Guest Author - Dawn Engler
One visit to Alaska creates the desire for another. One visit makes you want to go back again and again. What makes Alaska so great? I donít think you have to be from Alaska to be able to answer that question.
One definition of great is unusually large in size. Alaska is 2.3 times the size of the State of Texas, so it fits the bill there. The sheer vastness of the state is overwhelming. Standing on the spongy cushion tundra at the peak of a trail, the eye truly sees as far as it can see. On deck of a cruise ship, witness the coal black Pacific Ocean blending in with the jade green of the glacial waters. The eyes tearing from the cold bite of the wind, strain to see the endless, towering mountains at the shoreline. Alaska boasts over 33,000 miles of shoreline. It has to be experienced to understand it totally. I strongly suggest the exploration.
Another definition of great would be wonderful. It is wonderful to visit a state that is still largely untouched by man. Blue lakes are so clear; the surface is only disturbed by the reflections of the clouds overhead. There are over three million lakes and three thousand rivers in this state. Of the highest 20 mountains in the U.S., 17 of them are found in Alaska. The tallest peak is named Denali, meaning ďThe Great OneĒ. Just imagine the forests climbing the sides of these mountains. The wildlife is vast and surprising! We all know about the bears, the bald eagles, and the whales. We cannot overlook the more than 440 species of birds that are either year round inhabitants or just passing through.
This great land also supports native cultures and modern day conveniences alike. The people are as diverse as the land itself. Many tribes honor the old traditions of subsistence living; trapping, catching, and growing what they live on. Many bush pilots make a living transporting people and supplies from place to place. As rural as all this may sound, the cities in Alaska rival those of lower 48. Anchorage, for instance, boasts a city center, Air force and Army military bases, and a base for the tourism industry. An international airport and the regional shipping port keep supplies and people moving throughout the majority of the rest of the state.
The climate and possibly the mosquitoes are some reasons this land still remains largely pristine. Two full months a year are almost in complete darkness keeping the temperature pretty frigid. The two months on the opposite end of the spectrum of almost total daylight, tend to only encourage the unofficial state bird called the mosquito! The people who live here are accustomed to it. Those who donít live here visit and share the stories of why the State of Alaska is so great.