Category Archives: Alaska

Alaska Bound and Determined

Alaska Bound and Determined
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Juneau, Alaska
Source: michele weir january 2003
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Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Source: michele weir december 2002
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King Salmon
Source: michele weir june 2009
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Alaskan Fireweed
Source: michele weir august 2007

How I arrived in Alaska

How it began

June 6, 1994, by way of the Amtrak train from Los Angeles to Seattle, the journey began. Without much of a plan, my friend Yolie and I left our apartment and packed all of our worldly possessions into the smallest sized mini-storage we could find. We spent a couple of days in our cramped, but economical, seats on the train with only our backpacks and sleeping bags. Staying in Seattle for about a week, we had no idea how we were getting to Alaska. When our options began to run out we used what was left on my credit card and boarded a flight from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska’s First City. Our goal was to make a lot of money over one summer season by working in the fishing industry at a local cannery. When we arrived, the salmon run was not yet in full swing. I had to make ends meet by working at the local mall, in a trendy clothing store, not quite fitting in with our Alaskan Adventure. But by night we were camping seven miles “out the road”. No plumbing, no soft bed, just the stars in the sky, the hard ground and RAIN. Summertime brings peak daylight hours to Alaska, getting dark for only about 4 hours each night. This makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Getting to work without a vehicle was also a challenge. Hitchhiking, which is prohibited, was one of the only ways we could find our way to town until we met some friends we could carpool with.

Eventually we did hire on with a cannery, working at least 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. When summer ended, Yolie went back to California and I stayed in Ketchikan. As it turns out, we did not make a ton of cash. Since Southeast Alaska is made up of islands and landlocked villages and towns, Southeast communities can only receive goods via barge or plane. This drives the cost of basic necessities higher than you would find in the “Lower 48”. Finding suitable employment is the key. Working year round for the State of Alaska or local city offices are popular career choices for locals, as well as seasonal employment in the fishing industry, mining, and construction and transportation industries.

Planning your travel

18 years ago I hadn’t even heard of the internet yet. These days there is so much information available on the World Wide Web, I don’t think many college students would jump on a train or plane making their way to Alaska without a cell phone, a laptop, and without careful planning. One very important fact about travel to Alaska is that you cannot drive directly to ANY Alaskan city without hitting some obstacles.

Southeast Alaska is only accessible by plane, barge and ferry. If you are planning to bring your vehicle, at some point you and your car will be getting on a ferry via the Alaska Marine Highway. Take care to study the routes and places you would like to visit, reservations are required and during the summertime some routes sell out. Another option would be to fly to your destination via Alaska Airlines. If you are thinking about driving north to the Mainland, keep in mind that you can only access Alaska via roadway through Canada. As of June 1, 2009 a passport is REQUIRED for travel into Canada. It is very important you research Canadian travel thoroughly both entry into Canada and also re-entry into the United States.

For more information on Alaskan travel it is helpful to visit sites such as the official State of Alaska website Here you can see pictures, maps, get statistics, find a job, research travel, and learn about individual communities.