Bigger than Texas - Alaska, the final frontier

By Robyn Cubie

Since this week’s topic is ‘All you wanted to know about Alaska,’ then how is this for starters? It’s very big. How big you say? Well how about the size of the U.K., France and the rest of the world put together!

OK, OK, so maybe I am exaggerating a little, but as the news editor in my first reporting job once said, "never let the facts stand in the way of a good story."

According to that Lonely Planet bible that all backpackers seemingly subscribe to, Alaska is "huge at 591,004 square miles which makes it a fifth of the size of the USA and as big as England, France, Italy and Spain put together."

Not only that, the bears are bigger, the salmon fatter, the mountains higher and the stories taller.

Alaska, you see, is all about size. It also ranks highly in any land developer’s book in terms of being the real estate steal of the century. The Americans bought it off the hapless Russians for a mere $7.2 million back in 1867 — that works out at less than two cents an acre. Not bad considering the fur, oil, gas and gold returns that have been subsequently gleaned off the Alaskan landscape.

However, for the sake of this article, Canadians are welcome to think of Alaska as their biggest national park, inhabited by a mere half million or so of their U.S. neighbours. Just kidding!

The first key observation of the "Alaskanite" lifestyle is transport choices. Anywhere else in the western world it is common for the average household to have a garage, maybe two. In Alaska, private airstrips are the norm. My friends were no exception but their airplane was.

"How about we fire up our old twin engine SNB- 5 ex World War Two navy plane at Anchorage and fly to Homer for dinner — they cook up a mean halibut over that way?" Well, twist my rubber arm.

Sucking back an Amber Alaskan ale, all in the name of research of course, I enjoyed my bird’s eye view of the "final frontier." One over-riding observation did jump out at me — those never-ending mountains.

Boasting 17 of North America’s 20 highest peaks and 5,000 glaciers, Alaska isn’t the place to forget your woolly mitts.

After a 45-minute flight we arrive in Homer - home to author Tom Bodett, big blueberry crops and record-breaking 400-pound halibut. Come summertime, this small coastal community turns into a virtual "RV world" with fishers from all over the continent coming to try their luck.


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