When I first moved to Alaska in 2007 I had visited here
twice before, and I was in awe of the magnitude and majesty of this place. The
name Alaska is derived from a native word: “Alyeska”, which means great land,
and this state certainly is that.
in the city of Palmer in the southcentral area of the state, about a 50 minute
drive from Anchorage, the largest city. When I watch our local news and
weather, the station is based in Anchorage, but the reports cover other areas
of the state as well: North Slope, Interior, Southeast, Aleutian Chain,
Western, Kenai Peninsula, and Prince
William Sound. I live in the area which is known as being “on the road system”,
where a majority of the population lives. Once you get past Fairbanks in the
interior there are no roads to get places except for the Haul Road, used by
truckers to get supplies up to the oil fields in the north.
My city has several
very popular tourist destinations: the Reindeer Farm, where you can go in the
pen and feed them, the Musk Ox Farm, where you can watch them being groomed for
their incredibly soft qiviut fiber, Hatcher Pass, where you can hike, ski, and
see the remains of the Independence Gold Mine, and the small town feel of the
downtown area, full of shops and restaurants.
Out my front window I have a wonderful view of
Pioneer Peak which stands at 6,398 ft. and is part of the Chugach Range. These mountains, along with the nearby
Talkeetna Mountain Range, are not as high as the Rockies but are jagged and
stark against the mostly flat plains surrounding them. The ever-changing light
and shadows from clouds overhead means I will never get tired of watching
them. If you have never seen a mountain
bathed in the pinkish, orangey glow of Alpenglow, you really need to come here
to experience it.
Valley, where Palmer is located, was carved out by the Matanuska Glacier. Like
many of the glaciers in Alaska it has receded many miles back from where the town
is, but it is readlily accessible by car, and you can go on guided tours across
its surface. The Matanuska River flows from it through town, and it is a
classic example of a braided river, full of glacial silt. The water at the
height of the spring melt runoff time is a bluish gray color.
The fertile soil
in this valley means this area supports some of the largest agricultural fields
of the whole state. Maybe you have heard of the giant cabbages that can grow up
to 110 pounds, and other giant vegetable like 4 pound carrots and 5 pound
kohlrabi. There is a whole section at the state fair (held in Palmer in late
August through Labor Day) of giant veggies on display each year, so again, if
you have never been to Alaska, maybe you want to come for that. We even have Cabbage Fairies who wander
around the fairgrounds in their cute green costumes spreading good cheer to
young and old.
Our new Representative in D.C., Mary Peltola,
is Alaska Native, from the Kuskokwim
River area in and around Bethel. She is passionate about protecting this great
land. She is aware that Alaska has
mostly been a resource extraction state in its relatively short 63 years of
statehood but she knows that there is much to be done to keep this boom and
bust extractive economy from completing raping all the bountiful resources in
this land. There are now collaborative approaches happening that are moving the
state toward a regenerative economy. For a sample, listen to the latest episode
of “A Matter of Degrees” podcast. The
episode delves into the decades-long fight to protect the Tongass National
Forest in southeast AK. It features Marina Anderson, Deputy Director of the
Sustainable Southeast Partnership and President Richard Chalyee
Peterson of the Central Council of
the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.
In closing, I want to reiterate: Alaska is a great land, and its nickname The Last Frontier is well earned. I feel blessed to call this place home, and pray God will bless our efforts to care for this special part of our earth.
Barbara Brown is a member of PEC as well as the Presbytery of Yukon. She was one of the planners and hosts for a glorious eco-trip to Alaska/ Yukon Presbytery in 2014 along with Curtis Karns, then Executive Presbytery of Yukon Presbytery.