To begin, Anchorage was the city of new beginnings for us. During this time, I began the sanctifying process of letting the old baggage go and started a new walk with Jesus. Anchorage later became the city of our honeymoon, the city of our getaway, the city where we spent the first few years together. Anchorage is the city of many fond memories for us; the city of new beginnings, and it is the city of adventure, grandeur, wildness, trails galore and the last frontier.
So, why not, I feel compelled to write a blog about this city that I love in many ways, and to be fair, share in the conflicting perspectives about this city; the good the bad and the ugly.
To start, let me share my originating perspective on Anchorage. I’ve always loved the idea of adventure and going off into the unknown. So, sixteen years ago when a cross-country running coach from the University of Alaska Anchorage came to North Idaho College to recruit, I was on it. Six months later and after much time spent studying the Alaska Milepost, various Alaska books and the University of Alaska Anchorage catalog (before the days of rampant internet usage) I was hopping off of a flight in Anchorage with a suitcase of cloths, running shoes and a mountain bike (separate box). That’s it; I was dropped off in a dorm, which was essentially an independent living facility with no food service. So, consequently, I started out using the 400+ miles of trails in Anchorage to get around.. by foot and by bike. My perspective on Anchorage was a cool city with trails everywhere filled with trees, moose, creeks, lakes and ponds. The background of Anchorage consisting of the Chugach Mountains being terminated by the dust of winter. I walked on the trails to get to school, I ran on the trails for UAA cross-country, I rode on the trails to get food, I skate skied on the groomed trails to.. start something new. By the way, skate skis and downhill skis are completely contradictory to each other. Cocky downhill skier me on skate skis found myself visiting the snow in close proximity on many occasions. There’s no control on those silly skinny things. Anyway, Anchorage was all about the trails and the unknown city yet to be explored and I loved it.
(Chugach Mountain Range)
(Stacy Jo in Downton Anchorage)
The following year my wife and I got married (blipping way forward and skipping many details) and were spending our honeymoon on the ALCAN Highway and pulling into the big city of Anchorage with our Geo Metro completely stuffed full of stuff. Yes, we began with a Metro full of stuff and now we have 2 acres full of stuff. What happened, I don’t really know.. anyway, life in Anchorage would be different now from what I once knew it as, but we were in LOVE, newly married and nothing was going to stop us. Especially money. Talk about tite-wads. If anybody could penny pinch, we did it. And speaking of penny pinching, Stacy and I found a fabulous apartment complex nestled between the liquor store and the homeless shelter. The parking lot was part of the trail in between the two facilities. But hey, the price was right and a penny was saved. Things looked pretty good though, other than the main public hall and stairway was smelly, dark and creepy looking. Not a bad place. We were pretty proud of ourselves. Then, I had to leave for a week and suffer down in Arizona with the cross-country team while I left my newly wedded bride at our cozy home in AK. By now it was getting light around 9 – 10am and we had a good foot of snow on the ground. Needless to say, Stacy had a most dreadful week fearing for her life. But hey, I thought things were still pretty darn good. Then one day we heard screaming and yelling in between cursing and plates crashing on the parking lot. Then one day we heard gunshots going off. Then one day we had the police show up for a presumable drug bust (the lady was in our apartment a few nights prior trying to make an urgent phone call). Then we had the homeless passed out in our parking lot with subzero temps (unfortunately, as I write this I do not recall much ministry attempts on our part). Then we had all night parties going on up above us. Okay, so I am beginning to wonder about my newly wedded wisdom. The pennies were not looking so shiny anymore and Anchorage a little more gloomy.
(Liquor Store - must be profitable)
(Our 1st Apartment)
Upon returning to Anchorage, I have been told that the city has gone downhill, the crime rate up and the homeless up. Several homeless have died sporadically around the city this last summer. Two homeless brutally murdered a non-homeless with a bat while we were up there. Stacy and I had two, (again presumably homeless), walk by us on the trail and seriously try to intimidate us with racist and derogatory remarks but I think they became confused by Stacy’s kind reply. Spray paint is sprayed across the beloved trail signs and glass is broken on the trails. Is Anchorage becoming a darker place or has my perspective changed or both? Well in general, zooming out to a thirty thousand foot perspective, the world is becoming a darker place, which does include North Idaho.
Bottom-line, of course, being the sin factor. The removal of God and thereby the decline of morality is the cause/effect (as many have already said and I am simply regurgitating). It is amazing to me that in such a wonderful, magnificent place; sin abounds in the form of addictions and violence (including North Idaho). I think change can be so subtle over time in an environment, community and personally our hearts to which either becomes darkened or lightened for Christ. Thanks be to God though that the day is coming when there will be a new heaven and a new earth. But I digress..
I still love Anchorage. I love the idea of Anchorage. I love the 100’s of miles of trails that course its way through town providing recreation and transportation for the walker, runner, hiker, biker and skier. I love the creeks that fill with salmon every year. I mean really, how many cities can you say have salmon running through them? People can walk off a four-lane highway with skyscrapers to boot and catch a 10lb salmon for dinner while viewing the moose downstream. And so yes,..... (Moose Abound in Anchorage - close up shot)
I love the moose that permeate the city as well. I love the treeless jagged mountains beckoning to be hiked and climbed in the background. And I love the spirit of Anchorage that comes from those Alaskans that hold its ideals. Such Alaskans are still eager to share in their discoveries of the magnificent geography and the culture of the city. Such Alaskans hold to that spirit of being free, wild and adventurous. And, yes, most of all Christ loves the homeless, the murderer, the abuser and the addict in Anchorage and so it is with me. I can’t help but think there is a ministry their.
There be it, my two confusing cents worth. So, yes, there will always be a piece of my heart in Anchorage Alaska. It is where I began my adult walk with my Lord and Savior as I made the Christian religion truly my own and thereby began to experience freedom from my own bondage to addictions. It is where I began my wonderful marriage with my most beloved wife that God has truly blessed me with. And, the land will always hold captive my sense of adventure and the unknown… and if you made it this far, sorry for the lengthy blog.