Joan and I aren’t the first retired couple to want to go to Alaska. The exotic wildlife, ranging from bears catching salmon to whales breaching the water surface, has been the subject of photo-excursions for decades now. Certainly the rugged forests of the coast and the towering mountains of Denali (the tallest on the North American continent) have been attracting visitors for what seems forever. Recently, the disappearing glaciers of Alaska’s mountains and coastal fjords have attracted an increasing audience almost desperate to see them before they evaporate in global warming. For heartier folks, the attraction of dog-sled races and summertime fishing excursions in the wild rivers north of the Arctic circle is undeniable. And for a tiny few, a hike on the remote tundras and Arctic shores of the Far North offer opportunities to see caribou herds, seals, and maybe even polar bears. There has been a long history of travelers to our furthest north state.
And North it is. Part of it is north of the Arctic Circle and its northern shores are lapped by the (diminishing) ice of the Arctic Ocean. According to Google Maps, it is 3100 miles from our home to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and most of that is traveling north. Originally, part of Russia, the U.S. recognized its strategic and natural resource value and purchased it back in 1867, known as Seward’s Folly. Alaska’s northern point is also the most northern point in the entire United States.
And it is large. At more than 663,000 square miles, it is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana (the next three largest states) combined. And, counting the panhandle and the Aleutian Islands, if you superimposed Alaska on top of the continental U.S. it would stretch from Florida to California.
Clearly the unique location and size of the state of Alaska is one of the main reasons tourists find it so attractive – it becomes an item on most traveler’s bucket lists and one that some tourists re-visit many times. So of course we want to go there!