Get Lost in Alaska—No Passport Required

United States — By on October 3, 2011 at 9:00 pm

By Jenny Avallon
Special to The Lost Girls

So often we get lost in daydreams of traveling to foreign cultures and far-flung lands that we forget the beauty and adventure found within U.S. borders. Local Alaskans though—all 700,000 of them—know better. They know of scenic vistas, outdoors adventures, skyscraping treetops, untouched soil, wild animals, crisp air, and freshwater creeks so pure you can drink it (no Brita required). They have grown up in towns so small they could fit the entire population into one of New York City’s restaurants, and they know what it means to be truly, blissfully alone with nature. This state and its vast wilderness are a feast for the eyes, a playground for the outdoorsman (or woman!), and an exotic zoo all wrapped into one.  So get lost in this land of the unknown, where nature still reigns supreme and humanity simply complies.

Places to Visit

Denali National Park: Another amazing way to take advantage of all the country has to offer: Reap the benefits of our fantastic national parks system. Denali provides miles upon miles of untouched lands with hoards of wild animals. The two best times to go are at the very beginning of the summer to view the bright wildflowers in full bloom or to toward the end of August to see Alaska’s awe-inspiring fall foliage. Be warned, though: Viewing the entirety of the park does require clocking a few hours on a school bus with only occasional stops along the way.

Juneau: A visit to Alaska wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the capital. Unlike any other U.S. capital you have seen before, this city sprawls over miles of land and more often resembles ‘suburbs’ than ‘city.’ Appearances aside, this is indeed a vibrant capital filled with proud residents, boisterous pubs, and, of course, the inevitable touristy jewelry shops. The surrounding area is a popular launch place for whale watches and various hiking paths. But, the one must see while in Juneau, is the piano man at Red Dog Saloon—his performance will both send you back to a different decade and leave your stomach in laughter pains.

Ketchikan: A quaint town with a wild history, Ketchikan is a worthwhile stop for any traveler. The town itself has become a bit overrun by tourism these days, which, though a drawback with regards to authenticity, has created some museums and restaurants worth enjoying. For a glimpse into this town’s wild past, take a visit to Dolly’s House, the most famous and frequented prostitute in the town during the 1920s.

Things to Do:

Whale Watching: A trip to Alaska isn’t complete until you see a humpback’s tail flop out of the water 20 yards from where you sit or a baby orca leap out of the water to keep up with its monstrous mother. As mentioned above, Juneau is an excellent launch point to soak in the beauty of these marvelous creatures.

Aviation Rides: The reason why I say ‘aviation’ instead of helicopter/plane/etc., is because aviation is such a fundamental part of Alaskan culture, it can take thousands of different forms. The state is massive, and roads are not always accessible—or even in existence—and planes are crucial for local Alaskans. For us tourists, they offer phenomenal views and a whole new perspective. Mt. McKinley and its surrounding mountain range are an ideal place to partake in this Alaskan pastime, as you are able to curve right by the face of snow-topped mountains and frozen glaciers.

Neets Bay: Neets Bay, a quick seaplane ride away from Ketchikan, is home to an impressive salmon hatchery. What this means, though, perhaps more importantly is bears. The stream near the hatchery, filled with salmon, provides an easy lunch for the bears of the island. You can stand within 50 yards of a bear crawling out of the bushes, into the water, and catching a salmon with his mouth.

Cruising through Glacier Bay: If you’re visiting Alaska by cruise, it is imperative that you book one that goes through Glacier Bay. Though you won’t actually disembark the cruise, the views and experience are spectacular. Few other times in your life will you be able to sit on your balcony, in your pajamas, as the sun sets at midnight over a glacier floating 100 yards from your bedroom.

Above the Arctic Circle: Only the rarest of tourists will venture this far off the beaten path, but only a short (and small) plane ride away from Fairbanks lies what feels like an entirely new world. With town populations in the single digits and families living almost entirely off the land, the world above the Arctic Circle is an experience that will stick with you long after you re-enter the mainland.

Don’t leave Alaska without…

…Venturing away from the hoards of tourists and getting lost underneath a sea of towering trees. The most precious and long-lasting souvenir you can give yourself from a trip to Alaska is allocating yourself a slice of nature, however fleeting it may be. Harness that feeling of freedom and fresh air and bring it home with you to your cubicle, or desk, or wherever you may spend your days. Remind yourself of how simple life can be when it’s feeling a bit heavy. After all, that feeling of freedom is only a plane ride away—no passports required.

    3 Comments

  • Tip says:

    You’re right. We completely forget the U.S. when seeking majestic locales. Your list is as extensive as, well, Alaska but I’d add one thing. Bristol Bay. It’s one of the most untouched pieces of land on the continent and it may not last much longer.

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