It’s been America’s last frontier for a long, long time. The “discovery” of Alaska by the Russians in 1741 brought this very large land mass to the attention of the world. Yet, it did not attract their people to settle. In fact, the administration and conquering of the territory was such a drain on Russian funds, that 100 years later they worked to convince the United States to by the territory. Many Americans were sure that the 1867, $7.2 million transaction was a total waste, but the discovery of gold in 1896 changed a lot of minds. There was such a stampede of prospectors that a US Army general was put in charge of building a pack road from Valdez to Fairbanks to handle the Klondike traffic. The Army kept the road to reach their posts in central Alaska, and even though it was upgraded to automobile standards in 1920, it was not paved until 1957. Alaska was admitted as the 49th state in 1958 and in the 60s, saw a population and building boom as the state prepared to defend itself against its former owners. The 1980s brought great prosperity and a boom in the oil industry, soon equaled by tourism, which reigns in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Eight National Parks capture the most precious of the territory, and a collection of National Monuments, the most important heritage. The Richardson Highway, now a National Scenic Byway, links Anchorage and Fairbanks, with Denali National Park surrounding Mt. McKinley, the highest on the North American continent. A network of other Scenic Byways punctuate the state. When you visit, you’ll soon discover that the land here is more rugged than most, the spaces more vast, the water, crystal clear, and the mountains magnificent. You can still pan for gold at the original site of its discovery. Along with your memories of a very spectacular and memorable trip, find that perfect nugget to take back home.