Parts of Alaska that are off the road system are referred to as “The Bush”. If a geography could be inbred its progeny would be the Alaskan Bush. I probably was a little too harsh in my first posting, it is mainly the bush communities and towns that give me the full on heeby-jeebys. I spend as much time as possible in the Alaskan bush because that’s where all the wildlife is. But flying in and out of National Parks sometimes requires overnighting in place like “Antlers Inn” – the motel pictured above in King Salmon, Alaska.
I certainly wouldn’t have spent the night there if we hadn’t been picked up at our bush plane by Big Jim and Little Jim, who drove us to our “motel” in their rusted out Suburban. It is hard to even describe what went through my head when we pulled up to Antler’s Inn, a ramshackle residential house with every imaginable species of ungulate antlers nailed to the walls. Exhaustion and a little bit of grotesque curiosity led us to check out a room, and since it was actually clean we decided to stay.
As Big Jim led us through the tangle of antlers that filled the front lawn he asked where we were from. Replying Arizona (this was before we moved to AK), he started jiggling with excitement and shifting through his piles of cartilage. “I got these here in Arizona!” he proudly holds up some decaying horns and tells us how much he loves traveling to the desert to shoot Antelope. It reminded me of a very typical Alaskan trait -relating to the world through the animal “trophys” that you have gathered.
The term rural doesn’t even begin to describe Alaska. Alaska is a state with huge and vast tracks of wilderness and undeveloped land -that’s what makes this place so very, very special. But it is a radically different geography – with radically different political concerns, than anywhere else in the country. If New York had the population density of Alaska, there would only be one person living on Manhattan Island! The state of Alaska only has a population of 670,053 – only slightly bigger than most mid-sized US towns like El Paso, TX (609,415), Tucson, AZ (518,956) or Charlotte, NC (630,478). Would you ever consider putting the mayor of Tucson in the White House? And does experience dealing with issues affecting Big and Little Jim really prepare you for governing the entire United States?