JusJoJan – Remembering Alaska

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In 1976 I moved to Alaska with my daughter to help care for my sister and her family. I was on the end of a painful divorce and my sister needed help. There was nothing else needed to convince me to go.

I arrived in summer and I was shocked at how beautiful and warm it was. We went bike riding in the hilly neighborhood behind her house. The days were long and luxurious. The local radio stations were playing Elton John and Kiki Dee – “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – on what seemed like an endless loop. That summer would be the first of many in Alaska. I have such fond memories of the splendor that is Alaska.

The mountains looked black to me from all the dark rich evergreens. I do not know how many times I asked why the mountains looked so black. From Earthquake Park (a residential neighborhood that was decimated in the Good Friday earthquake of 1964) to Mirror Lake and on to Mount McKinley, it was all amazing, Looking out over Portage and Matanuska glaciers, you cannot help but stand in awe of nature’s forces. I cannot help but wonder if the glaciers have receded in the 44 years since I lived there.

This was the time my sister, BJ, and I grew to love and depend on each other. She was the reason I took this journey with my daughter. After her recovery from back surgery we lived together and had adventures together. Our children bonded and we became a stronger family as a result.

Living in Alaska is an every day adventure. It was not unusual to be late for work because of moose blocking the roadway. You NEVER confront a moose! I worked shift work as a switchboard operator on Elmendorf AFB. On nights the northern lights were on display we climbed onto the roof of the building to observe the dancing lights in utter amazement.

Alaska requires you to immerse yourself in all she has to offer. Ivory and jade and gold nugget jewelry was plentiful . I even had a pair of jade polar bear earrings, but sadly only one of them survived the years. We wore parkas and mukluks to keep warm. Cars required head bolt heaters to insure they would start in the morning.

Winter brought termination dust (the first winter snow to appear on the mountain tops) and spring brought breakup (a muddy mess of mud left as winter snow melted away). Winter days were short but summer days languished until midnight.

I have driven the Alaska Canada highway twice. It is a long but breathtaking journey. We almost got trapped in a little town called Fireside when a major forest fire was on our tail. (Fireside was ravaged by the fires). I have hiked Arctic Valley with my children and felt more earthquake tremors than I ever wanted to experience. I have picked fiddlehead ferns on the edge of the forest and watched in awe as the salmon fight their way upstream to spawn.

I hope to go back someday but I fear it will have changed more than my heart can handle.

This post is part of Just Jot It January, brought to us by Linda Hill. Today’s inspiration word was provided by MB. Check out their blogs if you want further inspiration.

39 thoughts on “JusJoJan – Remembering Alaska”

    1. They are beautiful, but no. They are massive and territorial. We were all instructed to let them have the right-of-way. It was a valid excuse to be late for work. 😂

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      1. Yikes, my sister and her not-legal (off-leash) dogs in Colorado had quite the altercation with a moose a few years back. They didn’t get the better of it!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. What a beautiful way to describe this magical place. I’d love to go back, too…but I have the same fears..Plus, I’m pretty sure since I was so young when we left there, the way I remember it would be in stark contrast to reality. Maybe we’ll venture there together one day?

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  2. You do describe it as a magical place, I will never get to visit, so I have to live vicariously through you and your stories! I can barely get my husband to leave Texas much less visit Alaska, lol. It’s as much a dream for me as Hawaii, Switzerland, or Italy…other places I wish I could go. Maybe in my next life, lol.

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  3. Sounds beautiful and then some. Love the description of the moose. A large animal that needs to be observed from a safe distance. I remember seeing buffalo up close in South Dakota. We were finally leaving the group of people who were confused by the do not disturb/approach the buffalo. We were driving slowly when a bull and three cows came up the road literally. I slowed and yielded the road. They dwarfed the car. Talk about feeling small. Thanks

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    1. The lights do look like that. When you see them, however, they move constantly, dancing across the sky. Not every show is as big or as colorful but every one will take your breath away.

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  4. I have always wanted to see the northern lights, and the grand scenery of Alaska did tempt me at one time. However, a friend who went on holiday there talked of being plagued by swarms of mosquitoes that ruined his holiday. Is that true? (You didn’t mention those)
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Pete, I think it depends when and where you go. The joke is the mosquito is the state bird. They are really bad in some places for sure, but in the more urban areas it was no worse than anywhere else I have ever lived. I have seen them swarm though, and that can be unsettling. It was a rare occurrence for me.

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  5. I too worry about going back to some places I loved in the mid 1970’s, so I understand your hesitation about going back to Alaska, no matter how incredibly lovely.

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  6. What a lovely remembrance, Maggie! Some places are revisited with happiness and familiarity; others seem transformed beyond imagination.

    I’ve found historic cities (under preservation guidelines) and national parks (in our country) to be the most stable in terms of memories revisited. Other places are either improved or transformed in either good or bad ways, depending on zoning/planning standards and where it is in the world, in my experience.

    Thanks again for a great post.

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    1. I think you are right, Lisa. I wish we were more loving of our country and its natural and environmental history.


  7. I have always wanted to go to Alaska and see the northern lights. The way you describe it sounds like heaven. I’m wondering if you have one favorite place to recommend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JoAnna, it is hard to know how things may have changed since I was there. Seward for salmon fishing, Mt. McKinley, Alaskaland (now Pioneer Park) in Fairbanks, any of the glaciers and I have never been but the Aurora Train sounds amazing.

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