ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

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Chewbaccawacca
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ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Chewbaccawacca » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:01 pm UTC

So I'm finally getting over my fears and taking the plunge into the world of adventure that I know has been waiting for me. Specifically in about a months time I plan on hitchhiking over to Seattle in WA state and from there trying to find passage north to Alaska on fishing boat or some such. Now, not having done anything similar to this in the past I was wondering if there was anybody on the Fora who has any experience with hitchhiking, sailing, living on the cheap, camping, being nice to people, ect.

So, to that end, advice? Tips? Things I should/shouldn't do/take with me? Places I should be sure to visit? Jobs that are easy to get? Basically I'm looking for any sort of input that might help me on my travels, and anything (including well-wishes) will be greatly appreciated!
Not all who wander ar...blah blah blah, basically I want to be cool like Aragorn.

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Kewangji
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Kewangji » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:09 pm UTC

Yeah, I was nice to people once. Smile at them!

Have back-up plans. Like, at least two. Have expectations and standards and don't look down on people without your specific set of them. Use protection. Remember that all is fleeting. Dress for the weather. Tell people where you're going and possibly keep communications possible. If you don't have anyone nearby or far away to tell, write a letter to the local authority place and tell them that if anyone looks for you, they should get that letter, wherein you explain where you are. Seek knowledge. Don't be afraid to admit you're wrong.

That's all I can think of right know.
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Chewbaccawacca
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Chewbaccawacca » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:55 am UTC

Heh, I've heard that smiling works, I'll have to give it a shot. By the way, have you ever had the pleasure of traveling in the great North West?
Not all who wander ar...blah blah blah, basically I want to be cool like Aragorn.

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Josephine
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Josephine » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:49 am UTC

You sound like a travel advertisement.
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Chewbaccawacca
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Chewbaccawacca » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:19 pm UTC

Heh, well if you want may I also interest you in some penis enlargement pills?

But in all seriousness, this is something I've been wanting to do for so long, now that I am finally doing it I've been rather excited/excitable for the past week or so. Heh, I'll try to tone down the cheese from here on in though.
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pizzazz
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby pizzazz » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:32 pm UTC

Remember the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. You don't want to become the next Christopher McCandless. (I don't actually know if this is anything like what you plan on doing, but I feel obligated to point out that April is still essentially winter in Alaska).

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Chewbaccawacca
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Chewbaccawacca » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:47 pm UTC

Oh yes, I a quite familiar with the Supertramps sad tale. No, though I will be seeking adventure of sorts, I won't be attempting anything so fool-hardy. I won't be trying to live off the land or anything like that. I'll do a little camping probably, but only until I can find work and a place to stay. And I'll be getting my food from civilization. But I do thank you for the concern, and reminding me of a good cautionary tale!
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IceFlake
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby IceFlake » Sat Mar 17, 2012 6:15 am UTC

Don't think that you're going to be living "The Deadliest Catch" - fewer and fewer boats go out every season and you pretty much have to know someone to get hired as a deckhand. Also, crab season is fall/winter. Salmon (several types) and halibut seasons are in the summer but you are more likely to get a job at a cannery than on a boat.

If you come up during April, you'll be dealing with mud, mud, then more mud. Get some comfy breakup boots, especially if you are going to be outdoors a lot. Also, bug dope. Lots of it. Get as much as you think you will need then get twice that much.

Look into rideshare on Craigslist. There are a lot of people going back and forth in late spring. If you are able to share driving and contribute some gas money, I bet you can find an arrangement. I wouldn't feel safe just hitchhiking, but I might be overly cautious. A one way plane ticket from Seattle to Anchorage will run you $300-$500.

Honestly, I wonder if you are setting yourself up for failure or at least disappointment. You should have a plan and a backup plan. Do you want to stay in the state or just have a summer adventure? Where in the state do you want to end up? It's a big place; you should give that some thought. It will be easier to find a job in some places than in others. My advice would be to have a job lined up before making the trip. Would you wander off to California, Wyoming, South Carolina, New Hampshire, or Minnesota with no job, no plan, and no place to stay?

In the summer, unskilled jobs that are (relatively) easy to get include canneries and tourism. In both these industries the company will often provide cheap or free housing if you're in a remote area. I worked in a cannery for several summers when I was in college but I was local and just lived with my parents. The base pay is not that good (but you do get a lot of overtime) and it is boring, repetitive, physically taxing work. Still, I have fond memories of that time. It was a good job for a 19 year old but definitely not something to do for the rest of your life. The cruise lines and hotels hire a lot of summer staff for housekeeping, handyman type stuff, tour guides, drivers, food prep, etc. However, they don't just hire you off the street - you'll have to apply (often online) and at least go through a cursory interview in person or by phone.

If I knew more about where you were planning on going, I would probably have more advice on what to see, things to do, etc. I am very familiar with the Kenai Peninsula, the Anchorage area, and Fairbanks.

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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby PAstrychef » Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:42 pm UTC

In the summer of 2000 I drove up to Homer, AK from Chicago. It took me about a week, but I was stopping whenever I wanted to to see the sights. I met a couple at a gas station outside Tok, and they recommended a place I could apply for work when I reached Homer. Mind you, I'm an experienced baker, so I had a useful skill set when I got to town. I stayed at a hostel until I found a room to rent. I got a job at the recommend place (The Fresh Sourdough Express) two days from my arrival.
Have some money to live on until you get a a job. If you have a tent and stove, many towns have muninicple campgrounds that are pretty cheap. Be prepared to get a grunt-labor job, but to enjoy being in Alaska while you do it. Try to hang with the locals, not just with the other transient workers. Go kayaking. Eat roast moose. Visit the museum in Anchorage.
If you can, hook up a job before you go. There are websites set up for this. Just google Alaska summer jobs.
Have a great summer!
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Chewbaccawacca
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby Chewbaccawacca » Sun Mar 18, 2012 2:35 am UTC

My plan is to get up there. Honestly I'm not worried, there always has been and there always will be money to be made if you're not picky. While it would be cool to get a job on a boat I am not counting on it (though I do know folks in that business up there). I was hoping for something with a cannery, but again I don't especially care what I end up doing. Making money is a secondary concern. I just want to go, I now currently have the means to go, so I'm going.

Thanks for the insight on the weather though! I have gear for mud and the like, but it sounds like I'll need to plan more for bugs! I confess I hadn't given that aspect much thought. As for heading out without work or a place to stay, heh yeah I've done that before. For me it's more of the cliche "about the journey more than the destination" (though I have always wanted to visit Alaska for the beautiful country!). I suppose I might fail, but without a well-defined goal it will be difficult for me to know when that has happened.

Is there any place up there that you would recommend? I was thinking more Fairbanks than Anchorage, though again it's all fluid.


Oh and PAstrychef thanks for that tip! It seems there's all sorts of info from a quick googling! I have a tent and stove, do you remember how much they were charging to camp? Oh, and is there anywhere you'd recommend I go when I'm up there?

Thanks so much for all the input all, this is really helping me get my ideas coalesced!
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IceFlake
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby IceFlake » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:29 am UTC

Well, being about 300 miles inland, there are no canneries in Fairbanks. We do have a lot of seasonal tourism jobs in hotels and tour companies though. About two hours south is Denali Park where you will find even more tourism jobs. Denali Park is strange in that it is a pseudo-town that only operates for four months out of the year. They have big hotels, smaller hotels and cabin farms, tour companies for hiking and rafting, the railroad, restaurants, and gift shops. All of these places will employ seasonal workers. The cruise lines bus or railroad up passengers from Anchorage and Seward.

Canneries will be found on the panhandle and southern coastline. I'm not that familiar with the panhandle but I can tell you that several canneries operate on the Kenai Peninsula in Seward, Kenai, Kasilof, and Nikiski. Inlet Salmon in Kenai provides cheap housing for cannery workers. Some of the others probably do too. These are all modern canneries but if you want to see an old-style one, check out Kenai Landing across the river on Cannery Road. It is a cannery dating from the 1920s that stopped processing fish probably about 8 years ago and got converted to a restaurant, hotel, and general tourist trap. Seward has commercial fishing, fishing charters, tour companies, and the cruise ship terminal. There aren't a lot of hotels because the cruise ship passengers get off the boat, do their shore excursions, and get back on the boat. Check out the SeaLife Center and if you're up for an adventure, kayak or hike to Caine's Head park. There's a campground and an abandoned WWII canon-fort thingie. If you're hiking, be sure to check the tide table because the trail is actually underwater at high tide. I saw several whales out in the bay when I was there years ago.

Go through the tunnel to Whittier. I went sea kayaking out of Whittier a while back and that was fun. Truthfully, Whittier is really weird and there is not a lot to do but the tunnel is interesting to see.

Homer, also on the Kenai Peninsula, does not have a cannery since the Icicle Seafoods plant exploded spectacularly about 10 years ago. I think some cannery operates a dock still and trucks the fish somewhere else to be processed. If you are on the peninsula, at least make a visit to Homer - it's a really interesting place. Go to Ulmer's, the Ring of Fire Meadery, and eat at Fat Olive's and Cafe Cups. Ptarmigan Arts and the Fireweed gallery have a lot of beautiful local art. Drive by the high school that looks like a ski chalet and notice that not only is it made of cedar, but it is made of cedar with no knotholes. Yay oil money. Homer has some commercial fishing boats as well as guided charter boats that will hire deckhands for the summer but again, these jobs are hard to get. There is not a bad view in all of Homer. You will see what I mean. Can you tell I'm a little bit in love with Homer?

All roads lead to Anchorage, so you will probably at least go through there on your travels. Go to the Alaska Experience Theater for an earthquake simulation. Stroll around downtown and check out the various gift shops and art galleries. If you're there on a Saturday, the open-air market just north of downtown has lots of crafts and good things to eat. I have Anchorage restaurant recommendations, but they're kind of pricey. Anchorage is really like any midsize US city, so if you're looking to have a true Alaskan experience, you probably don't want to plant yourself there for the whole summer but it is definitely worth a few days' visit if you have the opportunity.

There are also super-remote lodges and such that hire workers for the summer. These are places that you must either fly or boat to, as they are not on the road system. People usually visit for a few days for hunting or fishing charters. These are usually family owned and operated outfits but they might hire one or two people for the summer as a jack-of-all-trades who will do some cooking, haul luggage, light handyman work, housekeeping, etc.

eaglewings51
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Re: ALASKA! or Adventure is out there!

Postby eaglewings51 » Tue Mar 20, 2012 5:42 am UTC

IceFlake wrote:Don't think that you're going to be living "The Deadliest Catch" - fewer and fewer boats go out every season and you pretty much have to know someone to get hired as a deckhand. Also, crab season is fall/winter. Salmon (several types) and halibut seasons are in the summer but you are more likely to get a job at a cannery than on a boat.

In the summer, unskilled jobs that are (relatively) easy to get include canneries and tourism. In both these industries the company will often provide cheap or free housing if you're in a remote area. I worked in a cannery for several summers when I was in college but I was local and just lived with my parents. The base pay is not that good (but you do get a lot of overtime) and it is boring, repetitive, physically taxing work. Still, I have fond memories of that time. It was a good job for a 19 year old but definitely not something to do for the rest of your life. The cruise lines and hotels hire a lot of summer staff for housekeeping, handyman type stuff, tour guides, drivers, food prep, etc. However, they don't just hire you off the street - you'll have to apply (often online) and at least go through a cursory interview in person or by phone.


Ditto all of that. I live in Alaska and have lived in Alaska my entire life and am currently attending college here.

I worked since I was 13 on a fishing boat in the summer. My dad was captain and we family fished commercially seining. I did that until the summer I was 17 and after that, decided I didn't want to do it anymore. Fishing, you can make a ton of money really fast but you really do need to know someone because it's easy to get screwed. Where my family fishes, there are lots of captains (at the very very absolute least 50%) that you would never want to fish for. No one makes sure that you're payed because they're not a big company. I could tell you stories of people who got screwed over by their captains. Captains who took off their crew share for every little thing ("Oh, my wife brought a cake out for us? That's $5 off your crew share at the end of the summer. Oh, I know you didn't ask for it, she did it just 'cuz but I'm still docking you for that.") that adds up to you barely getting anything at the end of the summer. My dad tells stories of captains who at the end of the year said "Oh, we didn't make enough to pay you this year. Come back next summer and I'll pay you for both summers." and then it happens again until the crewman figures out that he's never getting paid and he might as well count those couple summers as a loss and get out. I'm not making this stuff up, it really happens.

Also, a lot of people, especially the highliners (the guys who do the best and make the most) won't want to hire you if you're a greenhorn (inexperienced). And if they do hire you, you won't get full share because you're green and aren't worth full share.

Tourism jobs are pretty easy to find. There's a lot of tourism here. My sister found her summer job at a tourism company about four days before she started the job. It'd be better to look ahead of time though.

Anchorage is awful. Period. Pretty much any real Alaskan (most people who live in Anchorage aren't real Alaskans, fyi, they just want to make money and then leave) hates Anchorage. Two popular sayings in Alaska are "The good thing about Anchorage is it's only fifteen minutes away from Alaska" and "If you've only been to Anchorage, you haven't been to Alaska". Fairbanks is a hundred times better. It's not near so cityish. Also, Alaska is SO different. You can't go to one place and have seen it all.

Up north above the artic circle is cold. There's no trees and it's tundra. Southeast is like a rainforest. It's green and rainy and has pretty mild temperatures. The Peninsula is buggy and has trees and fairly cold winters. Pretty nice in the summer though. The Aleutian Islands have no trees and are windswept. The weather is often bad and flying out there is a chore: long flights and small, noisy planes and frequent cancellations due to bad weather. On nice days, though, it's beatiful and amazing.

Also, the sightseeing is so different anywhere you go. In southeast, you'll have lots of Russian history, totem poles, and Tlingit Tshimshian history (I think, sometimes I get my native groups mixed up). In the Interior, you'll have mining history, Inuit and Athabascan history and stuff about settling Alaska. In the Aleutians, you'll have WWII history (Unalaska/Dutch Harbor was bombed by the Japanese during WWII during the Aleutian campaign and two islands were taken over by the Japanese for a while. There's tons of stuff left over from the war on several of the islands), Aleut and Unangan history, stuff about fisheries, and stuff about the Russians. It's very different all over. And there's no such thing as "Alaska natives". All the groups are very very different and you can't clump them all together into one group.

Anyway, that's all I can think of that might be of interest at the moment. I'll try to think of some other stuff.


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