Alaska Journeys, Old and New

Alaska has always drawn adventurers. The first Alaskans trekked into undiscovered landscapes  or paddled skin boats across island chains and along arctic coastlines. Their journeys with simple, hand-crafted gear and complex knowledge of their environments instill envy and reverence in the hearts of modern wilderness travelers.

Millennia after the first Alaskans inhabited this wild land, vast tracts of undeveloped wilderness have become rare on our planet.  Many travel from far across the globe to taste of the magic of Alaskan wilderness.  For some, a few weeks exploring the state’s remote mountains, tundra, and rivers provide life-changing experiences. Others are teased by the mystique that lies beyond horizons glimpsed from cruise ships, tour buses, trains and luxury lodges.

49 Faces of Alaskan Adventure project is inspired by those who call Alaska home, and who deeply experience the unspoiled wild lands of the 49th state.  As we delve into their diverse and unique stories, we discover how much they hold in common. Some equip themselves with caribou hides, beaver fur, seal skin, and hand-crafted wooden sleds. Others adopt high-tech synthetic materials and ultra-light gear.  They choose different challenges and means of travel as they venture into vast tundra valleys, rugged coastlines, towering peaks, or wild river canyons. They may live in urban Anchorage or in small rural villages. Yet all of the Alaskan adventurers we meet are passionate about their freedom to explore wild country.  They can’t imagine life without opportunities to explore lands that have changed little since the days of the first Alaskans.

A rare, nearly cloudless view of Alaska from Space - Photo by Jeff Schmaltz/NASA GSFC

A rare, nearly cloudless view of Alaska from Space – Photo by Jeff Schmaltz/NASA GSFC

Our world is changing faster than ever before. In a single lifetime, we’ve leapt from the first views of the planet from space to instant access of detailed satellite imagery from smartphones. In the 1980’s, wilderness travelers carried mirrors and pen flares. Now, satellite phones and SPOT messengers provide emergency communications.  Less than 50 years ago, much of Alaska’s wilderness lacked accurate maps. Today, adventurers plan routes with Google Earth and navigate with detailed digital topographic maps on GPS receivers.  Global access to imagery and information increase awareness of the dramatic effects that human activities have on our landscapes, oceans, and atmosphere.  Our “featured faces” are acutely aware of these consequences. They live deliberately and make sustainable choices.

We know that our many of our participants’ fellow adventurers are among our audience. We hope our iBook will reach those for whom wilderness Alaska is still a dream. We’ll offer glimpses beyond distant horizons to those intrigued with magic landscapes. We hope to inspire young people with stories and imagery of real Alaskans who competently and passionately pursue their dreams in wilderness. Perhaps our digital book will touch imaginations of a new generation of explorers.  We believe our future needs Alaskans who love wilderness as fiercely as our 49 Faces.