The Wonder of Alaska



It’s no surprise that  the beauty of Alaska has been known by many names over the last few hundred years. Alakshak, meaning great lands, the 49th State, the Last Frontier, and many more as known to the natives, are just a few of the names that attempt to describe the largest and most expansive land mass of the United States. Home to gold miners, adventure seekers and pioneers, Alaska embodies a sense of mystery and wonder that won’t be found anywhere in the lower forty-eight states. There is something about Alaska that has had a unique way of beckoning nature lovers and risk takers since before statehood. Aside from boasting the in North America, Alaska is a land of opportunity and wonder that can only be fathomed by finding yourself in the depths of her wilderness.

Denali National Alaska, Dunheger Travel Blog
Denali National, Alaska, Flickr ©Nic McPhee

Whether you drive in or fly up, Alaska is pretty straight forward when it comes to traveling through the state. You can either find a truck that will take a scraping while you battle your way through beaten paths, or you can wait around the multitude of small airports for a lonely but friendly bush pilot who would be willing to take you into an otherwise inaccessible town.

If you aren’t planning on heading into the woods and down trails that were blazed by the locals, there is one main highway loop that will take you straight through the heart of Alaska, from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and back around the other side. With only one poorly maintained road that acts as a shortcut from one side to the other, once you start on your journey you should be prepared for the full circle. There are also a few roads that cut off of this loop and take you further south toward the peninsulas and islands, should you choose to see what an beach in Alaska entails.

Alaska Railroad, Dunheger Travel Blog
Alaska Railroad, Flickr © Christoph Strässler

Should you decide to visit Alaska in the summer, there is a train that takes you past the main tourist destinations and straight through the heart of the frontier, for the most breathtaking experience of your life. From Anchorage to Talkeetna, a small old miners town that is filled with mostly young, foreign travelers in the summer, to Denali National Park, where you will find the highest mountain peak of Mt. McKinley, and on to Fairbanks, the warmest city in mid-July as well as the coldest in the depths of winter, the Alaskan Railroad is a grand tour of the state. Many travelers will find their way to Denali and get off for the whitewater rafting and the plane and helicopter tours of the National Park.

Toward Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, Dunheger Travel Blog
Toward Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, Flickr © Joseph

Depending on when you plan your trip, Alaska’s natural beauty, as well as her phenomena, can be witnessed any time of the year. Around the summer solstice in the end of June, you will experience the midnight sun, when the weather has reached a perfect temperature and the sun stays awake twenty-four hours a day. And although the northern lights can only be witnessed through darkness, the beginning of fall until the end of winter is a great time to keep your eyes on the sky. The aurora is most active between midnight and the early hours of the morning, with optimum viewing times when the temperatures begin to dip down at night. To stay for more than a month allows you the opportunity to watch nature in time lapse, with the changing of the seasons and the quickness with which the days become longer and shorter. Also, if you travel Alaska on the off season and through the winter, you will notice the days become as short as 3 hours up until winter solstice, when the sun barely, if ever, crests the mountains for the smallest strands of sunlight to touch the tree tops.

Denali National Park, Dunheger Travel Blog
Denali National Park, Alaska, Flickr © Denali National Park and Preserve

There are hostels in almost all the main towns and hotels can range from inexpensive to through the roof depending on when you book and travel. Many of the locals are friends to couchsurfers, especially when the tourist season is winding down and hotels begin to close for the winter season. But since you are in Alaska and the weather is perfect in the summer, plan on bringing a tent and keeping it wilderness while you enjoy the state. There’s no better way to experience Alaska than by foraging for berries and sleeping on the land, in the designated areas that is. Make sure you are aware what is National Park land and what areas are camping friendly, even if you plan to just pull off on the side of the road.

Margerie Glacier, Alaska, Dunheger Travel Blog
Margerie Glacier, Alaska, Flickr © Kimberly Vardeman

Whether you decide to visit Alaska for the breathtaking landscape, the variety of wildlife, or the beauty of naturally occurring phenomena, just make sure that you experiencing the state once in your lifetime and while you are young enough to enjoy it. Once there, you will hear the same story from the locals time and again, of how they had planned only to visit and found themselves still residing years and decades later. There is a reason people fall in love with Alaska, and it is one that only you can find for yourself. The last frontier certainly lives up to it’s name as a beautiful specimen of natural wonder and untouched landscape, making it the first frontier you should be rushing to experience.