I grew up in Southeast Alaska. I’ve circled Gustavus with a few teammates in a five-seater waiting for the weather to clear so we could land and play basketball games. I’ve slept in Yakutat’s gym, a math room in Kake, a wrestling room in Wrangell, got locked out of a hotel in Sitka, kicked out of the mall in Ketchikan for loitering, wandered around Angoon looking for the store and had boatloads of other memories as a student athlete from Klawock.
When I moved back in 2013, it was like I had just graduated college and hadn’t spent 10 years teaching high school in California. I felt 23 again, only this time, rather than be excited for a career and finding things to do in California, I was back on the home field. Juneau wasn’t just a place where the region tournament was held. There are things to do there other than walk to Fred Meyer and do laps in the Nugget Mall like we did in the late ‘90s.
But after over half a decade of being home, I’m starting to feel almost overwhelmingly behind. I’m outdoorsing as much as possible, which seems like all the time, because outside of work, it’s what you do when you live here. If you want to stay inside and watch TV, you might as well live somewhere where the groceries are less expensive and the roads free of ice and snow.
I am becoming a more experienced hunter and angler, but have only just started things like duck hunting and ocean fishing on trips where I run the program, rather than just be out with the friend who invited me.
I don’t regret living in California, mostly because those 10 years are just fraction of the multitude of lifetimes it would take to live Alaska right. So, it’s not like I would have Alaska all figured out had I not lived there. Plus, I had fun with friends and at my school.
However, I’m sad to say I haven’t been back to Yakutat since I was a senior, back when visiting there meant hoops. Now, it’s the Situk and the steelhead people have traveled from all over the U.S. to catch.
I’ve never seen Skagway in full-tourist bloom, only when it’s so cold a freshman might be convinced that if you throw frozen dog poop it would shatter.
I did get back to Wrangell for a night before a group of 10 of us headed up the Stikine for a gentle two-day float down from the border to the hot springs, but that’s about it.
A map of my adventures would reveal I have been confined to the southern extremities of Southeast Alaska, and I’ve hardly scratched the surface here!
While it might sound sad that I’m overwhelmed, I’m not. Sunday I was standing on the edge of a tidal flat, a small pile of 12-gauge shells at my feet, 0 dead geese floating in the water, and I just felt happy to live here. Thankful for the opportunities that have lasted every season since I moved back in October 2013, and will continue to last for as long as I am here.
No place is perfect. When you get that, places like here can be paradise.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.