Alaska, many of us were taught in elementary school, is an unusual state for a variety of reasons and not least among them is the fact that one must cross through Canada in order to reach it via land. Despite its immense size, it shares no border with any other state. There are other places in the country which cannot be visited by simple land travel, but nearly all of them are islands.
What is not taught is that Alaska is not unique… and there is a reason for the inclusion of “nearly” when describing other proscribed areas. Two other states have significant land that is isolated from the rest of the country: Minnesota and Washington. As with Alaska, the Canadian border cuts them off from the remainder of the country.
One is Northwest Angle, Minnesota, a land area of about 116 square miles. The area is home to about 120 people and is best known for being the northernmost point of the United States. While it can be accessed via boat for those who are hesitant about crossing borders, anyone wishing to visit via foot or car has to drive through miles of Manitoba to get there.
The second is Point Roberts, Washington. It lies on the tip of a Canadian peninsula and is far smaller than Northwest Angle, only a little under 5 square mile but housing (under normal circumstances) more than ten times as many as the entirety of The Angle. It is a trading hub with Vancouver, British Columbia which lies less than two dozen miles to the north at the top of the peninsula. Again, the only way to get there on land is through Canada, but this time a traveler has to pass through a bustling city instead of a remote patch of wilderness.
Unfortunately, during the extended border shutdown between Canada and the US due to COVID-19, Point Roberts has gone from a thriving small town catering to Canadian tourists wanting American products to a town with a steadily dwindling population (currently less than 800, down almost 50% from a year ago) and no access to most medical services – no hospital, dentist or pharmacy. Thankfully, Canada decided to loosen its restrictions a few days ago, and now permanent residents of Point Roberts will be allowed to pass the border and drive through to the other Washington border without having a new COVID-19 test performed each time, hopefully allowing for some necessary medical procedures to be performed.
Neither place takes away from the majesty of Alaska. Rather than suggest that they impinge upon the largest state’s uniqueness, I’d classify them as warm-ups before anyone attempts the drive to the 49th state.
Question of the night: Where is someplace you’d like to visit on a road trip?