Dana Peak and Mount Dana. But of course.
A long while back my friend Donna Freedman asked me to write a list of the ten best Alaska place names for a City Smart Anchorage guidebook, which led to one of the most fun afternoons I ever spent in the Alaska Room of the Loussac Library in Anchorage. The City Smart Guides are, alas, no more, but here is the list of names I came up with.
1. Turnagain Arm. In yet another flop at finding the Northwest Passage, Captain Cook had to “turn again” here.
2. Denali. The tallest mountain in North America. Not McKinley, not Big Mac — Denali. De-NAH-lee. It’s a Tanaina word for “home of the sun” or “the high one.”
3. Alyeska. An Aleut word distinguishing the Aleutian Islands from the mainland, or “the great land.” ‘Nuff said.
4. Picnic Harbor. So named because during an October blow, the harbor is a picnic compared to beating through Chugach Passage.
5. Farewell Burn. Between Rainy Pass and Rohn on the Iditarod Trail, it is farewell to sanity as mushers suffering from dehydration and sleep deprivation begin hallucinating about white lights, crying friends, dead relatives and Hawaiian beaches.
6. Salmon. There are two Salmon Bays, one Salmon Bay Lake, two Salmon Berry Lakes, thirteen Salmon Creeks, one Salmon Creek Divide, one Salmon Creek Reservoir, one Salmon Flats, one Salmon Fork, one Salmon Fork Black River, one Salmon Island, one Salmon Lagoon, four Salmon Lakes, one Salmon Mountain, one Salmon Pass, one Salmon Point, one Salmon Ridge, seven Salmon Rivers, one Salmon Run, one Salmon Slough, one Salmon Trout River, and two villages named Salmon. And these are only the places in English.
7. Egegik. A village on Bristol Bay. The name is possibly derived from the Yupik word iguugek, meaning “his testicles.” I don’t know the story here, but there is bound to be one.
8. Killisnoo: A village south of Angoon. Corrupted from the Tlingit word kootsnahoo, meaning “bear’s rectum.” A close second for Number 8 was Anaktuvuk Pass, which means either “caribou shit” or “where the caribou shit.”
9. Taiga. The name of my father’s hunting and fishing lodge on the Kichatna River and the setting of the ninth Kate Shugak novel, Hunter’s Moon. Taigataiga means “bear shit” in some obscure Athabaskan dialect.
10. Dana Peak (north of Petersburg) and Mount Dana (northeast of Pavlov Bay). But of course.
Donna now writes the Frugal Cool blog over on MSN.
Here is her personal blog, where she can show you how to get free stuff. She’s famous for that.
Every other Tuesday she writes for Get Rich Slowly.
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Author and founder of Storyknife.org.
I found Donna’s website through some other blogs, and of course, I’ve been reading your site for ages. When I first realized the two of you knew each other, I thought how cool is that! And, that Alaska is a small place for such a large land 😉
That it is. Thanks!
Alaska has always been on my list of places to visit. Although some of these locales seem unlikely places that I could visit (all of those Salmon would take an unseemly amount of time I’m thinking 🙂 One of these reasons I really enjoy your books is the history and background that you include on Alaska and its inhabitants. When I (finally) visit Alaska, I am sure that Kate’s voice will be there. Thanks for sharing your love of Alaska.
Thanks so much, Vicky.
I am new to your books, started with the Kate series. Got to Hunter’s Moon and BAM! You killed the love of her life and her soulmate Mutt. Why?
I am sooooo disappointed. They are your characters and my immense disappointment reflects your ability to draw me in. Damn.
Jack died saving Kate’s life, Judie. It’s about the only consolation we have. I didn’t know that was going to happen until I wrote that scene. Looking back, I still believe it was the right thing to do. I hope you do go on with the books but that’s up to you. And thank you for the wonderful compliment of caring so much that you were moved to write.
My husband gave me a Kindle for Christmas, which is the best present I have ever had because I found your Kate Shugak series. I have brought every one and can’t wait to finish one so I can start to read the next one.
However after reading the comments from Judie I think I will have to have a box of tissues to hand when I get to Hunters Moon. Your books are so well written they would make a great film series. (James Bond move over)
You bring Alaska alive to people like me who will probably never get the chance to experiance such a wonderful place. Thankyou!
Hugs! Gelda England
Thank you so much, Gelda.
When I was a kid, I had two very large maps on my bedroom wall: one of the world and one of the U.S. Of course Alaska was an “inset” so it was right at eye level as I lay in bed. I remember wondering over the very long names with multiple vowels and wondering about those places. Thanks to your books I know about at least a few of them. Some day I might actually SEE a few of them……