About Fran

I love Alaska!  I have lived here for 50 of my 81 years, and will never leave.  Alaska is one of those places that you wish you’d discovered earlier in your life.

In 50 years, I have accumulated many stories of life on the last frontier.  I will be sharing some of these stories, plus some fantastic tales from other Alaskans.  This is a land that attracts unique and unusual people, and you will hear about some of them in my blog.

The Alaska mystique is formed not just by the people, but by the land itself, and the art and culture that has developed here.  I’ll have plenty of material to share with you.

In the summer of 1977, I built my house with the help of friends on my homesite claim on Spruce Island, close to Kodiak.  I then spent two years in Seattle, working at temp agencies and missing Alaska.  In the summer of 1979, I moved to Spruce Island and lived in my cabin for the next 20 years.

While on Spruce, I started a book of my adventures on Spruce Island, and finished it shortly after moving to Gustavus, Alaska.  That book, called “Alaskan Attitudes,” is based on the premise that it takes a certain kind of attitude to live in bush Alaska.

North to Alaska has been the rallying cry for folks who took the road North.  They have come for a variety of reasons:  The call of gold prospecting, the wish for adventure, the desire to leave an unsatisfying past and find a new beginning, or just the wish for a change of scene.

Some of these people have stayed and some have left again.  Alaska is not always an easy place to live.  I believe that the people who do stay, especially those who settled before the amenities of comfort had made it here, or those who still live a “bush” lifestyle have something in common.

I like to call their commonality the Alaskan attitude.  Such an attitude has helped Alaskans to survive and flourish.

An attitude is a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions.  Our attitude defines how we will respond to a given situation.  Folks who have lived here in Alaska for a long time share an attitude that finds challenge a normal part of life.  Alaskans often become adept at the art of making do.  They believe that any problem has a solution and that no difficulty is insurmountable.  This attitude becomes a way of life in Alaska.

Besides bringing you stories about Alaska and its people, I plan to offer you some selections of Alaskan creations.  These might be jewelry or art you can hang on your wall.  There is a lot of talent in this state and I will be looking forward to sharing some of the artists and their work with you.

You are invited to ask questions about Alaska or its people.  Just leave your questions in the comments below, and I will answer you as best I can. It is my hope to offer you a many-sided view of the Alaskan lifestyle, and to illuminate the Alaskan mystique with stories and pictures.  I hope you enjoy them, and thank you for visiting my website.

Alaskan mountain scene

25 thoughts on “About Fran”

  1. Wow what a great post, simple and clear I am already interested to know about the Alaska, can wait to see more of your post and articles, really waiting to read the stories your are holding about Alaska, from what I have learnt from this post, Alaska is a place worth paying visit.

    I am sure to subscribe to your newsfeed to learn more about Alaska and all related articles.

    • I will be so happy to see you return to my website again and again. I’ll try to make it like a little tour of the state. I’ll get busy and get a few stories on the new site for you to read very soon.  If you have not been to Alaska,  you should visit.  It is one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever seen, and I do love it.  

  2. Wow, you have lived an amazing adventure up there in Alaska. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska but haven’t had the opportunity. I do buy Alaskan paydirt from time-to-time to get a little taste of panning for Alaskan gold. Most recently I got a 2 pound bag of paydirt from the Copper River. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

    • Thanks — glad you enjoyed the start of my new website.  There will be lots more stories for your enjoyment as the website develops.  One thing I’ve never done is pan for gold, but know that can be a very exciting thing.  It is a bit like the lottery, except you feel a little more in charge.  I hope you found some gold in  your bag of paydirt.

  3. Hello there,I have have been to Alaska only once but I know It magical and has one of the most accommodating people in the world I had the opportunity to visit Kenai Fjords National Park the mountains and trees have a mystical connection and Alaska is one of the best places in the world.thanks again for bringing this post for the public.

    • So glad you have seen a little bit of my state.  You visited a beautiful spot when you visited Kenai Fjords National Park.  This place is filled with so much beauty it staggers the mind.  I have enjoyed my 50+ years here a great deal.

      Folks here tend to be helpful because the lifestyle is often challenging, and they realize that by helping others they will ultimately help themselves.  We need each other in this country. Also, I feel we are fortunate to be here.

  4. Thanks for this great article about the Alaska mystique because it has been interesting to read though it has been brief. Thanks for loving your country that’ s a great thing because you have shown us both the beautiful side and the bad side of Alaska as well as the people but the beautiful side at the greater extent  which is not a bad idea and thanks for providing us also with your little history and experience while in Alaska. Thanks for this article waiting for more about Alaska. 

    • Thanks for commenting.  In the months ahead, you will get lots more.  I hope you come back often and read the variety of stories about Alaska that I will be including in this website.  I think Alaska is such a phenomenal place, and am really glad to be here.

  5. This is a fabulous website! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Alaskan attitude and why people have migrated to this beautiful land. I am looking forward to learning much more about it because I have always wanted to visit there. You’ve provided me a way to visit it vicariously from reading your posts. I am especially interested in Alaska’s indiginous people. Do you have any information about them that you will be sharing?
    Thank you for this informative post. I enjoyed reading it very much.

    • Thank you for your reply, Carol. Yes, I will be including information about indigenous people as I build out the site. I have lots of plans; just have to find the time to develop them. Stay tuned, as more will be coming.

  6. What a life! Certainly ain’t been boring huh? Loved my visit to your site. I love Alaska and have visited several times, each time by ship. My favorite place was the “Red Dog Saloon” in Juneau. Got to put a Fiver in the waitress’s bra (with my wife’s approval)! Loved Fairbanks, especially the moose running alongside the bus on the way to the airport!
    Great site.

    • No, Alaska has not been boring, that’s for sure. The critters here aren’t shy about showing themselves. I have moose in my yard, munching up the scenery, regularly. The bears think my long driveway was put in to give them a way to get from the road to the open woods. Speaking of saloons, have you been to the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer? There are some pretty down-to-earth drinking joints in Alaska. In Kodiak, we had several, one notable being the B & B Bar, which is the oldest licensed bar in the state of Alaska. When I first started going back and forth from Ouzinkie to Kodiak to sell jewelry, I got my mail for a while at the B & B. Another bar there had a couple of washers and dryers in a side room so you could do your laundry and sit at the bar while you waited for it to finish.

      • Fran,

        Your discussion of bars reminds me of the bar (The Gold Nugget Saloon) in the McCarthy Lodge that my Dad brought back to life when he owned the lodge. The bar dated back to the hay day of the Kennicott Mine. My Dad was the caretaker of the mine as well before it all became part of the Wrangell St. Elias National Park and a National Historic Monument and World Heritage Site.

        This was all before we moved to the homestead east of McCarthy when I was 2 years old.

  7. Hello Fran,

    I never really thought of an Alaskan attitude as you described because I have lived here all my life. To me facing challenges is normal and living without amenities was just life. I have recently come to realize that my childhood was about 2 generations behind most people since I grew up with no TV or telephones let alone internet. We lived in a very remote part of Alaska where there were no roads and we reached it by small airplane.

    I miss that life dearly. Having open land with forests, rivers and mountains all around was glorious. I miss gardening, building trails through the woods to get firewood and building logs, picking berries and making jam. I learned how to mine for gold, smoke and can salmon, grow and store vegetables to last all through the winter and cook everything on a wood stove. I did home school until I was high school age and me lived in town in the winters.

    Learning how to identify plants, animals, birds, berries, insects, fish, rocks, trees, safe ice to cross, safe water to drink and how to tell what the weather would bring were basic skills. I can grow my own food, cut my own firewood and so much that I would probably never have learned in a town or city. I realize my childhood was unique for my generation (born in 1980) and I was so lucky to experience it.

    My Dad was also ahead of his time ironically. He built a solar energy system which was possibly the first in Alaska. He started it in the 1970’s before I was even around. We always had electricity which was unheard of in the bush unless you had a generator. He even built a refrigerator and freezer that ran off the solar system in later years. By the time I left we had a telephone as well. We had a 500 gallon hot tub inside which kept the attached greenhouse warm all winter. Dad had massive antennas to catch radio signals from around the world. I grew up listening to the BBC and other programs. Dad called our homestead an oasis since it had so many amenities hundreds of miles from civilization. He was right. It truly was a gem.

    He had the Alaska attitude you describe in spades! He had a little saw mill and cut lumber to build, mined for gold, had massive organic (another step ahead of his time) gardens and was an aircraft mechanic. He was also an avid reader so our cabin was always filled with books and new magazines that came in on the mail plane once a week. The mail came 7 miles away so we had to go by snow machine or dog team 14 miles or one of those and then airplane to get it. All my home school materials went in and out the same way. I got boxes of new books every few months from the library shipped in as well.

    That start in life taught me to continually learn new things and take on new challenges. There was always something new for Dad to learn and try. He built many new inventions and was always dreaming of the next big project.

    Thank you for starting this website dedicated to the Alaska attitude! I love the concept and look forward to reading everything you have to share!

    • Jessica, your answer should be in a guest post, not in a comment. You are such a great example for all those who visit this site because they are curious about Alaska and Alaskans. I may just have to recommend to people that they read your story in the comment section. You and your family, and particularly your dad, are the type of folks I want to showcase on this website.

      There are so many unusual stories about Alaskans, and I want to find as many good ones to share as I can. Thanks for giving me a head start with your enthralling story. I’ll have to make sure to send you every post on here in the hopes that you will write more intriguing comments.

      • Thanks Fran,

        We can turn my comment into a post sometime if you want. I have always wanted to write a book about my life out there too. I would love to document it.


  8. Alaska is a big beautiful place full of mystery, magic and wonder. I never thought I would visit Alaska, much less live here for over twenty years. The people are unique and genuine with a real sense of community.
    I feel blessed to live in such an awesome place and privileged to know fabulous people like you, Fran.
    You are a shining star!

  9. I’m currently reading your book Alaskan Attitudes and this site is a perfect complement to that. Alaska is one of those places I have always wanted to visit and remains on the bucket list. I even tried to re-enlist and be stationed there when I was in the military but there were no slots available at the time. I turned down Hawaii as an alternative!

    I worked with a guy that took a family cruise ship/train excursion in Alaska and returned completely in awe of the scenery and the people. My favorite shows on TV are Life Below Zero, The Last Alaskans, Alaskan Stae Troopers, or anything to do with life and living up there.

    It’s no wonder that I love your book as well and your writing style makes it all the more enjoyable. I think folks would be thrilled if there was a link to your book offered on Amazon. That’s where I found it. It’s such a good read and leaves you feeling like you’ve actually been there and done that.

    This site is a lovely idea and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow and develop. Why not ask Lucinda going to write a review of this site? That would be an interesting read for sure! 🙂

    • KC, I am glad you are enjoying my writing. As a matter of fact, you can order the “Chronicles of Carlos” book right on my cat website. When I start the book category on this one, will put a link on there to the post on celebratingcats.com. On my cat site, when you order the book, you pay to my PayPal account.

      Having Lucinda write a review of this site is a great idea. As she lives in Alaska, she might have some interesting things to add. I’ll consider that. Meanwhile, will be writing the next post while I am in Juneau over Thanksgiving. It’s something I can do while by myself in my room before or after the shows.

  10. I had no idea you were/are such an adventurer Fran. Sounds like a good life, if tough a lot of the time.
    Alaskans in general sound like very interesting people, love that can do/make do attitude too.
    Love Jessica’s post/comment above too. That sounds like a very interesting childhood.

    • It has been an excellent life, Linda, and now I’m on a new adventure, learning about the internet world. Yes, Jessica should write a book about her adventures, not that she has time…maybe when she is my age…lol…This wild place is a wonderful place to live.

  11. This is a great site! I am impressed and interested more in Alaska. My brother lived there and loved it; it was the winter that bothered him. We grew up on the beach. Beautiful site Fran Kelso!

  12. Hello Fran! This is Terri Thomas. Remember me? We met in Colorado and you were so gracious to invite me to Kodiak. I was one of the gang to embark on creating your homestead on Spruce Island. So many unique experiences and adventure I will never forget! I live in rural Alabama now (since 2005), and even the rugged Alabamians here that I’ve told my Alaska stories to sit there wide-eyed when I share my Alaska adventure with them. I am so glad to see you in print!

    • Terri, it’s so wonderful to renew old connections. I’ve done a lot of thinking about Spruce Island lately, as a company who has republished my plant book acts as a middle man for big publishing houses. They have me writing a detailed “about Fran” section, which includes a lot about my life on Spruce. I have two suggestions you might like: Have you read my book, “Alaskan Attitudes?” It’s about the adventure of building my house on Spruce Island and living there for 20 years. If you’d like to get a copy, let me know. It’s $14.00. Also,”Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island” includes comprehensive information about my life on Spruce and the plants there. The only copy I have right now is $60.00. but the one from tne new publishing company is much less. To get a copy of that one, go to theEwingspublishing.com and order it from their bookstore. If you have trouble finding it, let me know, as I’ll have copies coming in soon.


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