There’s a saying in Alaska for any woman hoping to find a partner, “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.” Throughout history, many have flocked to Alaska from all corners of the world for all kinds of worldly treasures. People have come in search of furs, whales, gold and oil to name a few. Yet hardly any prudent person has ever come to Alaska in search of love. 7-8 months of winter cold and dark do a lot to dissuade many from living here. The demographics reflect that, with Alaska having the highest male to female ratio in the country. Combine that with a small population and you’re left with a lot of men left dreaming.
Alaskan women are a different breed, though few in number, they are tougher than most people you’ll find anywhere else. They know how and are not afraid to build things, run chainsaws, shoot guns, and carry heavy loads. Many of these women have hiked dozens of miles at a time, with wet feet and cold hands, across terrain that would leave most people in tears. There is even a contest where this toughness is formally exemplified. Each year in Talkeetna, there is a wilderness woman contest, where all kinds of women compete in traditional Alaskan homestead activities in hopes of winning and being crowned the wilderness woman of the year. The country builds character and toughness of anyone who lives here, no matter the gender.
For most of my time in this state, I didn’t have much luck in dating, let alone finding a single date. There were young single women in Coldfoot, but almost all were transient and with a population of about 20, the odds were stacked against me. Moving up the valley to Wiseman a couple years later did nothing to improve my situation. I was the first new resident to the community of 13 in 11 years and at the time the only single household. Occasionally there’d be visitors from elsewhere that would buoy my hopes and serve as a reminder that there were other people out there. But dating is often a game of opportunities and without many, nothing ever came to fruition.
At the end of 2017, I moved down to Fairbanks, in large part hoping to better my chances and return to the Arctic with somebody else in tow. At first, I was ecstatic at the plethora of people compared to the Arctic. Young women appeared to be everywhere and my opportunities were limitless! However once I settled in, I observed that the reality was far different. Like the Arctic, I found that there were very few single women and very few who were interested in living in the area long term. The average urban person in Alaska has been in the state less than 5 years. Fairbanks is no exception, with many young people coming due to the university or through the military, only staying as long as necessary to fulfill their obligations. The options are so slim and opportunities so limited that some friends of mine joked that you need to hang out at the airport with a sign advertising yourself in hopes of wooing any incoming arrivals. Even dating apps were hopeless, within an hour you go through everyone in the town and run out of further options.
Yet I still had some hope. Opportunities presented themselves every once in a while, but fizzled out and never amounted to anything. I resigned myself to my circumstances and went forth with my plans to build a house. That summer I had planned on not pursuing forestry work again and instead focusing on constructing the house. But the pandemic changed the forestry field schedule, resulting in a later start and they offered me a position, which I accepted.
In June, a former coworker, Alana, moved north from Bird (near Girdwood) and was looking for people to hang out with. Alana had been on the opposite shift the year before, so we had primarily interacted in passing. We started hiking around and spending time together. She and I were on the same shift for work and once it began our time together only increased. We’d go out to the field each day with our respective crews, returning at night to cook meals together, go swimming or take stand up paddleboards out on the lake. One night we left our base in Willow and drove out to Hatcher’s Pass, hiking around the tundra looking for blueberries. Everything was going so well, we made plans to go backpacking and packrafting out near Chicken on our following break.
We hiked up Chicken Ridge with my dog, Remi, and out towards the North Fork of the Fortymile River enjoying seemingly endless sunshine while the rest of the state was clouded in smoke. We danced salsa on ridgetops and wrestled in the evening (not a euphemism, we literally wrestled). On our third day out, we were wrestling on a break, ending with me holding her. After a few minutes of silence, Alana pried out my feelings for her and responded in kind.
I remained on cloud nine from that point on. Over the next 3 weeks, we continued to spend just about every single day together, and were soon officially in a relationship. With the construction of the house behind schedule, Alana invited me to move in with her, to which I agreed. We spent the winter having all kinds of fun going to cabins, taking a trip to Mexico and getting to know each other better. When spring rolled around, we set to work finishing the house and moved in together. On June 7, 2021, I proposed, cementing our relationship and the mark of a new beginning.
It still amazes me how I was able to find Alana, how many things had to go right and could’ve altered our paths with the slightest of changes. If I didn’t work forestry, if we weren’t on the same crew, if, if. I’m extremely happy with this version of events. I didn’t think it was possible to find someone like her. Each day I find myself grateful to have someone who shares many of my values, does what she says she’s going to do, brings me great joy and challenges and inspires me to be the best version of myself every single day. I look forward to our many more years together and the accompanying adventures to come.
A mi hermosa querida: Te amo muchismo