After encountering many exciting adventures, the author relates some of those experiences through poetry. Sharing is important!
The Great Land
The 49th State
It is virtually impossible to tell of all the beauty or the harshness of the "Great Land". Alaska is truly a huge state and is virtually a country of its own, attached to the continent of North America on its eastern border while adjoining the Yukon Territory, and a panhandle with its forested islands stretching from the Chelikoff Straights to into the Inside Passage meeting British Columbia, where thousands of tourists travel via tour boats each year, all hoping to see and experience a piece of this wilderness as they travel northward, sometimes also stopping at the native villages of Cordova, Juneau, Sitka, Craig, and other southeast destinations. Air travelers arrive daily at the Anchorage International Airport with reservations to Hotels, Tourist Guides, Hunting Guides, and some will even rent motor homes and travel the Kenai Peninsula, looking for a taste of wildlife, off the highway fishing, camping, exploring, kayaking and other interesting pursuits. Others will head inland, north through the Matanuska farm lands, driving through and past the Chugach Mountains, all the way to Glenallen and the Copper River basin, to Valdez where the Prince William Sound offers more fishing, sightseeing, and a spectacular view of the Columbia Glacier, as well as getting a glimpse across the bay at the historic Alyeska Oil Pipeline Terminal and the site of the departure of the Exxon Vessel that capsized, spilling 10 million gallons of precious oil, leaving a poignant, slightly bitter mark upon the previously otherwise pristine mountainous and mystic coastline of the magnificent Prince William Sound.
Fairbanks in the interior, serving as the gateway to the far north with its chilly subzero temperatures yet warm and enjoyable summers, extremely long summer days contrasting its extremely short winter daylight, hosts such attractions as the Tanana River steam boat tours, the Chena Hot Spring’s Resort to the north east, the prospering Fort Knox Gold Mine, as well as the scenic tours to the Yukon River, and views of the trans-Alaska Pipeline. To the south west, you can view Mt. Mckinley, (Denali) as the second highest peak in the world, has a Euro- American feel as you drive into the Tanana Gorge and get close to the well established lodges, restaurants, and outdoor guide headquarters. It offers Helicopter rides, train rides, bus tours, and simple hiking as well as more complicated guided hikes way up into the wildlife protected national park. The Alaska railroad traverses the Gorge and follows the river northward to Fairbanks and North Pole.
To the southwest of Anchorage, the Island of Kodiak sits on Cook Inlet. It is a thriving fishing village, and hosts a coast guard base, which was a critical front in World War II, sending out P.B.Y. reconnaissance planes to search for Japanese warships and to patrol the coastline. Read "The Thousand Mile War". It will chill you and surprise you how much significance this war fought in the Aleutians had to do with the statehood of Alaska being kept intact. Alaska was originally bought for 7 million dollars from the Russians.. Another very interesting view of the North land is found in Bristol Bay... Naknek, and King Salmon, and Dillingham. these being the heart of the largest ocean harvest of Red Salmon Fishing industry. The Nushagak, Naknek and the Kvichak Rivers accepting millions of spawning Red Salmon (Sockeye) , King Salmon (Chinook), Silver Salmon (Coho), and Pink Salmon (humpies); Not to mention the large population of Brown bear, Caribou along the Aleutian, and in the waters of Bristol Bay including the Grey whales, the Beluga whales, and the Halibut, and the smaller Smelt that are feeding under the ice in the coldest winter months. A winter pastime of ice fishing is popular in most Alaska villages.
Much of rural Alaska is comprised of native lands, villages, and culture. Sovereign governments are being established to restore ownership to these people. Boats. airplanes. snow-machines and off-road four-wheeler's are used for primary travel within these areas, some being fly-in only communities. Oil Industry has effected almost every area of this land and yet it is still very diverse, very distinguishable in its Russian and Native origins, some of them being Aleut, Athabascan, Tlingit, and Inupiat, with all having their own individual dialect; some having Icelandic roots,and others having European origins.
Gold, silver, coal, bauxite, crude oil and other minerals are mined throughout Alaska and the industry is rapidly expanding to fill the economic needs of Americans as well as Import demand. Alaska has a very modern government Infrastructure that though the Capitol is in Juneau, perhaps the majority of state business is conducted in the largest interior south-central city; Anchorage. An interesting point of travel trivia is that outside of Anchorage and Fairbanks and Kenai, there is approximately 130 rural FAA approved Airports being maintained by the state Dept of Transportation, all of these lying in a horseshoe pattern from the southwest (Bering Sea), across the north ( Barrow) and back down the eastern side of the state next to Canada (Southeast Peninsula); of these 130, only approximately six airports are paved. Military Bases have also always served a vital function to the community, as well as boosting the economy of the entire state by bringing family’s and income as well, many buying homes and remaining even after they are retired or ETS 'd. (Ended Tour of Service)
Barley and wheat are grown in the Mat-Su valley as well as the Delta Agriculture Area. Cows and horses are common, and logging is popular in the southeast, Petersburg, Craig’s Island, and Douglas Island for instance. Tress take twice as long to mature and grow to cutting size however. Yellow spruce and white birch are abundant and sought after for boat building and other valuable industry.
Salmon berries, blueberries, currants, wild raspberries and strawberries are scattered throughout the tundra and along the mountains of Alaska. Many "gatherers" find their hiatus and their dream fulfilled here. Of course the bears get their fair share, as their diets are (inland) Berries, and (coastal) Salmon. The Alaska moose dominate the north woods and are abundant due to annual harvest permits being required of hunters.. nonetheless annual raod kills are in the hundreds, if not thousands, statewide. Charities sometimes can benefit from these accidental killings and are able to process the meat in order to feed the hungry in state and private shelters.. The homeless are found even in this subzero environment and much attention has been given to redirecting these needy people into productive society.
Residents of Alaska are glad to receive the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend that was set up in the late seventies by then Governor Jay Hammond. He was a man with a vision and married to a native wife, Bella. He felt a need to preserve some of the oil’s wealth for Alaska's people, all of those who took residency and determined to make Alaska their home.. In order to receive this benefit, one must remain in the state for not one, but two years, and must file their taxes as a citizen and resident. Alaska is slowly changing. In some ways, it is still rustic and wild, but in others it is on the modern merry-go round of industry, literacy, and especially that of tourism. Besides in-state "rural" and “bush” travel, interstate air industry is critical, with much emphasis put on its airports, Alaska has worked hard to make it easy for you to come see its grandeur for yourself!
Alaska on the map
© 2018 Oscar Jones