Archive for May, 2014

Correcting yet another inaccurate piece about Alaska

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
Correcting yet another inaccurate piece about Alaska

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. I was going to rebut some of them on a Facebook post where I first learned of the piece, but after further review, found too many to put in a simple Facebook response. Hence, this blog post was born. I will respond only to those specific assertions that were either incomplete, misleading or completely inaccurate.

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. You may have some chance encounters from the trail near Earthquake Park, but if you are going just for whale watching, it is not a reliable spot. 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.

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