5 things I wish I'd known... Alaska

Back from her recent trip to the USA's wildest state, Wanderlust editor-in-chief Lyn Hughes reveals what you need to know before embarking on your own adventure

5 mins

1. Swat up on salmon

Alaska's people and bears are fishing mad. There are five types of salmon – each with two names: chum/keta, sockeye/red, king/chinook, silver/coho and pink/humpback.

The first version of the names can be remembered using the fingers on one hand – thumb = "chum"; second finger – sock someone in the eye = "sockeye"; middle finger is the biggest so is the "king" of fingers; your fourth finger is your ring finger which might be "silver" and your little finger is your "pink"ie.

A Dolly Varden is a type of trout (and nothing to do with Dolly Parton!). As the locals have fishing rights, they usually have a freezer full of salmon so prefer halibut or crab when eating out.

2. Tremors are common

Alaska is volcanic and sits on the Ring of Fire. There are frequent small earthquakes, with occasional larger ones. The most infamous and damaging quake was on 27 March (Good Friday) 1964, with a devastating tsunami; you will see ghost forests of dead trees when travelling around the Kenai peninsula where the water table sank and became saturated with salt water.

3. Take to the skies

Flying is the most common way to get around, and sometimes the only way to get to remote communities. Even if you don't use a bush plane to get from A to B, do go flight-seeing.

4. Moose can kill!

Be careful if driving; moose crossing the road are the biggest hazard you are likely to meet in Alaska. Even if they look as if they're safely ensconced on the verge, there's no guarantee they'll stay there.

5. Plan your time and stay patient

Allow plenty of time for travel, whatever method you are using. The weather is unpredictable and can result in travel arrangements being cancelled or changed. Road works during the summer can cause long delays too; so always allow an hour or two more than you think you need if driving.

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