Don’t let the endless vistas of rugged wilderness fool you—the Last Frontier can be tamed. All you need is a plane, a helicopter, a boat or a train. Preferably all four.
Author Sam Polcer Photography Sam Polcer
WHEN ALASKA WAS PURCHASED from the Russians in 1867, the U.S. acquired an area more than twice the size of Texas encompassing some of Earth’s most pristine wilderness for roughly two cents an acre ($7.2 million in total)—and yet, incredibly, it wasn’t until the great Klondike gold strike of 1896 that it was seen as a smart investment.
While gold and, later, oil ultimately justified “Seward’s Folly” (so named for the politician who brokered the deal), Alaska had always been seen as a treasure trove, at least for adventure seekers, pioneers and the Native Alaskan population that had been there for ages. A spectacular landscape with meandering glacial valleys, thick spruce forests, dramatic mountain peaks and jagged coastlines filled with a menagerie of wildlife, the “Last Frontier” has long been the province of the hardy: Think Native Alaskan seal hunters, bush pilots, brackish fishermen and, more recently, backcountry skiers, whitewater river rafters and extreme hikers.
In recent years, however, Alaska has seen an influx of a new kind of tourist: they may like the look and feel of a fleece-lined red flannel coat and a pair of rugged leather Sorel hiking boots, but when it comes to picking the meat off of some freshly caught salmon, they prefer to do it in the comfort of a five-star restaurant.