My husband Jim spent many hours during his high school years trying to figure out how he could homestead in Alaska. A friend of his decided he would go with him, but then they both succumbed to the pressure of going to College. Unfortunately, after college the Government drafted him into the Army for 6 years, and Alaska had to be put off for …. 40 years! While, miles away, I collected vintage postcards from Alaska .
2009 rolls around and a cruise ship company sends us a “two for one” offer to tour and cruise Alaska. So we did. This was our 3rd cruise, after our first one in spring 2008 to Mexico and last winter to the Caribbean on the Queen Mary 2. Since going on a ship to Turkey when I was 5 years old I have always liked that kind of travel and whenever I would go to England from France I would take the longest ferry to cross the Channel, the rougher 4 hour Dieppe-Newhaven ferry crossing instead of the 70 minute Calais-Dover crossing. I came to this country the first time on a big German transatlantic ship and loved it. But while I was working it was hard to take the time to go on a cruise. I was surprised that on a cruise you can really do what you want, eat with people or alone, talk or be by yourself. It’s a good value and you don’t have to lug your luggage around.
Our trip to Alaska included a night in Seattle, a flight to Anchorage, 2 nights at the Mt McKinley Wilderness Lodge, 1 night at the Denali Wilderness Lodge, a couple of excursions including a visit to the Yucon in Canada, a train ride to Whittier and the 7-day cruise back to Vancouver with stops along the way. I’ll dedicate several future posts to this trip. When we arrived in Seattle about 3 weeks ago, the sun was shining, it was 82 degrees (28 C) and it was the warmest day of 2009. We had a very good view of Mt Rainier from our hotel.
The next afternoon after our 3 ½ hour flight to Anchorage , it looked like it had rained but it was now very sunny. We had a couple of hours to walk around the downtown area. Anchorage , with about 280,000 municipal residents (as of 2007) is the largest city in Alaska . That number represents more than 40% of the entire population of Alaska which was estimated at 683,000 in 2008. (As a point of reference, the greater metro Atlanta area has a population of over 5,626,000.)
Alaska is much larger than most people realize. It is approximately 570,373 square miles of land and another 45,000 square miles of water. Using the US as a basis of equivalence, Alaska is as large as the entire eastern seaboard spanning north to south Maine to Florida and west to Tennessee, or 20 states combined which include Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware. Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
As a European equivalent, Alaska is as large as the combined countries of Belgium , France , Germany , Holland , Italy, Scotland and Switzerland. Alaska has ½ the world’s glaciers and 33,904 miles of coastline.
Postcard of Anchorage and Mt McKinley (photo courtesy of Jeff Schultz)
We then took a four hour bus ride to the Mt McKinley Wilderness lodge (shown below) and arrived at 7:30 pm. The sun was still high. It was still light at 11:00 pm when we decided to call it a day.