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The last frontier

Exploring Alaska and all it has to offer

I recently made a trip to Alaska with my sister Sarah and our cousin Kendra. We spent several weeks exploring across the central/southeastern area to experience what the last frontier has to offer. We used our Airbnb in Anchorage as a base camp in between adventures.

Much of the time spent in Anchorage was for planning the next sights to see, playing board games and cooking excellent meals. There were many trips made to the Kenai Peninsula to take advantage of everything this part of the state has to offer. I spent a few days fishing the Kenai River, where I was able to catch salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden trout, which was a first for me. The best part about fishing this area was observing a mama bear and her cubs feeding in the deep pools where salmon were holding. I could sit all day and watch the cubs dive down for fish and then fight each other for it when one of them got one.

While I spent much time here on the river, the girls took a plane to Lake Clark National Park & Preserve to check out some bears going about their daily activities. They especially enjoyed watching the young cubs play amongst each other and get distracted while mom is trying to teach them how to dig for clams on the beach. With limited access to people, the bears in this area do not view people as a threat to their food and will coexist with you while keeping your distance and showing respect.

Working our way down toward the tip of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, we found ourselves camping in Homer for a few days. This is a fishing town hosting some of the best halibut fishing in the world, which makes this a very popular place for a lot of people. Feeling like a mountain town with some beach town in it makes Homer a place like no other. This was my favorite city we visited while there, and I can’t wait to go back.

We were lucky enough to obtain a permit online for a pass to drive into Denali National Park. Typically, one can only drive their car 15 miles into the park before having to take a bus to get in deeper. The permit allowed us to venture 60 miles into the park in our own vehicle. Along this trip were endless views of some of the most beautiful scenery I believe exists, as well as our first live look at caribou. We also saw a few bears moseying around, and a wolf way off in distance. Preservation of this park is outstanding, which should allow it to remain in its natural state for all to enjoy for many years. This was my favorite part of our trip to Alaska. Denali is one of a kind. I’ll never forget the feeling I had sitting at camp eating the oats Sarah made for breakfast that morning and sipping on some coffee before we started our drive into the park.

Alaska: Quick Facts

Alaska is by far the largest U.S. state by area, comprising more total area than the next three largest states (Texas, California and Montana) combined, and the seventh largest subnational division in the world.

While it has one of the smallest state economies in the country, Alaska's per capita income is among the highest, owing to a diversified economy dominated by fishing, natural gas, and oil, all of which it has in abundance. United States armed forces bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy; more than half the state is federally owned public land, including a multitude of national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges.

Of the 20 highest peaks in the United States, 17 are in Alaska. Denali, the highest peak in North America, is 20,320 ft. above sea level. Denali, the Indian name for the peak, means "The Great One."

The Yukon River, almost 2,000 miles long, is the third longest river in the United States. There are more than 3,000 rivers in Alaska and over 3 million lakes. The largest, Lake Iliamna, encompasses over 1,000 square miles.

Alaska has 6,640 miles of coastline and, including islands, has 33,904 miles of shoreline.

Some of Alaska's popular annual events are the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Anchorage to Nome, World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, the Blueberry Festival and Alaska Hummingbird Festival in Ketchikan, the Sitka Whale Fest, and the Stikine River Garnet Fest in Wrangell. The Stikine River attracts the largest springtime concentration of American bald eagles in the world.

Influences on music in Alaska include the traditional music of Alaska Natives as well as folk music brought by later immigrants from Russia and Europe. Prominent musicians from Alaska include singer Jewel, traditional Aleut flautist Mary Youngblood, folk singer-songwriter Libby Roderick, and Christian music singer-songwriter Lincoln Brewster.

Check out the State of Alaska website—Alaska.gov—for a wealth of information, including state facts and misconceptions, the state’s history, museums and events, fishing licenses, travel conditions, etc.

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