As of September 6, 2019, my quest came to an end.
Four months ago, I wrote about my desire to visit all 50 states. Finally with our recent visit to Alaska, my journey came to an end. I can’t imagine any place more wonderful to make it happen than the vast wilderness of Alaska.
Meeting a Minnesotan on the Savage Alpine Trail, I found out I wasn’t alone.
“And this is my fiftieth state. I can’t believe it!” he said excitedly.
“Same for me. It’s pretty cool to think that I’ve seen all fifty states. But this is one of the most amazing experiences. What were your favorites?”
“I loved New Mexico, the ruins were amazing. But this is pretty spectacular.”
I met a retired couple from Ohio, and a teacher from up state New York. Also, a 30-something man in between jobs and a Chinese couple from halfway around the world. All inspired to enjoy the beauty and magic of this special place.
Hawaii and Alaska may have been the last two states to become part of the United States, but they make up for it in their beauty and uniqueness.
During our time in Alaska, we barely scratched the surface in terms of seeing just a sliver of the state. But our drives on the Parks Highway, Richardson Highway and Glenn Highway let me taste the essence of its wildness. Miles upon miles of soaring mountains dotted with glaciers. The only man-made interruption was the Alaska Pipeline snaking its way alongside the road.
I didn’t think it possible, but the mountains of Alaska made Colorado’s Rocky Mountains seem small. With the tundra starting at 2500 feet, jagged peaks dotted the landscape at every turn. Even the Chugach Mountains near Anchorage seemed impressive.
On the state map of Alaska, Fairbanks looks relatively close to Anchorage. But in reality, it takes an entire day (7-8 hours) to drive to Fairbanks. It’s only because the rest of the state is so immense, that the distance between the two looks minimal.
It seemed fitting that this immense, wild place capped off my quest. What is it they say about “saving the best for last?”
Upon hearing of my accomplishment, a friend asked, “So what now? All seven continents?”
To be totally honest, I would love to revisit many states I didn’t feel I really get to know completely. Hawaii has at least five different main islands — I’ve only seen one. Many states I saw as a young girl and have very few memories of.
Besides, my partner still needs to visit two states (Arkansas and Wisconsin) to complete his own quest, giving me the chance to explore those two states in a new and meaningful way.
Reflecting on my memories helps me realize how diverse and interesting our country is. And to also realize that the generosity of locals in big cities and small towns isn’t unique to one part of the country. I found welcoming people in diners and local shops no matter what the latitude or longitude.
What’s next? Well, there’s always the Canadian provinces…