My Especially Alaskan Life

The Alaskan life is all about living to the fullest and taking advantage of every opportunity the Great Land has to offer — or at least creating that illusion on Facebook. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire file)

People often ask me what life is like in Alaska. Short answer: pretty much the same as the Lower 48, only with the ever-present possibility of getting pooped on by an eagle. Also, no Trader Joe’s.


But when I think about it — and I mean stop texting gratuitous selfies and actually think — we really do lead a unique existence up here. And mine is an especially Alaskan life.

I always go to bed at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m., no matter the season. November through February, I don’t keep hitting snooze until what passes for “dawn” finally breaks; I definitely don’t crawl right back under the covers the moment “daylight” starts receding again two hours later. Likewise, May through August, I never stay up puttering around until well past midnight for no good reason, and I’m hardly ever awakened by blazing sun at three in the morning. But even if I am, I’ve got no trouble returning to sleep immediately, with zero anxiety about all the hiking, cycling, fishing, camping, boating, lawn mowing, wood chopping, deck staining and/or any one of a dozen other home improvement projects I know I should be doing with my summer but blatantly am not. During the remaining months, both my circadian rhythms and overall mood remain blissfully unaffected by the endless grey and sideways precipitation of September and October, March and April. I love sleet; it makes me feel alive.

As an eye-opener, I do yoga first thing every morning — as opposed to downing two pots of coffee and a fifth of Carolans — free from the temptations of email, Amazon Prime, Cabela’s online, Netflix, Hulu and back-to-back-to-back re-reruns of “Quick Pitch” on the MLB network. Who needs screens when I can behold the majesty of my surroundings?

Then I run 20 miles straight up a mountain — rain or shine, although, obviously, I prefer rain. After that, I eat a healthy breakfast, either a smoothie featuring berries I picked myself (and most assuredly didn’t buy at Costco) or eggs from my own chicken coop because I didn’t decide raising hens in the sub-Arctic was a ridiculous boondoggle before “accidentally” leaving the bear-proof fence open and then setting the whole thing on fire in my yard, burn-bans be damned. Wait, I almost forgot! My smoothies always have rhubarb and spruce tips. Oh, how I adore rhubarb and spruce tips; I don’t just pretend to like them in Twitter posts.

After my daily (not weekly) shower, I put on fresh, clean clothes, as opposed to the same frayed hoodie and greasy Carhartts that inspire my wife to ask why I can’t dress “like I have a home.” In fact, I take pride in my appearance. I certainly haven’t gained 20 pounds of halibut nachos weight or grown a crazy guy beard. My skin exudes a healthy glow, as opposed to a cadaverous vitamin D deficiency. I wouldn’t dream of wearing fish blood-spattered Xtra Tuffs to a wedding.

Then it’s time to get to work. I always show up bright and early, never hung-over, and make full use of every minute (no staring out the window at nothing in particular for me!). I don’t fritter away my mornings with bathroom breaks and latte runs and I never disappear without explanation after lunch — which, again, invariably involves rhubarb and spruce tips. Nor do I skip work entirely when salmon are running, snow is falling or the Yankees are playing the Red Sox. I came to Alaska to advance my career, not hole up somewhere with a half-rack of Rainier. Absolutely not.

Now, even a type A alcoholic workaholic like me enjoys Alaska’s many recreational opportunities. I keep all my gear in tip-top condition, neatly stowed in clearly marked rubber bins. Indeed, my garage is a paragon of organization, and not a dumping ground for old mail; mismatched gloves; splintered ski poles; broken sleds; moldy tents; quarter-full coffee mugs; thrashed snow shoes and all manner of household hazardous waste. My kayak doesn’t have a gaping hole in its hull; my mountain bike hasn’t been hanging from the rafters for nearly a decade, ridden soft and put away dry. I know precisely where to find all my fishing tackle — and it’s totally not rusted. My chainsaw isn’t leaking black goo, either.

Evenings in the Great Land are especially magical. The children frolic outside, enjoying the wonders of nature — they never, ever whine about being bored or beg for the iPad — while my wife and I unwind by running another 20 miles straight up a mountain (again, preferably in rain, the harder the better).

Of course, we always sit down together to dine as a family — on a spotless table, uncluttered by dolls, fidget spinners and several days’ worth of soiled dishes — usually self-caught Alaskan seafood or wild game. Microwaved hot dogs crammed down standing over the sink? Absolutely not! And for dessert, you guessed it: more rhubarb and spruce tips. Nobody complains, nobody fights and nobody hides out in the back bedroom washing down Vicodin with Crown Royal.

Anyway, that’s what my life is like up here in Alaska. It’s all about living to the fullest and taking advantage of every opportunity the Great Land has to offer — or at least creating that illusion on Facebook.

• “Slack Tide” runs the second and fourth Sunday of each month in Neighbors. Follow me on twitter @geoffkirsch.


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