Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kluane Lake and Some Alaska Observations


We’re at Kluane Lake in Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, 200 miles east of Tok. We plan to spend two nights here, kayaking on the lake if the weather cooperates. We thought we’d offer some initial impressions of Alaska.

In short, two words: vast and empty.

Vast: The size of Alaska is equal to 20% of the surface area of the lower 48 states (bigger, even, than Texas) and only has about 600,000 people in the entire state. The southern portion of Alaska is a lot like where we live in the Puget Sound region of Western Washington: very green, except the trees are mostly White or Black Spruce, not Douglas Fir, and there are more deciduous trees; and mountains, except the mountains are all a few thousand feet higher than ours at home.

Empty: To give some perspective to those of you in the Puget Sound area about how empty it feels, imagine western Washington if Seattle/King County only had 237,000 residents (its population in 1910) and the rest of western Washington were proportionally reduced in population. Given the topography and vegetation of the Puget Sound region, and this reduced population, you begin to have a sense of what it feels like up here. Except Alaska is about 50 times the size of western Washington. It’s astonishing how little traffic there is, how few freeways (only one near Anchorage we’ve seen), and how few people we see anywhere we go.

We’ll add more observations later, but will start with these.

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