Home Living Beardcicle Chronicles The Beardcicle Chronicles: Get Over Yourself, Anchorage

The Beardcicle Chronicles: Get Over Yourself, Anchorage


I spend a lot of time on the trails in Anchorage. I see a lot of people. Walkers, joggers, cyclists, Olympians. Lots of people. And, as the days grow warmer and longer, more and more people make their way to these trails.

And as a regular user of the trails I am often asked if I just love the summertime on the trail.

And every summer I realize that no, I really don’t.

Here’s the thing, I’m from the Midwest. In the Midwest people smile and wave to each other when driving down a lonely highway or even a not-so-lonely highway. Doesn’t matter if you know each other or not. On bike tails people will wave and smile. Even say hi.

Yes, if you’re in the zone it can get a touch annoying. But it makes the entire experience so much better. You feel like there are others who notice you and who would come to your aid if something happened.

This is why I love using the trails in the winter. Yeah, folks are out there training and recreating, both, but those of us who are out there are just a bit crazy and, as we all know, like calls to like, so there’s a sense of camaraderie there. The briefest of nods or a quick wave. Just a little act to say “I see you there. I acknowledge I am not the only person on this planet. Have a good day.”

And then we’re off.

The warmer it gets, the less and less trail users give each other the time of day.

I get it, on one hand. If you acknowledge everyone on the trail, you’ll quickly do nothing but acknowledge people on the trail. Our trails are amazing in Anchorage and people take advantage of this resource. Lots of people.

Anchorage seems to have a bit of an identify crisis that is evidenced by how trail users interact with each other. This city ain’t that big. The city I came from in the Midwest was about the same size. Maybe a bit smaller. But it was much, much friendlier. Maybe it is just the Garrison Keillor thing, but in the Midwest, there is always someone who will give you a smile and a wave or spend five minutes with you shooting the shit about the weather or whatever.

You find the same thing in the smaller communities here in Alaska — people who are willing to expend a bit of effort to connect with others; connect with their community.

Why should our trails be any different? Let me clue you in. 90 percent of you who are using the trails aren’t training for the Olympics. 90 percent of you will never be more than a club racer or middle of the pack finisher. And that’s cool. I’ll never even be a middle of the pack finisher. Just don’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t spare a half calorie and a half second to acknowledge that there are other people out there enjoying the same resource you are.

It might just make Anchorage an even better place to live. Big, wild life and all.



  1. Clark, it can always be worse. We could be gasholes and not have our bikes to ride. This is indeed true. As some wise person said, “A terrible bike ride is better than a wonderful drive”, or some such. Cheers!

    • So the Clark E blog says the opposite of Phil’s blog – “7 out of 10 people people were friendly / Anchorage is MUCH friendlier than Seattle.” Interesting.

      Its all about perspective. I wave or nod my head to everyone I pass on the trails no matter what. I don’t expect anything more. I try to do that when I run in big cities like NYC or DC and people act you have the plague.

      I realize that people on the trails are working out, relaxing with friends or enjoying some quiet time. To stop and ask each person about the weather isnt realistic.

      But Phil, if you stop me on the trail and ask me how my day is going, I’ll stop, hit pause on my ipod and chat with you!

  2. Okay, come on now. I walk trails almost every evening, and I shoot out a lot of smiles. I spend all day talking to people, and when I’m on my evening walk I enjoy the peace and a little no talking time. It’s not personal and idle chatter is not the only mark of being friendly.

  3. I agree with your observation, but I think it’s due to the transplants, not the real Alaskans. Back in the day (60s and 70s), if you were stopped on the side of the road to take a leak, anyone passing by would stay to say hi, check if you’re okay, and so on. In the 80s, if you were in the mountains on any trails (such as the Powerline trail out of Glen Alps), you could say hello and get a hello back. In the 90s, you had to be a bit removed from the main trails to get a hello in return (such as crossing Campbell Creek to head up to The Ramp and Ship Pass). Now that there’s a bridge, in the 00s since, the only place I’ve consistently encountered friendly people is at least one valley removed from any established trails.

    I don’t think this is a matter of Anchorage needing to get over itself, but of the non-Alaskans needing to adopt real Alaskan culture or get out of Alaska. We’ve become a melting pot of sorts, and unfortunately the bad ingredients are shining through in this case (and in many others — more crime, gangs, etc.).

    I will say hello if someone says it to me on the trails. And I always nod or wave or say hello to fellow runners. When I’m out hiking in a remote valley or floating down a remote stretch of river, I’ll put up my hand and always get a wave in return. But when I’m on the main trails in Anchorage, be they paved trails in town or practically paved trails in the mountains, I don’t bother to initiate the friendliness because I’ve learned that most people don’t have the decency to say hello in return.