Seward

Top 15 Alaskan Rumors

Are there really penguins all over Alaska? Is Alaska cold and dark year round? Do they really live in igloos? Does Alaska ever get sunshine? Is there snow year round? Do the Eskimos’ really kiss with their noses? And do you have pet polar bears or wolves? Let’s just see if I can debunk a few of these rumors about Alaska!

I have lived in Alaska nearly my entire life and, in fact, I am married to a Native Alaskan (he is actually Eskimo/Athabascan and no, he does not kiss me with his nose…most of the time.) I have great insider information and can handle pretty much any rumor or question that is out there. There have recently been a lot of reality TV shows about Alaska; however I feel that they do not dispel these rumors and they actually will add to them. Now we shall sort through some of the top 15 Alaskan Rumors and questions that I have heard throughout my life.

#1. Do Alaskan’s live in the snow year round? Well, yes and no. Most Alaskans do not live in the snow year round and, in fact, may have warmer temperatures than many places in the northern states of the U.S. Some very remote villages up on the North Slope of Alaska can receive snow year round, although it is somewhat rare. You can access snow and glacier ice in some areas of the mountains and along glaciers. So for the most part…No, we do not live in the snow year round. Winter for where I live lasts from about October to April. And during the summer, in the interior of Alaska, it can reach high temperatures of 80-90 degrees! Granted, in those same places, it is common for it to be -50 degrees for weeks at a time.

-50 below
Fairbanks, Alaska at -50 below zero.

 

#2. Do you live in igloos? No, we do not live in igloos. As you can tell from my answer in question #1, we do not have snow year round so it really wouldn’t be practical. Also, I have never actually seen a real igloo, other than one that my kids and hubby made for fun and a huge several story building built to look like an igloo. Igloos were built by the Inuit people of Canada and a few other places. The igloo building skill has been taught in the past as part of survival training to help the military and other people survive cold weather situations.

Andreanoff Igloo
We made an igloo and the kids decorated it with Christmas lights.

 

#3. Does everyone own sled dogs or Alaskan Huskies? Well, there are a lot of them up here, but not everyone owns them. I do think that it is common place for me to see “dog yards” full of sled dog teams or huskies walking with their owners. My current dog is a mixed breed and is ¼ husky (also ¼ white german shepherd and ½ black lab.) I do live near the Iditarod Headquarters area and I have worked up in Nome when the sled dog teams from the Iditarod have come into town. Actually most people drive cars or ride snowmobiles (aka: iron dogs or sleds.) Do we get around by sled dog teams? Not really. I mean, they used to use dog teams not that long ago in Alaska as transportation but now most folks drive cars or trucks. I have, however, ridden on a dog sled that was attached to the back of a snowmobile as a sort of sled. Now that is awesome fun!

huskies
Happy huskies love to pull the dog sled.

 

#4. Do they have paved roads in Alaska? Yes, throughout a large area of Alaska, they do have paved roads. They have highways, stop lights, and even roundabouts in some of the more populated areas. There are a lot of dirt roads and trails in Alaska. Most villages do not have road access at all. Some villages are so remote that you can only reach them via airplane or boat. These remote villages are known as the Alaskan bush. Some villages have dirt roads and some even have cars or trucks that are barged or flown in. Almost all villages have a small runway. But for the most part, they use snowmobiles, ATV’s, and boats. Sometimes they will make roads on the ice between villages and those are known as ice roads. They also have train tracks through some of Central Alaska.

Ice road
This is the ice road on the Kuskokwim River near Bethel, Alaska.

 

#5. Alaska is nothing but an immense wilderness. Well, yes and no. Yes it is an immense wilderness, but it is also villages, cities, and lots and lots of tundra. Alaska’s population is around 730,000 people with nearly 300,000 living in the Anchorage area. Alaska has the most coastline of any state and is covered with lots of lakes, creeks, and rivers. Alaska also has the largest mountain in North America whose name is Mt. McKinley, but it is known as Denali by the locals which means “the great one.” It’s also great to know that you can fit Rhode Island into Alaska 425 times.

Seward
On the beach in Seward, Alaska.

 

#6. Do you have pet bears or wolves? I would have to say no to this one. However, I have heard rumors of folks breeding wolves into their dogs but it is most definitely illegal. It is illegal in Alaska to possess a wolf without a special permit granted for research or education purposes, and illegal in all circumstances to own a wolf hybrid. I would assume the same goes for bears. I have heard about foxes being kept as pets but those also will get taken away if caught. Do not, in any circumstance, feed wild animals in Alaska. Believe me; I have seen tourists try to take a picture of their child feeding a caribou a lollipop. Not smart!

Bear warnings
Bear warning sign found at the Exit Glacier campground in 2013.

 

#7. Do you have penguins walking down the street? Absolutely not! Penguins are from the Southern Hemisphere. We do have Puffins in many parts of Alaska; however they will never be walking down the street. I actually have to go to Seward or Whittier and catch a small cruise to get to the puffins or go visit the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward, Alaska.

Puffin
Puffin walking. Signs in Alaska usually say “no puffin” instead of “no smoking”.

 

#8. Alaska is not part of America OR Alaska is an island near Hawaii. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I get this question or statement quite a bit. Some people think you actually have to have a passport to be in Alaska. Alaska IS part of the United States and in truth was a state before Hawaii was. We are part of the Continental United States, although we do have Canada between us, and if you plan on driving to Alaska you will need a passport to drive through Canada. You can fly to Alaska without a passport though. And no, Alaska is not near Hawaii, no matter what the map says.

Alaska
Alaska is huge and sits near Russia and borders Canada.

 

#9. Are the mosquitoes as big as birds? Welllll….no. Although they can get pretty big and they can be so thick that you can’t hardly breathe without swallowing some. When I lived in the bush of Alaska, I have been through times where the mosquitoes were so thick that you would tip your coffee away from you to spill out the mosquitoes floating on top, and then take a sip. In fact, it was so thick that you wished you had more than a mosquito net for you head, because a body net would have been awesome! I have also heard folks be surprised that we even have mosquitoes up here because they think it’s too cold for bugs to survive up here. Oh and DEET? They eat that for breakfast!

Alaskan mosquitoes
Alaskan mosquitoes big enough to pick up a bear.

 

#10. Have you been to the North Pole or have you met Santa? Well, yes, I have!! The actual North Pole you mean? No, I haven’t been there. But there is a town in Interior Alaska named North Pole and it is the home base for Santa. I have been to his house and I have met his reindeer. I have pictures to prove it. If you ever have a chance to come to Alaska, I recommend a drive up to Fairbanks and then on to North Pole. It is worth the drive.

North Pole
Santa Claus house in North Pole, Alaska.

 

#11. Do you have fast food in Alaska? That is a massive Yes! We have almost all of them. We don’t have them in the bush but in most of the larger towns and cities, we have them. You can pretty much count on getting your fix if you stick to the more populated areas. I, however, prefer to eat caribou burgers!

Fast food here!
The city of Anchorage has everything including fast food.

 

#12. Can you ride a moose? Absolutely not! And if you try, you will most likely end up in the hospital. I have seen where some folks have been charged and trampled by them. They either end up in the hospital or dead. I literally get them looking in my windows but they can be dangerous even with the window separating us. View from afar, and again, do not feed them.

moose charge
Angry moose charging a snowmobiler.

 

#13. Is the ground really frozen year round? Yes, it is. Permafrost is defined as ground that remains at or below 0°C for at least two consecutive years. The depth of permafrost is different for different parts of Alaska. The reason why trees do not grow very big in many areas is because the roots cannot grow very deep and, instead, they spread out. Some areas where the permafrost is not very deep, the earth will not be capable of having any trees at all. The ground also heaves a lot during freeze and thaw seasons causing the roads to buckle and houses to shift.

permafrost
This is what permafrost looks like in the tundra.

 

#14. Are there really 3rd world living conditions in Alaska? Yes, in some villages there are, but they are getting better. You see, some areas with tundra cannot have septic tanks or underground pipes because the ground has permafrost (see above) and therefore you have either pipes running over-ground to a containment area or you use honey buckets or outhouses. What is a honey bucket? Well, it’s what you use indoors (a 5 gallon bucket) during the night and then in the morning you dump the honey bucket in the outhouse. You get the idea. So yes, in many ways, the villages in the bush do have 3rd world conditions, but they also have game systems, TV’s, phones, and microwaves.

honey bucket
Alaskan honey bucket.

 

And finally #15. Is there 24 hours of darkness year round? This question is tricky. Yes, in the winter in some northern areas, it can be dark 24 hours. In my area, an hours’ drive away from Anchorage, it is about 20 hours of darkness in the middle of winter. Also in the winter, you will need sunglasses because the sun doesn’t really rise above the horizon and will reflect off the ice directly into your eyes. However, in the summer, we can have up to 24 hours of daylight! At summer solstice in Fairbanks, they have the Midnight Sun festival with baseball at midnight without lights. You can hike till very late at night because you can see all night long. This really isn’t that great for those that want fireworks on the 4th of July and for those that are sensitive to light when they sleep. The sun doesn’t really go directly above your head in Alaska, but rather it skims around the horizon in a large circle.

winter sun
Watching a days worth of sun in the winter.

As you can see, there are a lot of rumors and myths about Alaska. I hope I have dispelled some of them and answered your questions. I love this state and I have lived and traveled all over Alaska, and my husband has worked on the North Slope from time to time. If you have any more questions, you are free to ask them in the comments section below and I will do my best to respond.

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15 thoughts on “Top 15 Alaskan Rumors”

  1. Love this. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in Alaska, but I remember getting several of these questions/myths after my family moved to California — especially the igloo question. It still astounds me to this day that people are this confused about things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting! 🙂 Yeah, I am still getting some questions off and on about Alaska. Igloo’s do come up quite often. You would think all of the reality TV shows would debunk the questions, but we still get them.

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    1. Well, to reply to that, I would need to know what you are hoping to see? What infatuates you the most about Alaska? I have been all over and can recommend many areas. I also need to know how long you would hope to be in Alaska.

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      1. I haven’t actually planned out a trip yet; it’s just somewhere I really want to visit in the future. I’m most interested in traditional Alaskan culture. Any sort of home stay type of accommodation would be nice too! Thank you again!

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      2. I am not sure what you are referring to in “home stay” but we have bed & breakfasts all over the state. Traditional Alaska culture is all over the state and it really depends on how deep into the culture you want to go. If you just want a taste of it, there is the Alaska Native Heritage center in Anchorage and then in Fairbanks, they have the riverboat that takes you to a native village and to Susan Butchers home to see the sled dogs. There are native villages in interior Alaska and in the bush, which is usually accessed by flying in a small plane. A cruise would take you to the Southeast of Alaska and there are tons of villages there too.

        One thing to understand is that native villages are not all the same. Some are Athabascan Indian and usually are the interior natives, Some are yupik eskimo or inupiat type natives that subsist on a lot of sealife and typically live on the coast, and then some are Tlingit or Haida natives and they live in the southeast and are a warmer climate type that live mostly on the coast down there.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you for your reply! By home stay I mean something where you could live with the native villages and help them out with everyday chores.

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    2. For Glaciers: Portage Glacier (Anchorage area: 1 hr away), Exit Glacier (Seward), or Matanuska Glacier (Matsu Valley: mile 100 Glenn Hwy)

      For Animals/Wildlife: Alaska Wildlife Conservation center (Portage area: 1 hr from anchorage), Alaska Zoo (Anchorage), there are some different places in the Palmer area (near anchorage) with reindeer and musk oxen, any highway can have wildlife.

      For special areas: Mt McKinley (Denali) half way between Anchorage and Fairbanks…I recommend train rides, tour buses, etc…Chena Hot Springs in Fairbanks is awesome, as well as Pioneer Park and the Ice museum. In North Pole you have Santa Clauses house. The Homer Spit is amazing and the area is gorgeous!

      For fishing: Kenai Peninsula is the best area! (check out the Russian River)

      Any coastal area is going to be beautiful but you will miss North America’s tallest mountain “Mt McKinley”, the land animals, and many other areas that are awesome! But you can see glaciers, sea life, and a lot of gorgeous scenery. Alaska is vast, so you will want to look inside yourself to see what is more important to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First off I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question in which
    I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out
    how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.

    I’ve had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Many thanks!

    Like

    1. I always write with inspiration. I tend to start with an outline and that helps me to formulate my thoughts so that I don’t get lost while writing. Refer back to your outline or rearrange it if needed but that outline will help you to stay organized. 😉 Thank you for posting and good luck!

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