Alaska: The Hard Water State

For anyone who plans a trip or a move to Alaska, here is a suggestion. Go down to a lake near you that YOU KNOW IS SAFE. Take a small plastic jug, a really good filter, and a glass for this true “Alaska Experience.” Fill the water jug up with some of the lake water, drain it slowly a few times through the filter into the water. Now, if you have been able to filter out all of the dirt and organisms with the filter, is it possibly something a person could safely drink? Now, here’s the big question. Would you drink it?

Most people who live in Alaska have water wells. Believe me, the water is really hard, too. The minerals up here are abundent. Anyone who may have an iron deficiency in the Lower 48 might be able to lose that deficiency after drinking Alaska well water for a little while. Iron leaves an orange coloring on everything.

One of the most popular products at Home Depot and Lowes is the salt that is needed for all of the water softeners in homes. Other popular products are the cleaners needed to eliminate the iron from all of the appliances, clothing and towels, and plumbing.

Even people who are on a city water system are not necessarily free of mineral problems. Many of the city systems struggle with iron and arsenic. Arsenic is a major problem with the EPA; but, Alaska seems to have quite a bit of it in its aquifers. So, many of the cities spend plenty of money filtering it out to satisfy the federal guidelines that are not very friendly to the Last Frontier. That just means a hefty water bill.

So, for anyone planning a visit to the largest state in the country, keep something in mind. When they call it the Last Frontier, they really mean it. Alaska has water….but the bottled stuff may taste better…..look better…..and go down better. Don’t be surprised at all of the stores with all of cases of bottled water for sale.

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Alaska Days Are Finally Getting Longer

Everyone up north is starting to feel the very first signs that a longer day is on its way. It starts at the end of February every year. That is when the sun starts staying up during everyone’s drive home from work. Instead of darkness at 5 p.m. on the road system, drivers are hit with a glaring sun just above the steering wheel and just below the sun visor. The vehicles ahead of them can hardly be seen due to the blinding sunlight in their faces. This is normally when the smart drivers get out their “shades” to protect their eyes as they drive. This not only impacts the drive home. It also impacts the morning commute as the sun is now coming up around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. across the state.

It is usually a good idea to get glasses with protection for the sides, too. The low sun also affects drivers’ vision on the left and right sides of the roads. Several roads on the system have trees spaced along the side that creates a strobe-like effect on drivers as they travel in and out of the shaded road at 55 mph. Anyone who has eye problems is definately impacted by these low sunsets and sunrises. Add other obstacles, like moose crossing the road, and cars not using their lights, and accidents are likely to happen.

Despite the difficult drying issues, these late days in February are pleasing for those who suffer from the lack of sunlight in the winter months. They are the ones with the bright lamps in their homes to grab more Vitamin D that they cannot get naturally.

At winter solstice in late December, the sun rises in south-central Alaska at about 10:15 a.m and sets at 3:45 p.m. That is only a 5 1/2 hour day. For the next six months, the state’s day just gets longer until June, the time of the “Midnight Sun”, and the summer solstice.

So, as the earth continues to move from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere and from summer to winter in the southern hemisphere, Alaskans will continue to have one of the best seats in Mother Nature’s house to watch this annual transition. It includes migrating birds, whales and fish. It involves snow melting at a rapid pace from mountains, fields and valleys, causing temporary lakes all across the state until the ground and heat of the sky can absorb all of the excess moisture. Alaskans will be preparing for what is called “break-up”, when ice roads and snow roads thaw out for the season. The ground, which has been frozen since November, will defrost. Rivers that have been frozen all winter will literally melt. If it melts too quickly, and the ice starts traveling downstream too quickly, the ice will grab everything that it can. This has included: man-made docks, trees, stairs, and anything else along the banks that can be dragged down into the water.

From this point, life starts returning to the state in numerous ways. Hibernation will start ending for the bears. Some of the migrating birds begin arriving from the south. Alaskans start putting up their winter gear. The first cruise ships start arriving in their ports. And, everyone starts to get ready for the state to double in population as visitors come to the Last Frontier for a look at life in the wild, instead of concrete.

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Alaska Photos Don’t Look Good From The Car….Pull Over Please

(Answer to question: All of the Above)

Anyone who travels on the road system in this country’s largest state gets accustomed throughout the year to small delays involving wildlife on the road. It’s what happens when people, with their cars live with moose, caribou, and the many other animals of Alaska. However, during the warmer months, when the tourists and newcomers start to arrive, traffic tends to slow down even more. That is when the animals have come out from their winter hiding places and the cameras have come out to record the animals. Many times this involves pictures being taken by people on the highway.

The easiest pictures to get are the eagles and the moose. Believe me, newcomers and visitors to Alaska, these two wonderfully photogenic creatures are everywhere. Trust me. This is just a guess. But, I bet there are more moose born each year in Alaska than humans. You will see a moose that you can photograph. You don’t have to get out of your car in the middle of the intersection at 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon in the middle of summer to take a photo of the moose that just crossed the road in front of your car. There will be another moose. Don’t worry. As for eagles, they love their fish. Just go to the beach and sit with the seagulls. An eagle will usually fly by during the day. Just keep your camera equipment covered up. Seagulls are messy creatures. Disney or another producer of animated films could make a fortune with an animated film about talking seagulls with digestive problems who want to get back at humans.

Here is another FYI for any newcomers. Black bear tend to eat berries. Brown bear tend to like fish. If you want brown bear photos, go to the river when the salmon are running in the summer. If you want black bear photos check out the state and national park sites for berry picking seasons. Just don’t go berry picking in the parks without a little bear protection that you know how to safely use. The same advice works for the rivers and lakes, too.

The state has spent millions of dollars constructing free scenic turnouts for the amatuer photographer and professional photographer. It would be nice if photographers would use them periodically, instead of slowing down on the highway to take photographs. That simply causes road rage for the drivers only wanting to drive. If you’re new to Alaska, here’s a suggestion. Get a Milepost booklet, and plan scenery trips during the summer and winter at your convenience. A person can learn more about Milepost at any City Chamber website or Visitor Center.

These are just a few quick tips to make any sightseeing and photography excursions, safe, fun, relaxing, enjoyable for everyone, and, most of all, free from any controversy. Have a good one and a safe one.

Alaska: A Way to Escape from the Lower 48

Alaska is the lone conservative state in the United States that is on the west coast. Its neighbors to the south, Washington, Oregon, and California, have become states that support government programs, assistance and regulations. This transformation in recent decades has created an increase in Alaska’s population. People wanting to migrate away from various issues in the Lower 48, have chosen Alaska as their new home.

So, what have been some of these issues? One person told me he moved his family to Alaska, because the land he wanted to buy in his home state in the Rocky Mountains had become too expensive. So, he built his family’s log cabin a little further north than planned. He avoided the taxes, building codes, zoning ordinances, etc…. of the lower 48. He built a log cabin made from his own lumber; and, it still stands today.

Another person told me his family took a job in “The Last Frontier” because of the fishing and hunting. Regulations created in his area made it difficult to enjoy these hobbies. His family hunts for moose in the fall and fishes the rivers and lakes during the salmon runs in the summer. His family enjoys salmon throughout the year, along with frozen moose meat that has virtually no fat on it. Although the regulations can be confusing in the state, with some patience the fishing and hunting can be successful.

Another person I met up here was from the Michigan area. His family was already adjusted to cold weather and snow. However, he took a job in Alaska that would get his family closer to the ocean. After a few years of living here, they began a commercial fishing operation with their family. Commercial salmon fishing on the west coast has nearly disappeared due to salmon farms.

The list gets longer and longer for all of the people who migrated from the Lower 48 to the Last Frontier to continue enjoying some of the activities they had performed in the past. A past that saw less regulations, laws and restrictions on human inter-action with wildlife.

In the lower 48, the wildlife…..more and more….are being micro-managed in parks. In Alaska, everyone shares the land with the wildlife, just like we did decades ago across the entire country.

That’s what keeps many here in the Last Frontier. People can walk outside their home, and look up in the sky as an eagle flies. Near the coast, those fortunate enough to be near the sea, get to hear migrating whales as they make another journey to the north. Then, there is the annual migration of birds of all kinds. They live here every summer and leave just before the fall.

For many visitors, Alaska seems to be the state that’s frozen in time. The Wi-Fi sometimes can be slow. There aren’t as many roads. And moose, bear and caribou get to cross the road first.

One Item Usually Found Only in Alaska

Each of the fifty states in the USA has its own identity that sets it apart from the other forty-nine. Alaska, the Last Frontier, is no different. For everyone who has lived in this state, nothing comes as a surprise. We have seen many odd things happen in the nation’s largest state. But, what is really fun to see is the newcomer being introduced to Alaska like the rest of us were many years ago, especially to the world of tires.

Studded tires to some Alaska drivers are a necessity. To those who don’t drive and get tired of seeing so many tires around this state, studded tires are a nuisance. They are only used in the winter months.

In the lower 48, people use chains on their tires, or they use snow tires, or all-season tires. What do a lot of Alaskans get for the winter monthes? They are called studded tires. Yes, tires with metal studs to better grip the hard ice on the road to improve traction. These are not cheap tires. You have to pay for those pieces of metal in those tires, and you get ticketed for keeping them on into the summer months. That’s because, just like chains, the studs damage the pavement.

So, what do drivers do at the end of winter? When studs first came out, motorists were expected to have eight tires. Four studded tires would be for the winter. The other four tires would be for the summer. But, almost all Alaskans are penny pinchers. “What…buy new tires without studs? Nope.” Alaskans started taking the studs out for the summer months. Then, when winter would come, it would be time to buy four more studded tires. You can’t put studs back in the old tires.

Years have now passed. So, all of the people in Alaska now have old tires in their backyards being used for planters in gardens, as tree swings, and stairs. Others are still trying to come up with more things to do with all of their old tires. Then, there are those who will sell almost anything for any price, including that very popular price of “$1….just come pick it up.”

So, what do people do who buy these worn out studded tires? These are the drivers with the 20-year-old cars, that have 200,000 miles on them, and worn out tires that were bought for $1 apiece. These cars can usually be found abandoned on the side of the highway in the winter after having a couple of flat tires. Welcome to wintertime in Alaska!

Ways to De-Winterize

For some of us in this world, the winter season after the holidays can be a long period. Where I live everyday, I have to bring in some extra light to help with short days. That is also true for most of the people around me.

Another big negative to winter is staying inside on the couch too much. During winter, just like the summer, everyone must get out and about. One of my greatest exercises is shoveling a little snow every day. Another option is to take a walk with a friend or your dog. Just get up and get out there! Your bones and muscles will thank you.

Then there is the d-word…….depression. I am not an expert on this one. I just know what others say. People need to talk about their feelings to other people. Find a friend, find religion that is comfortable for you, find a companion, find a pet, find a hobby, and then start finding positives to replace the negatives. Remember….you are in control of you……..

Another way to “de-winterize” is to leave the cold by taking a winter vacation. If you go to a warm spot for a week, or two, winter just got shorter. But this usually only works for people who don’t have school-age kids.

Whatever you do to make the next few monthes shorter, have fun doing it. April isn’t far away. And, soon, it will be May.



Remember Those Less Fortunate This Season

As everyone makes last trips to the stores this holiday season, remember those who cannot make it to the store quite as easy as everyone else to make those special Christmas purchases. They have fallen on hard financial times, been hit with big bills, bad health, bad debt, unemployment, or any of those negative items that have hit us all at one time or another in our lives. We’ve been there……we know how it feels. And, it feels nice, when there are people around us willing to share.

But, the most important item I remember about giving at the holiday season, was how important the message was about being thankful and grateful. Also, I remember the phrase, “Pass it On.”

It isn’t about being able to tell your friends, relatives, co-workers, etc…. that you did this wonderful thing. It is that wonderful feeling you get when you see how your giving of time, giving of labor, giving of friendship, or just giving of a few dollars, can completely change a person’s perspective about the holidays. A person does it because it is in his or her heart to do it, and, that person wants to help others out who aren’t as fortunate, this year. Whenever, I put in a little bit of help…..remembering those times that I have received help in my life…..I try to say “Pass it On” whenever I can.