Alaska is the largest state in the United States. It covers an area of 591,004 square miles, making it about 1/5 the size of North America. However, it is third smallest in population with 628,932 residents (2000). It contains the highest point in North America, Mount McKinley, located in Denali State Park.
My family and I chose Alaska as our vacation destination in the summer of 1994. We took a ferry from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, which took us up the Inside Passage and left us in Haines, Alaska. The ferry trip was a great way to be introduced to the natural beauty of Alaska. The giant cliffs along the waterway were impressive and wildlife was abundant at all times. Instantly, we were submersed in a world far away from city life.
On our way to Haines, our ferry made a stop in Juneau, the capitol. Bald eagles were present throughout the city, which gave it a majestic and symbolic feel. We were also able to see the enormous Mendenhall Glacier. Just 20 minutes before our arrival, part of the face had broken off, leaving behind an intense-blue ledge that is shown in the picture. In order to get a better view and better pictures, each of us took off our hiking boots and socks, rolled up our pants, and slowly crossed a small stream. The water from the stream was, of course, water that had run off the melting glacier. By the time we made it across the 10-foot stream, we could not feel our toes! However, frozen toes were a small sacrifice to be made for a closer view. The next day we embarked on the ferry once again.
The ferry trip in itself was quite an experience. The Inside Passage is absolutely beautiful and a great introduction to Alaska. A few humpback whales breeched near the boat, causing everyone to clap with joy. We would see more of them later on our whale-watching cruise in Prince William Sound.
Throughout our three-week trip, we traveled by air, water and land. We drove over 5,000 miles in a rental Ford Explorer, which made the rough roads seem even worse. However, soreness from the road did not interfere with our eagerness to drive up to 15 hours at a time to see as much of Alaska as possible. Not only were we able to witness the natural beauty of the land, including the Alaska Mountain Range, we also learned about the native peoples.
I have included three journeys here that I feel made the deepest impressions on my memory. However, I cannot adequately describe in words the beauty and uniqueness of the state of Alaska.