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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Time for Another Alaskan Debunking

It’s in all-to-common phenomenon to see articles written about Alaska by people who are not from here. Or, at least, with this one in particular I have to assume the author is not from here because she got so many things wrong.

The piece I am referring to was published in a real estate blog called “Movoto,” and claimed to detail “22 Things You Need To Know About Anchorage Before You Move There.” Setting aside the grammatically challenged approach to capitalizing every word in the headline, as I read the piece, I started seeing some errors.

1. “To State the Obvious, Winter is Really Cold.”

Well, duh, Alaska has its cold spots, but it’s all relative. The winters in Anchorage are actually warmer than the winters in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Here, the author also claims you need Carharts and Bunny Boots to get around in the Anchorage winters. But Carharts are not specifically a winter, insulating outdoor wear, they happened to be worn by people who do heavy, dirty work in the winter time. And the temperatures never really get cold enough in Anchorage to warrant wearing Bunny Boots – that is more for the Interior or Brooks Range areas.

2. “Icebergs, Right Ahead! And Left, And Right, And Behind You.”

This is hyperbole at its best. There is not a single glacier that is visible with the naked eye from the heart of Anchorage, where the actual city is located (what we call the “Anchorage bowl”). You have to drive about a half an hour south of Anchorage to see them on the Turnagain Arm, or head northeast of town and do some hiking or flying to see any. She also mentions the “massive” Portage Glacier. It has retreated so much it is no longer in contact with Portage Lake, so it’s not massive anymore. (The photo associated with this part of the article is clearly from Prince William Sound, not anywhere near Anchorage, or even within the massive municipal boundaries.)

3. “You Don’t Need To Know How To Pronounce The Aurora Borealis To Fall In Love.”

I do not disagree with this sentiment, but spring temperatures in Anchorage are not “sub zero.” Recent Spring aurora chasing has involved temperatures in the upper 30s, low 40s.

4. “The Parks In Anchorage Are Just A Little Different Than Yours.”

In this part, she talks about Kenai Fjords, but fails to mention that access to Kenai Fjords National Park is a two-hour drive south of Anchorage and not even close to its municipal boundaries. Additionally, she asserts that “mountains like Prospect Heights tower up to 8,000 feet high.” There is no mountain called “Prospect Heights” in Alaska. Rather, Prospect Heights is the name of a trailhead connecting with several trails in the Chugach Mountains as part of a fantastic trail system in Chugach State Park in the Anchorage hillside. Additionally, there are no peaks of 8,000 feet elevation in the Anchorage area. The tallest nearby peaks are Pioneer Peak (6,398) and Eagle Peak (6,955).

16. “Snowmobiling Means Something Different In Anchorage.”

The top thing she should have done here is to advise newcomers that we call it “snowmachining” in Anchorage, not “snowmobiling.” (Out in the Bush, many people call it going out on a “SnowGo” not a snowmachine.)

19. “Moby Dick Is Waiting For You.”

Here, the author claims you can whale-watch from the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail or out in Kenai Fjords National Park. There is not a single location along the coastal trail that is suitable for whale-watching. Beluga whales are known to come up to the mouth of Ship Creek in the summer as they chase salmon. The starting point to the coastal trail is immediately south of that area, but does not provide a vantage point for watching beluga whales. Rather, your best bet is to head south of Anchorage and drive along the Turnagain Arm on the Seward Highway to look for the tell-tale flash of white flesh out in the water with an incoming tide as they chase hooligan in the Spring or salmon in the summer. But rather than taking the two-hour drive to Seward to catch a whale-watching cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park (which I reiterate is not in Anchorage), taking the 45-minute drive to Whittier and catching a whale cruise in Prince William Sound is a much closer option.

A little basic Internet research could have corrected the errors in this piece. I know that I did a lot of research about Anchorage before moving here. I certainly would do as much if I were writing about a place where I didn’t live. And clearly, either the author does not live here or she has not been paying attention.

Wild Anchorage Gallery

Urban Anchorage Gallery



12 Responses to “Time for Another Alaskan Debunking”
  1. Zyxomma says:

    There’s a Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, too.

  2. The lister’s first mistake was assuming that Anchorage is actually part of Alaska. In reality, it’s merely the suburb of Seattle closest to Alaska. In John MacPhee’s happy phrase, it’s a place where Colonel Sanders ruptured open and oozed suburbia all over the wilderness.

    You can get to Alaska from Anchorage. In most directions, it’s pretty close.

    Another view of Anchorage, with apologies to Ambrose Bierce:

    A woman in Fairbanks shot her husband dead.

    A preacher happened to notice. “Woman,” he said, “Why have you killed your husband?”

    “Because he was an evil man, and he was going to leave me and move to Anchorage.”

    “Madam,” said the man of the cloth, “You cannot stop an evil man from going to Anchorage by killing him.”


    • Pinwheel says:

      Congratulations /WC !!! Not everyone knows Ambrose Bierce, that you can incorporate his amazing awareness and attitude reinforces your power. Thanx, n

    • Mag the Mick says:

      WC: I’ve enjoyed your web site for years, and respect your writing. However, could you leave off with your outdated, chauvinistic remarks about Anchorage? They were old when I first started hearing them after moving to Anchorage in 1985. Over half of the state’s population lives there, and most Alaskans are urban dwellers, including yourself. There is no such thing as a “real” Alaskan, nor is there a geographical connotation of where “real” Alaska stops nor starts. Weaving a myth about it is something I’d expect from Ms. Former-Incomplete-Term Governor Palin.

  3. Alaska Pi says:

    Yes-a smidge of real investigation would have made a real difference in the validity of this 22Things… dealie.
    To many Alaskans away from ANC ,like me, we would say folks would be well served to know that ANC is a somewhat ordinary medium sized American city plopped down in the middle of extraordinary surroundings. We would and do say that ANC has the amenities of urban America yet puts one in relatively close proximity to the joys of rural wonders. Not nearly so close as the mountains and waterfalls and fish and mountain goats and sky as my patch but closer than so many places Outside.
    I had/have to laugh at many of the silly FB comments above .Getting britches in a bunch over Carl’s “debunk” list? C’mon folks. How many times do I have to tell folks yes-we-takeAmerican-money and you-are-at-sea-level-when-you-step-off-the-ship-here?
    A bazillion times every year…
    Folks have weird enough ideas about Alaska without poorly written 22Things… stuff getting added to the mix.

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Did I ever tell you of the time(s) I debunked cattle? No? Some other time,perhaps.

  5. mike from iowa says:

    I’m guessing a whale cruise through Prince William Sound adds a new dimension to the whale oil industry of yore. As for the parks being different,our city park has an artillery piece and squirrels. Your’s tend to have moose and the damnable,detestable fricking bears.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      We have a park in Southeast with a cannon dealie- look up Baranov’s Castle Hill. A short walk away you will see a grave marker in the woods commemorating Russian and Aleut deaths in the last big battle with the Tlingit peoples.
      I have no sympathy for those Russians remembered there.
      I do cry every time I stand there though.
      The Aleut peoples lost in that battle were pressed into slavery by the Russian fur traders and taken far from their homes to hunt sea otters and fur seals to enrich their enslavers. And the Tlingit peoples lost so many and so much. It is a sad place.

      • mike from iowa says:

        Would that be in Sitka-Baranov’s castle? I had read that the Russkies weren’t real nice people,though I doubt lower 48ers treated the Natives much better.

    • Pinwheel says:

      mike fi: Do you know how to cow tip? I really want you to leave PWS out of your jokes. Western PWS continues to leach EO from its rocky shores. Whales come into the Sound in search of food (herring). Suffer the whales, the herring are Exxon oily. Not a pretty picture.

      mike fi, If you want to visit Eastern PWS let me know. I do have a great place.

      Thanx, n

  6. Joe Jackson says:

    Misconceptions indeed. I’ve lived, worked, and generally misspent my youth in SE, Dillingham, and Girdwood. These places seem downright tropical compared to the coldest place I’ve lived, Gunnison, Colorado…

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