There is a lot to talk about the largest state of the Union and, as a former resident, Steve’s friends in the lower 48 would often ask, “What is the best way to see Alaska?” His response would often be, if you want to experience the real Alaska, you need to get off the road system. The following three items from our collection, helps one to achieve that objective.
This annual publication got started not long after the completion of the Alaska-Canada Highway (Alcan) and end of World War II. As the name suggests, the volume chronicles descriptive features, history, lore and information along every mile marker of the highway (almost every mile). Updated annually, the book covers not only the Alcan, but over 15,000 miles of road in British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories and Alaska.
“North to the Future” is the motto for the state of Alaska and if driving is your preferred method to travel there, I strongly recommend taking the The Milepost publication with you. Although you could check it out from your local library (hoping to save some money in the process), compared to all the other costs associated with the trip, the price for the latest edition would be miniscule. There is a reason it is renowned for being the “Bible of the Northland,” and aside from the wealth of information it contains, it is a great source of entertaining reading in, and of itself. However, before you buy a copy, checkout the library copy as research material for your planning phase of the trip.
Off the Beaten Path: A Guide to Unique Places – Alaska by Melissa DeVaughn
Alaska is just so different; it is weird in the nicest way. This insiders’ guide details the intricacy of seeing what many tourists do not. Attractions on the roads less traveled or in many cases, accessing the visitor facilities, natural features and activities such as glaciers, wildlife, salmon fishing, gold panning and so much more, that often transportation by motor vehicle is just a small portion of the trip. From the fly-in only wintertime dog mushing trips in the interior of Alaska, to visiting the Russian capital of North America by the Alaska Marine Highway System in Sitka. The listings are so vast, it would take multiple lifetimes to experience them all. This guide book not only details the specifics of the unique places but also a little history, like how the town of Chicken got its name.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This intriguing book is in part a cautionary tale of what may happen if one does venture too far off the road. Chris McCandless was a young vagabond (pseudonym Alexander Supertramp) who sold all his earthly possessions and eventually made his way north to the “Last Frontier.” At the time of his death in an old Fairbanks City Transit bus on the north side of Denali National Park, Alaskans were evenly divided about his exploits. Some chastised him for biting off more than he could chew, while others felt he embodied the spirit and sense of adventure that many seek and find in the great white north. The feature film of the same name, directed by Sean Penn, does a good job of capturing those elements of many Alaska newcomers sometimes referred to as green horns, or Cheechackos, and what they experience. A cult-like following has persisted and many tried to retrace his steps back to the bus, of which many had to be rescued. The bus has been removed as of June 2020.