By HALEY STAUB,
Spring Grove Area High School
4,680 minutes, 78 hours, almost one week — that is about how long it takes to drive from Hanover to Alaska.
In spring 2010, Sarah Walker made this trek and began a new chapter of her life. Walker, 35, moved to Alaska with her boyfriend of three years, and now husband, Chris Walker. Her husband, a professional hunting and fishing guide, has been a resident of Alaska for more than 19 years.
Walker recalled her first couple of hours in the state.
“It was so quiet,”she said, adding that it’s unlike her to be speechless. “It will take your breath away — large snow-capped mountains, beautiful clear blue skies and clean air. The tranquility will also stop you in your tracks.”
Originally from Suffolk, Va., Walker grew up near the water and has always “had a love affair with the outdoors.”
Walker loves fishing in Homer, Alaska, for Halibut, which range from 50 to 187 pounds. She recently learned to fly fish, which she said takes a lot of patience. She also enjoys hiking in the woods, going on a four-day rafting trip each summer, deep-sea fishing in Homer and spending time around the campfire with friends.
She lives in a small, historic town, Talkeetna, which comes from the Indian word meaning “river of plenty.” The town is two hours from Anchorage and is often described as a frontier town that resembles the popular TV show “Northern Exposure.” Walker works at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, where she meets guests who visit from all over the world.
Walker lives in a “cozy, log-wood cabin,” which has heat and electricity, but no running water. She and her husband rent their cabin and use the main house (which belongs to their landlords) for water. They cook, shower and do laundry in the main house, which is close by. Walker spends very little time in the cabin, aside from watching movies and sleeping.
Although the living conditions took some getting used to, she said, adjusting to the time difference — four hours behind Eastern Standard Time — was most difficult.
“Simple living requires a positive attitude,” she said. “I am extremely close to my mom, so not being able to call my mom at anytime of the day was and still is hard to deal with.”
Walker sees her family in the fall through the early spring for about six months. Her family lives in Virginia, and her husband’s family lives in Hanover. She has yet to spend an entire winter in Alaska. Even in the summer, Walker said, the weather is unpredictable.
Walker’s diet also has been altered with her Alaskan lifestyle. She and her husband enjoy fresh local fish, especially salmon, and moose meat, which they prefer over beef when making hamburgers.
“The people of Alaska have a great sense of pride for the land and mother nature,” she said. “Alaskans differ from many others by their generosity and their willingness to lend a hand in the community.”
Many people only dream of what it would be like to visit Alaska, much less live there.
“Thanks to my wonderful husband, I now have a new appreciation for simple living,” Walker said. “ I see myself exploring and loving Alaska for years and years to come.”