Map of the State of Alaska - land of Many Terms

Cheechako, Sourdough and Other Alaskan Terms

“I assume we will be having sourdough pancakes in the morning since we are staying in the sourdough cabin,” said my guest, Sue, wanting to practice the Alaskan terms while checking into Sourdough Cabin #1. “I think the blueberries would go nicely with the sourdough pancakes,” she continued.

“I hate to disappoint you, but I won’t be serving sourdough pancakes to you in your cabin,” I said, laughing at the thought of me flipping pancakes in the morning. ” Would you settle for sourdough muffins?”

Sourdough Blueberry muffins are just one of the many delicious breads served at Hatcher Pass B&B
Sourdough Blueberry Muffins Served at Hatcher Pass Bed and Breakfast

What Sourdough in Alaska Really Means

The name of our cabins comes from a longstanding cultural tradition of Alaska. Sourdough has many meanings in Alaska. A “sourdough” is an old time Alaskan – someone who has learned the ways of this beautiful and at times harsh land.  The name comes from the fact the the first trappers and then miners would carry sourdough starters against their bodies wherever they went. Keeping the delicate culture alive in the harsh winter landscapes.  New comers to the state are referred to as “cheechakos” denoting someone green behind the years who has much to learn about navigating the harsh winters and customs of Alaska.

Alaska Terms To Know and Love

Like the term “sourdough” Alaskans use a unique vernacular that will help you “fit in” when you are visiting on your next trip to Alaska. Let me help you feel at home the first time you set foot in Alaska, and before you go back “Outside”.

To help you settle in for your Alaskan stay, here are some more of the common Alaskan terms and customs:

  • Outside – any travel out of the State – and it does have a capital O.
  • Lower 48 – referring to the contiguous 48 United States – you know the ones that are actually on a map of the U.S. as opposed to dangling somewhere out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean next to the other step-child state of Hawaii.
  • Break-up – refers to the season before the snow melts, but the frost line still exists just below the surface. It is a muddy, mucky time of year as the snow melt finds its easiest purchase creating epic mud puddles on its path to the rivers. Trails become inaccessable and dogs become caked in mud. The ground is literally “breaking up” and Alaskans are eager for the drying out to begin to get back on the trails.
  • Arctic Entry – that special little room between the outside door and actually coming inside the house where either snowy or muddy footwear can be deposited, and coats and other outerwear can also be stored. A very useful room in Alaska it saves on heating and keeps floors cleaner and snow-puddle free.
  • “Please remove your shoes at the door” – This is a sign that can be seen at the arctic entries of many houses. Pavement, and clean surfaces are becoming more common as Alaska grows, but most times the surfaces are dirt and gravel and shoes are too dirty to travel past the front door.
  • Cabin Fever – the time of winter when the four walls of the house might feel like they are squeezing in a bit too tight on one from all the time spent inside. This period can hit anytime in the winter, but many festive activities were started years ago in January and February as a way to get folks out and relieve the “cabin fever.”
  • Bug Dope – or more commonly know as mosquito repellant.
  • The Bush – villages in outlying areas of Alaska that are not accessible by road, and often can only be reached by a small “bush” plane.
  • The Valley – the area around Wasilla and Palmer, just north of Anchorage, the fastest growing location in the State.
  • Dip-netting – the sport for Alaska residents that consists of a huge fishing net that one holds in Cook Inlet, the Kenai, Kasilof or Copper Rivers to take home the favorite red or sockeye salmon.

I may have missed some local Alaskan terms and if so, please add them on my Facebook post.

Your Next Visit to Alaska

Thinking of traveling to Alaska? Enhance your Alaskan experience by staying in an authentic Alaskan log cabin nestled at the base of the dramatic Talkeetna Mountains. Just an hour north of Anchorage, but far from any city trappings, Hatcher Pass Bed and Breakfast will expand your Alaskan experience with real honest to goodness hospitality, warmth and a genuine Alaskan personality. Book your cabin today!

The Alaskan Terms - The Sourdough Cabins at Hatcher Pass Bed and Breakfast
The Sourdough Cabins at Hatcher Pass Bed and Breakfast is named in honor of the first sourdough miners and trappers from which the name is derived.