Snowy Alaska, McCarthy AK

Feeling a bit of AK nostalgia, posting this photo from one of the winters I was in McCarthy. Like many places in Alaska, when the snowpack forms and rivers freeze, it creates an entirely different place. A snow machine or a pair of skis open up new trails and roads that are inaccessible during the warm months. Just one of many of the things that make Alaska such a dynamic place, a place where I can always feel in my bones my mortal impermanence and tenuous existence.


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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

8 thoughts on “Snowy Alaska, McCarthy AK”

  1. I’m thinking about this post juxtaposed with your last one, about guns. I just looked it up: Alaska has the highest firearm death rate of any state, as well as the highest gun ownership rate. I bet Alaskans aren’t very keen on gun control. I suppose some Alaska gun ownership can be attributed to homesteaders using rifles to shoot their dinner, but by far the greatest proportion of gun deaths are from handguns, and I’m pretty sure even Alaskans don’t go out into the wild shooting elk with their sidearms. Part of Alaska’s allure is that it’s the last remnant of the Wild West. You don’t wait for the lawman to show up; you take matters into your own hands. But then there’s suicide, which accounts for twice as many gun deaths as homicide does, as we discussed on some earlier post here. Alaska has the second highest suicide rate in the country. Like they say, if you’ve got a hammer everything looks like a nail.

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    1. Yes, it’s true that Alaskans are a bit averse to gun control. In fairness, there are folks who hunt for subsistence. One such person is Seth Kantner, a writer and resisent who lives in an even more remote area than I do. He has an interesting take, sympathetic to the aims (so to speak) of gun control advocates:

      Seth may be in the minority, I don’t know. I suppose my concern for gun violence has more to do with keeping schools and colleges safe from mass shootings, and it seems as though we can do more on that count while giving subsistence hunters what they need. The problem, though, doesn’t seem to be a shortage of rational possibilities and pragmatic solutions.


      1. “In fairness, there are folks who hunt for subsistence” Well yeah, I acknowledged that in my comment. The guy you linked to is writing about hunting rifles, not handguns — hunters get a pass.

        Mass shootings account for fewer than 2% of gun deaths in the US — more than you want, but it’s the tip of the iceberg, to use an Alaskan metaphor. There were 177 firearm-related deaths in Alaska, two-thirds of them suicides, none the result of a mass shooting.

        Here’s a good summary article with charts about gun violence in the US.

        Most kids who die from guns don’t get shot at school; they get shot at home or in the streets. Most kids who get shot are poor, living in poor neighborhoods/towns. Most of them get shot by handguns. For those kids schools are a kind of haven, far safer than the streets. Heavier policing of schools tends to lead to earlier involvement in the criminal justice system and a much higher dropout rate, perpetuating the poverty, as well as exposure to and participation in violent crime.

        To me, evidence-based analysis and systematic experimentation is the way to go, rather than political argumentation. Arguments turn into winners and losers; people’s minds are rarely changed by arguments probably because it feels like losing, like weakness. So I’d say we’re in accord here: informed discussion and exploration of possible solutions, not just digging one’s heels into the planks on the party platform and yelling at each other.

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    1. Why not arm the students too — maybe just the “best” students. We’ve talked over dinner about what mayhem would result if the SWAT team shows up and there’s a whole bunch of teachers wielding guns roaming the halls. How does the cop tell the teacher from the shooter?

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