August 2012

Photo by user
   Submitted By:PJ Laughman — Brown Bears Nuzzling

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Here's the kind of summer school we can all get behind - Wilderness 101. This edition of My Alaska News is your comprehensive guide to taking advantage of Alaska's millions of acres of public lands, thousands of species of wildlife and the infinite opportunities to check items off your bucket list. Alaska is a veritable living academy: biology, meteorology, geology, geography, history and anthropology are just a few of the subjects you can explore and quench your thirst for knowledge. So whether you're yearning to learn or prepping for victory in your next game of Trivial Pursuit, read on to learn about the essentials knowledge and skills required for experiencing Alaska's untamed wilderness. Whether you to choose to fly, drive or travel by sea, the rugged, unspoiled wilderness beckons. That siren song luring you into the backcountry, however, is a good reason to get educated about safety in the great outdoors. Before taking to the road or trails in Alaska, read up on safety tips and precautions so you know what you need to know to be safe in the backcountry.

Day 1: Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, offers many opportunities for visitors looking for sightseeing and wildlife viewing opportunities. Anchorage is the perfect city from which to base any Alaska vacation. With the amenities of a large city, including fine dining and shopping, the best part about Anchorage is that it is just minutes away from flightseeing and other amazing outdoor wilderness adventure opportunities. Anchorage's Lake Hood is the world's largest and busiest floatplane base. Book a charter flight from Anchorage and head north to fly over Denali National Park and Preserve or fly west to Katmai National Park and Preserve for some world-renowned bear viewing. Overnight in Anchorage.

Day 2: Whittier, Alaska
Start the day off bright and early with a quick breakfast before heading 79 miles southeast of Anchorage on the Seward Highway toward Portage. Drive through the 140-acres of parkland dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured or orphaned animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on your way south before reaching the quaint seaside town of Whittier. Whittier is nestled against the mountains of Prince William Sound. Its history is as enthralling as the breathtaking views that surround it. Originally built as a secret military installation, the U.S. Army maintained Whittier until 1960. Until 2000, Whittier was almost inaccessible to the everyday visitor, but now, thanks to the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, visitors can travel 2.5 miles through what was once an impassible supply tunnel under Maynard Mountain. In Whittier, walk along the port, grab a meal or take a glacier and wildlife cruise. For visitors who are feeling adventurous, rent kayaks or take a water taxi out to Decision Point and stay in the public use cabin or on one of the four tent platforms provided by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Overnight in Whittier.

Day 3: Valdez, Alaska
Start the day onboard an Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Valdez. While it is often known for being the southern terminus for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, Valdez has an...

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Alaska is a wildlife viewing paradise with thousands of species that inhabit the marine, aquatic and terrestrial habitats across the state, Alaska is a wildlife viewing paradise. A few simple steps will not only ensure your safety but will also help you feel comfortable and confident that you’re following the best practices for a given area and doing your part to keep trouble away. Staying comfortable in the outdoors is also key to having an enjoyable time and a safe trip. There’s one simple way to think about how to dress in Alaska: like an onion. In layers, that is. If you really want to test your mettle, consider signing up for a wilderness survival tour to enhance your skills or develop new ones. No matter your prior experience, a little awareness and some preparation will go a long way toward ensuring a safe, warm and mind-blowing jaunt into Alaska’s wild outdoors.

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Visitor viewing Alaskan wildlife

Budget backcountry adventures

One of the greatest opportunities to take advantage of the untamed Alaska wilderness lies in the state’s selection of hundreds of public-use cabins and campgrounds. Public-use cabins range from drive-up options in Chena River State Recreation Area near Fairbanks to remote locations only accessible by boat or float plane like Jim’s Lake Cabin in Admiralty Island National Monument, home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the world and just a 50-minute flight from Juneau. While the majority of public-use cabins require some effort to get to, the effort brings major reward. These cabins, while spare of creature comforts, are inexpensive (ranging from $35-$50 per night) and provide the opportunity to enjoy safe, warm shelter in an undisturbed wilderness setting far from roads and other people.

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Backcountry Hiking


People often associate travel in Alaska with glacier cruises, whale watching and hiking. These are indeed activities that should be on any visitor’s checklist, but why stop there? On and off the road system, a world of opportunities for adventure and recreation await – adventures that will leave you breathless as you fly over the highest mountain in North America or giddy with excitement as view salmon-munching brown bear crossing a river just feet away from you and your camera. Just choose your flavor – up in the air, down on the ground or in the water – you are likely to find an adventure that will spice up your trip and make it unforgettable.

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