Destination: Alaska – Journey to the Land of the Midnight Sun

It’s bigger than the combined area of the 23 smallest U.S. states and districts. It has almost 34,000 miles of tidal shoreline.  Each resident could have more than a mile of the state to themselves, as it is the least densely populated of the 50 states.

With 24 hour sunlight, the flowers grow as big as mountains in Alaska. Just kidding, of course.
But the sunshine does serve plants well. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
While sitting in a local coffee shop, you might see bear or moose mosey through the parking lot, a sight so common locals won’t be bothered to look up from their drinks. Hard to imagine, and mindboggling to see, Alaska offers a vacation destination unparalleled in the United States.
The Rollerbag Goddess overlooks Grewingk Glacier in Alaska. 
Before Sarah Palin became a household name in the lower 48, many of us in the Coulee Region rarely gave Alaska much thought. Sure, it might be a dream of yours to go there someday, or perhaps you’ve pondered U.S. policy related to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the truth is Alaska rarely even makes the evening news in middle America. At times, it may even seem like a different country, until you arrive in Alaska and realize it really is a world away, and beautifully so. 

Whether your intention is to take one of the popular cruise ships to see the state’s wild beauty, or you fly into Anchorage and explore the state over land, Alaska offers a variety of leisure activities and natural wonders sure to suit the tastes of any traveler with a desire for the wild, the adventurous and the quirky. As a bonus, summer travelers will notice the lack of darkness makes it possible to take advantage of long days of exploration. The state is enormous, and it would be difficult to capture all of its beauty in one article, so I’ll focus on highlights and activities I enjoyed during my brief stay in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Fishing boats in Homer, Alaska. Photo by Charish Badzinski.
At home in Homer
I spent the bulk of my time in scenic Homer, Alaska, on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula. Most of the town is built upon a spit of land on the shore of Kachemak Bay. Surrounded by mountains, teeming with wildlife and bathed by glacial waters, Homer offers an Alaskan paradise with a laid-back attitude. A common bumper sticker in town proclaims that Homer is “A quaint drinking village with a fishing problem.” Visitors will notice that Alaskan people are friendly and eccentric, and every one of them seems to have an interesting story about what brought them so far north.
The inside of the Salty Dawg in Homer, Alaska is covered with names, notes and dollars.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Homer is well known for its halibut and salmon sport fishing, and private charters are available. If fishing isn’t your thing, great hiking is everywhere around the town, and glacial hikes are a short boat ride away. Kachemak Bay State Park offers 400,000 acres of mountains, glaciers and natural beauty, with about 80 miles of hiking trails. Glacier Lake Trail in the park is good for beginners, with a 3.7- mile loop that takes visitors to Glacier Lake and the base of Grewingk Glacier. Pack lunch, warm clothes and a windbreaker: 
The outside of the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer, a cozy getaway from Alaska’s chill.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
It can get breezy in this area, and the air off the lake is ice cold. Enjoy your meal by sitting on the rocks and watching pieces of glacier split off and splash into the water. Chunks of ice, like giant sculptures, float in the lake, offering fantastic photo opportunities. More adventurous hikers can take the moderateto- difficult Alpine Ridge Trail for a glacial overlook. Afterward, warm up at the Salty Dawg Saloon in Homer, a cozy bar built in 1897 with random items from travelers from around the world tacked to the ceiling and walls.
Locals gather to watch the July 4th fireworks in Anchorage.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Whitewater rafting
For visitors seeking a thrill that goes beyond spotting bears and moose, fishing or hiking, whitewater rafting can give you something to brag about upon your return home. Pitch camp on the beach in Hope, Alaska, and enjoy quality time with the locals at Seaview Bar and Café. Being in town will enable you to get an early start for your day on the rapids, and you’ll enjoy the panoramic views of the mountains and the wildlife that often explore the campground.
The Seaview Cafe in Hope, Alaska. A great place to get some liquid courage the night before you
take your chances whitewater rafting! Photo by Charish Badzinski.
I took part in a half-day whitewater rafting trip on Six Mile Creek with rafting guides from Nova.  Six Mile Creek boasts category IV and V rapids, and the river was at its most playful during our visit, with water at the highest allowable level for rafting. Guides gave us a lesson as we sat on the river bank, then told us to swim across the rushing river, practice our rescue floating techniques (rafters fall out of the boat every day, according to our guides) then paddle into an eddy to catch our boat for the ride. Keep in mind this river is cooled by glacial runoff; it’s so cold your hands will sting. Guides encourage rafters to dress in at least three layers of clothing underneath their dry suits; I’d recommend the warmest clothes you have with you. The practice swim will only begin to prepare you for the thrills ahead.
Cooper Landing, Alaska. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Hang on tight, mind your guide and enjoy the ride.

To read the rest of this article, go to page 50-51 of this issue of Coulee Region Women magazine.

This article was originally published in Coulee Region Women magazine, and is republished here in part, with permission. 

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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
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Creative Commons License
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at rollerbaggoddess.blogspot.com.
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