While taking in the view of the Chugach Mountains you can’t help but feel that winter is hiding behind the steep peaks waiting to sneak up on us at any time and show it’s face. There’s a calm in Anchorage that you don’t often feel in other cities in the US. A constant cool breeze pushes the fresh air around the city giving a touch of the wild in a metropolitan setting. There’s a certain ruggedness to the people here, the thick beards, camouflage clothing and pickup trucks are just the covers to unread books, where if you take the time to open up and read the pages you would discover the many stories to be heard and told. Many people living in Anchorage are not native to Alaska but are proud to call it home, and even more proud to share how they ended up here and why they stay; some for the peacefulness they can’t seem to find anywhere else and others, despite the long winters, jut simply enjoy the outdoors. The locals boast about the parks, trails and rivers and never shy away from recommending a good place to view a sunset or a mountain top view overlooking their city.
We jumped right into our Alaskan adventure and drove the scenic Highway 1, hugging the Matanuska River all the way north to our destination. After a short bus ride and hike we loaded onto whitewater rafts and descended the rumbling waters. The glacier fed river toughened us up with its bumps, dips and splashes and gave us an opportunity to bond as a team and work together while paddling in unison; becoming closer as a family with every paddle stroke and wave we conquered. We celebrated our success with a cup of warm tea and lunch overlooking the river with a newfound respect, not only for the surrounding area, but for one another.
As calm and peaceful as Anchorage feels there’s a population of people here that don’t get to enjoy it the same way many of the other locals and tourist do. Unfortunately in Anchorage and many of the surrounding communities there is a very high rate of unemployment and homelessness. We were fortunate to not only witness some of the realities of life in Alaska but to lend a helping hand to people in need at a local food kitchen called Bean’s Cafe. With our hairnets, plastic gloves and aprons we had a busy morning helping preparing and serving meals in the kitchen. We had to make and pack over 100 lunches for people on the go, but also helped prepare a warm breakfast and lunch for the people eating at the cafe. While one group worked away in the heat of the kitchen, the other group was outside with a uniform of their own of plastic gloves and bright orange vests where they helped in beautifying the campus on which the cafe sits. We did everything from raking and sweeping to just simply talking to new people, whether that be the volunteer workers or the people using Bean’s services. Everyone seemed to be an interesting character with something to share, stories filled with life’s predicaments and challenges. It was a rewarding feeling to give our time, our ears and a helping hand to the people in need but also to take a load off the shoulders of the regular volunteers who work extremely hard to keep things running efficiently.
In keeping with the theme of food, we later visited the Food Bank of Alaska where we toured the warehouse and learned all about the services and needs of the people of Alaska. Looking at a map we realized just how hard it is to keep a population so widely dispersed fed and well nourished. Reaching out to communities in the far northern, western, eastern, and southern tips of the state is difficult. The capital city, Juneau, and many of the other rural communities do not connect to each other by road and may only be reached by airplane, boat or train. This means keeping food fresh and eatable is expensive, time consuming and overall difficult. Yet, the passionate group of volunteers and employees at the Food Bank of Alaska manages to get food out to every corner of the state and to the bellies of those in need. With a new admiration for the work that is being done at the bank, it is now our turn to lend a helping hand and help raise funds to support the cause. Stay tuned for some exciting updates on our bake sale fundraiser for the food bank on July 4th and if you’re lucky enough, a recipe or two on how to make the best baked goods.
Mr. Moose said to say hi
The Westcoast Blogger