My turn: Praises for the Last Frontier

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2007

I miss Alaska - having been raised all my life with the belief that Alaska is both bigger and better than any place on earth.

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Moving to Vancouver, Wash., in July 2007 has not changed my mind about Alaska. My fears about moving from Alaska were the same as those usually reserved for people moving to Alaska. I felt like I was leaving civilization. I had always talked about taking a break from my career and spending it with my children. I took advantage of the transition and did just that. This last summer was definitely one of the best summers of my life. Hiking, biking, reading and spending time with friends and family reinforced my belief that, in particular, Juneau is one of the best places on earth to live. Watching the changing seasons while walking along Basin Road, riding my bike to the Mendenhall Glacier, taking my children to Sandy Beach are all memories I cherish.

It goes without saying that I miss my friends and family. I also miss the safety and serenity of Juneau. Those who know me well know I value my personal safety. Shortly after moving here, I was extremely proud of myself when I didn't miss a beat upon hearing helicopters hovering close enough to my house that my son and his friends could ride their bikes to witness the hostage situation being investigated by the local police force and reported on by local newscasters. A town of 150,000 has more alarming news accounts than those in Juneau. That is just the way it is.

One of the things I miss about living in a temperate rain forest is the ability to use as much water as you want to without a worry. One could leave the hose running overnight and not miss a beat. Here in Washington, there is a big decision about whether to let your lawn "go brown" in the summer's blistering heat or use precious water to stay green.

It would not be quite fair if I did not put in a plug for my new home. My husband is enjoying the weather and golf courses. About three weeks after we arrived, my daughter asked when we would start driving everywhere as I had lamented before we arrived. We live in a great neighborhood and are close to everything. We can and do walk to the movies, ballet practice, restaurants, health club, grocery store, doctor and dentist offices and are right next to a lovely park. My son loves playing fall baseball and my daughter has never spent so much time playing outdoors. We have an excellent local newspaper. Having never recycled (shock, gasp), there is a great recycling program here. It is easy to do with curbside pickup of cardboard, newspapers, plastic bottles and metal cans. The shopping is great. My husband looked on in horror after I, always a relatively modest consumer, embraced shopping with vigor usually reserved for more productive pursuits. I tell him that I can control it; it does not control me.

I feel so extremely fortunate to have seen as much of Alaska as I have. I have cross-country skied in Valdez in the middle of winter. Do you realize the average annual snowfall in Valdez is 325 inches? It was amazing. I have been in Barrow when the sun does not rise or set and toured its utilidor project. I have kayaked in Woodtikchik state park, hiked the Chilkoot trail, ridden in a helicopter over Prince William Sound and heard a sonic boom in Fairbanks. I celebrated Alaska Day in Sitka (twice). A couple of years ago, I came to the realization that people spend a lot of money to come to Alaska, and I wanted to show my children more of it. We stepped up our touring but did not accomplish enough for me.

There are good reasons for us to be in Vancouver and perhaps I will embrace this community as ardently as my beloved Alaska. For now, I will leave you with good wishes, and with something my children practically shout to new acquaintances: Alaska Rules!

• Susan M. Taylor is a former Juneau and longtime Alaska resident. She now resides in Vancouver, Wash.

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