Therese Park

Musing on Alaska, the land of Surprises

Returning from a 10-day voyage in Alaska with my husband recently, I named that state “the land of surprises.”
We got there after three nights on a cruise ship, and landing at Skagway, Alaska, we toured the vast land that boasts 500 million acres of land; 3 million streams full of fish and otters, and tall snow-capped mountains providing shelter for all sorts of animals — bears, moose, mountain sheep and much more. And Alaska is rich with history.
Our passageway — the Alaska Highway (or Alaska-Canadian Highway) — was built during WWII by Canada and the U.S. to kick out the Japanese force that had occupied two islands, Attu and Kiska. We stayed overnight at several different towns, including Skagway, White Horse, Dawson City, Fairbanks and Denali, and each town had a tale.
How bewildered Americans would have been when the U.S. government bought this land of beauty and wealth for only $7.2 million dollars in 1867! Surprisingly, the general American public at the time wasn’t happy about a land that was too far from their homes, too cold and too dark in winter, and had a spring and summer that was too short — only five months, May to September. They even criticized William Seward, then secretary of state, for wasting the taxpayers’ money.
At the time, in the mid-19th century, the Russian government wanted to get rid of the land, after owning it more than a century, because it was at the verge of bankruptcy. It had been land that fur traders took over by force from the native people to dominate the fur-trading market in the world. But after a century the furry animals — beavers, otters, mink and fox — had been over hunted, and Russia declared the land useless.
In less than three decades after the purchase, an explorer named George Carmack discovered gold near Dawson City in a mountain area named Klondike bordering Alaska from northwestern Canada. About 30,000 fortune-seekers landed there —out of 100,000 who requested entry to Alaska but were denied.
Imagine 30,000 gold-seekers congregating on a remote mountain town that had no hotels or inns or private homes to accommodate 30,000 dreamers. Almost instantly, vendors selling food, liquor, bedding, transportation, clothing and anything we humans need rushed to the spot.
Of 30,000 gold-seekers, about 4,000 people found gold and became rich, some famous as well.
But for the rest of them, life was a curse in the freezing weather, in wilderness where daylight lasted only four to five hours during winter. The tent city that had been established during the gold rush serves today as a mirror of the past, with museums and gift shops selling memorabilia.
It’s common knowledge that where a lot of money changes hands hourly, demons in humans lurk. Fighting among the gold-seekers was frequent, as well as murder, violence and theft. Some folks sold telegram services when Alaska had no power lines anywhere, not even paved roads.
Mother Nature revolted against humans stampeding on her sacred land with their digging, drilling and dynamiting. On April 3, 1898, more than a 100 gold-seekers were buried in an avalanche, and the rescue teams were brought in. But more avalanches came. They dragged out 63 bodies from layers of snow.
Those who survived the avalanche quickly abandoned their dreams to get rich and ran for their lives. But the snow slides had blocked the only road they had come through, leaving them with no options but to go through rivers to return home. Many died in the rapid streams that had been swollen by the new snow, as their boats overturned or hit rocks.
When the gold played out in a few years, those valleys and mountains emptied, but some men who made fortunes remained and invested their money in Alaska.
George Carmack was such a man. In April 1896, Carmack and two friends discovered a gold nugget as large as his thumb. He had come to Alaska earlier by the reports of major gold strikes in the Juneau area, but he wasn’t lucky enough to find any gold. He and his friends further explored Yukon Territory, and finally hit their fortune.
Carmack got rich, reportedly taking a million dollars worth of gold out of Klondike, and he settled in Vancouver, B.C. Until he died in 1922 at age 61, he invested all of his fortune in Alaska, including a coalmine he owned and operated. Today his name appears on the highway, Carmack Gas Station, Carmack Coal Mine, Carmack Rest Area and more.
Coming home, I find myself staring at our backyard creek bottom. What if I saw a yellow nugget glittering at me? What would I do with it if I found a bucketful of yellow metal?
It’s a scary thought.

The Kansas City Star
"Heartland Honor Flight is all about showing our gratitude to those who fought for our country's freedom," the president John Doole says.
During the Korean War, long segregation in the U.S. military ended.
"To win, you must know your enemy," wrote Chinese Ancient General Sun-Tzu (544-496 B.C.)
...their beloved country in whose honor they defended my helpless homeland in the Far East six decades ago has become my own beloved motherland.
To the parishioners at Curé of Ars Catholic Church in Leawood, their pastor is a healer, confessor, teacher and compassionate friend who rejoices with them at happy times and grieves with them at times of loss and injury.
“The truth about Jesus Christ reached Korean soil in 1784," Pope John Paul II said during the canonization of 103 Korean Martyrs in 1984. In a most marvelous way, divine grace moved your ancestors first to an intellectual quest for the truth of God’s word and then to a living faith in the risen Christ..."
During the trip to Korea together, our mother-daughter roles were reversed. My daughter seemed to think that I needed her care, not the other way around.
The Kansas City Philharmonic enriched the lives of many during its 49 years.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Messages on Violence
A Korean Grandma and her American Grandkids
Average people made the world we live in today.
Albert Schweitzer said, “You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing…for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.”
Pilgrims are everywhere here on the square of the Basilica of Our Lady, some are walking on their knees and some are kneeling at the glass-walled Chapel of Apparition where the Blessed Virgin appeared to three shepherd children in 1917.
Woodcarvers find fun, therapy and friendship
Behind a tough cookie, there's a culture that nourished her soul
Not biting is a sign of appreciation
After Tucsan shooting rampage
Without a healthy brain, one cannot live a healthy life
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "In War, there is no substitute for victory."
Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues but the parent of all others.
Our home became a church when homeless priests and nuns moved in with us.
Victor Hugo's view of his old age
Forgetfulness comes with aging
Learning is for all ages.
Mixture of feelings about seeing Amercans' departure from my country Korea
Foreigner's view of today's China
The "Wake up call" isn't only for Chinese parents but for all American parents.
The Korean War isn't "Forgotten"
I once had compassion for all caged birds. But since I became a bird-owner, my opinion about them has changed.
South Korea today gives thanks to all American troops who fought to preserve its peace at the cost of their lives.
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit South Korea in 1984--to canonize 103 Korean martyrs
The seeds of the Church is the blood of the martyrs.
Column/ Kansas City Star
Father Emil Kapaun: recipient of Medal or Honor 2013
The U.S. government purchased Alaska in 1867 for only $7.2 million dollars from Russia, that includes 500 million acres of land with 3 million streams full of fish and otters, and tall snow-capped mountains providing shelter for bears, moose, mountain sheep and more.
The Best Times
He liberated music from a cloistered form set by earlier composers...
The racial discrimination the white American inflicted upon their black neighbors.
Magazine Article
Traditional Chinese medical doctors have been using bird-nests for centuries to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis, to rejuvenate skin, and to boost energy for both young and old.
It takes courage to deal with the human condition called "aging."
Feature article
Inchon Landing was one of the most successful operations in modern military history.
Magazine Articles
Korean War Prisoner-of War Story