Alaska: OWAA meeting and a 'Bucket List' check

Bill HittsIt was two years ago when the Outdoor Writers Association of America announced that they would be holding the group’s landmark conference gathering in a special place – Chena Hot Springs, a short drive from Fairbanks in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Yes, Alaska, our 49th State, was our destination Sept. 3-6. As this is being written, after much planning in advance, we managed to survive our 12-hour flight. The first order of business (after three hours of sleep) was to rent a car and head into a unique wilderness area – Denali.

Denali, the Athabascan name meaning “the high one,” is the tallest peak on North America at 20,320 feet. Others refer to it as Mount McKinley. This is the namesake of Denali Park and Preserve, a six-million-acre tract of incredible wilderness lands. I was here a dozen years ago and toured the interior of this great outdoor state. I couldn’t wait to get back.

This time around, my traveling partner was Mike George of Niagara Falls. He had never been to Alaska before and he had some money saved up. Alaska was on his bucket list. Now that he was 60-something, he was looking at this as his last chance to visit this sportsmen’s haven. He made it and was glad he came.

“This has my vote for this country’s most beautiful state,” he said as we toured the park. “It’s spectacular!” Yes, Alaska should be on everyone’s bucket list.

George did have a few concerns about the trip, though. The travel so far wasn’t easy, especially the three legs of the flight hauling bags from terminal to terminal. “I’m having Déjà vu again on this trip,” he puffed, reflecting on a previous canoe trip we took into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota – a true test of endurance and strength. I think he’s still aching a bit from that one.

This adventure, though, was just beginning and he really felt the pros were going to outweigh the cons. The mountains, the wildlife, the people – all combine to make Alaska a place like no other. We were getting ready to head south to Valdez for a trip on Prince William Sound, fishing and photographing for the weekend. That will be the next blog for sure, so stay tuned.

Categories: New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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