Solo Chick Alaska Adventure

I'm making one of my dreams come true by doing a solo chick adventure to Alaska. I’ll chronicle my trip here.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Final Words About Alaska

As I look back on my photos and still hear from people I met along the way, I can’t stop smiling. Just the idea of going to Alaska was exciting on its own. It’s further from NYC than most of Europe, so it really was like going to another country. But the warmth I felt from my fellow Americans had a Midwest feel to it. I loved getting to know a bunch of great people. Almost everyone has a story about why they live there. Many come because they’re in the military and stay.

Alaska is certainly more diverse than any other country I’ve visited, except for Canada maybe. The weather and seasons change dramatically in different regions. Alaska is a melting pot like NYC, except for different ingredients. There are several Eskimo groups. And many people come over from Russia, which is quite close. There were students from around the world who come for the summer to work. Japan is also not too far so there were many Japanese visiting. Many different types but all with a smile!

The terrain changes throughout the state too. The Juneau and Scagway regions are part of a small strip of land along the side of western Canada. It’s quite isolated from the rest of the state. I’m told the glaciers are there are the most spectacular. The Anchorage area has lots of mountains and also lots of glaciers. It gets flatter as you go further into the interior. And while Anchorage averages in the 20’s in winter, Fairbanks, just a few hundred miles away, can go down to 60 below. But they don’t have tons of snow. There, some, but it’s manageable.

Most of the people I met up north don’t see the winters as bad. They admit that there’s a lot of depression and alcoholism. But the ones I met were upbeat about their lives and passion for Alaska. Jo Scott recently wrote me that fall is already coming to Fairbanks. She’s expecting the first frost within two weeks. I wrote back that she must be sad to see her beautiful flowers die. She replied, “We garden from May through August with a few days into September and we all GARDEN 'HARD' -- working out in the 24 hour daylight, so by fall, I'm READY TO QUIT AND DO SOME WINTER THINGS.” That’s the spirit of Fairbanks!

It gets more barren further north. And even colder. Had I gone a littlel further I’d have reached the Prudhoe and Barrow regions by the Arctic Sea. That’s where the oil comes from. Since Alaska is so big, it was hard to see everything I wanted even in 18 days. If I’d had more time I’d have gone south to Seward and vicinity. It’s another beautiful region with glaciers and other gifts of nature.

If I had to find something negative about the trip, the only thing I can think of is the mosquitoes. I was told that the season was over by mid July. June is the worst month for them. But the few that remained found me very sweet and munched whenever they could. They’re much bigger than the ones in NY. And I had bites that lasted for weeks. Bug spray only works for a short time. I was often seen flailing my arms to shoo them away. And they come with the territory I love – hiking and the outdoors. Fortunately it was fairly cool so I wore long sleeves when I could and long pants. That helped. My hands were hit the hardest.

Another less than perfect aspect of Alaska is the transportation between cities. Juneau is magnificent but there are no roads to drive there so one must fly, take a boat, or ferry with a car. Trains are VERY slow. Outside of the major cities, many of the roads are bumpy. So travel plans must include the time factor for getting from one place to another. You might see that a city looks fairly close by most standards. Heck, I can drive 200 miles in under 3 hours. Not in Alaska! The train might take 8 or more. And there might not be a road. That’s part of why cruise ships are popular.

I think another reason people like cruises is that Alaska is quite pricy so people prefer just sleeping on the boat. I’m glad I just stayed on land. People I spoke to who’d been on ships said they spent a lot of time traveling and didn’t see or do nearly as much as I did. Many of the ships lead their own activities and that limits you more. I’m glad that I flew up the way I did and just found activities as I went. Spontaneity brings many more rewards when you travel.

If you opt for a cruise, I’d recommend spending some extra time on land and make your own arrangements for activities. There’s so much you can’t see from a ship. Many of the great places to visit aren’t by the water. Denali National Park is definitely worth visiting and you’d need several days for that. The people I met who cruised up but spent some time on their own and flew back seemed to get much more out of their trips than those who just stayed with the ship activities.

I’m told that a good time to visit southern Alaska is in May, as spring warms temps up a bit. It’s still cool but there are no mosquitoes and prices are much lower before tourist season begins. Many Alaskans recommended visiting as early as March, when winter begins to leave and the days get longer. They say it’s beautiful then and you can still see the aurora borealis. It’s not visible in summer as it doesn’t get dark enough. I plan to take another trip during the earlier months one day.

One thing I loved in Alaska was there was no tax on many things, like clothes and food. It really did make a difference in my spending. Restaurants were a little pricier than I’m used to but no tax evened the bill out some. I liked shopping too, though I had to be careful not to buy more than the airline would let me check in without a penalty fee. ☺ I do love shopping! A 50-pound limit is tough! My hiking boots alone weigh a lot.

I know I’ll be back to Alaska one day. There’s so much more to see! My biggest issue will be that I’ll want to return to where I’ve been as it was so lovely. But I also want to see new places. I’ll figure it out when I go. I’m told that many people who visit don’t want to go home and some actually relocate to our most remote state. It’s a special place that has many aspects you won’t find all together in another one. I urge everyone to consider a trip to Alaska if you want a unique experience.

I hope my blog and photos convince you to follow in my footsteps. Try some of the activities I did. Explore other places and write your own blog. ☺ If you have no one you’d enjoy going with, go solo, like I did. Only YOU can make things happen for you. Only YOU can make your life better.

I’m so blessed to have been able to go to Alaska with my best friend – ME! It was an experience of a lifetime, but I don’t intend to consider this trip as THE one. I’ll have a lot more adventures in the future. I hope you all have a future of adventures and making dreams come true. If you just want to pass time, you’re wasting your precious life. There’s no time better than NOW to take a step toward really living. You don’t have to get on the next plane or whatever would rock your world. But take the first step by at least thinking about what you’d like and initiating a plan. Now that’s really living! I’m already looking at new horizons to dream about and conquer. I wish you a satisfying journey to making your own dreams come true.

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