July 2021

Next Stop … Alaska!

 

By Dr. Amy L. Holland, Geography Teacher
Grimsley Junior High School, Bentonville, Arkansas

The month of July usually brings a lot of heat, and in Arkansas, humidity. I spend most of the month either in the pool, lake, or inside in air conditioning. When I go outside, my hair goes crazy because of the humidity and my makeup melts off my face faster than the time it took to put it on that morning. However, in many parts of the world one can still breathe in the cool air, have a fantastic hair day, wear makeup for a considerable period, and enjoy life outside.

One such place within the United States is Alaska. Alaska sees its fair share of frigidly cold temperatures, but in the summer months one can enjoy the cooler atmosphere while still experiencing all the wild terrain Alaska is known for in geography books. Anchorage holds salmon fishing tournaments each year, bringing many to the area. Some of the salmon weigh anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds on average. This makes the fishing experience not only exciting, but a feat of strength as well!

We can find the railway system all over Alaska, including in Anchorage. From Anchorage traveling to Seward isn’t far by train, about three hours. Seward is a quaint fishing town, where many cruise ships begin their journey. From Seward the ships take you to many ports, including traveling to a temperate rainforest. The Icy Strait rainforest definitely makes you feel like you are in a storybook setting, and yes, my hair still looked decent after a walk through this beautiful forest.

While traveling through the interior passage you see beautiful glaciers, Hubbard Glacier in particular. The clear waters and enormous glacial peaks truly give you an idea of how large our world truly is! However, Juneau was my favorite city overall because of its landscape and wildlife.

Our national bird, the bald eagle, has a high population within the town of Juneau. Everywhere one looks you see a bald eagle, some are adult age while others are babies or young adult ages. The town has a culture all its own and makes you feel like you are in a storybook!

The best part of Juneau included a helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier. We were fortunate enough to have perfect weather for a dog sled mush on the glacier. Our pups were all in training for the Iditarod and we loved taking turns driving the sled! The trainers are amazing with the dogs and have a great system in place for maintaining the care of each pup throughout the summer months.

I would be amiss to not mention Skagway and Ketchikan in our journey. If you love riding on a historic railway and hearing stories of the gold rush, Skagway is the place to visit! The railway line is on the edge of the mountain, further making the trip a great rush for those who love a good thrill! The local cuisine is also a sweet treat for visitors, making the entire experience well worth the trip!

Ketchikan gives many the experience of watching grizzly bears eat salmon from the creeks. However, we missed the season and actually found this week to be one of the hottest Alaska had ever experienced, so no bears for us! We were able to charter a small plane to Misty Fiords National Park. The beauty of this area was amazing and gave you the feeling of being in a magical world! Waterfalls streamed off of mountains thousands of feet high!

So during these dog days of summer I often close my eyes and dream of my visit to Alaska. This wild frontier may be wild but its cooler temperatures and environment definitely make me homesick for the area. I long for the days of walking through the Icy Strait rainforest, visiting the pups on the Mendenhall, riding the railway through Skagway, flying over Ketchikan and its beautiful fjords and experiencing life in this cooler though extreme environment.

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