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DISPATCH | What they never tell you about Alaska

Credits: Janny Eng / The Daily Princetonian

Dispatches at The Prospect are brief reflections from our writers that focus on their experiences during the summer

While the rest of the country suffered from intense heat and blistering above-80 temperatures, my hometown of Kodiak, Alaska didn’t have a day this summer where the temperature ever went over 65 degrees. 


Here in Alaska, I may not have been at risk of heat stroke, but I was certainly at risk of drowning. Starting from when I returned home in mid-May, it rained continuously for over two months. I could count on one hand the number of days that it was actually sunny in Kodiak.

About a week ago, on the singular day that it didn’t rain, wasn’t overcast, and actually showed signs of sun, my childhood friend and I decided to hike to Shelly Lake, a large body of water located nearly two thousand feet above sea level on Sharatin Mountain. 

Sharatin is merely one of hundreds of mountains located on Kodiak Island (the town of Kodiak, where I grew up, is the largest town on Kodiak Island). Fun fact: Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States after the Big Island of Hawaii, and it is also over half the length of the state of New Jersey. 

My childhood friend, Aleena, was also back for the summer from college in San Diego. Neither of us are particularly athletic, but the rare sunny day had us itching for higher views and the rush of adrenaline from being above the rest of the world. We had already hiked two other mountains about two weeks ago, both of which also rose to over two thousand feet above sea level. Though both of us had grown up in Kodiak, we had never hiked to Shelly Lake before, which only goes to show the size of the island and how it still surprises us to this day. 

On our way to Shelly Lake, we hiked through miles and miles of forest to even get to the bottom of the mountain. We heard a grizzly bear stomping and crashing through the underbrush, immediately turning us back the way we came as we waited for it to pass. When we got close to Shelly Lake, other hikers told us they had seen a large male grizzly bear and a separate cub just 45 minutes before we arrived. I was mostly relieved, but also secretly disappointed that we hadn’t gotten to see the bears ourselves. 

Shelly Lake, as seen from above, is a lake of this calm, deep shade of blue that’s probably a mix between the blues of the Zoom and the original Twitter logos, but with much more vibrancy. Towards the center of the lake is the darkest blue; around the edges, the sun brilliantly illuminates the white sand. Shelly Lake looks more like a tourist destination on some overpopulated, over-explored Greek island that people make TikTok videos of, rather than a lake on a mountain on an island in Southeast Alaska. 


When people find out I’m from Alaska, they either say they’ve never met someone from Alaska, proclaim their desire to go to Alaska, or ask me some inane question about polar bears. What I try to tell them is that Alaska is beautiful — but they ‘mmhmm’ and move on, since I can’t really express in words these sentiments in a way to get them to pay attention to what I’m saying, because for me, Alaska is more than just beautiful, and it just can’t be summarized in whatever picture I try to show them. 

I wish people could see what I mean when I say Alaska is “really, really beautiful,” but I’m probably biased. Though I’ve lived my whole life in Kodiak, though I grew up wanting to leave, and though there’s no big mall or Target here, there’s still a bit of relief and excitement underneath the weariness I display at being home.

Janny Eng is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their perspectives. This essay reflects the views and lived experiences of the author. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at

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