Preparing for my upcoming trip to Alaska has required a lot of research. Was I interested in seeing the Inside Passage by cruise ship or would a land-based excursion that included seeing Denali be more important? Because of my strange hobby of visiting every county seat in the USA, I also needed to know from which towns and cities I’d need to mail postcards. In the end, I decided to hold off on an Alaskan cruise, instead focusing on Anchorage and Denali.
Alaska is an unusual state for many reasons. It poses a unique challenge for a county collector. For the 49 other states, all land (and water) area within the state boundaries is divided up into counties, or parishes in the case of Louisiana. Alaska is a bit different. First, the geographic/governmental subdivisions below the state level aren’t called counties. Here they are called boroughs. Second, almost half the state is not contained within the boundaries of any of the 19 boroughs and is just labeled the Unorganized Borough (Wikipedia). Further complicating things is that the United States Census Bureau divides the Unorganized Borough into 10 census areas to facilitate counting the residents living there. Perhaps a map might help explain things better. Here is the state of Alaska divided into its 19 boroughs (counties) and 10 census areas. Those 10 census areas (highlighted in yellow) make up the Unorganized Borough.
So what does all that mean? For most folks, not much. For me, it raises a few questions. Since my goal is to “collect” every county seat in the USA, in Alaska this means visiting each of the 19 borough seats, places like Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks to name a few. The issue is how to deal with the census areas outside the boroughs. I won’t be counting them on my list of county (borough) seats since they don’t have a seat of government (the normal county governmental function are handled by the state). Even so, I would love to see those areas someday. I may choose to visit the largest town in each of the 10 census areas, mailing a postcard from each one the same way I do from county seats elsewhere, though not count it as part of my collection. While I’m leaning in this direction, it’s still something I haven’t completely decided how to handle. I do know I will get to each of the 19 borough seats eventually.
Esoteric issues aside, I am making my first trip to Alaska at the beginning of September. I will finally be able to say I’ve set foot in all 50 states. During the week-long vacation, I plan to stop in 4 borough seats (Anchorage, Soldotna, Palmer, and Healy), though the primary purpose is to enjoy the natural beauty of Alaska. Already booked are a 12-hour bus tour of Denali National Park (private vehicles are prohibited in the majority of the park), a day cruise from Whittier to view 26 glaciers (at least that’s what the promotional materials promise), and a round-trip ride on the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage and Whittier (to get to and from the 26 Glaciers cruise). Also booked are several nights at the FFI Anchorage Midtown (using up a couple soon-to-be-expiring certificates), a night at the Anchorage Marriott, and a couple nights at a lodge in Healy (near Denali), hours away from the nearest Marriott.
Look for a blog entry (or maybe two depending on how much there is to tell) around the middle of September. I’ll do my best to get some great photographs to go along with stories. In any case, it’s going to be a great trip.