As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Alaska Experiment

As I watch The Alaska Experiment on the Discovery Channel, I reflect back on when I was stationed at an isolated unit in Shoal Cove, Alaska. No, I was not left to my own devices to survive off the land, but it sure did feel like it to a 22 year old. I was at the peak of my legal prime, so to speak, and was eager to explore the boundaries of this great age. However, a LORAN station up in the mountains of southern Alaska is not exactly a place to experience new things socially. I guess if you call living out in the middle of nowhere with the same three or four people on and off for about a year and a half social, then that is your prerogative.

I, on the other hand, wanted more.

Sure, it was great to be able to watch Friends two or three times in different time zones and various languages (thanks to satellite television) but that is only fun for so long. Oh, and yes it was great to have wonderful meals prepared for us by a Coast Guard cook, but once I started to pack on the pounds I realized I was only getting further away from successfully experiencing this wonderful age.

After a while, I found other things to do to pass the time. I started to play cards… uh, with myself. It kept me busy and was sort of fun, but at times I wondered if I might be bordering on multiple personalities (especially when I would jump from side to side acting like I was actually playing another person… whoa!). I guess you do what you have to do to stay busy.

I also taught myself to basket weave, knit, and make jewelry. However, that didn’t go very well when my baskets unraveled themselves, my first pair of mittens could only fit one or maybe two fingers, and nobody (not even my Mom) would wear my jewelry. In some ways, I thank goodness that I was up in the middle of nowhere so nobody could judge the exploration of my creative side. I sure did make a few people laugh though.

It was not all bad, but it was hard for me to focus on the good. I often wished that I would just enjoy all the beauty around me, and not pity the fact that I am 22 years old and wanting to just be with my friends. When I had time, I did head out and explore as much as I safely could. I fell in love with our unit mascot, a three-legged Labrador mix named Coco, who loved to chase deer and bear. We kept bells on her collar so the noise would keep the bears away from her (and from us).

I also found the salmon breeding season fascinating (sure that could have been my age too). Hundreds upon hundreds of salmon desperately swimming up stream to lay their eggs to the point you could just reach out and grab them. It is an amazing sight to see.

Alaska also offered me the opportunity to experience things I probably would not have ever done on my own. Just the way we got to and from work on a weekly basis was a journey. A USCG small boat would take us out to a dock in the middle of nowhere and then we would drive a large truck 20 minutes up the mountain (see the picture on this link). We would have to take all the food and supplies we needed for the seven days. The typical rotation was seven days on and then 5 days off in the quiet and tiny city of Ketchikan.

Not the greatest life for a 22 year old but looking back, it was a great opportunity and a chance to explore the Alaska terrain.


Deve said...

Thats a really unique experiment. I am very curious about what it would feel like to survive for 3 months or longer.

Steve -

NavyCS said...

I have often heard of people taking the course but you are the first person I have seen actually admitting to know how to basket weave :)

I have also made a couple of trips to Alaska and each time I left I knew there was soooo much more to see and do. Truly one of the last, great frontiers.

Tri-Dave said...

I went with too many hours playing RISK, trying every form of Salmon possible, and making my friends watch TN football at 0600 on Sat mornings. That being said, I could not have asked for a better first tour in the Navy than Adak, Alaska.

garandmonkey said...

Thank you for great blog, Ma'am. How does one get an assignment like the LORAN stations? Given that most people probably dont 'want' a position like that, is it possible to volunteer for such a posting? Is it rate specific? Thanks again for the awesome blog.

Mike said...

I was atationed there at Shoal Cove from 81-83 it was strickley men only there about 7 at a time there on Duty, Then we had a house in Ketchican instead of the Base which we would always get in fights with Base personal. We would Fly in every couple days the CO would only stay 4 days Loved but the flying was scarry as hell Wreck twice there by the Dock. When I was transferred to the Cutter Blackhaw what a shock that was. Very strict comparred to Shaol Cove we had Beards back then

Kevin Cassidy said...

I was on the commissioning crew in 1976 - 1977. The funny thing that happened was when they planned and built the unit it was for full time isolation duty, then they decided on semi-isolation so the crews quarters were twice the sized needed. I had my own room as an E2.