On "The Last Frontier" Part I


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May 28th 2010
Published: May 28th 2010
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On “The Last Frontier” Part I

Florida markets itself as “The Sunshine State” but this is all hype. I don’t think that Florida is particularly more sunny than most other places, but the nickname helps bring in the tourists, I suppose. Alaska, however, which has dubbed itself “The Last Frontier,” is actually justified in its nickname. One doesn’t have to be here long to realize that this place definitely is a frontier (as to its finality, I can’t attest).
Moose are very common; I saw three (equaling the number I saw before coming to Alaska) in my first 12 hours here. It’s amazing how nonchalant people are about these huge animals. They’ll just look at them wandering through their yards without batting an eye. It’s like they’re stray dogs or something. Their scat is ubiquitous in the outdoors.

On an interesting side note, the moose are calving right now, and in the period of a month the moose population in Alaska will double. A full three-quarters of these calves however, won’t make it another two months; most will be eaten by predators. The cows tend to give birth to twins, which serves to give the moose plenty of chances to survive and provides a vital food source for wolves and for bears, which are in dire need of food as they come out of hibernation.

The landscape is marvelous: Great tabula rosas of granite and snow rise above the trees and marry the chalky gray sky, waiting for someone in this young place to write their history upon them. Mt. Redoubt (ree’-dout, not re-dout’), the country’s most active volcano towers from across the inlet, visible across the entire peninsula on the glorious clear days.

I am sitting on the Kenai River Trail over looking the river’s gorge, and can certify that the river does, in fact, have some color. Some have described it as aquamarine, but that’s more like the color of the ocean in the Keys. The river is much more green and less blue, I’d call it a jade. The river gets this distinct color from light reacting with glacial flour in the river. This super-fine sediment will stay in solution even in stagnant water and is constantly supplied to the river by the receding glaciers.

This state also has really great geographic names sprinkled across it. It just sounds foreign and untamed: Kachemak Bay, China Poot, Ptarmigan Creek, Tustamena Lake, Tsalteshi Trails, Nikiski, Greywingk Glacier. It’s like the greatest hits of Eastern Europe and the Native Americans.

Next time I’ll be talking about a little more about the nature of this place and people who brave the last frontier, at least most of the year. But until then, you can catch me around the Wosnesenski River.

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