Letter Re: A Different View of Alaska as a Retreat Locale

Mr. Rawles,
G.T. has some very good points regarding the feasibility of Alaska as a retreat locale.  Granted, the pros and cons of Alaska are almost as varied as such classic arguments as 9mm versus .45, and if I were there when TSHTF, I would probably beat feet for the American Redoubt as quickly as I could.  However, there are a couple areas of interest that his article did not touch on that may be relevant to the topic.

First is the feasibility of gardening.  It is true that for most of the state the summer is very short, as short as 2-to-3 months in some parts.  However, due to the high latitude of most of Alaska, those 2-to-3 months are a time when the sun never sets.  So, while the growing season may be very short, it’s also 24 hours a day, so the plants will grow faster.  I did an internship with last summer with a missionary aviation group based in Soldotna, Alaska, and I was amazed by the number of people who had open air gardens and greenhouses in a region I had thought was impossible to garden.  I was also amazed by the number and variety of critters that many people kept on hand.  I’m not sure of the specifics of how they keep them alive through the winter, but many of the same people I saw gardening also had chickens and rabbits.  There were even a few ranches with everything from horses to alpacas.  I don’t know how sustainable these ranches would be post-Schumer, but you could do a lot with only a few big animals.

As for hunting and subsistence, even in populated areas like Anchorage, game is pretty abundant.  It may or may not be able to sustain a population the size of Anchorage or Fairbanks, but in the Kenai/Soldotna area, they average almost a moose a day in traffic accidents.  I had a few close calls myself, and I was only there for two months.  Between commercial fishing of the Kenai River, and what residents put away for themselves, the number of salmon harvested was several million just on the Peninsula, and this is apparently sustainable, as the Alaskans fish the Kenai year after year.  Granted, that particular location is literally the best salmon fishing in the world, but there are other places in Alaska where one can still do well with rod, reel, or dip net.

Another thing I found out from a gent who ran an alternative energy/battery shop was how feasible it is to run a mostly solar power system in Alaska.  During the summer, there’s sun aplenty, but I had thought that the long, dark winters would put solar plans to rest.  As it turns out, the colder Alaska gets, the more efficient solar generation becomes.  I was informed that, if you keep your batteries warm and your panels and wiring cold, the resistance in the wiring drops off so much that you can actually generate more power in the short cold days of November than you can in the longer, but much warmer days of September.  Granted, you would definitely want some other form of backup power to get you through the darkest days, but that particular vendor said that he had personally helped over a hundred households go completely off grid, mostly by solar, in the last several years.  This was all on the Kenai Peninsula on the southern coast of Alaska.  G.T. was right about microclimates varying across a state.  Alaska is huge. ( Most map projections don’t give an accurate picture of it’s true size.)  These principles of gardening and solar power very well may not be valid in other parts of the state, especially up in the interior, but on the Peninsula, they seem to hold true.  Just some food for thought. – John in Spokane