topic falls upon def ears. Many visitors are so eager to see the bears (better you than me, buddy). You see, 98% of the Grizzlies in North America reside in Alaska. They are just about as prevalent as the misquotes here.
Fun fact: the Black bear tend to me more aggressive than the Grizzlies if startled. The last thing in the world that I am interested in seeing is a bear who is huffing and clicking its jaws.
Now hear me out, a bear encounter can result in any number of outcomes, however I can say this; Grizzlies don’t like anything. They don’t like being startled by people, they certainly don’t like a barking dog, in fact they don’t even like a tree if it happens to be in their way.
…Now let’s get up close and take a photo for memory lane. Seriously, people! I will be sure to post the photo on your gravestone so we have something to remember you by. Sheesh, this is all too common.
Here are some cold hard facts that I can share. In the 10 weeks that I have been here, three people have been mauled, another killed, and half a dozen encounters that ended in self-defense with a shotgun. Scary right?
In fact some members of our team were working on a biology project and they were dropped at a cabin via float plane. Just minutes after they landed, the team was charged by two separate Grizzlies just minutes apart. Thankfully no one was harmed but I can only imagine how that must have felt.
Despite how insane that probably sounds, I am falling in love with this place. Still, I am very careful to ensure that I practice safety in all that I do, as I will certainly be the last person attempting to tango with the wildlife. I am enjoying it so much that I hope to be back next summer although who knows what I will be doing 6 months from now. We have so many projects to complete in Montana, or else I could find myself living on a bare property for all of eternity.
Originally Fish and Wildlife was so kind to invite us up for 8 weeks of summer however before too long they asked us to stay longer. I happily agreed to living on the Refuge for 12 weeks, then we will move to head quarters and live there until we get too cold and have to head south. I like the cold but the Interior falls below zero fairly quickly and I don’t want to get frostbite in my RV, that just doesn’t sound too appealing.
Honestly, I am full of gratitude for the opportunity to live here, and have as much fun as we do, all the while learn about the life and culture in Alaska. To be honest, I didn’t realize that living here would feel like the Wild Wild West but this place surprises me every time I turn around.
Here are a few things that I was surprised about, and enjoy about Alaska:
- It rains almost every single day. Apparently the rainy season is July, fall starts in August and winter hits by September.
- The misquotes are not as bad as we were told they would be. I have seen worse on the Yellowstone river in Montana.
- You never get used to the never-ending day light. I enjoy the sun but really miss a night sky. It is impossible to want to sleep when the lights are on.
- The moose really are magical, they might as well be unicorns or at least treated as such.
- The sense of community is fairly incredible. Kindness grows on trees here.
If I haven’t convinced you that Alaska should be your next destination than I suppose I will try harder. Now that I have internet that flows freely, and my hearts desires have been answered, I will get around to posting about my trips around Alaska and my favorite places, so when you make the trip you’ll know where to go.
Until then, don’t forget to enjoy your endless electricity in my honor, and thank your local lineman for the hard work they preformed to ensure that your house has this simple luxury. I can assure you that I am only slightly jealous.