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Prepare yourself for a wild adventure in our 49th state. Want to see grizzlies? Alaska is for you. Whale watching? Come to Alaska. The Land of the Midnight Sun is like nowhere else on the face of the earth -- full of opportunities for the adventurous outdoorsperson, or if our tastes are a bit more sedate, there’s plenty to keep us fascinated and willing to return year after year. Alaska is loaded with history, dating back to primitive man, and the state continues to be a premium place to observe all forms of wildlife in their glorious natural habitat.
The town of Seward rests on the head of Resurrection Bay; Mount Marathon stabs 3,000 feet into the air above Seward and the nearby Harding Icefield – which measures a staggering 35 by 20 miles – consists of several glaciers that continue to break icebergs from their surface and send them into the sea. It’s an awe-inspiring show of nature at work. Glacier cruises are available for an even closer look.
As we head north on Seward Highway, also known as Highway 9, we cruise through some of the most beautiful countryside. In roughly thirty miles we merge with the northbound Highway 1 which will take us into Anchorage. The Seward-to-Anchorage leg of the journey runs around one hundred and twenty miles, but it’ll pass quickly due to the surrounding natural wonder. Make sure you have your camera at the ready to capture impromptu roadside animal activity.
On arrival in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, we may be surprised to see just how modern a city out in the wilderness can be. All comforts and amenities can be found here, from shopping, to five-star restaurants, and everything in between. This isn’t meant to suggest that Anchorage is one of those “big cities” we’re trying to get away from; quite the contrary. Surrounded by six mountain ranges and lush wilderness, Anchorage retains a rugged outdoorsy spirit and sense of adventure. No matter what time of year we plan our trip, there are seasonal activities to capture our attention. One of my personal recommendations is to get up there when the salmon are running; they just about jump into your fishing boat! There’s nothing like the taste of freshly-caught Alaska King salmon, and the rainbow trout is pretty good too!
While in Anchorage, treat yourself to a unique experience and hire out a dog sled team. The teams are available year-round, though in summer the guides take us on a trip across a glacier. It’s an adrenaline rush you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Continuing on our road trip, we head east on Highway 1 for a 40-mile drive to the town of Palmer, one of Alaska’s best-kept secrets. Palmer is the nexus point for trips to the mountains, lakes and streams of the area. This is a prime place to pull over and stay a couple of days to get in some hiking, or maybe even try to grab a few more of those tasty fish. If we get to Palmer in late August, we’ll have the chance to hit the Alaska State Fair which is held at the Palmer Fairgrounds. The State Fair is filled with live exhibits, such as the legendary 100-pound cabbage, and offers live entertainment, along with dozens of craft exhibits – and of course, there’s food!
Leaving Palmer by way of Highway 4, we come to our final stop of Valdez, a little more than 250 miles to the south. During the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th century, prospectors flocked to Valdez, believing it to be rich with gold and copper. Now, it’s at the southern end of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Lush greenery, abundant wildlife and no fewer than five glaciers can be experienced just by stepping out the door. In summer, guided glacier treks take us across some of the most massive chunks of ice in Valdez, and if we visit in wintertime, we should rent a snowmobile and go scooting across the snow. Or, we can check out the local ocean waters, which are teeming with seals, otters, Humpback whales, and Orcas.
No matter where you go in our 49th state, you’ll be treated to breathtaking beauty and fun-filled adventure. If Mother Nature has a favorite child, surely it must be Alaska.