Honky Tonkin’ In Hope, AK
I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who said, “I’m going to see my friend’s band play this weekend.” It just seemed like the coolest thing, to casually toss out there that you knew someone in a band. I waited my whole life to be able to say it. And a few weeks ago, I finally got my chance.
“My friend’s band is throwing a honky tonk down in Hope, wanna come?”
Those words actually came out of my mouth, and it tasted just as good as I’d hoped.
Once we found a group to answer “yes” to that question, we were raring to go. But first, we had that same panic that every young adult Alaskan has at one point. Namely, where the fuck are we supposed to get camping gear?
When you grow up here, you get used to the adults around you always providing the necessary equipment for your excursions in the woods. Then, one day, you look around and realize that you’re the adult, and you’re supposed to provide the necessary equipment. If you’re like us, you realize it about four hours before you need to drive off for your big camping weekend.
So what do you do? You do a last-minute Hail Mary to the nearest Sportsman’s Warehouse and drop way too much money to stock up on literally everything you could ever need. Then, you drive your panicked, disorganized ass three hours south.
In the end, it was all worth it. I may not be that bona fide Alaskan expert yet, but I do know one thing: Hope is one of my favorite places on earth. Barely more than a main street and a blip on the map, it’s a tiny town that’s well-hidden from the main highway. It feels preserved in time, its old buildings still acting as the only restaurant and bar, alongside lopsided cabins and plenty of open camp grounds. People come here to drink, to smoke, and to sit around a fire in peace.
Oh, and to see their friend’s band perform.
There are few greater joys in life than listening to live music, with the sun high in the sky and a comfortable breeze blowing by, and a glass of sweet wine in your hand. You eat processed and packaged food with wild abandon. The high of camping clouds your judgment as you accept Hostess cupcakes for breakfast. It’s the height of summer, in my humble opinion.
In my search for Alaska, I started out feeling like I’d been a lifelong outsider. Always pressed against the glass, looking inward on my state, wondering where I fit in. But sitting in Hope, surrounded by people I loved and smelling that same evergreen bark and being eaten alive by the same mosquitos I’d always known, I realized that I wasn’t always an outsider.
There was a time, somewhere long ago, where this was my life. Where my family and I had the same routine as every other Alaskan family. Fishing and hunting and sledding the year away. I don’t know when that disappeared, but it did, and at that time my willful discontent began.
In Hope, I found a piece of that past. And I discovered that I wasn’t searching for something new in my quest to become an Alaskan expert. I was searching for something old. Very old. Something that I’ve lost.
I want to find it. One band, one fire, one cupcake at a time.
Until next time, keep searching.