Alaska- The land beyond

Travelogue, Alaska

Alaska is not in the US, it certainly doesn’t appear to be. It’s not even in this part of world. Its a million miles away from it all. When a state twice the size of Texas and with a population of just fewer than 700,000 is way up there, it’s hard to fathom what’s in there. What’s there is the sheer beauty and magnificence of nature. When you think of a painted landscape of flowing rivers, mountains, cascades, trails, that is in essence the microcosm of Alaska.

Reality strikes however when you fly into Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska and that reeks of being fairly ordinary and I overheard people calling it a crummy town. While that may be true, an ugly pit stop is hardly a deterrent to what lies to the north, south, east and west. Of all the wilderness area designated in America, over 60% lies in Alaska. Eskimos and the native Alaskans, the Athabascans still live off the land. Strewn in many remote outposts across the state, they do enjoy many of the benefits that the state has to offer. But when I met a few of them in Fairbanks, they didn’t exactly come off as people enjoying life. Far from it. May be these are the citizens who chose to leave the wilderness and chose the urban life. The whites I came across are the ones who came over for a brief stint from the upper northern states and never left.

The impressive thing is the attitude on how the locals perceive their state as a natural reserve and they are fiercely proud of what they have. They thrive in the winters too when temperatures dip 50- 6- F below zero. Dog mushing, sleds are the order of the season. How some of them live off the land and when we hear politicians bickering about taking guns away from people, I came away from Alaska thinking why would be paint everyone with the same brush and basically take away means of livelihood for these folks who hunt during the summer to provide for winter.

Wild life of course abounds and it would not be uncommon at all to see a big moose crossing the highways, big guys for sure and I am told, the best option is to run when confronted. And grizzly bears thrive in the lands here and finding their ways to eat the wild berries they are visible too. Denali looks like a safe haven for these guys and looking at how NPS maintains the reserve, there is hardly any doubt they will be disturbed. Speaking of the environment, there is a whole peninsula designated by the National Petroleum Service as a reserve. So this is the land many are after. Seemingly this will provide enough oil for generations and make us fully self-sufficient instead of dealing with not-so friendly nations. Drill! Drill! Drill! is the call from many quarters. I was convinced of this before but when you get to feel the fragile Tundra you may change your minds. Just inches below the surface, you actually feel the presence of perm-frost, a think sheet of ice even in the summer. Guess what happens when you start drilling, not only the obvious melting of the frost but imagine the species of flora and fauna it helps sustain. It’s a resort for sure for oil, but a last one at that. Prudhoe Bay, off the Arctic coast in the North West is where they discovered copious amounts of oil in 1968. BP and Exxon promptly got the license to build the 799 mile pipeline from the Bay all the way down to Valdez (Remember Exxon Valdez spill, 1989?). This sustains the state and the way the 140 deg oil is insulated from even getting close to the frigid ground is well kept. It’s a wonderful example of nature co-existing with mankind.

A trip up there may sound fairly touristy but if you bothered to go a little deeper, it may well change your prejudice and may be even some ill-conceived perceptions.

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Author: Ashok Iyengar

A published author and a Project Management professional I love to travel, mentor and network. Writing my travelogues, commentaries on political and social issues I create meaningful conglomerations between the west and east. I live in the Washington DC metro area. Just started a new journey with assisting teaching Project Management classes at GWU, Washington DC

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