Way to Go

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

1999 Family Vacation Guide, Alaska, One Humongous Zoo

Way to Go

Alaskan Tchotchkes

Plastic totem poles and other clutter from Asian factories fill many Alaskan gift stores, while the authentic Inuit art is sold primarily in expensive galleries. Here are a few finds from in between those extremes — truly Alaskan but inexpensive enough to buy just for fun at a craft fair.

  • Eskimo Yo-Yos: Mastering this traditional native toy is a challenge: Holding a tab on a string midway between two cloth or skin bags, swing the bags in circles in opposite directions. Common at gift stores and craft fairs.
  • Moose-Nugget Jewelry: Moose tend to carpet Alaska's hiking trails with their marble-sized droppings, producing an unlimited natural resource for entrepreneurs who create necklaces, earrings, even swizzle sticks made of the stuff. Don't ask why (Grizzly's Gifts, Anchorage; $2.50-$15; 800-770-4343).
  • Outhouse and Cache House Models: Hank Baldwin's hobby is making kits and models of a log outhouse and a cache house — a cabin on stilts used to store food away from bears. Similar crafts are common at Anchorage's summertime Saturday Market (Once in a Blue Moose, Anchorage; $10-$24; 888-490-1898).
  • Real Fur Stuffed Animals: Inupiat craftswomen sometimes make inexpensive toys from scraps left over from making parkas and mukluks. One common item at craft fairs in Barrow, Kotzebue, and Nome are seals made of real sealskin ($7.50-$30).
  • Bear Bells: Basic safety equipment for Alaska hikers, the bell ties to a backpack with a piece of leather, alerting bears that you're on the trail and thus preventing dangerous surprises (Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking, Anchorage; $8.50; 907-272-1811).
— C.W.

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