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    Alaska by Jill Mountain

    Do you enjoy hiking? Camping? Seeing amazing wildlife? Have you ever thought it would be exciting to climb a tall mountain or swim in a remote lake, miles from civilization? If any of these things are true, you should plan your next vacation in Alaska.
    1) Alaska is the forty-ninth state and the largest, by far, of all the states in the Union. In fact, Alaska is four times the size of California! Since Alaska is not contiguous to, or connected to, most states in the nation, some people think it is difficult to get here. However, with daily flights out of most major cities, Alaska is as accessible as any other part of the country. And, with a range of terrains and activities, Alaska offers vacation options for your entire family.
    2) Alaska is America's last frontier, and only a third of the state is inhabited by people. Less than a third is even accessible by roads. Our state offers acres and acres of virtually untouched wilderness that you can explore on foot, by plane, or even on a raft traveling down an icy wilderness river. While setting off on your own into the wilderness is dangerous and ill-advised, there are dozens of guide services available to tourists, offering many different kinds of experiences for the beginner, intermediate, and even the expert adventurer.
    3) Imagine flying into an area that is completely remote and inaccessible by car. Guided by an expert wilderness trekker, your family will spend four days hiking around an icy, crystal-clear lake, and finding your way to a secluded valley, dominated by a glacier that has been there for thousands of years. Imagine the smell of clean, mountain air, and the quiet sound of small animals rustling through the forest. Think about the unique experience of backpacking through an area so far off the beaten path that you're unlikely to encounter another group of people during your entire trip. It may seem like this type of adventure is something for only the most experienced hikers, but, in fact, treks like this are available to hikers of all abilities. If you enjoy hiking through the woods and state parks in your own state, you'll love a beginner hiking trek like this in Alaska.
    4) Are you and your family more experienced hikers? Are you looking for a challenge and a chance to really "rough-it" in a vast open forest? Consider booking a guide for a longer, more difficult trek. Seasoned guides can take you and your family into Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elisa National Park, the most remote of all the states parks, where there are no trails to follow. With your guide you'll determine your route from your drop off point to an assigned pick up point, and spend nine days backpacking through thick brush, across rivers and streams, and up and down the steep walls of several mountains. You'll make camp along the way in tents or in mining shacks that have been preserved to be used as shelters for hikers. Finally, you'll meet your pilot and plane and fly back to civilization.
    5) If you aren't fans of hiking, but still want to experience the wilderness up close, consider booking a wilderness river rafting trip. A five-day rafting trip on the Copper River, for example, will bring you through the same mountains and canyons the first explorers used in search of copper and gold more than a hundred years ago. You'll experience all different types of rafting conditions, from slow and easy drifting to challenging rapids. Each night, you'll camp on a protected bluff or beach and fall asleep listening to the sound of the river passing by. Finally, the river will end in the Copper River Delta where you'll be wowed by the sights and sounds of the Miles and Child's glaciers. All along the way you'll see wildlife including bald eagles flying overhead, and small animals like beavers, foxes, and rabbits along the shore.
    6) Perhaps you love the idea of seeing wildlife, glaciers, and remote terrain, but would rather go home every night to a comfortable hotel room and hot shower. If that's the case, you'll love a "flightseeing tour." Experienced pilots with well maintained small planes and helicopters offer one, two and three hour tours of the wilderness, all from the air. Choose a three-hour tour over the Granite Mountains, near Fairbanks, and you'll enjoy a guided flight in a small plane equipped to fly low and slow over mountain valleys and meadows. You'll see and be able to photograph herds of caribou and Dall sheep. You might catch a glimpse of wolves or grizzly bears, or even spy one of the herds of bison that roam freely through the area.
    7) While a hiking or rafting trip can bring you to the edge of a glacier, a flightseeing trip can provide a view of an entire glacier system. Explore all fifty miles of the Black Rapids Glacier and the Denali fault from the air in a single afternoon. The Black Rapids Glacier is a surge-type glacier, which means it has the potential to move great distances in a very short period of time. And, because it rests directly on a fault line, it is impacted by small and large earthquakes. Touring this region from the air provides the best view of recent glacial movement, as well as changes to the land brought about by the movement of the earth's crust at the fault line. As you can see, Alaska offers a unique vacation experience for almost any traveler. With so many options to choose from, you can design an experience that will be fun for everyone in your family, young or old. Make your next vacation one your family will never forget and book your trip to Alaska today!

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