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Travel Happiness: Alaska--The Wilderness Destination

Travel Happiness
Alaska--The Wilderness Destination
by Art Richards

Up north there's a land without fences, animals out number people, sunlight shines at midnight, and nature reigns supreme. Life is different, and so are you. Muscles relax with every breath of crisp, clean air. Mountains, woodlands, and meadows renew the spirit and you rediscover your adventurous side. Who knew there could be so many thrilling ways to break away from your everyday routine? Come explore Alaska's great national parks and wilderness preserves. Marvel at Glacier Bay, Denali, Mt. McKinley and more - all the ingredients for a complete escape.
The season for 2005 is just about over but many are already planning to visit this incredible 49th state in 2006. We start out at least a year in advance to plan.
I have visited Alaska a dozen times and each time as departure draws near my spirit is stirred with anticipation of the great land, its sights and sounds.
Let me give you a brief history lesson. The State of Alaska is 1/5 the size of the lower 48 states. The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million or 2 cents an acre. Quite a bargain! Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in the U.S. at 20,320 ft. above sea level. Alaska has 39 mountain ranges containing 17 of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. The longest river is the Yukon 1,875 miles in Alaska; 2,298 miles total. There are 3,000 rivers in the state. The largest island is Kodiak, in the Gulf of Alaska 3,588 sq. miles. There are actually 1,800 named islands in the state 1,000, which are located in Southeast Alaska. Juneau is the capital and only accessible by boat or plane.
Having visited Alaska so often, I really encourage people to visit by land for at least 5-7 days, followed by a 7-day cruise. A typical itinerary might be to fly to Fairbanks for several nights where one can enjoy panning for gold and enjoy a nostalgic cruise on the Riverboat Discovery. You stop at an authentic Chena Native fishing camp and an Athabascan Village. A personal visit with Susan Butcher, four-time iditarod dog sled champion is also enjoyed. From Fairbanks one can enjoy the famed Midnight Sun Express rail service to Denali National Park for a night or two. A bus trip into the park is a must. McKinley Mountain can often be viewed from Denali. Better still, you can travel by train to McKinley and the McKinley Wilderness Lodge for a true wilderness experience. Take time to bike, take a float trip or an airplane trip over the magnificent McKinley Mountain range. Heading south the next stop would be Anchorage, the stopping off point to reach the cruise ship at Whittier. After the busy land excursion, it's time to sit back and enjoy the exciting and beautiful glaciers at College Fjord and Glacier Bay, then the ports of Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. You conclude your cruise with a day on the inside passage before arriving Vancouver and air home.
Want to know more on planning a trip to Alaska? An Alaska seminar is planned for Tuesday, August 23 (7pm) at the Plaza Hotel, Hagerstown. It's free.

Art Richards is the owner of Richards World Travel, Inc. in Hagerstown. (

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