I came to Alaska for the first time when I was eight years old. My Grandpa was a pilot, he and my Grandma used to fly their Cessna 180 tail dragger to Alaska every year. The summer after third grade, my mom and I flew up in August and joined my Grandpa for the month. We traversed the state, visiting the must-see sites like Denali National Park, Kenai, Fairbanks, Lake Hood, Homer and so on.
The best part of that trip though was spent out on the Western side of Cook Inlet. We landed at low-tide on the beach at a place called Pollycreek. The only other people out there were commercial clamdiggers and the folks running a family owned lodge. We camped right next to the outlet of the river. Everyday, we’d walk back to a bridge near an abandoned cabin and fish for salmon and dolly varden. I’d never seen so many fish in my life. One day, I caught a fish so large it drug me out into the river while I was trying to land it. I’m not joking, I was only eight and these fish were huge. I absolutely wasn’t going to let my fishing rod go and before any of the adults could respond to my calls for help, I found myself waist-deep in the crystal clear, frigid water. Grandpa and I managed to reel it in, I’m pleased to report that salmon did not get away.
My grandma loves to tell a particular story about that trip. She had stayed home in California, so she recalls this story from the video footage we brought home to share with her. Overalls were in style back in the late 80’s, I had an Osh-Kosh-Begosh pair that I LOVED. I wore my overalls fishing everyday. Prissy girls were not allowed in our family, we were taught to water-ski, ride motorcycles, pull trailers AND clean fish. I loved cleaning the fish before we canned them in our beachside outdoor kitchen and one day my Grandpa videotaped my skillful work. When I finished, I laid down the knife, stepped away from our makeshift cleaning table, looked at my bloody hands and then right into the camera as I wiped my hands all over my overalls. Needless to say, they were never the same and 26 years later, that’s still my Grandma’s favorite story to tell about my first trip to Alaska….”she just looked at the camera and wiped her bloody hands all over her pants.”
Little did everybody know that this trip to Alaska planted a seed that would bloom nearly 20 years later. I came home from our Alaskan adventure telling everyone that someday I was going to move there. As usual with all of my wild proclamations as a kid, people patted me on the head and said that was nice. However, like most of those wild proclamations, I followed through. You know that song, Alaska & Me, by John Denver, well just like the song goes:
“it took me some growin’ and a fair bit of schoolin’
And a little bit of trouble to get on the move.”
The only difference is I married a boat captain instead of a pilot.
So why did I tell you this story, other than I love to recount tales from my first time in Alaska? Well, it’s my way of telling you….
No matter how hard you try to prevent it, you’ll need to accept the fact that you are going to get dirty in Alaska. Not only do we have lots of dirt roads and natural habitats, but we use gravel and sand in the winter when the roads get icy. It’s not just the environment either, it’s also very likely that you’ll hike, fish, clam dig, kayak, ride ATV’s, beach comb and a bunch of other stuff with one thing in common; they result in wildly happy, wet and dirty people!
NEWSFLASH: It rains in Alaska, A LOT. That rain results in mud and mud translates to dirty shoes and wet pant hems. You’re here to have fun, if you come with the proper mindset, it won’t end up bothering you. Just know that if you want to participate in all of the fun activities in this state, you’re often likely to be outside IN THE RAIN. So you just need to dress accordingly and be prepared to get dirt, fish guts, saltwater and much more on your clothes and body.
Don’t worry, we have great showers and nothing feels better at the end of the day than a hot shower when you’ve been out playing hard. I would encourage you to never leave your RV without a dry pair of clothes when you go out on a day excursion. We always have clean clothes with us in a dry bag, in case we get really wet, because wet clothes mean cold bodies. You won’t necessarily dry out up here if it’s a rainy day and cloudy days tend to be equally as chilly. Pack accordingly, bring plenty of clothes, warm, water-resistant clothes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
If you’ve been wondering what to pack for your Alaska vacation, check out my two posts below:
Truly though, it’s about the state of your mind, not the state of your outfit here.
Having said that, every girl who survives a cold day fishing or a hike in mud up to her nose, deserves a little bit of pampering. Believe it or not, we have plenty of places in Alaska to do just that. Check out my post about the places that will make you feel like a girl again.
Check out Ben’s post about alternatives to Anchorage campgrounds, for details on camping at Alyeska, one of my favorite places to get pampered (Salt Water Swimming Pool with a view of the mountains included).
Have fun and tell us your favorite dirty in Alaska stories in the comments below!