Saturday, September 19, 2015


         Everything you’ve heard about the beauty of Alaska is true. Majestic snow-capped mountains, blue-white glaciers and abundant wildlife make the nation’s 49th state well-worth exploring.

Elaine accepting her award from
 outgoing NFPW President Teri Ehresman 
         The National Federation of Press Women Conference took me to Alaska Sept. 4-15, and I did  some touring while there. The conference was in Anchorage, which is in the southern part of of the state on the Cook Inlet. That’s where I picked up my first national first-place award for the NFPW 2015 Communications Conference. It was for a personality profile I did of Cropwell resident Clayton Garner. (If you’d like to read it, go to, click on, “Archives,” then scroll down to the June 2014 issue and look for, “A Character.")

          Our pre-conference tour took us more than 400 miles north to Fairbanks. Along the way we visited a very old cemetery that combines Russian Orthodox and Native American burial rites. We explored a musk ox farm, took the Tundra Wilderness bus tour through Denali National Park, and a riverboat cruise. During the cruise, we saw the champion sled dog kennels of the late Susan Butcher, four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Her husband, David Monson, who is also a musher, showed off some of his dogs and spoke to us from the banks of the Chena River.
         A highlight was visiting the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla and riding in a dog cart pulled by sled dogs. To the delight of the two Alabamians on the tour, the head musher turned out to be a Winfield native. We had a brief photo op at a highway pull-out where the famed trans-Alaska oil pipeline runs above ground for a short distance, then went to the Chena Hot Springs for a renewable energy tour and an appletini in an ice museum.

         On the way back to Anchorage, we stopped at Creamer’s Field in a vain attempt to see the Sandhill cranes during their migration south. We missed them by a week. However, the owner of the field put on an interesting crane demo with puppets that most of our group won’t soon forget. We also stopped in Talkeetna, where some of us got to meet the mayor, a 17-year-old tabby named Stubbs. 

         It was the one-day post-conference tour that took us to Whittier, where we boarded a huge catamaran and got up close and personal with glaciers, sea lions, seals and the Chugash Mountains.

         What we didn’t get to see, however, was Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley, because it was behind a cloud cover the entire trip, or the aurora borealis, because the Northern Lights didn’t put on a show for us. Maybe next time.

         This is just a teaser, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about some of these experiences individually. Stay tuned.


  1. Incredible! Looking forward to seeing the pictures.

  2. I've ALWAYS wanted to go to Alaska. I hear the trout fishing there is great. It sounds like you didn't have much time for fishing though.

  3. Just posted an update to the Alaska Professional Communicators' website of the photos with detailed descriptions from the pre-conference tour. Sherrie Simmonds