TR Robertson …..The Robertson’s were recently off and traveling again. This time traveling by plane, train, bus and cruise ship to a number of cities, towns, and majestic destinations in the United States 49th state, Alaska. In a series of articles, I will take you along on our trip, describing the highlights we experienced and the amazing sights we saw. But first I thought I would give you some Alaskan trivia to better give you an idea of what this incredible state is all about. Some of the info will provide you with information you can quiz your friends with around the dinner table and some of the info will surprise you. So let’s take a look at some the fascinating, strange and unusual facts about America’s largest state.
- Alaska is twice the size of Texas
- It has the longest coastline of any state – 6,600 miles
- Alaska has more inland water ways than any other state
- Lake Iliamna is the size of Connecticut
- There are 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes that have been recorded in Alaska
- The Aurora Borealis can be seen 243 days of the year in Fairbanks
- Mainland Alaska is 50 miles the Russian coastline
- 25% of our oil is produced in Alaska
- There is no state sales tax but some cities have city taxes
- The largest salmon ever caught weighed 97.5 lbs. caught on the Kenai River
- The state bird is the willow ptarmigan
- The state flower is the forget-me-not
- The state tree is the Sitka spruce
- The state insect is the four spot skimmer dragon fly, some think it should be the mosquito
- The state sport is dog mushing
- The un-official state animal is the moose. Only male moose grow antlers
- ½ of the world’s glaciers are found in Alaska
- There are 5,000 earthquakes a year in Alaska – 1,000 measure 3.5 on the Richter scale
- 52% of all Alaskans are men – the highest percentage of any state
- The Frontier Flying Service will deliver pizza by plane from Airport Pizza in Nome for $30
- Until 1986, people didn’t need to buy property outside of cities – build a house and the property it was on was yours
- Road kill reported to authorities will be collected, butchered and distributed to the needy
- A company in Alaska developed a powdered beer for back packers
- Alaska was discovered in 1741 by Danish explorer Vitus Bering, the strait between Russia and Alaska was named after him.
- The Alaskan Highway was originally built as a military road in WW II.
- Alaska’s name is based on an Eskimo word, Alakshak, meaning great lands
- Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley, is America’s tallest mountain at 20,320 ft.
- There are 227 federally recognized Indian tribes in Alaska
- All of Denali is not visible 80% of the time
- Only 30% of all roadways in Alaska are paved
- At age 16, Alaskans can obtain a piolets license before they have a driver’s license
- 1 in every 70 people in Alaska have a piolet’s license
- Some of Alaska’s farmland is so fertile it can grow some of the largest vegetables in the world – recently displaying a 138 lb. cabbage grown near Wasilla
- The town of Wasilla is said to have the last Blockbuster Video Store in the United States
- The largest bears on Earth are found in Alaska – Grizzly Bears and Polar Bears
Some photos by Carolyn Robertson
You get the idea. Alaska is an amazing place with some of the most majestic natural sights to be found anywhere in the world. Thousands of visitors travel to Alaska every summer to enjoy a relatively mild climate, moderate days, chilly nights and occasional rain. Our second Alaskan adventure began in San Diego with a short delay of our flight to Seattle, the first stop on our trip to Alaska. The delay was due to weather over Portland, whatever. An hour and a ½ later, we took off, ran into no turbulence, landed in Seattle with an arranged connecting flight to Anchorage. Our hotel shuttle picked us up and took us to the Clarion Hotel. We wanted a quick bite to eat and tried an Irish Pub a couple of blocks away. Good beer, not so good food. Our other choice would have been a Benihana’s, located by the hotel. Back to the hotel and sleep.
A little about Anchorage. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, some 300,000 inhabitants. It contains 40% of the state’s residents. Anchorage was named after a hardware and clothing store that was built when the city was first developed in 1917 as a construction camp for railroad workers building the Alaskan Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks. The port in Anchorage receives 95% of all goods bound for Alaska. One notable statue in Anchorage is a bronze statue of the sled dog, Balto, said to be the lead dog of the sled that brought serum to Nome to stop the diphtheria epidemic in 1925. Anchorage is called The City of Lights and Flowers. There are numerous museums in the city, parks, hiking trails and the University of Alaska Anchorage. It is also the financial and industrial center of Alaska and the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Race. But, we were here to take a ride on the Alaska Railroad to Denali.
We awoke very early, leaving our large luggage at the hotel and taking a smaller suitcase for the train ride and several days stay in Denali. Packing was a challenge as we had to pack for cold weather and pack for life on a cruise ship. It was chilly in Anchorage and had been raining. Locals all through Alaska said this had been the wettest summer they had seen in some years. Denali would be a little cooler and possibly rainy as well.
After a shuttle ride to the train station, we dropped our bags off, turned in our vouchers for train tickets and a short wait for boarding and a roughly 6 hour train ride to Denali and more adventures. Once on board the train we had fairly comfortable seats, began an exploration of the train, found the observation car we could visit, the Wilderness Café, restrooms and we were set to go. In Part II, I will take you along the route to Denali and the sites and towns we passed, explain some of the background of this historical railroad, and our experience in the backcountry of Denali.