I'm guessing that you're either wondering what the title of this blog post means, or you know exactly what it means because you've experienced it yourself. Alaska captures your soul, it just does. Not everyone has this experience, but many do.
^My First King Salmon! (2017)
When I found myself working a summer job on an Island in Alaska four years ago, I felt at home in a way that I never had before. So let's start with how I got there!
I grew up in land-locked Colorado. Moved to Oregon after high school and two years after that & four years ago now, I found myself on a plane from Oregon to Alaska, to spend three months working for my older sister on the Island of Prince of Wales. When she called me three months earlier to ask if I wanted to spend the summer with her in Alaska, I (almost) immediately said yes. I was yearning to travel, and this was my call. I had never been to Alaska before and had no idea what to expect.
That first summer (2017) I worked for my sister at her art gallery, and got another job working at a fishing lodge in town as a morning server. I had to be there at 4 am. Who eats breakfast at 4 am!? Fishermen and Fisherwomen (it's a term) do.
I'd spent that summer in awe of the different world I found myself in. Alaska was unlike anything I'd ever known. I lived in a small town right on the water, with one gas station, one grocery store, and two harbors.
Before I'd come to Alaska, I'd fished maybe 5 times in my life. Maybe a few more, but it wasn't really my thing. Then I found myself in the epicenter of fishing culture in this small coastal Alaskan town. There were fishing lodges all around the island (third biggest island in the US), and two harbors that commercial boats could dock in. We have a processing plant on the island- where commercial boats unload their fish to be processed.
I was in awe not only of the fishing culture, but of the small community, wildlife, and sense of roughness that many Alaskans seem to have. Which I now know is just innate baddassery. Alaska is a different world. People are used to doing things themselves, and everyone seems to be a jack of all trades. Many people fish and hunt to stock up for the winter, and are also artisians, make batches of jelly from local flowers, and likely are the local postmaster or your neighbor.
There is also a simplicity about Alaska. The phone service was spotty, there is one gas station in town, one post office, and no stop lights. You aren't plagued with advertisements and billboards like other places, and it's unbelievably easy to disconnect for days on end. Infact, for the first three summers I spent there (spoiler: I came back the next summer), I somehow managed to break my phone, and living on an island meant that I was without one for at least three weeks. It turned out to be a blessing.
The wildlife on the island was incredible. Bald eagles were everywhere, black bears were sometimes seen roaming around town, and whales could be seen breaching & spouting.
I remember one instance, working in the morning at the fishing lodge, when a bald eagle rammed full throttle into one of the the windows. I remember thinking, "wow, I'm definitely in Alaska" followed by "I really hope that bird is okay" (it flew away shortly after). I could look out the same window and see a black bear down by the inlet catching a fish.
I left this summer with some of the most incredible experiences I'd ever had under my belt. I'd seen the northern lights from a helicopter pad, kayaked in the ocean at sunset at 11:30 PM, had an Alaskan summer romance, had sat in "hanging nets" suspended in the trees 15 feet above ground, and felt a sense of simplicity that I had never felt before. I'd felt like I knew half of this small coastal community, and always said hi to someone when I made my way to the grocery store.
So by the end of this summer, Alaska had captured my soul. It sounds like a cliche, but it's the only way to describe it. Alaska is a feeling. A feeling of home, of community, of wonder, of simplicity.
I'd felt this subtle sense that I was meant to be in this place my whole life. So, I knew I had to come back the next summer. But I wanted to do something different, something more "alaskan."
I had a friend who cut fish at a fishing lodge nearby, and by November of that year (back in Oregon at this point) I knew I was going to come back the next summer and learn how to cut fish.
More updates on that to come.
Are you from Alaska? Or have you been to Alaska? Did you have a similar experience? What impact did Alaska have on you?
^Kayaking on the ocean. 11:30 pm.