Learning to Really Know How to Live in Alaska

The adage may be overused, but 60 really is the new 50. And where better to show off your boomer youth than in the rugged 49th state of Alaska?! Gwen Dobbs works for the Alaska Wilderness League, and wrote this description about the Inland Passage in the state she loves, for BoomerCafé.

The Tongass National Forest contains the largest reserves of old-growth forest left in the United States. © Amy Gulick/amygulick.com

As a baby boomer with an active lifestyle, are you thinking of traveling to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage? You’re not alone. Approximately 45 percent of visitors to Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, are baby boomers. Whether you arrive here by plane or on a cruise, a wide variety of experiences awaits you.

Experiential, active, and adventure travelers can customize a trip based on their interests and tastes – like Alaska Native performances, nature tram rides, fishing excursions, whale-watching trips tours, shopping opportunities that range from fine jewelry to art galleries to unique crafts, kayaking tours, hiking, camping, motorcycling tours, American history, and nature at its finest. There is something for everyone.

One of the most amazing sights to experience is the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, the crown jewel of our U.S. forest system. At 17 million acres (the size of West Virginia), the Tongass is something to behold–– the largest densities of bears and eagles in the world, some of our nation’s largest old-growth trees, Mendenhall Glacier, as well as Orcas, humpbacks, Stellar sea lions, and more than 300 species of birds.

Surprisingly, many visitors who cruise the Inside Passage never realize that the misty mountains, the old-growth trees, and the stunning array of wildlife are actually associated with the Tongass National Forest, which encompasses nearly the whole southeast panhandle.

The Tongass National Forest comprises nearly one-third of the world's remaining old-growth coastal temperate rain forests. © Amy Gulick/amygulick.com

The Tongass National Forest comprises nearly one-third of the world’s remaining old-growth coastal temperate rain forests. © Amy Gulick/amygulick.com

The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests To celebrate, the Tongass has launched a year-long campaign to bring attention to the critical resources, innovative programs, and celebrations that allow individuals to explore their own backyard. To learn more about the Tongass and the programs that are being offered this summer, you can visit: http://www.myalaskaforests.com.

Love to camp? The Tongass National Forest offers the true “rustic” Alaska experience, or you can choose more developed campgrounds closer to the beaten path. It is a short stroll to see Mendenhall Glacier, or you can take a more strenuous hike in the woods, a sea kayaking trip around the islands, or a relaxing whale-watching tour.

Tongass National Forest contains one of the highest densities of black bears in the world. © Amy Gulick/amygulick.com

Southeast Alaska’s small towns and communities have much to offer too–- with a wide spectrum of history and cultures and lifestyles. You will experience the Alaskan way of life and learn new and different facts you probably never knew before if you live in the Lower 48 about our nation’s history. Some of the towns you’d want to visit include Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka.

Ketchikanwas founded as a fish cannery and logging town. Its name was derived from the Tlingit word “Kichxann.” Today, approximately 13,000 people live and work here. Ketchikan has the largest collection of standing totem poles, which can be seen throughout downtown streets and in local parks and museums. Native Alaskan performances, Harley-Davidson motorcycle tours, kayaking, and floatplane fishing trips are also a draw to this area.

Juneauis Alaska’s capital city and was founded as a gold-rush town. No roads lead to Juneau; it can only be reached by air and sea. Mendenhall Glacier is one of the largest attractions in Alaska and is easily accessible from downtown Juneau.

Sitkawas named by the Tlingit Indians-– “Shee Atika” meaning “people on the outside.” The Tlingits lived on the island for hundreds of years before the Russians landed and claimed a fort near Sitka as an outpost for their fur-trading business. The United States acquired the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867 and it became a state in 1959. Whether it’s hiking, biking, or fishing, you will enjoy what Sitka has in store for you.

So whether you get here by boat or by air, Southeast Alaska is a dream trip, which will leave you with experiences of a lifetime. If you’re interested in knowing what a small cruiseboat trip is like, visit My Itchy Travel Feet to read more about others’ experiences traveling to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage.

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    1. Rick,

      Fair enough. In that case, how about enlightening us about “learning to live in Alaska.” We would welcome your thoughts. Send us a story.


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