Alaska is a place of extremes and richness, where dreams have room to grow big. To figure out Alaska’s scale, try to imagine a place with one square mile for every resident. The state claims 17 out of the nation’s 20 largest peaks, 6,640 miles of coastline, other than 3,000 rivers, and three million lakes. Its seesaw weather spans record temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees under zero Fahrenheit. In the distant north, summer is a three-month day and winter a two-month night.
Dreamers, trailblazers, and gamblers have shaped Alaska’s interesting history. The earliest Alaskans migrated from Asia some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. They arrived during an ice age that lowered sea level, enlightening a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska. Today’s citizen Alaskans can be traced to those first settlers of the harsh wilderness.
Today, Alaskans still have the nation’s top per-capita income, though it is tempered by the high cost of living. Most current residents are really transplants. About only 30 percent of the populations are native-born, and 25 percent have moved there in the last five years. Most of these new residents, often mobile youths from America’s West Coast, came to Alaska to work and benefit from the best of outdoor living.
The state is approximately divided into Southeast, South-central, Interior, and Bush regions. Most visitors concentrate on Alaska’s southern coast, which is the most suitable and offers some of the best scenery. Snow-capped mountains rise significantly from the water to form fjords; the ocean echoes with the sound of massive icebergs breaking off blue glaciers. The coastal waters also teem with aquatic life, from colorfully beaked puffin birds to huge runs of hot pink salmon.
The Interior is at the source of the great Alaskan myths, immortalized by poets and pioneers. The great Alaska and Brooks ranges form its natural borders; inside, the Yukon, Koyukuk, and other livelihood rivers crisscross a vast plateau. Tourists’ main pull to the Interior is “The Great One,” the 20,320-foot Mount Denali, initially named by the Athabascans.
The rugged Bush covers the greater part of the state, particularly the frigid North, yet few visitors glimpse its pristine villages, fiery volcanoes, and treeless terrain. It is frankly rough, expensive traveling.
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