Mental Floss

Trivia from our 49th State

Jason Plautz
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I just got back from a vacation in Alaska, which I must recommend to everyone. I spent most of my time exploring the wilderness and looking for bears (three different sightings), but between nature hikes and wildlife cruises I collected some Alaska trivia. Since it's the largest state (by a large margin, as you'll soon learn), it contains a lot of trivia, so keep your eyes peeled for more posts this week.

McKinley or Denali?

Everyone knows Mt. McKinley is the tallest mountain in North America. Unless you ask an Alaskan, who'll tell you the tallest peak is Mt. Denali. They're talking about the same thing, though. Natives originally called the mountain Denali, which translates to "The Great One," but American visitors changed the name to McKinley to honor the president. In 1980, when the Denali National Park and Preserve was established, the Alaska Board of Geographic Names officially changed the name of the mountain back to Mt. Denali. However, the federal board elected to keep the name as McKinley. Although there is support for a nationwide name change, Ohio Congressman Ralph Regula has been proposing legislation to keep the name as McKinley since 1975, blocking any movement on the issue.

The Invisible Giant

Even though Mt. Denali (or McKinley) is massive, clocking in at more than 20,000 feet tall, most people don't get a chance to see it. It's so tall that clouds are constantly obscuring the peak and even on a sunny day, evaporating snow creates enough cloud cover to block it from being seen from the ground. It is estimated that the peak is only visible 20-30 percent of the time in the summer (I wasn't lucky enough to see more than the base of the mountain).

Frederick Cook and his Fake Peak

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The Really Great State

In terms of total area, Alaska, with 663,267 square miles, isn't just the largest state- it's larger than the combined areas of the next three largest states: Texas (286,581 square miles), California (163,696 square miles) and Montana (147,042 square miles).

First in Flight

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The Mountain Marathon (on Mt. Marathon)

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