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(Folk)lores and lures of Alaska

Thursday, August 19th, 2010


As a professional tour leader for 18 years, the experiences and memories I’ve garnered while traveling the world is a book with so many different chapters than I would have ever imagined when I first entered the work force in my given profession as a teacher.  As I sit here at my desk feeling a little melancholy having just returned home from my favorite of all destinations, I am also feeling somewhat reflective.  I love travel. I love travel to all places around the globe and literally yearn for the next adventurous pursuit.  But, no place on earth effects me as does that place from where I just returned…and the place that is causing my current feelings of reflection; Alaska. 

If you know me, you know I love Alaska.  If you’ve traveled with Amazing Journeys to Alaska, you probably share my love and attachment to that great land.  Alaska comes with many lores and lures.  The lores speak of the old Gold Rush, the handing over of land from Russia in 1867 for a mere $7million, the symbolism of the land, the call of the wild, and unique verbiage like “permafrost”, “Iditarod“, “pipeline”, “Aurora Borealis” and “Permanent Fund” (a dividend paid to each resident annually).  The lures include unending adventure, the vast uncharted and ever-changing landscape, the tallest mountain in North America, mesmerizing wildlife, the midnight sun, monstrous glaciers, a culture that stands apart from the lower 48, and a lifestyle that befits Alaska’s wilderness more than it does the few-and-far-between urban acreage. 

As testimony to Alaska’s unique and special meaning, here are a few interesting tidbits:

  • Alaska contains 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the US
  • Mt. McKinley (known simply as “Denali” to the local folk) is actually the tallest mountain in the world.  Not the “highest”–that’s Everest which reaches higher into the sky because its base is at a higher elevation.  But, from base to summit, McKinley is actually a “taller” mountain
  • Juneau, the capital, has no road access to the rest of the state.
  • More than 1/2 of the world’s glaciers are found in Alaska
  • Alaska is as big as England, France, Italy and Spain combined.  You could also fit 22 of the smaller US states within Alaska. Alaska is actually about 1/2 the size of the entire rest of the continental US.
  • In the dead of winter in Fairbanks, you could walk outside with a cup of steaming coffee…toss it in the air, and it will float away as ice crystals.
  • Parking meters have electrical outlets incorporated into each pole. Cars have electrical cords and 3-pronged plugs connected to their engine block so that they can “plug” their car in outdoors during the winter and keep the engine from freezing over.
  • More people than I’m comfortable with will ask what rate the of exchange is with the US dollar to Alaskan currency.

There is so much to share about Alaska, but the true meaning of this great land is to experience it yourself.  Imagine for a moment holding an iceberg that was part of a glacier for over 1000 years, or watching a mama bear and her 2 cubs munching on berries, or watching an iceberg that’s as tall as a skyscraper come crashing down to earth…..or meeting Mary Shields, the first woman ever to have completed the 1000 mile Iditarod sled dog race, and her dogs. 

Alaska is a wondrous place.  Take it from someone who’s been to 7 continents, its the greatest show on earth.  If you’ve never been, make plans to do so.  Its a place that will give you perspective, enjoyment and meaning.  If you have been to Alaska, go again!  Having been there 11 times now, I can honestly say that it only gets better.  Going once is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ (pun intended!), but going again will strengthen your bond, open your mind and show you things still that you never thought imaginable.  I have feelings each and every summer when I go…and I yearn for them the minute I get home, each and every time.