March 2015


I wanted to do something stupid… but I didn’t (Barrow, Alaska, Part 3)

Now for closing thoughts about Barrow, Alaska.

Barrow Palm Trees

There are palm trees in Barrow. No joke.

I will admit that this is the first time I’ve ever gone to the front desk of a hotel and had a conversation that went like this:

  • “Hi, I’d like to do something stupid and walk to the museum,” I said, thinking about the -33C/-27F weather.
  • “A polar bear has been reported in the neighborhood,” the lovely receptionist responded.
  • “Could you please order me a taxi,” I asked.

So this was an unusual experience.

Am I glad I went? Yes.

Will I go back? Probably not.

Barrow Whalers Football Field

This is the Barrow High School Football Field. At least it is there in theory, I only saw it like this.

Kivgiq – an amazing party that was worth the time. Visiting the northernmost point of the United States – priceless.

However, Barrow has a number of things that discourage returns:

First, the hotel I stayed at – Top of the World Hotel – was insanely expensive for what it is: $226 a night in the winter, and that jumps up in the summer. It’s a new facility – the rooms were basic and functional – a bit tight with space, but excellent customer service. However, its gift shop had insane prices for everything in it – prices that come with having a monopoly. Sure I can blame some of the pricing on how expensive it is to ship stuff to Barrow, but that doesn’t excuse all of the price inflation.

Whale Skull.

The greeting at Iḷisaġvik College.

Second, food prices are insane—no matter if in a restaurant or at the grocery store. Simple, basic, hamburgers ran $15. I ate an otherwise unremarkable disgusting small pizza that ran $26. Breakfast at the hotel was similarly priced. Soda pop cost $2 a can at restaurants (no fountain drinks!). Lest you think it was only the restaurants, popping into the grocery store was an alarming experience. I didn’t want to take photos of the most shocking prices – it would have taken me an hour to look at each aisle.

Third, I’m a city person at heart and Barrow is far from being a city. It’s a fundamental difference. I’m game hiking for a day, but I’m happiest lost in a nice coffee shop, a decent museum, or a nice street market. Barrow offers none of this – well, it does have a decent—nay excellent—museum, but that museum takes at most an afternoon.

But not to leave on a negative note – Alaska has some beautiful sights…

Whale Bone Arch in Barrow

The famous Whale Bone Arch in Barrow.

Mountains South of Fairbanks

Clouds flowing on mountains — somewhere south of Fairbanks.

Point Barrow - Looking South

The view looking south from Point Barrow — the northern most point of the United States.

Comments are closed.