North to Alaska I – Location, Location, Location
Mrs. Animal and I have been planning this for twenty years. We’re now at the light at the end of the tunnel stage. Here is the genesis story of our planned move from Colorado to Alaska.
By Way of Background
I’ve never liked living in town. You all have read enough stories of my youth to know why this is the case.
My business, unfortunately, requires me to be near a major international airport. For the last fifteen years that I’ve been making my living as an independent consultant, Denver International Airport has served well enough, but there are other airports.
When we first started thinking beyond the rigamarole of early and late flights and long hours/days/weeks/months on the road, we entertained notions of staying in the Mountain West. Colorado’s Yampa Valley was on the list, or maybe a place down in the San Juans. But Colorado, for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who’s been watching this state, has been off the list for some time.
We considered Wyoming, northern Utah, and Idaho. We wanted a place where we can live out in the woods a way, but we still will need to be within a reasonable distance of an airport and, for Mrs. Animal, a VA hospital for her service-connected disability. We love to hunt, fish and shoot, we love the outdoors, with wildflowers and wildlife. Most of all, we want to be left the hell alone.
Then a magazine article I had read back in my teens came to mind; it was an article describing land available under the Homestead Act.
In Alaska. The word, “Alaska,” derives from the Aleut “Alyeska,” meaning, more or less, “The Great Land” or “The Mainland.” But of the two translations, “The Great Land” suits.
I brought it up to Mrs. Animal. We did some reading about the forty-ninth state and came away intrigued. But at that time, around 2000, we had small kids at home and neither time nor money to fly to the Great Land to have a look.
And there the matter lay until 2006.
Then We Saw It.
In June of 2006, I surprised Mrs. Animal with plane tickets to Alaska for a long weekend, and a booking for a B&B on the Kenai Peninsula.
Arriving in Anchorage on a Thursday night at about eleven, we were treated to our first example of the kind of weird not-really-dark, not-quite twilight of an Alaskan summer evening. The late arrival mandated we stay in the area to sleep, so we drove up to Eagle River and stayed in a cheap-sleep.
Friday morning, we got up early and headed for the Peninsula. The drive down the Homer Highway was magnificent. We stopped to watch belugas playing in the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, then drove around the Arm, making the turn into the Kenai Peninsula proper at Portage. The drive into Soldotna was even more beautiful, and on that morning, we were hooked. “This,” I told Mrs. A as we rolled into Soldotna, “is the place for us.” She enthusiastically agreed.
As Time Went By:
Over the next few years, we made several trips north to the Great Land. We went north as far as Fairbanks, did some salmon fishing on the Kenai, and went out on a halibut fishing expedition with an outfitter (Alaskan Fishing Fever, out of Anchor Point – I highly recommend them.) Our kids came to be as fond of Alaska as we are, and at least one of them harbors notions of eventually moving to the Anchorage area.
On one of those trips we shipped home a hundred and sixty pounds of salmon and halibut. Overnighting the fish cost more than our plane tickets!
Every trip we made to the Great Land, we found more we liked about the place. Every trip we made to the Great Land, it was harder to leave.
Practical considerations are always a part of any decision, though. We need to be near a VA hospital, as Mrs. Animal has to have treatment for her service-connected injury. I need to be reasonably near an airport, as I’ll probably never give up working completely, at least until my health forces me to, and if my Dad was any indication, that could be in my nineties.
Travel up from the Kenai can be a problem in the winter. So, after the final decision that was easily made, we had to look for locations.
So, why Alaska?
I don’t think I need to describe the sad state of Colorado these days.
It’s a shame, because Colorado is a place I loved when I first moved here in 1989. In those days it was still South Wyoming, not the East California it has become today.
I won’t go into a deconstruction of how Colorado fell. Suffice it to say there’s a lot I will miss about this place; we raised our family here, after all. The house we will be leaving has been our home for twenty-two years. Mrs. Animal and I have lived in this house longer than either of us have ever lived anywhere in either of our lives. Our four daughters will always remember it as the house they grew up in.
But Colorado these days is a mess. Denver and even our own Aurora haven’t been immune to the unrest that has troubled the country this summer. The state government has been captured by statist lefties who seem determined to destroy any vestige of common sense from the state Capitol.
The mountains are still there. Colorado still has the biggest elk herd in the lower 48, which was part of the attraction for me when I moved here thirty-one years ago.
However, almost everything Colorado has, Alaska has more of. More mountains, more rivers, more fish, more game. More space. No elk, but plenty of bears, moose, and caribou. Three species of grouse and three species of ptarmigan, with a six-month season and a daily bag limit of ten birds. A waterfowler’s paradise, and some of the best fishing in the world, for trout, salmon, halibut and more.
Best of all, Alaska – at least, outside of Anchorage – is still home to plenty of independent, self-reliant folks. On our last trip up, we stopped for a drink at a general store in the tiny village of Sutton, on the Glenallen Highway east of Palmer. We noticed no one in the store was wearing a mask. The six-foot social distancing thing seemed to be roundly disregarded. I mentioned it to the storekeeper with a laugh, indicating it was a joke. She laughed in reply: “Socially distance? From who?” A fair point when you live in a village with maybe fifteen hundred residents.
Alaska is a place with room to breathe. It’s rated as tied for first place among the fifty states in Second Amendment freedoms, and only misses the top spot in other ratings of individual liberties because many of the bush villages are dry. Recreational marijuana is legal. Constitutional carry is the law, although you can have a permit for the asking, for reciprocity purposes. Outside of town, open carry is not only common but, given some of the wildlife, actually advisable.
It’s a place where a body can go live quietly, do as one pleases, and not be bothered. That, perhaps, is the greatest draw.
As It Stands…
So now we’re not quite up to house-hunting, but the move north to the Great Land has begun. We have a storage unit in Wasilla, and are taking advantage of our United Airlines status to move small items – by year’s end we will have made four flights, taking two suitcases each full of clothing and other small goods (and, probably, our AR-15s and handguns that would be problematic to move through Canada) north.
We’re looking at housing along the Highway 1 corridor between the Wasilla city limits and Willow, the Big Lake area, and the Glenallen Highway between Palmer and Chickaloon.
There is still a lot of work to be done to get this house ready to sell, but our target is forty-eight months from now to have a house in the Great Land and be moved for good. I’m ready. I have my guns, my fishing gear, I even still have my traps. I have the same big, heavy, seventeen-foot aluminum cargo canoe I bought when I was fourteen.
My fondest hopes are to re-live many of the best things about my Allamakee County youth, only older, wiser, with more resources, and much, much, much more room to roam.
We can’t wait!