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Alaska Trip Review w/ pictures!

By Goran_K following x   2017 Aug 14, 10:29am 1,194 views   12 comments   watch   quote     share  

As some of you might remember, I started a thread wanting to collect a bucket list of things to do in Alaska for my trip.

So fast forward to August 2017. I spent nearly 2 weeks in Anchorage on a family vacation/trip, but also with the added goal of searching for a property, aka "A home in the North". I had picked out 4 properties that fit my wants/desires, and have been communicating with a local real estate professional for a few months. The short list of properties ended up being in Palmer, Eagle River, and South Anchorage near the Seward Highway. I ended up buying the property in Palmer, a 3,200 sqft home sitting on 3.5 acres with beautiful views and easy river access plus 1,000 sqft of garage/workshop space. It cost me a pretty penny, but compared to the prices in California, it was a relative bargain IMO.

Anchorage and the surrounding areas are still hard for me to understand fully.

A lot of it I really, really like. The natural beauty of the area, especially during the Summer, is just amazing. The air is so clean (outside the main downtown), the hiking spots are numerous, and just driving down the Seward Highway, or driving through Palmer was enjoyable to me because of how beautiful everything looked.


Above: Palmer

Conversely, there is a lot wrong with the social fabric of Anchorage, and it scars the city IMO. You can see the blight all over, even in areas you wouldn't expect it. I talked to many locals, some transplants, and some who have lived in the Anchorage area for 20+ years. They all agreed without one dissenting opinion (within the admittedly small sample of people I talked to, around 20 people including my new neighbors, realtor, and other various locals) that Anchorage has gone downhill and its social problems have gotten much worse over the years

This is why Alaska was so hard for me to fully embrace, and understand. I know I've only spent a couple of weeks in the area, but I feel like I've got a good handle on what's happening here, and now that I own a home in Alaska, I can say I have more than a passing connection to the state, and the Anchorage area in general. If I didn't have business obligations in the lower 48, I'd honestly spend much more time in the area, that's how much I liked it.

First the good. I don't think there's a state in the country that tops Alaska in terms of natural beauty, and access to nature. Between me being able to hike through Palmer, the amazing fishing spots (best I've encountered in my life when it comes to freshwater), and the conservative/libertarian value system of many of the people who live here, I could see myself spending many summers (and falls) in Alaska. Palmer is honestly where I see myself spending lots of my retirement time in the future.


Above: Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center

At the Market Festival in Anchorage, they start the festival by having someone sing the national anthem, and without pause, 99% of the people at the Festival stood at attention, faced the flag, and put their hands over their chest. This made me smile that Anchorage locals actually still respect the country they live in, and are proud to be Americans. In California, you might get 50% of the people doing this, everyone else would go on about their business, some who might get into a political diatribe about why the anthem is racist, or simply ignore that the anthem was even being played. Basically, I feel a lot of the people there, and in Palmer, have a lot of those small town American values that I felt were gone from the country. I was glad to be wrong.


Above: Reindeer Sliders were yum.

The Seward highway. Man. That has got to be one of the best highway drives in America in terms of pure natural beauty. The snow capped mountains, the Glaciers, and super clean air. Awesome. But the drive itself. I want to buy a Porsche GT3 and just drive that thing all day.

The gun culture here is also very balanced. It's not like in New York or California where people and politicians there basically want to ban all private firearms ownership, and look at people who own guns as unprosecuted criminals regardless of what crimes they may or may not have committed. Here the hunting culture is strong, and I was surprised at how even little kids around here had a good knowledge of gun safety and respect for guns as a tool for putting food on the table and for self defense. I saw 10 year old kids who had excellent trigger discipline, could shoot 4 inch targets off hand from 100 yards away without blinking an eye. I was really impressed. This is what responsible gun ownership looks like, and I wish anti-gun states like California or New York would take note. Educating kids at a young age about guns will keep them safe.

Now for some of the bad. Anchorage's biggest problem is homeless people, natives in particular. They are a huge blight upon the city. The Anchorage Museum is currently showcasing the native peoples of Alaska, their culture, their past, their present, and the exhibits are really well thought out, interesting, and high production quality. Then you walk outside, and see a group of natives pacing down the street either high on drugs, or so drunk they have pissed themselves on the street in front of everyone, and can't even get off of the floor.

This wasn't just on 4th, 5th, or 6th, J Street, C Street in Downtown either, it was literally everywhere. Many of them are sitting in the parking lots of strip malls with signs, looking perfectly healthy, and asking for money to get back home to where ever they came from even further up north, or some are honest and claim they just need another bottle. When I visited the mall on 5th Avenue, I saw two homeless guys who were sexually harassing a girl at one of the stores. I told them to **** off or I'd call security (I was also concealed carrying). They called me a few choice names, smelling like beer and ****, and walked off into the parking structure. Either way, it's wrecked the city in many ways. Not just the sight of these people in raggedy clothes, their trash which is thrown everywhere, but just the awful smells. There isn't a single parking structure in Anchorage that doesn't smell of rancid urine. Every stairwell is stained with urine, or feces, and the chemicals the city workers use to clean it do very little to hide what transpired in those areas.

It's not even isolated to parking structures. I was walking down 5th Avenue near Glacier Brewhouse where I was going to have lunch (great place btw, delicious food), and you see these people who work in the city with their business attire on, just casually strolling by and I can't stop thinking about how the entire sidewalk smells like urine. It reminded me of walking down Market Street, San Francisco which IMO is equally as stinky. The only problem is, Anchorage is not a huge city, you can drive across it in 15 minutes, and it has 1/4 the population of San Francisco, and in my estimation it seemed like it had a higher concentration of homeless people.

Now I'm not saying this just to be simply critical of the city, but it was prominent during my trip to the Anchorage area and I had to point it out. I also saw a lot of guys standing at the corner or behind gas stations who were obviously selling "something" as people would drive by or walk by, and their would be an exchange. I guess this is a problem with any city though, so I won't single out Anchorage.

In the end, Anchorage and the surrounding area is a story of two places. The picturesque God given nature that everyone sees on TV and in magazines, and the gritty, grimy, inner city that is prevalent in many cities around America. That being said, I'm glad to call Alaska home (when I am there).

1 someone else   2017 Aug 14, 10:50am   ↑ like (2)   ↑ dislike (2)     quote        

That's a very interesting report, thanks! You don't get that kind of honesty from any commercial source of info.

I wonder if there is some kind of philosophy which would be effective at motivating the homeless and motivating others to help the homeless that seem honestly inclined to change.

Christianity is sometimes effective. Islam may be too damn effective, turning converts into violent fanatics. The dissolute guy who discovers Islam and then turns into a Muslim terrorist is becoming a cliche at this point.

Maybe send in the Mormons? They're a bit creepy, but industrious.

Or some as-yet-undiscovered path to hope and self-discipline? Maybe an extension or modification of AA's 12 steps.

2 Goran_K   2017 Aug 14, 10:55am   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Patrick says

That's a very interesting report, thanks! You don't get that kind of honesty from any commercial source of info.

I wonder if there is some kind of philosophy which would be effective at motivating the homeless and motivating others to help the homeless that seem honestly inclined to change.

Christianity is sometimes effective. Islam may be too damn effective, turning converts into violent fanatics. The dissolute guy who discovers Islam and then turns into a Muslim terrorist is becoming a cliche at this point.

Maybe send in the Mormons? They're a bit creepy, but industrious.

Or some as-yet-undiscovered path to hope and self-discipline? Maybe an extension or modification of AA's 12 steps.

This is the worst part, many of these homeless natives get benefits not available to non-natives such as free healthcare, money/stipends, and hunting rights. They have everything they need to be successful and more. But substance abuse has pretty much taken over their lives and they waste every single benefit they have to drink alcohol, and do drugs. It's sad.

3 BayArea   2017 Aug 14, 11:02am   ↑ like (1)   ↑ dislike (1)     quote        

Thank you for sharing, I appreciate your honest account of the trip.

I was going to post a similar account of Paris from a recent trip, but so far haven't done so in any level of detail.

4 Ceffer   2017 Aug 14, 11:34am   ↑ like (1)   ↑ dislike (1)     quote        

Goran_K says

natives get benefits not available to non-natives such as free healthcare, money/stipends, and hunting rights. They have everything they need to be successful and more. But substance abuse has pretty much taken over their lives and they waste every single benefit they have to drink alcohol, and do drugs.

Teach them to speak with a plummy British accent and maybe England will adopt them as Royals.

5 Quigley   2017 Aug 14, 3:18pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Nice post, Goran! I grew up around there and am pretty familiar with the place. Your post was spot on with everything you mentioned. Sounds like you really got a feel for the place. Nice new house/property too! Does it overlook the Matanuska River?

6 Strategist   2017 Aug 14, 3:26pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Alaska.....Wow.
How often are you gonna go up there? Do you plan on AirBNB with the property?

7 Goran_K   2017 Aug 14, 3:28pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Quigley says

Nice post, Goran! I grew up around there and am pretty familiar with the place. Your post was spot on with everything you mentioned. Sounds like you really got a feel for the place. Nice new house/property too! Does it overlook the Matanuska River?

Nice. Do you get back sometimes? I love the area.

The property is closer to Knik, but Matanuska and Knik are both close enough to bike or jog to.

8 Goran_K   2017 Aug 14, 3:37pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Strategist says

Alaska.....Wow.

How often are you gonna go up there? Do you plan on AirBNB with the property?

No, I don't want to be a landlord anymore. It will purely be a Summer/Fall vacation property, and possibly retirement property in the future.

9 HEY YOU   2017 Aug 14, 4:47pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Don't buy a house built on permafrost.
Are roads to a house built on permafrost?

10 Quigley   2017 Aug 14, 6:57pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

I've been back there about every other summer for a while. I still have family up there, and my dad owns a local business you might find interesting.

11 NuttBoxer   2017 Aug 14, 8:14pm   ↑ like (1)   ↑ dislike (1)     quote        

I will forever remember landing in Kingston Jamaica, being picked up by the guy I was staying with, a native to the island, and hearing his response on the city.

"It's like any city, crime, pollution, and unhappy people."

Man was not made to live in cities. Or to be government dependent. I see this as the systemic cause, but the recent uptick is likely due to the economic depression we've been in since 2008. The dollar has lost 98% of it's value since the mid 20's. You can't build a thriving society on that.

12 Goran_K   2017 Aug 14, 8:19pm   ↑ like (0)   ↑ dislike (0)     quote        

Quigley says

I've been back there about every other summer for a while. I still have family up there, and my dad owns a local business you might find interesting.

Firearms?!

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