Story by DEBRA McKINNEY Photos by PAUL MORLEY
Anchorage Daily News
Published: March 4, 2007
HOPE IN WINTER:Visitors shouldn't assume that "Closed" means closed.
But with campgrounds closed, fish elsewhere and the Seaview in hibernation until May, why go in winter? This little town of around 135 people is as quiet as a monastery this time of year.
Something happens when you make that right-hand turn off Seward Highway and follow the 17-mile back-road tributary to Hope.
"It's like going back in time 100 years," says Maggie Holeman, who moved here to escape the madness after nearly 18 years in law enforcement. "It's one of the most peaceful communities I've ever been in."
Not only that, folks here aren't slaves to the clock like those of us on the opposite side of Turnagain Arm; they have time for coffee and talk, especially in winter. And some of the best things to know about Hope come from those who aren't in too big a hurry to mention what those things are.
Like that "Closed" sign doesn't necessarily mean closed, if you don't mind making a phone call or two. The library and gift shop in particular. Same for the little log liquor store smaller than a walk-in closet. But first someone would have to tell you where it is.
And even though both the town's year-round restaurants take Wednesdays off in winter, that doesn't mean a person can't eat. Hope Christian Church offers free breakfast on those mornings, and everyone's invited, Fayrene Sherritt let us know.
The Seaview Bar, like several other Hope businesses, is in hibernation until May, but there's plenty to appreciate during the off-season in Hope. The drive from Anchorage takes roughly an hour and 45 minutes.
Alaska magazine once dubbed Hope "Alaska's friendliest town" for just these kinds of reasons. Some locals would say "on the cutting edge of lunatic fringe" is more like it.
Perhaps the fringiest moment in Hope's history -- well, one of them, anyway -- was when a nearby mining camp called Paystreke became ground zero for the Alaska Man phenomenon in the mid-1980s. Gold miner Tom Williams was building a replica 19th-century frontier town with a crew of bachelors, some of whom were homeless men recruited from Anchorage. The men were lonely, so Williams ran a newspaper ad for mail-order brides that drew responses from women -- and media -- around the world.
But just like the town's Gold Rush history, this was a boom-bust story. The women came. The outhouses didn't go over so well. The women left. Eventually the men did too.
Williams' dream burned to the ground in 1993. It was uninsured. He ended up leaving the state.
Sad story, but you have to love a place called Hope, where a guy could have the freedom to even think up a scheme like that.
We were a little easier to please. We just dreamed of peace and quiet, good food, good beer, good company, and we found it.
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