The whole premise of the name of this blog stems from the idea that if one lives in Alaska, one oughtn’t live in Anchorage.
When you think of Alaska, thoughts of wide, wild expanses come to mind. Lofty mountains and wide valleys with sparkling rivers. Forests and tundra and gigantic cabbages. Right? Not Olive Garden. Not Pier 1. Not traffic.
I came up to Alaska to be with my best friend and husband, Robert. It wasn’t really a decision that came about because I wanted to live in Anchorage, but ancillary to wanting to be with him and he already lived up here. (Long story…another day.) Now that I had been here for a couple of years, I wanted to get a little further out. I’d been wanting to live in the bush but it doesn’t seem like that’s actually going to materialize in this lifetime. We’ve talked about it and calculated how much we would need to save in order to be able to live out in the middle of nowhere and in order to be somewhat comfortable, it would need to be a bit. We thought that having a small farm to grow our food and perhaps growing peonies for money would be the answer. Or at least a large part of it. Plus a nice workshop for Robert, so he can work his wizardry.
Anyway, The Bush. That is anywhere off the road system in Alaska, and what’s accessible by road up here is a very small percentage of the state. If you have a boat you can use the rivers to barge yourself and the result of shopping forays up to your remote cabin, if it’s nearby a river. If you have a friend with a plane, you could buy them some fuel and maybe dinner and hopefully they’d take you and your groceries out to your homestead. In the winter, you could snowmachine out or travel by dog sled if you have dogs. And a sled. In the summer, some people ride ATV’s out to more remote areas by trail. And if one’s land is conveniently close to the Alaska Railroad, you could ride the whistle-stop train and let the conductor know where you’d like to get off with your supplies so you can hike the last miles in.
Many people are familiar with the story of Dick Proenneke, who was dropped off near Lake Clark with supplies and who built his cabin and most of his tools by hand. He is our hero. I’m not even certain if it’s legal to go into the forest and set up house and farm anymore, since it’s mostly owned by the government. Someone would squawk.
So, we had come to the conclusion that looking for vacant land to buy outside of town would be the way to go. First, we looked out in the Matsu Valley, traditionally the most fertile and hospitable area for farming. The Matanuska-Susitna valley was the destination of scores of farmers and their families, brought from the upper midwest during the dust bowl years, as relocated by the government. Today, these original settlers are referred to as Pioneers or Colonists with prestige, and have schools and mountains named after them. But much of the original farmland has been developed into subdivisions, made into bedroom communities for people who work in Anchorage. It hasn’t done a thing to help the food security issues in Alaska, but that’s another story. We did look at a parcel of about 5 acres outside of Trapper Creek, and although partially cleared and lush with fireweed, it was in a flood zone. Also, it had once had a cabin on it which burned down and we couldn’t be sure that someone hadn’t been in it and we didn’t want to be haunted.
Then, we looked into buying land on the Kenai Peninsula. There are some very nice spots to set up a small homestead down there, it’s largely road accessible and the climate is great. Some of the more affordable parcels we looked at were swampy, especially down towards Anchor Point. The black spruce will tell you where the muskeg is! We also looked around the North Kenai/Nikiski area and were turned off by the proximity of a superfund site left over from the petroleum industry. Some chemicals had gotten into the water at some point. Whatever, not going to live there.
After searching for a couple of years, one of Robert’s friends up in North Pole asked us if we wanted to buy their log home, situated on a few acres, on a lake. Uhhhh. So that was the end of our search for vacant land. I really wish I could tell you that we bought that house, with it’s awesome shop and pole barn and lake view and garden area….but we didn’t. We could have, but then we wouldn’t have been able to afford anything else. No flowers, no trips to see family Outside, nada. So, we passed it up and I don’t think I’ll ever recover from that dream we had. Robert, either.
These days, I have given up my search for “Our Place”. I have emptied my bookmark folder and unsubscribed from getting email alerts from Zillow. Maybe I’ll start again in the spring. Then, perhaps, we can get Out of Anchorage.