Alaska for a Lift

Time to head beyond the wall to the most Northerly part of my North American journey, and quite possibly the furthest North I will ever go. Less than a day’s drive from the arctic circle, the next stop on my trip was Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. More than half of Alaskan’s live in Anchorage, which says more about the habitability of the rest of the state rather than the popularity of living in Anchorage.

Descending Into Anchorage

Having packed all manner of cold weather apparel, I was shocked when I stepped off the plane and was greeted by blinding sunshine and a positively scorching 10°C. It was also impossible to look in any direction and not see a snow-covered peak or gargantuan mountain. This place lived up to its billing as ‘The Last Frontier’.

'The Last Frontier'

Having found the hostel, and somehow losing $100 on the way, it was time to have a look around Downtown Anchorage. It did not take long. The ‘centre’ of the city was eerily quiet whilst many of the buildings looked like they had seen far better days. It was at this point, in a rundown back-alley bar, that I first heard the phrase “Alaska is only thirty minutes from Anchorage”. They were right.

One afternoon was more than enough time to spend looking around the city and whilst there were some pretty good views from the rooftops of Anchorage’s tallest buildings – for example one from the Hilton below – I quickly discovered that you needed to head into those mountains to see why so many people come to visit this state.

View From The Hilton

With the tourist season yet to begin, buses and trains out of Anchorage were nonexistent and so the only way I could get around was to rely on the generosity of the locals – self-proclaimed ‘Alaskans’ not ‘Americans’ – and hitchhike. The following day I set myself the challenge of hitching as close as I could to the tallest mountain in North America; Mount McKinley (Denali).

A 300 mile round trip towards the arctic circle was the hitchhiking equivalent of being thrown in at the deepest of deep-ends. However, I will never again doubt the generosity of Alaskans’ as four lifts, three hours, one ice cream and countless stories later and I was as close to Denali as any car could reach.

Hitchhiking Towards The Arctic Circle

Despite the locals’ reticence with being associated with the rest of the United States, a Chinook flying over their tallest mountain – as I witnessed below – couldn’t have looked more American. I ate my reindeer sausage lunch in the shadow of single largest thing I had ever seen, the size of which is impossible to represent through my photos.

Chinook Over Denali

On my way back to Anchorage I hitched a ride from an Alaskan called Bella. She introduced me to some of her friends who had just bought a plot of land in the middle of an Alaskan forest – not sure where. They offered me beer which had lasted an entire Arctic winter but warned me not to “drink the solids” at the bottom of the can.

Disc Golf With Slednecks

Some of Alaska’s finest and a round of Disc Golf later – in which the Slednecks destroyed me – and we would be on our way to Hatcher Pass, an eery mountain-top where the road ends and the Arctic starts…

J

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