This story was originally written for Alaska Public Media.
This week we’re hearing from Joey Shugarts in Anchorage. Shugarts moved to Anchorage three years ago from Michigan.
SHUGARTS: Moving to Alaska has been a dream since a kid, and I know it may sound funny but when I saw Balto as a kid, it kind of piqued my interest and the Northern Lights and everything. And then I really love to hunt and fish and I really love the ice and the cold so Alaska’s kinda always piqued my interest, even though Michigan was kinda cold in ways. But, I wanted to move up here.
So my dad didn’t make it to Alaska because he died from a rare form of asbestos mesothelioma — sarcomatoid mesothelioma — so we knew for about four months and then he passed away. And so I decided, you know, my dad died at a young age of 46 and if I was gonna make my move to Alaska, I should make it happen. So six months later, I packed up everything I could in my Jeep with my dog and we moved up here.
I love all the wildlife. In fact, the other day, I went for a walk in the park where I was picking wild cranberries — I run into a black bear. Less than ten yards… I love it.
I really wanted to see my first moose, and when I moved up here it took a few days before I’d seen my first moose. And I was kinda bummed. I mean, I went out to the airport, out to Earthquake Park and places where people had told me to go. And I finally went over to Kincaid in the evening, and I probably got a little closer than what I should have. But I had this big, huge, beautiful bull moose just come. It was amazing when you have an animal that big close to you just breathing. You wanna touch it, but you know you can’t. (laughs)
I will have to leave for graduate school because, unfortunately, Alaska does not have a dental school. But I wanna move back as soon as possible. I love it up here and this is my permanent home. Even though Michigan is where I’m from, but I wanna make Alaska my permanent home.