Alaska is the largest state in the United States in land area at 570,374 square miles, over twice the size of Texas
Mount McKinley, or Denali "The High One" is the highest mountain in the United States and North America with an elevation of 20,320 feet.
Anchorage is Alaska's largest city with over 291,000 residents. At 61 degrees north is it slightly more northern than Oslo and Stockholm.
Because of the northern latitude, in the summer the days are very long although the temperatures rarely rise above the 70s. But that doesn't stop Alaska's residents from shedding their parkas for shorts the moment the sun appears.
Oscar Anderson was an early Anchorage resident, said to be the 18th person to set foot on the area and his house, built in 1915 was the first wood-frame house in Anchorage.
The Glacier Brewhouse is both a brewery and one of Anchorage's top restaurants. The place gets busy early so it is a good idea to make reservations. Aside from rotisserie meats the menu features lots of fresh local seafood. And who ever had fresh raspberry whet beer? The brewhouse was brewing it and it was delicious. Alaska glacier bottled water is a great way to taste the purity of the environment around Anchorage. This bottled water is a popular drink for Asians who visit and refer glaciers. Although there were rave reviews about the seafood chowder and the calamari, I tried the pita with hummus which was a great appetizer that went well with the raspberry wheat beer.
One can't be in Alaska without tasting king crab legs. The fresh version is more spectacular than the deep freeze version we get in the lower 48. Alaskan halibut also shines over their southern neighbors and at Glacier Brewhouse they serve it with a healthy balsamic salad and a not so healthy side of fries.
A popular street food are reindeer hot dogs which are actually a blend of pork sausage and reindeer. I didn't taste it but I understand it is a must try, unless you are Santa Claus. There are lots of tourist shops selling made in China souvenirs but if you want something that is truly Alaskan and unique, The Oomingmak Qiviut shop is an Alaskan native cooperative that produces Muskox products.
It is owned by approximately 250 Native Alaskan women from remote coastal villages of Alaska who knit each item by hand. Each village has a signature pattern derived from traditional aspects of village life and the Eskimo culture; they may come from an ancient artifact or a beadwork design.
The name Musk Ox is deceiving, as the animal does not produce musk, nor is it related to cattle. Skeletal and behavioral studies show a closer relationship to sheep and goats Qiviut is shed naturally each year during the spring months.
About 40 miles south of Anchorage is the Alyeska ski resort -- even in May there is abundant snow -- although skiers were not about. It has an average of 643" of annual snowfall and is known for its steep terrain. For off piste skiing - Chugach Powder Guides operate snowcat or helicopter adventure in the world-famous Chugach Mountain Range. Helicopters guarantee 16 - 20,000 vertical feet of skiing per day. The cost $1125 per person. If that price is unbearable ... the normal day ski lift pass is $60 for an adult.
Not far from Alyeska is Portage and the home of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The center takes in injured and orphaned animals and many who cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center.
Snickers, the porcupine is one such creature that was raised in a home and has a lot of personality .. so much so that a youtube video featuring him with almost 1.8 million views. (youtube.com/watch?v=U5I5H7EeC8k)
The center had recently taken in three orphaned moose calves who keep the four-year old moose Jack company. Jack had arrived at the center as a 3-day old moose with bite marks and a broken leg .. and a 20% chance of survival.
Muskox who's warm fur is used in making Qiviut products are an arctic survivor. Their thick coat grows up to 36 inches long.
The wood bison were extinct from Alaska until they were reintroduced in 2003. They are the largest land animal in North America.
Bears are also residents at the center including brown bears, black bears and a grizzly bear.
Heading south toward the coastal town of Whittier brings one to the Whittier tunnel. This is the longest combined railroad car tunnel in North America and connects the commuters between the Prince William Sound and Turnagain Arm. The tunnel opened in 1943.
Whittier is home to lots of sea life from birds, to sea otters, seals, whales, and sea lions.
In 1964 a 9.2 magnitude earthquake (the largest ever recorded in North America)
generated a major tectonic tsunami. The waves destroyed Girdwood and Portage and evidence of the damage today is still visible from the dead wood forests in the area.
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