Welcome to the beginning of what will be the Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken. More than a year and a half in the making, The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken reflects our love for this land. We can’t thank you enough for joining us. Let’s get started.
Alaska is a geographic marvel. By far America’s largest state, Alaska stretches 2700 miles from East to West. That is the approximately the same distance as from New York City to San Francisco.
Alaska was a Russian colony from 1744 until the USA bought it in 1867 for $7.2 million. The deal with Russia was brokered by President Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State, William Seward. Though it is surprising to hear now, the acquisition of Alaska was met with near-universal derision. In fact, it was called “Seward’s Folly.” Somewhere, William Seward has been gloating for over a century. Alaska was made the 49th State in 1959.
Alaska and Hawaii have a lot more in common than one would imagine. First, in the winter an almost endless line of airplanes fly between the two states. It’s Alaskans by the thousands fleeing the cold! Second, they became states at nearly the same time. Finally, they are the only two states to have their own time zone. Alaska’s time zone is one hour behind Pacific Time.
Alaska is bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, the south by the Pacific Ocean, the west by the Bering Sea and the east by Canada’s Yukon Territory. A rural state to the extreme, Alaska is home to fewer people per square mile than any other state, and it isn’t even close. Alaska has a whopping 1.3 people per square mile. The next state up the population density chart is Wyoming, at six folks per square mile.
Among cities in Alaska only Anchorage has a significant population, with just under 300,000 folks in residence. Fairbanks is the second largest city, but numbers just over 31,000 residents. The capital city of Juneau is almost identical in size to Fairbanks.
A lot of people say they would like to keep the government at arm’s distance. Alaska makes it a reality. The capital of Alaska is Juneau. There are no roads into Juneau. It is the only capital (state or national) to which one must arrive by boat or plane.
As big as Alaska is, it comes as no surprise that there are huge climactic differences within it. Do you like snow? Do you REALLY like snow? Valdez records 326 inches of snow a year. Yes, that is a little over 27 feet of snow. Ketchikan, on the other hand, sees only 36 inches of snow a year. That is less than Boston receives. Of course, it rains 137 inches a year in Ketchikan. Comparatively speaking it barely rains (3.2 inches annually) or snows (34 inches a year) in Kuparuk. Of course, the average high temperature in Kuparuk, located in far north/central Alaska, is 19 degrees. That’s not January, folks. That’s the average for all year.
The highest point in Alaska is atop mighty Mount Denali, 20,310 feet above sea level. The lowest point is found along the Pacific or Bering coasts. The geographic center of Alaska is found 60 miles northwest of Denali.
Major Airports in Alaska:
Ketchikan International serves 125,000 passengers a year. Seattle is the most popular destination.
Juneau International serves about 400,000 passengers annually. Seattle is the most common destination.
Fairbanks International serves almost a half million passengers a year. More of them are making the 261 air miles flight to Anchorage than to anywhere else.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport serves over 2.5 million passengers a year. Almost a million of them are going to Seattle.
Top Movies filmed in Alaska:
Into the Wild (2007)
Pacific Rim (2013)
The Proposal (2007)
Military /Politics: William Egan, Walter Hickel, and Sarah Palin.
Actors: Ray Mala, Derek Theler, Khleo Thomas, Logan Grove, Darby Stanchfield, and Joshua Morrow.
Entertainers: Bristol Palin, John Baldwin Gourley, Lincoln Brewster, Halie Loren, Dan Mintz, Justin Johnson, J.R. Aquino, and Anna Graceman.
Author: Margaret Elizabeth Bell
Athletes: Curt Schilling, Sean Rash, Brandon Dubinsky, Chris Kuper, Jessica Moore, and Mario Chalmers.
Weird and Wonderful Facts about Alaska:
The state of Rhode Island could fit into Alaska 425 times.
In 1926, Cognac resident Bennie Benson designed the state flag. He was 13 years old at the time.
Seventeen of the 20 highest peaks in the United States are located in Alaska.
The Alaska coastline extends over 6,600 miles.
Twenty thousand years ago, the earliest settlers to Alaska walked in from Russia. There was a land bridge across the Bering Strait. Alas, after only 7,000 years the sea level rose, cutting off the passage.
Prudhoe Bay, on the northern Alaskan coast, is North America’s largest oil field.
Dog mushing is the official state sport. The Alaska Legislature adopted it in 1972.
Let’s Take a Trip Through Alaska:
Since Alaska is different from any other state in so many wonderful ways, our vacation here is going to look different than anywhere else. We are catching a flight to Anchorage (just $367 round-trip from Seattle) then a 7-day train and motor coach trip. So let’s go, because we have a lot of ground to cover in just a few days.
We’re going to check into the Lakefront Anchorage for just $86 a night. It will be our base for the first and last night of the trip. Lodging can be expensive up here, and we did well to find this place. After check-in we will visit Anchorage’s Museum at Rasmuson Center. There is a lot of information here about the natives who inhabited Alaska for centuries before it was a state.
Tomorrow we depart Anchorage by motor coach, headed for Talkeetna. The bus ride is spectacular in ways not often equaled in the Lower 48. We will almost be sorry to arrive in Talkeetna, but not for long. While there, we will visit Aurora Dora.
Her name is actually Dora. But she goes by Aurora Dora. She is the world’s foremost photographer of the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights. We will look at her work and hear how tonight we can get shots almost as beautiful. We’ll look for them while staying at the Swiss-Alaska Inn Talkeetna for two nights. It’s worth the $110/night.
The next morning we get up bright and early because a jet boat ride down the Susitna River is in our future. The trip takes us on the “Su” on a jet boat that navigates rivers in mere inches of water. We’ll get an excellent view of the Alaska Range and Denali. Then it’s back downriver through this otherwise impenetrable wilderness. Look! A giant nest! That’s home to a family of bald eagles.
Finally, we board the Alaska Railroad for a scenic trip back to Anchorage, from whence we catch our flight south.
Next up: Florida.