It’s a cliche that folks from Alaska take Alaska for granted. I know I definitely always have.
I was never an outdoorsy person. The last time I went for a hike was in the eighth grade. An early pandemic plan to go out running for exercise ended less than a week in when I injured my knee and embarrassingly wiped out on the side of Kalifornsky Beach Road. I got a bike this summer – then didn’t ride it even a single time.
The things that I do happen inside. I was on the swim team in high school, I worked at the movie theater, later at the pool. I read books, watched movies and played video games. My social circle was largely the same way, I never had much reason to go outside.
Despite living in Kenai and Soldotna for 25 years, I never really appreciated the place I live and, ostensibly, enjoy every day.
For years, all I’ve seen of the Kenai Peninsula is what passed through my car windows on the way to work. Especially in my five years working at local pools, I spent my waking hours in a variety of concrete rectangles.
Even in my time off, I didn’t exactly get out much. I hadn’t engaged outside of my bubble in a long time.
I remember making fun of a classmate at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She was from Washington, and as we were heading up to catch the State Fair, she was loudly enamored with every passing mountain. It’s Alaska, there are a lot of mountains.
Suddenly, as a reporter at The Peninsula Clarion, I find myself in the community and on the peninsula in a way that I truly never have been before. I’m talking to cool people about the cool things they’re doing on a daily basis.
I’m also seeing more of the sights. I went to Tsalteshi Trails last week for the regions cross-country meet, and it was a beautiful sunny day – the trails lined with fall colors. Nikiski, too, looks wonderful this time of year.
Only a couple of months in, it’s not an exaggeration to say my experience has completely shifted. Don’t look now, but there’s some pretty neat stuff happening out there. I’ve seen festivals, sporting events, cats who are social media celebrities, wildlife and a community that I’m experiencing for the first time despite being here the whole time.
It feels like a reconnection — or maybe I’m just opening my eyes. But I’m excited to get back out there and see more.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at firstname.lastname@example.org.