“-est”… That’s how I’d describe Alaska. It’s the United States’ furthest northwest state, with the Aleutian Islands reaching further west than Hawaii. It has North America’s highest mountain – Mount McKinley – the largest national park, the largest national forest, the globe’s third longest river system, and the world’s largest sub-polar ice field. The state is larger than most nations: divided in half, each half would still make the largest state in the Union. Lake Hood, four miles outside Anchorage, is the largest float-plane base in the world. Alaska boasts the northernmost railroad, in Fairbanks, the continent’s northernmost town, Barrow, and the southernmost tidewater glacier, Le Conte. It’s the lightest, darkest and perhaps boldest, harshest, prettiest place on the planet.
I heard the groans and felt the snap of calving glaciers.
My first trip to Alaska revealed characteristics of the Divine I’d never before imagined. Laden with supplies, I hiked across spongy tundra trying to imagine empty-handed Alaska Natives dwelling for more than 3,000 years in what appeared to be useless, barren land. I witnessed a bold land of non-stop daylight, heliotrope flowers, soaring eagles, black bears, blond grizzlies, moose, foxes, Dall sheep, caribou, snow hare, jumping salmon, humpback whales, puffins, and more. I heard the groans and felt the snap of calving glaciers. I watched forty-foot tides sweep over the deadly mud flats surrounding Cook Inlet and viewed lingering evidence of the 1964 earthquake – the most powerful quake in North American history.