By Camden Schweitzer
As a Student Ambassador, I was able to travel with about thirty other 5th and 6th graders from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Indiana, to Alaska with the People to People Program. We spent 11 days sightseeing, touring and learning this past July.
When I boarded the plane in Boston, I was so excited to travel to Alaska! Once we got off the plane in Anchorage, I couldn’t believe it was real and that this opportunity of a lifetime was finally happening!
Just sitting on the bus didn’t seem like Alaska, but then came the scenery. The mountains, the buildings, the little cafes, it was all just so beautiful.
I learned a lot about Native Alaskan culture. We listened to different cultural songs and chants, got to go inside tribal houses, and tried many different foods such as native Alaskan salmon, caribou, and reindeer!
I got to visit two different places involving puppies: The Iditarod Headquarters and The Happy Trails Dog Kennels. At the Iditarod, I got to ride in a sled pulled by dogs that have raced in the race! At Happy Trails, we met four time Iditarod winner Martin Buser and his dogs. What an accomplishment!
When we visited Denali National Park, I saw a lot of different species of animals such as doll sheep, Arctic ground squirrel, red squirrel, caribou, golden eagle, and huskies. Also, I saw Denali, or Mt. McKinley, whichever you want to call it. Since I am one of only 30% of people who actually see the entire mountain when they go to Denali National Park, I am part of the 30% club. The mountain is usually behind fog or cloud cover.
We then went to Crow Creek Mine. There we learned to pan for gold. I found a little bit, but it’s not worth a whole lot.
The group and I visited Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which is a fancy name for an Alaskan zoo. I got to see reindeer, American bald eagle, moose, bear, musk ox, and lynx up close.
Once I found out we were staying in yurts, I was pretty excited! A yurt is a type of tent that has an opening at the top for fire to come through when natives used them. We could actually see the constellations while lying in our beds.
We went tide pooling at Peterson Bay and I discovered sea cucumbers, starfish, crab, and sea anemone. On our hike, I got to try many different berries. There were blueberries, “skunk berries”, watermelon berries, and lots more (I didn’t like any of them). We had a pretty big campfire, and we sang silly campfire songs.
Another activity I enjoyed was hiking up to Exit Glacier. It was pretty cool to see a glacier up close. I was a little disappointed that we weren’t able to touch it, though. For some reason, it was roped off during our visit. Better luck next time.
Instead of riding in the coach bus, our transportation to the little town of Talkeetna was a dome train called the Wilderness Express. It was easier to see the views than in a normal train because of the glass dome roof.
We visited a museum located in Seward, Alaska to learn about Seward’s history. I learned a lot of interesting information like the humongous earthquake in 1964, Alaska Nellie who operated a roadhouse, and an owner of a daycare who had to move her school.
I had an amazing time in Alaska with People to People. I made great friends, met some amazing people, and learned so much about Alaskan people and their culture. Thank you to everyone who made my Alaska adventure happen. It truly was an experience of a lifetime.
Camden Schweitzer is a 6th grader at Wrentham Public Schools.
Click Camden's Alaska Adventure to see more pictures of her amazing trip.