Alaska: The Last Frontier

Last time on “Starr blogging regularly and in time with actual current events in her life”, I had started telling you guys about my family trip to Alaska by telling you about the cruise ship where I spent most of the vacation.

Let me tell you about Alaska itself. In brief, I loved Alaska. It left a really deep impression on me that I’m going to attempt to summarize in a 3 key points.

1) There’s something incredibly patriotic about visiting Alaska, our last frontier. I felt more American coming home. Seeing the vast expanses of untouched land out there and thinking about the folks who came out here in search of a better life really helps you think about the history of the state and of our nation. This is the same pristine beauty that people beheld during the gold rush. Even though we think of the United States in terms of the cities, seeing Alaska makes me think of the scenic beauty in this country that many Americans will never see outside of a calendar or screensaver. I was seeing a side of America that seemed unmarred by modernity. I felt connected to the grandness that Americans before me had fallen in love with.

Driving down Seward Highway

Seeing bald eagles soaring everywhere definitely lends to the overall feeling of AMERICA.

2) Another thing that lent itself to my increased feelings of American identity was how much respect there was for the First Nations people. Each state has its own culture, and the culture of Alaska seems very much connected to the cultures of its First Nations people. I learned as much about the Tlingit during this trip as I did about the Lenni Lenape (the First Nations people of New Jersey that we learned about in the fourth grade). I saw more Native American art on this trip than I have maybe ever seen, and a great deal of it wasn’t in a museum. From the totem pole outside the governor’s mansion to the sculptures in the airport, it was clear to me that the First Nations people of the region are held in reverence, and I can only hope that the rest of the country can follow suit.

The Tlingit story of the Eagle and the Raven features very prominently in Alaskan decoration
Totems at the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska. These were over 10 feet tall and you can see the years that have tolled on them
Decoration on the glass roof of a bus stop

3) A very uniquely Alaska point in American history is its rich gold rush history. Most towns/”cities” in Alaska started out as prospecting towns, so I learned an immense amount about the incredible pasts of these towns. The preparation that went into going out to Alaska was massive. To leave home and go thousands of miles to live in this cold frontier, you had to bring literally one year’s supply of food with you. Think about people making multiple trips over mountains and ice fields with pounds and pounds of cans and sacks so that they could feed themselves and their family for possibly an entire year. One big takeaway is that where there is gold, you will find so many saloons and brothels, oftentimes more than there were prospectors!

Creek Strete in Ketchikan, the most picturesque Red Light District I saw on this trip.
One of the brothels on Creek Street
Dolly’s House: where both men and salmon swim upstream to spawn

Other fun tidbits from my trip:

  • I went ziplining for the first time in my life with my brother — on North America’s fastest, longest, and highest zip-line. It was GREAT.


    A rather unattractive photo of me coming back to the ground
  • The state flower of Alaska is the forget-me-not. I’ve always liked forget-me-nots but I think I came home loving them.
  • I wasn’t able to see any live salmon but Alaskan salmon is a big deal and you likely already know that
  • No aurora activity while we were there, but remember the great thing about summers farther north in latitude: crazy early sunrise, crazy late sunset.
    This photo was taken our first evening in Alaska at dinner. It was 10 PM.

    Sunrise: 4:33 AM Sunset: 11:22 PM
  • I tried reindeer meat via reindeer sausage included in some dishes. I don’t really eat non-Chinese sausage but it was pretty good!

    Seafood étoufée from Simon & Seafort's in Juneau, Alaska, featuring some chunks of REINDEER SAUSAGE
    Seafood étoufée from Simon & Seafort’s in Juneau, Alaska, featuring some REINDEER SAUSAGE

FUN BONUS: Finding my name in random places!

One of the Tlingit totem poles was carved for the STARR family
Walter A. STARR, U of Cali graduate who went out to Alaska in search of gold
Art by Grace Freeman

All in all, I had a great time in Alaska and was so rejuvenated by the time we made it to Vancouver for the last leg of our trip. Here are just a few random fun photos from our trip:

A snowplow for the old railroads
A whale skull hanging among antlers

Hole in tree

Broadway… in the “city” of Skagway
I passed this 10 times and then on the 11th… a little giggle.
The namesake of the Star House
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