P1390855 (Medium)Alaskans love to scare each other with terrifying tales. I met many Alaskans during my visit in the summer of 2013, and there seemed to be a common thread among the more adventurous ones: the sharing of scary animal lore. During the summer of 2013, the following animal stories were circulating and I heard them over and over again:

Several Alaskans who were experienced with safe practices in bear areas went to a wilderness cabin. Immediately upon arrival, they were mauled to death by a grizzly bear.

A female teacher who was new to Alaska went out for a run. She was attacked and killed by a pack of wolves.

A cyclist near the Alaskan border was chased by a wolf for several miles while riding on a road. He was pedaling as fast as he could as the wolf followed close behind, biting at the pannier bags on the back of his bike. Cars passed him on the road but no one stopped. Perhaps people thought he was taking his dog out for a run. He was approaching a hill and started to panic, knowing he couldn’t possibly outpace the wolf on the hill. He swerved in front of a car to get their attention, and they finally stopped to help him escape from the wolf.

One attack was pretty absurd. A man was charged by a bear right near one of the trails I hiked in the Turnagain Arm area near Anchorage. During the few seconds it took for the bear to charge, the man was able to fire 13 rounds into the bear from a semi-automatic assault rifle. That encounter was still under investigation when I left Alaska. Who carries a semi-automatic assault rifle and has it handy enough to bust out in the few seconds it takes for a bear to charge? Only in Alaska.

P1400519 (Medium)The Alaskans liked saying “this place will kill you” with a laugh, but there was a hint of truth there. Even the beaches around Anchorage consisted of mudflats that could turn to quicksand without warning. Signs strongly cautioned to avoid walking on the beach and each year the quicksand claimed a tourist or two. I came up with a new phrase the Alaskans loved: “in Anchorage, even the beach will kill you”. If you hear this phrase around Anchorage, it came from me.

Maybe they warn us and scare us because so many people have underestimated Alaska and been smacked down. An Alaskan told me a story about a man who rented a raft, loaded his family in it and then took it down a raging, expert portion of a whitewater river. They barely survived, and when the man was questioned about why he would do such a thing, he said “there was no warning sign next to the river.” With people doing things like this, no wonder the Alaskans go a little overboard with scary tales about what could happen if we get careless.

Or maybe it’s because most Alaskans who have spent time in the wilderness have also found themselves in life threatening circumstances and lived to tell the tale. I met an Alaskan who had fallen through the ice on the Yukon River and it sounded terrifying. He remembers being deeply submerged in icy water and looking up at a small spot of light where he broke through the ice. He admits he was lucky to have survived this.

This place will kill you, and the Alaskans are telling us this because Alaska has nearly killed some of them, too.

Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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