Alaska: “The Last Frontier,” the 49th State, a massive, wild land that has a near-unique ability to get people fantasizing long before they even visit. Alaska, more than probably any other region in North America, is a place that spawns dreams and legends.

The state is home to all sorts of mythologies about hardy, self-sufficient, heroic Americans taking on all that empty space – from its various Gold Rushes (Q: I wonder how many Americans believe that the Klondike Gold Rush actually took place in Alaska, rather than Canada?) to its bush pilots and dog mushers and far-northern oil workers to, hey, the self-proclaimed huntin’ and fishin’ hockey mom ex-Governor, Sarah Palin.

Alaska is reachable by road from northern British Columbia and the Yukon, and by ferry (or cruise ship) from Washington state and a number of B.C. ports. Several major airlines fly into Anchorage and (to a lesser extent) Juneau and Fairbanks, while Alaska Airlines and other local carriers serve the smaller settlements.

It’s a big place, obviously, with a corresponding range of activities and travel options, so I won’t pretend to give any kind of comprehensive overview here just yet. So far I’ve visited parts of Southeast Alaska and also covered some ground between Fairbanks and Anchorage, which leaves an awfully large part of the state still untouched – I look forward to expanding these pages as I go.

Fall color on a foggy day in Denali National Park


I’ve heard people call Skagway “Alaskan Disneyland” – a reference, I’m sure, to its shiny Ye Olde Historic Town™ kind of vibe; Skagway’s Gold Rush buildings are so meticulously cared for that they can almost look like elaborate fakes. I’ve also heard people call it “Holland America-ville,” a reference this time to the sheer volume of cruise ships that arrive in season, disgorging thousands of passengers into the town’s handful of streets.

Yeah, I get it. Skagway is a tourist town. But you know what? I love it anyway.

It’s stunningly beautiful, filled with friendly people and good food and drink. And it’s one of the most easily accessible small towns in Southeast Alaska. Why skip a good thing, just because you might have to share the sidewalk with a few folks in matching windbreakers?

Read my guide to Skagway.


Roadside Alaska


One response

25 01 2011
Gail Abramson

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