Wed, 3 Apr, 2019
5 reasons to love Alaska
Alaska is the largest, most sparsely populated and coldest state in the United States of America.
1. The Northern Lights
Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky. The Aurora occurs when solar particles collide with the earth’s atmosphere resulting in stunning streams of green, blue and even red light swirling through the sky.
The best time to see the Aurora is in winter, from late August through to April. It’s not as cold as you think. Average temperatures hover around -7 to -1 °C and you can expect up to six hours of sunlight per day in the southern part of the state. As long as you dress for the weather, you will be fine.
Bring your binoculars. Alaska’s large swathes of wilderness are home to some of the most incredible animals on the planet. You can watch a brown bear scoop salmon from a flowing icy river, catch a glimpse of a shy wolf or lynx and watch in awe as an American Bald Eagle soars above your head.
Alaska has so many brown bears, you would be unlucky not to see one. Polar Bears are a different story. You will need to take an expedition to find them.
For the best chance of seeing a polar bear head to Alaska in the Spring or Autumn. Polar Bears don’t go into hibernation like Brown Bears do, but they are scarcely seen during winter. You will find them on the coastlines toward the southern edge of the ice pack in the Far North and Western Arctic areas. As climate change alters the bear’s habitats, they have increasingly been found on land near towns like Barrow and Kotzebue. Remember polar bears are dangerous animals, that have been known to stalk humans. They should only be viewed with an experienced guide.
3. National Parks
If you love wilderness and rugged beauty, you will love Alaska. The northernmost state is also home to home to America’s highest peak, Denali with a summit elevation 6,190 m above sea level. Denali National Park is six million acres of wild land, packed with wildlife and bisected by one ribbon of road. Try hiking, fishing, canoeing or dog sledging or simply spend the day looking for wildlife.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska’s inside passage is home to humpback whales and puffins. One of the largest internationally protected Biosphere Reserves in the world, Glacier Bay collects glaciers slowly drifting down from the jagged mountains above. Most visitors arrive on cruise ships as few overland roads to the region exist. The region has three spectacular hiking trails and you can stay at Glacier Bay Lodge.
Vast, beautiful and remote, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sprawls over 19.6 million acres in Alaska’s northern corner. Here you will find tundra plains, treeless coastlines, rugged mountain peaks and glaciers. Snow usually blankets the ground from September through to May. Once spring comes, the region is flush with life. More than 160 migratory and resident bird species come to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to breed, rest or feed from April to July. The refuge holds many polar bear dens and it’s a critical calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd.
Totem pole carving is often found in cultures that have a close tie with nature, and Alaska is no different. The poles use material from the land the images usually represent animals, spirits or places. Totem poles in front of houses identify the clan’s history. They are also carved to depict stories, to commemorate an event or to honour a deceased loved one or chief.
The Northwest Coast Alaska Natives are known for a special weaving technique that creates perfect circles. The small, finely woven baskets of the Unangax̂, Alutiiq, and Yup’ik peoples are highly prized by collectors.
If you love beadwork, make sure you look for Athabascan craft. The women from this tribe have created beautiful beaded clothing, blankets, tools and jewellery for centuries. Traditionally, they used seeds, carved wooden beads, shells, and quills. Glass beads were introduced after European contact.
Midnight Sun, Broken Tooth, Silver Gulch, 49th State – these are just a few of the Alaskan microbreweries gaining a large reputation outside of the state.
What’s their secret?
Untouched glacial water.
Water is the most important ingredient in beer and Alaska has the purest water of any American state.
It’s not just beer either. In the last few years, Alaska has seen an abundance of gin and vodka distilleries pop up across the state. It’s no wonder – juniper berries, cranberries, spruce tips and raspberries used to produce and infuse each sprit can be plucked from roadside bushes during morning hikes.
Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of MyDiscoveries.