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It's a trip of a lifetime for many of us. We imagine towering snow covered peaks with flowing glaciers draping down their sides, eagles soaring overhead while brown bears pluck spawning salmon from wild rivers right in front of our camera lenses. In short, we dream of a pure untouched landscape straight from a lost primordial world. And in truth, this beauty and peace is just what most visitors to Alaska find.
Within the state, however, there has been a battle raging. Statewide tourism has seen a steady and substantial increase in the last decade. The recently published Alaska Visitor Statistics Program Report (opens in PDF) sponsored by Alaska's Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED) shows a 25% increase in total visitors to the state between 2001 and 2008. The same report documents a nearly 30% increase in visitation via cruise ship travelers (Fig.1 "Total Visitors to Alaska Vs. Those Visiting via Cruise Ship Tour"). And there-in lies the seeds of debate.
This level of growth has come at the expense of other forms of travel.
We live in Alaska, but half our family lives in Montana, so visiting means one long road trip. To keep ourselves entertained, we play a road-side attraction game. Here's how it works:
- plan each day's drive to allow for at least one long break;
- assign each member of the family a day during which they get to pick the roadside attraction we stop at during the break;
- at the end of the trip the family member that chose the best attraction, as voted on by everybody, get's a prize!