Today’s Friday Facts was considered very carefully, for all the cheechakos that will visit, here is some Alaska Lingo for you to learn.
First, I suppose I should share with you “Cheechako.” A cheechako is a new-comer to Alaska, umm... slightly, umm… ok, completely, ignorant of the terrain, the weather, the animals, and their habits, the culture and just about everything here.
The opposite of a cheechako is “Sourdough.” A sourdough is a true, or veteran Alaskan. Master Guide Terry Overly is a sourdough; he hikes, climbs mountains as if he was raised by sheep, fishes, loves to complain and brag about the cold weather and can fix absolutely anything with a blue tarp and duck-tape. (and knows exactly which leaves make good tp!)
Some other Alaska lingo that may help you understand the language when you come to our country is… what? Oh, well, the thing is, we Alaskans get a little cranky when we are treated like we are not part of the United States. That was sarcasm. Sorry. Back to the facts.
If someone mentions “Going Outside” they are referring to leaving the state, for any reason. And the “lower 48” includes the 48 states South of Alaska. No one is really sure how to refer to Hawaii, as the habit was already in place when Hawaii was added a few years later.
When you arrive, if someone were to offer you “Moose Nuggets,” please remember that these are not an appetizer. They are found in everyone’s back yard, in all Alaskan gift shops, dried, cured and shellacked, all made into earrings, swizzle sticks and decorations of all kinds. Moose poop. Don’t eat it.
When someone tells you that they “live in The Bush,” they are not confiding that they are homeless and live in the bushes. The villages, mountains and valleys that can only be reached by boat or small aircraft are called the bush. This amounts to most of the state.
If someone offers to show you their “Cache” (pronounced “cash”), they aren’t going to lead you to the money, they are going to show you the small cabin on stilts, behind the house, for food and meat and where trappers hang fur. Elevated, it keeps most critters out.
The charter plane that was supposed to arrive and fly you into Chisana to visit and have a grand Excursion with us is grounded. (booo) Most likely it has been grounded because of “Ice Fog.” Ice fog is what occurs when water vapor meets bitter cold air that can’t hold any more water in 10 seconds or less. Water cooled that fast forms tiny ice particles. Collectively, millions of these particles take form as ice fog, the cotton candy-like clouds that hang low to the ground and will form ice on the wings of the airplane. Personally? I just consider it that sparkly stuff that hangs in the air as the sun its it.
You may hear your new Alaskan friends speak of “Bear Insurance.” No, don’t bother calling your agent or State Farm. Walmart is your best bet. (Or the black market.) Handguns, no smaller than a 357, a 12 gauge shotgun or small, hand held nuclear weapons if you can find them…. although, the buddy system works well too. The buddy? Anyone that you can outrun.
Had enough yet? There’s more!
“Ice Worms.” Yes, they are real. They are very tiny worms that live in pools of water, in the glacier ice. You can eat them, but it’ll take lots of them to fill you up!
“Bunny Boots.” They aren’t made from cute little bunnies, don’t worry. They are big, fat, white (some are black) rubber boots that keep your feet warm down to -65* F. You can step into ice cold water over the tops of your boots, dump the water out and put your wet feet back into them and warm right back up. They are a life saver, as silly as they may look and we all wear them. Many of the old-timers call them, “Mickey-Mouse-Boots.
“Squaw Candy” is smoked salmon that has been soaked in sugar as well as salt brine before smoking. (Mmmm-mmm) Though it is made by the Alaska Natives, I sincerely doubt they sweetened it before the white man arrived in Alaska. It tastes nothing like the watery smoked salmon you can buy at the store.
“Eskimo Ice Cream” or Agate, is made from the fat of seal or caribou, whipped till it is creamy and mixed with chopped meat or berries. I hear that it is actually pretty good, but I’ll take your word for it.
“Muktuk” is an Eskimo delicacy of the skin and a layer of whale blubber. Usually eaten raw, it can be dried as well. (umm, you’ll have to let me know…)
After sampling all these new, yummy treats, you may start squirming around and hear someone ask you if you need to use the “Outhouse.” You’ll be pointed towards a small wooden building out back. It may be equipped with two holes instead of just one, but luckily most have latches inside for a little privacy. Usually, there will be Styrofoam lining the seat, so don’t worry, your butt wont freeze to it, if you have to be there awhile.
If while you are visiting, you hear talk of “Termination Dust,” don’t worry, the world isn’t ending, it is the first, light dusting of snow on the tops of the mountains. It signals the end of Summer. This term began way back in the 1940’s during the construction boom, because it signaled the end of their seasonal jobs.
Ok! Well, there’s lots more, but I’ll wait to try teaching you any more in one sitting. Let me know if any of these ring a bell or raise any other questions about words or phrases you may have heard.
If you are one of the incredible adventurers that are scheduled with us at Pioneer Outfitters for the upcoming Winter & Spring Excursions, we’ll have your “Tin Dog” ready for you when you arrive. I mean, your snow-machine, I mean your snow-mobile! Sheesh.
And remember the “Bug Dope” (or bug-juice) if you are coming for a Horseback Adventure. A shotgun seems to work better on the skeeters, but disturbs the horses, so please refrain.
I hope you learned something and (LOL) yes, they are all true, I promise!