We've only been in Alaska a few days and nothing too eventful has happened, but I want to write before the initial culture shock wears off. Despite being a part of the U.S., Alaska is different enough that it's a little like visiting another country for the first time. Here are some things we've noticed:
1) If you ever fly to Alaska, reserve a window seat. The plane took off from Chicago around sunset and chased the sun through and over pink clouds the entire six-hour flight to Anchorage where it finally got dark shortly after arrival. Much of the trip I looked down on clouds and the snowy peaks poking through them. Sometimes it was hard to tell what was a cloud and what was a mountain. Huge gorges full of ice and snow between mountains looked like rivers but ran to nowhere. I found out later some of these gorges run deeper than the grand canyon and many of these mountains are taller than any we'd seen in Colorado or California.
2) Anchorage is in the middle of nowhere. That nowhere is beautiful mountains and wilderness but it's so sparsely populated here that it's unnerving. Alaska makes up almost 18% of the U.S. land mass and hardly anyone lives on most of it. Anchorage contains 41% of the state's population (second in single city concentration to only NY) and even in Anchorage, it feels sparse!Alaska's 2nd and 3rd biggest cities, Fairbanks and Juneau, are over 6 and 21 hours away, respectively. The fourth biggest city in Alaska has only around 9,000 people. To put this in continental U.S. terms, imagine that you live in New York City and have to drive to Pittsburg PA or Savannah, GA through mountain and wilderness to get to the nearest decent sized cities and these cities are