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Old 09-10-2020, 02:08 PM
 
28 posts, read 27,745 times
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Hey all, long time lurker first time poster. I've seen about a million posts about moving to Alaska, however I haven't found any asking about a few specific items so please bear with me. There are plenty of posts about weather, housing, cost of living, jobs, isolation and culture shock so I'm not looking to cover those. Apologies, as this post is pretty large. Any answers to any of the questions would be GREATLY appreciated.

My wife and I are I are considering a move to Alaska in the next year or so. The top two places to check out on our list are Homer and Petersburg. Suggestions for other places are welcome. We have 4 children ranging from 0 to 10. We're going to try an make a visit and check out homes as an entire family before making the decision but due to the current pandemic situation they may stay home. In that case I'd drag one of my siblings with.

We're from a swampy river "valley" in eastern Illinois originally, but have lived in Western Washington for the past few years. We have experience with some degree of cold, wind, rain, heat, humidity, mosquitoes, etc and are prepared to deal with them. We spend almost all of our free time outdoors; hunting, fishing, hiking, swimming, foraging, you name it. Weather is not a deterrent. A place where folks get out and do stuff is a must, this was the worst thing about Illinois and the best thing about Washington.

After moving to Washington, sight unseen, we fell in love with the water, mountains, rain, clouds, etc. We have family in damned near every climate in the lower 48 and this beats the pants off everywhere we've visited. We'd love to try out Southeast AK; it seems like Western Washington but more. Unfortunately, everything seems to be boxed into small overpriced lots by water, mountains, and public lands. That's how Homer came onto our radar. It doesn't seem to be the lush rainforest that we crave, but on paper it at least seems to check a lot of boxes; small town, reasonably priced land, has a handful of actual amenities in town, and the local community appears to have an Internet presence so I can see that there is at least some semblance of community.

I've been following the various [larger] news outlets in Alaska that have an online presence for the past year trying to get a feel for AK and the problems it has. Some of the budget related stuff directed my reading towards the ferry system, where I came across Petersburg, which seems like it is more reasonably priced than a Sitka/Juneau/etc, ticks some of the same boxes as homer, and has that wet coastal feel we crave. Reading about town itself reminds me of Poulsbo, WA. And it might have a decent little community living on it.

I guess I should try to boil all of that down into concise questions;

* We're from a small really friendly town the midwest originally. When we say we're friendly, we mean it. Before I was working remotely I had to commute to Seattle proper. When you'd greet people to people you'd see every day on the ferry or in the office they'd often stare at you blankly then give you the cold shoulder. People say it's a culture thing. Personally, it drove me bonkers. These were people who's names I know. Smaller towns in Washington don't seem to have this problem, but I'd hate to live somewhere people you know prefer to ignore you.

* How is the light pollution in these places? We miss the stars dearly where we're currently at. Having them be covered by clouds most of the times is fine, but permanently blotted out by streetlights is unacceptable.

* I'm well aware of the AK budget crisis. What's it like living in a coastal community when the ferry system and other public services are going through a tumultuous time? What if you don't have your own boat?

* How is the community? Are these places full of retirees? Single folks? Families? Do they keep to themselves or is it an _actual_ community? Pandemic aside, do they actually get together? We are the folks in the neighbor hood who know many of the police, firefighters, delivery drivers, municipality workers, and code enforcement folks just from walking by. We aren't afraid to introduce ourselves.

* Is there internet? I work remotely, internet doesn't have to be super fast, but it does need to be relatively stable. Using cell phone towers for internet is acceptable as long as it's not prohibitively expensive (2G a month of data tops). We would strongly prefer to live outside or on the edge of town.

* One of the most annoying things about Washington is people are allowed to own beaches, tideland, and bays. This is bass-ackwards from most places I've been in the lower 48. Is beach access that a problem in these places? Are there any breaks in the coast that aren't rocky or steep? We get in sheltered places in the sound, year round, do a fair amount of cold-water swimming, and love to fish for surf perch.

* We don't need a lot of amenities in town but things like a library that doesn't suck (we home-school), a local police force, and a farmers market are really nice.

* We're from an ag community originally, and my wife would like to get back to that somewhat with a small/hobby farm. We'd love to live near other small farms, or at the very least around folks trying to be more self-sustaining. Related; hows the soil?


* Everywhere we've lived so far is being built up and sub-divided at an alarming rate. I realize that if you aren't growing, you're dying but do either of these communities risk being parceled out and lose what makes them great?



* You all like to fish recreationally? Open to taking out folks new to the area and showing them the ropes? ;p



We're open to suggestions for other locations and appreciate any advice. Thanks again!

PS. bonus points and a gold star for any pictures (particularly of the night sky) in either location!

Last edited by matpp; 09-10-2020 at 02:59 PM.. Reason: correct spelling.
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Old 09-10-2020, 02:58 PM
 
9 posts, read 9,570 times
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Should stay away from Petersburg. I think it is more expensive than Homer and houses that own beach property get it all the way to the ocean at high tide. Wrangell is definitely cheaper, but I know it has less amenities. The one good thing about Petersburg now is I know it has a hospital. Not sure about Wrangell. Petersburg seems to be mostly an upper class island. I know that there are some lower priced areas there, but the vibe is definitely upper class. Many people that rely on ferries will tell you it sucks not having one. Traveling off the island is more expensive and if you have a vehicle that needs work that you can't do, no one on the island may be able to fix it. I would get an older vehicle that you know how to fix. Do not know much about internet in Petersburg.
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Old 09-10-2020, 03:21 PM
 
24,998 posts, read 33,314,881 times
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If you're living in SE and need to depend on the ferry, you're screwed. These aren't anything like the Washington state ferries where you're on and off in 30 minutes, so you'd have to own a good-sized boat to be able to safely take it to one of the other panhandle communities.

People can be standoffish at first in small Alaska towns because so many people haul up and then end up leaving several months later because it wasn't what they thought it would be.

Although there are some people "doing ag" in SE Alaska, it's not really farming country. It's a peat bog, and the soil is acidic and of poor nutritional quality. If a hobby farm is important to you, I'd look at Homer.

You're not going to find a classic -48 "beach" around Petersberg. Don't know about Homer. It's my understanding that the state owns most of the tidelands.
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Old 09-10-2020, 03:30 PM
 
28 posts, read 27,745 times
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Thanks for the responses.

I wouldn't need to depend on the ferries for day to day living, I was more curios about how much it disrupts the town itself.


I take care of all our autos myself, we have pre-2000 model common cars so parts aren't a problem, though I'd imagine getting larger items like transmissions, body panels, windshields, etc, can get pricey.


And the beaches, we're used to rocky beaches, covered with oysters / sharp stuff, and with cold water. Finding access is a bit annoying at times as a lot of beach is rather steep and folks can own well below the low tide mark. This is something I'd imagine I can find via plat / topo maps, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask.


I totally get people not warming up immediately, it's more of the chronic 'pretend you don't exist" attitude towards people you know I've found in Seattle I have a real distaste for.

Last edited by matpp; 09-10-2020 at 03:32 PM.. Reason: expand on comment
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Old 09-10-2020, 03:41 PM
 
24,998 posts, read 33,314,881 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matpp View Post
Thanks for the responses.

I wouldn't need to depend on the ferries for day to day living, I was more curios about how much it disrupts the town itself.
A lot. Ferries bring in groceries, mail, and other essentials.
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Old 09-10-2020, 04:02 PM
 
28 posts, read 27,745 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metlakatla View Post
A lot. Ferries bring in groceries, mail, and other essentials.

Hmm, if the soil's poor and the grocery store shelves wind up empty I'd imagine folks are in a real tough spot. What did folks do before the ferry system was in place? I'm sure that the quality of life was drastically different. But were things always brought in or did people "make it work".



You know if the soil poor and acidic like you'd find western WA that isn't a river valley? We currently get a fair amount of produce out of a cracker-box sized lot in Washington. Granted, it took two years of work to get the soil productive.
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Old 09-10-2020, 04:18 PM
 
28 posts, read 27,745 times
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I did happen across this page when looking for soil info. https://alaskamastergardener.communi...theast-alaska/ Could be a good jumping off point for some homework.
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Old 09-10-2020, 04:25 PM
 
24,998 posts, read 33,314,881 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matpp View Post
Hmm, if the soil's poor and the grocery store shelves wind up empty I'd imagine folks are in a real tough spot. What did folks do before the ferry system was in place? I'm sure that the quality of life was drastically different. But were things always brought in or did people "make it work".



You know if the soil poor and acidic like you'd find western WA that isn't a river valley? We currently get a fair amount of produce out of a cracker-box sized lot in Washington. Granted, it took two years of work to get the soil productive.
Petersburg was founded as a commercial fishing community, so before the ferries came into service, transportation was via private vessel. The old-school cannery workers ate traditional diets so really didn't need grocery stores.

This tells more about farming in the Petersburg area than I can, but for a smallish hobby farm, I'd use raised beds in a greenhouse. Personally, I don't do much on my property (south of Petersburg on another island) that'll attract deer, though I do have a small vegetable plot. There were five or six young deer on my deck one night, and when I opened the door to try to shoo them away, they wouldn't budge. That's because what was waiting for them at the bottom of the steps to the deck was a lot scarier than I am.

https://ediblealaska.ediblecommuniti...-farragut-farm

Last edited by Metlakatla; 09-10-2020 at 04:39 PM..
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Old 09-10-2020, 04:39 PM
 
28 posts, read 27,745 times
Reputation: 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metlakatla View Post
Petersburg was founded as a commercial fishing community, so before the ferries came into service, transportation was via private vessel. The old-school cannery workers ate traditional diets so really didn't need grocery stores.

This tells more about farming in the Petersburg area than I can, but for a smallish hobby farm, I'd use raised beds in a greenhouse. Personally, I don't do much on my property that'll attract deer, though I do have a small vegetable plot. There were five or six young deer on my deck one night, and when I opened the door to try to shoo them away, they wouldn't budge. That's because what was waiting for them at the bottom of the steps to the deck was a lot scarier than I am.

https://ediblealaska.ediblecommuniti...-farragut-farm

Very cool. Thanks for the link. I think I have a decent lead on a rabbit hole now.



Heh, did you get a show that evening on your porch?
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Old 09-10-2020, 05:10 PM
 
Location: Anchorage
1,543 posts, read 1,073,160 times
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[quote=Metlakatla;59131273

You're not going to find a classic -48 "beach" around Petersberg. Don't know about Homer. It's my understanding that the state owns most of the tidelands.[/quote]


Spots around Homer have sand beaches. The Homer Spit would be one. A lot of coastal Alaska has serious tides so I'd be careful about swimming. Although, I have been swimming in a few places such as Prince William Sound and even near Unalaska.


Our state ferry system has been a mess and I believe it will only get worse. The results of our state's primary elections is very likely to result in a legislature next year that will gut the ferry system even more. But hey, we are likely to get more free money!


You might also look at Valdez, it's on the road system, and Kodiak. While not on the road system, Kodiak has enough barges and cargo ships coming in and out regularly that the disruption of ferry service has had less impact.
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