By Bree Kessler
There are small rural towns and then there is bush Alaska. These “bush” communities located throughout Alaska are hard-to-reach places usually only accessible by plane or, in the winter by snowmobile, dogsled, or an ice road that forms for a short while each year (also the inspiration for the TV show Ice Road Truckers). I live in one of these places: Bettles, Alaska, a town 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle near to Gates of the Arctic National Park, the largest continuous wilderness park in the United States.
Bettles was never a bustling town, but at one time there were nearly 60 people who lived here including residents of the adjoining native village. Presently, there are probably only 20 full year residents and the population swells to closer to 35 residents during the summer months when the National Park Service staff moves in to town.
Life in the bush can feel isolating to some, but to others, this wilderness escape is what they’ve been searching for their entire lives. For me, I try to pass time by watching daily life unfold – like I am Margaret Mead completing fieldwork in some distant land. With 24 hours of sunlight during the summer to inevitably be followed by almost 24 hours of darkness in the winter, regardless of how quickly I sometimes want time to move here (especially when I am awaiting my Netflix to be flown in), it always seems to move slowly. And that’s not always a bad thing, even when you don’t have cell phone service.
Bree Kessler fears the continental United States and thus splits her time between Hawaii and northern Alaska. She is the author of the recently published guidebook Moon Big Island of Hawaii and you can read stories about her life in the Arctic Circle at www.parkdispatches.com.