Category Archives: Alaska

Sticks and Stones


*Caution. If this photo offends you, it is not advisable to read this post.*


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…”

Unless those words are man, girl, wife, husband, a color or religious holiday, the phrase “brown bag it”, PB&J sandwiches, a compliment…

Welcome to the new world. Today you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone offended by something (hypothetically swung dead cats, for example). It’s almost as if we are manufacturing reasons to be offended.

People, this isn’t healthy.

(Feeling heated? You might want to stop reading now)

But what is the fix for such an affliction? The obvious answer – focusing on truly offensive behavior like murder, starvation, genocide – is, apparently, not only not obvious but not effective. So, what are we to do?

What if this disease is like the flu? What if, like the flu, things must get worse before they get better? The offended fever hasn’t broken because it hasn’t reach max temp yet.

I hope so, because if that is the case I can help.

I happened to live in a state abundant in offenses! Offenses I bet most of you have never heard of! Offenses that will make your blood boil.

(Palms sweaty, heart racing? You should stop reading now)

And so, in the interest of world peace and harmony, I am here today to stir the pot. Following are 5 truly offensive things happening every year right here in Alaska:

#1 The Fur Rendezvous festival

Ever February Alaskans come together and celebrate – that’s right – Fur. For a solid week, there are dead animal skins EVERYWHERE.

#2 The Miners and Trappers Ball.

If you are of the offended class, you would probably rename this party the “earth rapist and animal hater extravaganza”. Champagne anyone?

#3 Outhouse races

A race where teams see who can push a toilet the fastest. Elaborately decorate latrines racing down main street, what’s not to love? But you can’t be completely offended by this. After all, outhouses are unisex.

#4 The Iditarod

Dogs pulling humans on sleds. (Honestly if you find this offensive, you’ve never met a sled dog before. However, since our goal here is not understanding but instead unleashed ire, let’s forget about the motivations of a sled dog for now). This is dog slavery. Maybe the dog would rather watch movies in pajamas? How do you know?

#5 The Wilderness Woman Contest

I know, right away you are wondering what could possible be offensive about women exhibiting their outdoor prowess? Let me help. Besides hauling wood, catching fish and climbing trees, one of the skills the women are occasionally required to perform is –

“making a sandwich and opening a beverage for a reclining bachelor watching Sunday-afternoon football on a simulated TV” (“wilderness woman contest” Wikipedia)

One animal was harmed in creating this picture
One animal was harmed in creating this picture

(Don’t tell any feminists but I have a secret wish to enter this contest.)

Are you mad yet?


I told you to stop reading.


Congratulations, you have the one tool required to survive the apocalypse – a sense of humor.

I’ll see you on the other side.



Hunting, what really happened

My boys went hunting last weekend and, because I wanted to aid in the successful stuffing of our freezer for the winter (without having to actually do anything), I decided to help them pack.

My job was food. As I wish to see them happy, I asked what they wanted.

They said:

“Shredded beef, roast beef, turkey, ham…”

“Hamburgers, hot dogs…”


“That’s it? You aren’t forgetting anything”

“Oh right. And cheese. Thanks Mom”

“What are you going to eat for breakfast?”

“Can we have Poptarts?”

I have not been so happy to not be on a camping trip in a while. Think about it. The lot of them in an 11 x 12 foot camper on a diet of protein and sugar.

good times
good times

Anyway, I packed what they asked for and, because I love them, included condiments, a loaf of bread, and a selection from the popular food groups “chips” and “dips”.

I’m just caring like that.

(I also tossed in some food from the lesser known – more nutrient dense and life sustaining – groups, but that was only so I could unpack those same foods, untouched, a few days later.)

(I’m just ridiculous like that.)

Then, I sent them on their merry way and for the next 72 hours wallowed in the misery of my empty home pining for their return…


I sent them on their merry way and for the next 72 hours I did whatever the hell I felt like.

(I won’t go into wild details but suffice it to say Wine and Pinterest were involved.)

(It was awesome)

And then it was over. Waaaaaay too soon. My beloved family returned a day early.

Rained out, they said and wet they were.

But…funny thing…

I cooked vegetarian that night and, for the first time ever, guess what was missing.

Complaints and leftovers.


For those wondering, the weekend wasn’t a total bust. They came back with a grouse.

And ate it. Wrapped in bacon.


Reboot 2017

If you didn’t see it on my FB page, here is my husband’s explanation for my lack of blog last Monday:

Jolie is off grid. She and K took the pickup and camper Friday morning and went berry picking at Tangle lakes between Glennallen and Fairbanks. No mobile signal. They took 4 boxes of wine and assorted bottles of spirits. Wonder if they will come back with berries?

Anyway #alaskagirlskickass

For the record: We did get berries. GALLONS of berries.

What it means to be rich
This is wealth.
Fat Heaven
Fat Heaven
Berry Blood
The blood of our enemies…or berries.

We even found mushrooms.

"baby" King Bolete. They get MUCH bigger.
“baby” King Bolete. They get BIGGER. O.O

And the only booze we used up completely was the beer. (So there Mowgli.)

Yes. #alaskagirlskickass

For those wondering, beautiful Tangle lakes is 269.6 miles from my front door. It takes about five and a half hours to drive there (in summer) if you do it in one shot which, of course, requires:

A super-efficient car with a massive fuel tank (F350 carrying 4000lbs of camper? Yeah, no.)


A berry picking partner happy with 5.5 hours in a car (mine was not. In fact she made it clear that if I don’t promise to stop A LOT MORE next trip, there won’t be one.)

One of the rare occasions the travel natzi (me) allowed us to stop.
Sheep Mountain. One of the rare occasions the travel Nazi (aka me) permitted stopping.
Chugach Mountains (home)

Anyway, we made it in about six hours (can you guess who was pleased with that and who was not?)

6 hours.

270 miles.

Divided thusly:

90 miles of: hairpin turns, steep drop offs, impressive grades and stunning scenery you’re too scared to take your eyes off the road to enjoy.

90 miles of: reasonable roads that, from your perspective, are nectar of the gods and mind-blowing landscape you can appreciate without penalty of death.

90 miles of: a white-knuckle frost heaved roller coaster carved through more countryside that’s probably amazing but you are, again, too focused on not crashing to really take in.

I know. You have just now decided you are NEVER visiting Tangle lakes EVER.

But wait… it’s totally worth it. Just look:


It was still summer at my house. We literally drove into a change of season.
Woke up to a little termination dust Sunday
Woke up to a little termination dust (aka snow) Sunday. Far left mountain top.

What’s more, it’s fun.

No kids, no husbands (we love you family! But…) all the berries you could want (we wanted GALLONS evidently), hiking trails forever, fire, wine, stars (Aurora one night) and (because we are complete princesses) a generator, heater, TV and Mama Mia DVD.

This is the Alaskan equivalent of a spa weekend.

(For the record: Actual spa weekends are a thing here as well)

And to top it all off, NOT ONE BEAR. Which is weird because they aren’t called “Ber-ries“ for nothing.

It goes to show you that in Alaska, if you’re willing to work for it, there is plenty for everyone. No need to get in each other’s way.

(Yes Mr. Bear, you who trampled and robbed my raspberries last week, I’m talking to YOU. Lazy thief…)

And to my berry partner – please, please, please take me here again! I promise to drive slow, stop, smell roses…


Is it September yet?

Summer in Alaska is a singular experience.


For starters, Alaskan summers are visually stunning. You don’t even want to blink let alone close your eyes for 8 of every 24 hours. There is too much to miss. This is nature donning her Sunday best every day for 3 months, and there is a wealth of activity! The fishing, hiking, boating, wildlife spotting…When the outdoors screams at you like that, you run to her.

Which means, June through August, you stay the F#$% awake.

Ironically, as luck (and biology) would have it, Alaskan summers are also treacherous.

Alaska is bursting with life, the more deadly of which (just like you) wakes up for summer. (Another reason to keep your eyes open ALL THE TIME). There are 3 types of bear, large unpredictable moose and big cats but there are also some pretty scary little guys.

As my son reminded me yesterday:

“Mom I think I saw a wasp. It was about 2 inches long with a HUGE stinger and red stripes…”

(FYI that was not a wasp)

Even some of the botanicals are out to get you. Digging in the garden last week I brushed up against a plant know to scar human flesh before remembering,

“oh right, poisonous…”

(I’m fine by the way.)

The offensive green was removed immediately as I can’t be expected to stay out of the garden…all summer…in Alaska…

Like I said, singular.

Severely singular…thrilling, intense, ubiquitously exhausting…

(No I’m pretty sure that’s a thing)

All of the above.

And the effect this has on those who live here is curious. About the end of July a strange sensation begins to take hold and suddenly, shockingly, bizarrely (for an inhabitant of a place with such a short summer)…

Winter starts to seem like a pretty cool concept.

(Eagle River with bear and Eagle River without. You decide)

Yeah winter, it’s dark, people sleep, there’s no bear, the poisonous plants are gone and the life cycle of the 2 inch red stripped ‘wasp’ has ended.

Winter…there’s an idea…

Is it September yet?


Alaskan check list


Well here we are, rounding off our first full week back in the 49th.

First week, that is, plus a couple days. But since those days were little more than a blur of boxes, cleaning supplies and the occasional “look, a new road” I’m not counting them.

Anyway it’s more interesting to count other things. Like these curiosities of local life:

The number of times I begrudged Walmart for being the closest department store to my house: 

10. Ten times, in seven days.

Walmart is not only the closest store it’s the only store. The next option is 3 miles beyond.

We have nothing. I have spent the week trapped in a vortex of little time and much need. Enter, Walmart.

Of all the gin joint neighborhoods in all the world, they had to build a store in mine…

Despite this…

The number of times I went to Walmart:

10. Ten times.

One trip was actually to visit the bank inside Walmart. However after finishing my business there I stepped left to shop for chest waders.

So, I have to count it.

On a related note:

The number of time I’ve used the word “waders” in casual conversation this week:


Alaska. July. It’s a bit like visiting Germany without saying “strudel”. Yeah no.

On a slightly more frightening note…

The number of conversations I’ve had since arrival that ultimately turned to a bear rant:

All of them

This summer’s bear population is extremely “healthy” (as one woman euphemistically phrased it. Healthy/deadly Potato/potaato). The bears are so prolific that if you leave food out, your neighbors are likely to maul you. 

Which begs the questions – wasn’t that one of the reasons we left?

Final count for the week (and if you didn’t see this coming, you don’t know me AT ALL)

The number of times I’ve said, either audibly or mentally, “Hawaii”.


That’s 3.5 times a day though I believe the bulk were said last Saturday shortly before this photo was taken.

By Mowgli. Because I looked fierce.

(Beautiful Friday, stunning Sunday…Saturday, WTF?)

Alaska is great. The Mountains, the opportunity, the lifestyle…

And thanks to Hawaii, I just might survive it.



The Anarchist twitch

So, here’s a side effect of leaving Alaska that I did not see coming, I am suffering ordnance withdrawals.

That’s right, I’m desperate to blow something up.

Calm down. I can say things like this. Thanks to previous employment I’m already in a government database somewhere. Homeland security knows I’m not a terrorist, just an Alaskan feeling a little homesick.

(Now there’s a fine line…).

What’s brought this on? Who knows but I’m inclined to say the weather. It’s wet, I want fire and making one here isn’t easy without a serious catalyst.

(No matter what the fire department would have you believe. Funny story, on last week’s hike we found a CAUTION FIRE DANGER sign in what – after weeks of relentless rain – was less “trail” and more “raging river”. Honestly someone should design such posts to be invisible until the weather’s sufficiently dry enough for the danger to be believable. Otherwise it’s just one more reason for people like me to distrust authority.)

(Again, not a terrorist, just a girl from Eagle River.)

But, back to my need for pyrotechnics, it would be unfair to place all the blame on rain. Without a doubt, living with boys, creatures who are functionally deaf unless the conversation turns to explosives, is not helping me. Check our computer’s search history and you’ll find “C4” popping up with alarming regularity. Also, “Nuclear reaction” is mentioned so often around here I’m thinking of turning it into a drinking game.

(Dear NSA, CIA, SIS… lighten up…)

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how I got to this mental place, the point is to get out. How? There are no fireworks here and Mowgli, God bless him, is only a fraction of the way through this countries legal maze to gun ownership. What are our options after that? Fertilizer? Molotov cocktail? Call me chicken, but the risk to entertainment ratio with both those is beyond even my unorthodox senses…so far.

Maybe I just need to relax and this will pass. Yeah that’s it, maybe I just need to drink a beer, put on some Ted Nugent and eat a cow. Maybe then I’ll be sated…

Until that time though, to the bottle rocket!

6 Things about Ireland only Alaskans would find weird


1) Garages are superfluous structures.

Fair enough. It snows very little here. So little that 1 inch will put the entire country in lockdown. And that, for  Alaskans (and many Canadians I know), is a head scratching concept.

We are what we live though, so I wont go as far as to call that weird. Remember that summer it hit 75 F in Alaska and everyone moved into their campers because it was too warms indoors? That was weird.

Speaking of weather…

2) Irish rivers are widest (most flooded) in winter. What??

The Shannon feeling a little bloat, poor girl. Meanwhile, I'm dreaming of a dry Christmas...
The Shannon feeling a little bloat, poor girl. Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of a dry Christmas…


That thing about no snow plays a part. Still, though, weird.

3) You can drive from one side of the country to the other in under 3 hours, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone doing it much. An hour in a car is considered arduous. Get with it. Mass doesn’t even last that long.

And this situation may or may not be tied to our next item…

4) It is not common for kids under 16 years to operate motorized vehicles. Forget about boats, 4wheelers and snow machines here it’s not weird if a 20 year old doesn’t know how to drive a car. Ireland is home, however, to a large percentage of skilled horsemen and people who don’t screw up catching a train as often as I do. (Abilities I might trade my CDL for…) 

5) In conversation a “chicken” is always, always a chicken and never a halibut. Also, no one ever expects the word “salmon” to be preceded with “silver, red, king, humpy…” Not even in restaurants.

(Not that you’d ever see humpys on a menu… but….oh dear I’m letting my Alaskan show, aren’t I?)

6) Christmas lights up and lit before December 1st or after January 8th are an evil on par with assassinating an Archduke.

And for this social misstep I wish to seek forgiveness in advance, lest I forget and start world war 3.

I am sorry but it’s very dark in February in Alaska and old habits die hard.


Merry Christmas everyone!