Edge of the Arctic – Arrival

imageI seem to have good luck with teenage boys on flights in Alaska. For some reason they tell me intriguing things, about their great state. My first visit in 2012, I met the brothers from Anchorage who were city kids to the core with some experience in the wilderness. Today, I met a nice Junior in high school who told me a bit about his life in a small village about 200 miles west of where we both departed the plane in Barrow, Alaska. I asked him if he traveled much and he gave me a pained smile and said, “no, not really.” Further conversation told me he was maybe going to college far from home, because he did not like being stuck in the same area all of the time. I can’t say I blame him.

His is village is on the Arctic Ocean, like Barrow, only much smaller.  Barrow’s population is roughly 4,500 and his village’s population sits at about 300. He tells me they have AT&T cell service, travel mostly in winter by snow machine to other villages because it’s easier, and that there isn’t anything to do

While I can only imagine what life as a teenager is like in a small remote coastal tundra village, I was also wondering what my visit to Barrow was going to be like.

imageI walk off the plane and into the one room airport. It’s crowded with both passengers and folks picking up. Everyone knows everyone. Local children walk by, poking their heads through the open doors, calling out hellos to people working there. Children go wherever they want here, unattended by adults. It’s refreshing. They do not seemed concerned in the least about being a snack for a Polar Bear.

After a 10 minute drive to our home for the next 3 days (more about that in a future post), Mary and I grab binoculars and money and head out to the biggest grocery store in town in the Ford Ranger we have been given. We decide on canned chili and Fritos for dinner. We buy about $25 dollars worth of food for breakfasts and lunches. I am relieved to see sale prices ring up as we do not have a discount card for any market in Alaska. I go to pay for our food – $68.00 for what would cost us $25 in Colorado.  Stunning. How anyone can afford to eat here, I have no idea. Hunting and fishing are my best guess answer to this question.

imageIt’s 9:30pm before we have dinner but it feels like 6:00pm. We are, after all, on the very edge of the Arctic Ocean where the cold beach sand meets the coastal tundra, and where the sun doesn’t set in the summer.


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