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Published: October 17th 2006
Alaska is big, very, very big. You won't believe how big it is...
It is the largest state in the USA, representing 25%!o(MISSING)f the entire landmass. Mount McKinley is North America's highest mountain and the state has more coastline than the whole of the rest of the States. A coastline ringed with magnificent Volcanoes and islands. The State borders the Pacific Ring of Fire - the seismically active area that marks the border of the Pacific Plate. As a result, Alaska also gets bigger earthquakes than anywhere else in North America.
The earthquake of 1964
destroyed a number of settlements along the Kenai Peninsula. It was the biggest ever recorded earthquake in North America and the second most powerful earthquake in recorded history.
The place has a mystical pull.
The marketing people plug Alaska as "The Last Frontier". You wouldn't know it in downtown Anchorage, the largest city in the State. Anchorage is much like any other North American city with Shopping Malls and multi-lane highways.
When Alaska was the last Frontier it meant lawlessness, heavy drinking and quasi-legal prostitution. In fact the last of the restricted zones (where the prostitutes were regulated and protected) was only
At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre
pulled down in the mid 1950's. That was on the orders of the federal government not the locals.
The old frontier was home to Soapy Smith
who relieved gold stampeders of their money, prostitutes and showgirls who took their share of the miners money and gunmen like Wyatt Earp.
I arrived in Anchorage
late Friday evening September 29th, after an all day journey by bus from Whitehorse in the Yukon. (See my last blog
). I spent the next 4 days struggling with the last blog entry. The city was very quiet. All the tours had packed up for the year. I couldn't visit Denali National Park. The buses that run inside the park only run in the summer season. The scenic passenger train also only runs in the summer, which is ironic because Anchorage was founded as a railway town.
Seward and Homer
Finally after I had overcome my difficulties with the blog, I hired a car and toured the Kenai Peninsula for 3 days. The Seward Highway that runs south from Anchorage to Seward has spectacular views. I stopped many times to admire the views. Along the way I visited the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation
is a pretty town, I visited the very goodAlaska Sea Life Centre
. It rained a lot of the time that I was in Alaska. It was raining when I was in Seward. In fact, 5 days later when I was in Juneau the State capital I saw on the news that a state of emergency had been declared in Seward. The streets had turned into rivers and the electricity in the town had been cut off.
After Seward I drove down to Homer
, which is a little fishing town at the end of the highway. It has also been colonized by hippies and artists in recent years.
I then returned to Anchorage, flying out of the city on October 7th. It was a 2 hour flight to the State capital of Juneau.
is built along a narrow coast overlooked by mountains and glaciers. It has a coastal road that runs for 45 miles to nowhere. There is no overland route to the city. The only transport into the city is the ferry and the airport.
When my aircraft descended beneath the clouds for its run into the city, I could see that we were descending
over a narrow channel of water below the high volcanic mountains on both sides.
Juneau is a small city that sprawls along both sides of the channel. It depends on work from the state government and tourism. When I was there, the tourism industry was shut for the season.
The city though has some spectacular trails which I explored and it has the Mendenhall Glacier which I visited.
The day I visited the Glacier the fog finally cleared at 2pm. The woman at the visitor centre told me that the glacier is receeding very quickly. In 10 years time, the Mendendhall Glacier will not be visible from the Visitor Centre. Global warming is causing dramatic changes to the eco-system in Alaska.
On October 10th I left Juneau on the ferry south along the Inside Passage
. The Inside Passage is supposed to be spectacularly scenic, but it rained for the whole of the 37 hour journey down to Prince Rupert in British Columbia, Canada.
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