Sometimes I tend to forget where I am - ridiculous, I know. I get into the groove in the garden, with my wonderful host family, with the work at hand... and I don't actively think/recall that I'm in Alaska. But there are often things that I see or hear throughout the day that cause me to remember how fortunate I am to be here in the breathtaking 49th state.
Ravens: They are quite famous here. And quite large. And talkative. And it never fails that when I'm working in one of the gardens, watering, or weeding, or whatever... I hear the unique call of the Raven, only to look up and watch how they soar overhead. I don't know a lot about them at this point, other than that they are beautiful and a welcomed interruption to my work.
Gray Jays: I've mentioned these birds before, but it bears repeating. They are as common here as Robins or Sparrows are in the Midwest. Only these birds are quite bold, and quite inquisitive. I had one fly so close to me that I felt the breeze from it's wings as it passed... only to have it perch less than 4 feet from me and watch what I was doing. They are not so lovingly called 'camp robbers' because they will take food from your campsite if you're careless enough to leave it out. I like to watch these birds too.
Voles: My host family despises these critters. Voles are the Alaskan equivalent to mice/rats. The enjoy the freshly planted greens in the garden. I have only seen 1 alive... the rest in traps set to prevent crop loss.
Moose poo: Yeah, poop. I have yet to see any actual moose on this trip back, but evidence of them is everywhere! You know they're here.
Aircraft: I see a ton of aircraft overhead when I'm in the gardens. When I'm at home, it's usually commercial jets that I see. Here it's small aircraft with floats for water landing. It's transport planes bringing supplies to fly-in only communities. It's military helicopters and other aircraft (near Fairbanks, I'm relatively close to both an Army and an Air Force base).
License plates: It's only about Alaska here. I've seen no other license plates in the whole time I've been here - and even the last time I was here. At home, you're used to seeing plates from neighboring states at least. Not here.
Mosquitoes: The skeeters here make the ones at home look like nothing. Think swarms, clouds of mosquitoes. That's what it is here - no exaggerating. And they are at least 2-3 times the size of their Midwestern counterparts. The upside... they are slower and can be killed easier, and they seem to not bite through clothing like the ones back home. But you HAVE to take care of your exposed skin any way you can. They're pretty ruthless. DEET is my friend, unfortunately.
Other than that, when I do get out into the open and into the higher areas... then there are the mountain views, the pine/spruce trees and the remoteness. All reminders that I'm nowhere near home.