Author Archives: Mike

Hello, Huslia!

Ts’aateyhdenaade kk’onh Denh, or Huslia as known in English, is a quaint village. It is located on the same latitude as Wales, the westernmost city in Alaska, and on the same longitude as Utqiagvik, the northernmost city in the U.S. Huslia spans just under twenty square miles and is home to just under 300 people. This village is sheltered by the brooks range on its northern side. This community is able to source water from the Huntington Slough, a small river. The 300 citizens of this community are amongst the most isolated in the entire world, as there are no communities in a roughly 100 mile radius of Huslia. As per coastal plains, Huslia is part of the Yukon Intermontane Plateau Taiga, within the Koyukuk Flats. As part of the Intermontane Basins and Plateaus, it has extensive physiographic features.  

Compared to most of Alaska, Huslia is surprisingly warm for a settlement in the interior climate region. Being in the central interior, its yearly average temperatures range from -13F to 69F. This wide temperature range can largely be attributed to the lack of any bif body of water which may act as temperature moderator. Settlements on the coast tend to have warmer winters, and colder summers, as the water dulls down the extreme temperatures.  

Huslia is on the Koyukuk River, which means it faces the natural hazard that has been detrimental to most rural communities. Erosion is like a siren song. It seems logical to build a community on an elusive river, as running water is the foundation of life. However, running water is also the source of land erosion. The rivers are eroding the communities that were built on them. While water can provide the basics for life, it can also take away others, such as a safe shelter.


Huslia’s economy is a difficult one. The unemployment rate in the village is roughly five times higher than the national average. Over half of the village’s occupants make a living from public administration or through construction. Despite these challenges, it’s future looks bright. The local school has recently undergone a $17 million renovation. Further, it has implemented a new biomass system which allows the community to produce its own energy, steering away from a reliance on expensive imported diesel.  

Culturally, Huslia is invested in dog mushing. Many dog mushing icons have been born and raised in this village. Huslia, like many Alaskan villages, places a cultural importance on mushing. Furthermore, many in the village hunt for their own food. This culture of self sustainability is noticeable, both on an individual level, and on a village wide level. If there is anybody that can thrive in the harsh conditions of Alaska, it will be the Huslians.

Siren’s Song

The most hazardous place in Alaska is the Stampede Trail in Healy. You may be familiar with location as the site of the “magic bus” from “Into the Wild.” The most dangerous part about this specific site is its allure. While they’re are places more dangerous, they give no reason for laymen to venture yonder. However, the magic bus calls out to many like a siren’s song. About twenty miles off of the park highway, there is no easy way to access it. It requires preparation, and knowledge of the land, somethings that many of its tourist lack. There are neither bridges for foot traffic, nor roads for cars on this trek. Christopher McCandless, whose death and writings created this infamous landmark, has drawn quite the fanbase of people looking to recreate their lives. His writings are so powerful, his followers often decide to embrace the risks that killed McCandless, in hopes to experience what had during his last few days of life.

Not all maps are created equal.

Fig. 2.5. This map from the 1994 National Geographic is awesome! It’s the type of map that every Alaskan teenager would want to hang on the wall of their bedroom. It shows the “true” size of Alaska when imposed over some of the lower 48 states. It’s interesting how much the mercator projection distorts the map. Most people don’t realize that Alaska (663,300  mi ²) is smaller than Mexico (761,600 mi ²)!


Fig. 2.2. This map inadvertently shows the emptiness of Alaska. Many Americans couldn’t imagine their country having an area as big as Alaska, with so few hospitals. In fact, you can count the number of general acute care hospitals with both your hands… well, if you’ve got six extra fingers that is.


Fig. 2.10. The main reason I like this map is because it puts Alaska in the center of world! While I realize many people around the world don’t even do as much as think of Alaska, I think that if we adopted this map globally, a lot more folk would be familiar with our quaint state. In all seriousness, I think this map does a terrific job at showing how interconnected the world is. Most people don’t realize that Fairbanks is closer to Oslo, Norway (3744 miles), than it is to Orlando, Florida (3757 miles)


Fig. 2.4. This map is interesting upon analysis. When looking at where the Native settlements are established, nearly all of them are by the ocean, or among a river. There is one notable tribe that seems to be established far from any water, and nested within the Brooks Range. I wonder if this tribe is hardier than some of the southern seaboard tribes. Maybe for what they lose in water, they makeup for in isolation and protection. I am curious to see more information about each individual red dot on this map!

Mike’s the name, geography’s my game.

Howdy class! My name is Mike, and I’m starting my third year here at UAF. I had never set foot in the state of Alaska until my first day of class my freshman year, when I flew up from the lower 48. I have lived in the dorms all my time in Alaska, but am thinking of getting an apartment or cabin off campus! I have lived in Westport, Connecticut, a cool costal committing city of New York. On other side of the U.S., I have lived in Los Gatos, California a mountainous suburb of Silicon Valley, as well as San Fransisco, which is great if you’re a walker! finally, I have lived is Curitiba, Brazil, a culturally rich city with one of the world’s finest public transportation systems!


In the future I hope to call many different places my home, in the same manner I have come to call Alaska a home.