Next stop, Alaska's Largest Arctic Village

Ketchikan, Alaska was my speech-language job assignment for the months of January and February.  The second time around was much easier as I was already familiar with the kids, their objectives, the schedule, the town, etc.  Within the one month that I was absent, they'd gained an hour of sunlight on each end of the day!  No more leaving and returning from school in the dark.  It looks as though I will be returning to Ketchikan a few more times this semester, but my next stop is... Chukchi Sea VIllage of Kotzebue

KOTZEBUE, a native village (pop.3,600, approximately 70% native) located 33 miles of the Arctic Circle on Alaska's western coast.  Today, the sunrise is recorded for 9:18am and sunset will occur at 6:45pm; they are currently gaining 7 minutes of light each day.  Fast-forward to June 4th and the sun remains up until... July 9th!  The average high temperature for today, February 25, is 6 degrees while the low is 7 below.  Tourism, so says the internet, is limited as this is a working town.  However, native art made from mammoth and walrus ivory as well as furs and beadwork are of high quality and are 1/2 to 1/3 the price of that which is found in Anchorage.  "Cash is king" in Kotzebue and credit cards are often not accepted.  I stumbled upon a website's list of reasons to live in the arctic (http://kotzpdweb.tripod.com/reason.html) that I think is worth sharing: 

  • Thunder (and Lightning) storms are rare.
  • 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit are considered HOT days.
  • 24 hour sun for 20 days in June, 24 hour Dark for 20 days in December, equal 12hr sun/dark at March and September Equinoxes. Always changing!
  • The Sun is in a different position at any given time of the day. In other words, that morning commute 'sun in your eyes' will only be for about a week.
  • Aurora Borealis -the Northern Lights- always inspiring and viewable 6-9 months of the year!
  • No fleas, no cockroaches, no ticks, few spiders (unless you bring 'em with you).
  • Little chance of sunburn, sunstroke or skin cancer.
  • Less light pollution for viewing the stars and planets.
  • Less crowding, less traffic. You can usually walk where you need to go.
  • Cold air is heavier, so aircraft fly better in the cold (to a certain degree).
  • With Global Warming, the climate is only improving!

I'm not quite convinced--I love good ol' Colorado sun--but I'll try it for a week!  I believe that during this assignment I'll be staying in the school.  I've been told that when youth travel to towns such as this for school sports events, they spend the night in the school buildings as lodging is limited.  Also, the focus of my job will shift from treatments (my primary responsibility in Ketchikan) to assessments.  I'm excited about this--I love conducting evaluations.  Well, now you know everything I do about my next assignment.   Here's to my next adventure!

OF NOTE:  Austin's sister, Maggie, just confirmed that she will be McCarthy's museum coordinator for the first half of the '14 tourist season!  Yes, that's the job I had last summer--more later about my plans for this summer.  It's gonna be great to have her as a neighbor.  Also my two brothers, Will and Jesse, are planning on fishing in Cordova, Alaska (1 hour flight south of us) in August, along with our buddies Ryan and Forrest!  Thus, my parents are planning on coming up for a visit!  How about you?  We'd love to have y'all!

The last holdouts

I've heard several locals and visitors exalting McCarthy, where we are, and Cordova, where my brother, Jesse, is this summer (and my bro, Will, was the past two summers), as the "last holdouts" of Alaska.  These two tiny towns, they say, are the last to maintain the feel of old Alaska--though somewhat tourist-y they maintain the old charm. One of the last hurdles for Austin to jump in order to become an Alaskan "bush" pilot was to... take a drug test.  The nearest place to McCarthy that provides this service is none other than Cordova!  So, off we went on Sunday afternoon.  The one-hour flight was awe-inspiring.  We flew over snow capped peaks, through glacial valleys, beside raging waterfalls, and above iced-over fishing lakes.  The highlight of the trip was to see the "Million Dollar Bridge"*; I had just completed two books on the subject and was fortunate to see the structure from the air.  Though the bridge is near Cordova there is no longer road access; one must hike, raft, or fly to observe it.  We landed on a gravel runway that, as the passenger, I did not observe until seconds before touchdown--all I could see was water!  We borrowed a van from the airport and drove ourselves into town to meet up with Jesse.

Sibs

We spent the rest of the day exploring the boat Jess has been working on--they left today for black cod fishing.  He showed us the sleepy little town, we explored the old graveyards, and finished the evening at a great restaurant overlooking the harbor.  Afterwards, Austin and I headed to "hippie cove" to spend the night with Jesse.  Hippie cove is about a mile out of town and tucked into the woods on the side of a mossy, green mountain.  Fishermen from previous years built shelters for themselves to use until they were hired onto a boat; each year these "shanties" are available (free!) on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Jess has his own shelter he found covered in tarps with his tent underneath, however, as family visits are a special occasion and his friends were out on the boats for the night, we got to crash the ultimate "shanty".  It's comparable to real-life Swiss Family Robinson with uneven wooden steps crawling up the side of the mountain eventually leading to an almost hidden one-room cabin tree house.  It has a deck, loft, wood burning stove, oven, pantry, and cassette tapes lining the walls (dating it a bit).  It was cozy, warm, and quite the experience.

Harbor

The next morning we walked back into town, grabbed breakfast, Austin took his test, we bought about 30 Lbs of fish to take back (this was met with many smiling faces), stocked up on groceries, walked with all our gear back to the airport and returned to McCarthy.  Visiting Cordova was a lovely experience, enhanced by the presence of family.  It's a little tough to get to (only accessible by ferry or plane), so not all Alaskan tourists are fortunate enough to visit.  There's a quaint Main St, houses built onto the mountain side overlooking the harbor, delicious fish available, and beautiful snow capped mountains all around.

*  The Million Dollar Bridge.  Once copper was discovered near Kennecott Glacier, everyone was trying to figure out how to build a railroad to the interior to extract it all.  Three groups attempted to begin the railroad in three different locations.  J.P Morgan and the Guggenheims invested in the one they believed was most promising.  Meanwhile, Michael J. Heney--an astute businessman, well-liked by... all and confident in his judgment--began building inward from Cordova, AK using his own personal savings of one million dollars (this was around 1907).  Eventually, the "Morganheims" railroad was washed away in a torrential storm and they purchased Heney's railway.  They hired another contractor to complete the railway closer toward Kennecott and work toward Heney's continued construction.  Unfortunately, Heney died just a year short of the completion of the railway in 1911.

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