Guided by Jim Heck
July 14 – 25, 2021$14,895
Most people don’t realize how big Alaska is. From the Pribilof Islands to Ketchikan in the southeast, the distance is greater than from San Francisco to New York. It’s impossible to get a sense of “Alaska.” You can only get a sense of different parts of Alaska. This trip covers an area of approximately 10,000 sq. miles, an area roughly the size of Maryland. Small planes take us to where very few tourists go. Boutique camps, lodges and yachts ensure a personal experience with guides and locals unlike almost all regular tours. The entire trip covers tundra, high altitude mountains and forests, low altitude forests with thousands of streams and thick with wildlife, and what may be the most beautiful spot on earth, Prince William Sound.
This is an adventure! Rooms and cabins are modest, but what’s waiting outside them for you is a panorama of memories the likes of which you can’t imagine until you’ve seen it yourself!
This page details the daily itinerary of the Main Tour, and you also have the option to extend your tour to Kenai and the bears of Katmai!
|OPTIONS||Per Each of 2 Sharing||Single||Deposit|
|Main Trip: 14-25 July||$14,895||$15,440||$3,000|
|Extension: 25-27 July||$2,995||$4,490||$350|
Have a great trip!reserve now
|Price||Single Supplement||under 12||12-16||local air|
The prices include:
Additional expenses not included:
The estimated additional out-of-pocket cash is $600 to $800.
Whenever you arrive Fairbanks, take a cab or Uber to the motel. Nothing further is scheduled, today. If you arrive early consider the optional Riverboat Discovery cruise, one of Fairbanks’ prime attractions. The trip begins this afternoon at 1 p.m. Overnight at the Fairbanks Marriott Suites.[no-meals]
Jim leads you through the city’s attractive river front park to the Welcome Center where he gives his briefing on Alaska. There is also an excellent museum here of early life in Alaska, and a theater that shows short videos about living in the far north. From here the group travels to the University of Alaska for a behind-the-scenes tour of the university’s famous Large Animal Research Facility (LARS). You’ll learn about Alaska’s large wild animals, especially its most precious one, the muskox. (You’ll be able to purchase Quiviut yarn and sweaters.) From here Jim takes you the Museum of the North, with its excellent displays and video theater. Return to the motel for a short time before Jim hosts you for dinner at the Silver Gulch Bar. On the way to the bar which is a bit outside Fairbanks, you’ll stop to view the Alaskan Pipeline. Overnight at the Fairbanks Marriott Suites.[b-d]
Board the Alaskan Railway dome cars at 8:15a for the spectacular 4½-hr journey into Denali National Park. This is your first introduction to much of Alaska’s endless spectacle as the train winds itself through the heavy forests into the Alaskan Range. The train ends at the east-side of the park around noon and you’ll have time to visit the Welcome Center and get lunch before our bus transfer departs at 1:30p and travels 90 miles through the park. The journey is similar to that made by park tour buses, and stops are made along the way. Our west side lodge is the closest to Denali, Reflection Pond and many other of the park’s most famous attractions. Arrive the Kantishna Road House for dinner and overnight.[b-d]
The lodge includes activities like guided hikes, mountain biking, native American history sessions, fly fishing and gold-panning. You’re also free to wander around yourself: the more ambitious can purchase a day pass on park service buses that travel the length of the park and back, allowing you to stop at ranger stations where most of the park trails are cut, and where there will be scheduled park activities like ranger talks. Meals and overnight at the Kantishna Road House.[b-l-d]
Kantishna is at the far northwestern edge of Denali National Park and the northwest face of Mt. Denali. Jim now takes you on a group of very small airplanes for some spectacular flightseeing around the mountain, North America’s tallest. After circling the mountain the planes continue to the far southeast edge of Denali National Park, landing in the town of Talkeetna. The breath-taking flight is, of course, weather dependent and weather being so disagreeable in Alaska there’s always a reasonable chance this won’t be possible. The first backup plan is to just take the small planes back to the train station, collapsing the 8-hour drive into a 40-minute beautiful flight. The air company then charters a bus to take us down to Talkeetna. The ultimate backup plan that would ground all aircraft is to leave at 6 a.m. aboard the Kantishna Roadhouse Bus that brought us here, on its journey back to the train station where the bus is picked up and we continue to Talkeetna. In Talkeetna we’ll transfer to the Susitna River Lodge for overnight. Talkeetna is a true Robert Service Alaskan town erupting into the tourist age, and just walking its colorful main street is great fun. Pretty good restaurants, too![b]
We take the 11 a.m. park service bus to Anchorage, which is scheduled to arrive at 1:30p. This gives you plenty of time to see the famous Anchorage museum, or just walk this interesting little city. The evening is free. Overnight at the Copper Whale Inn.[no-meals]
After breakfast we drive for less than an hour to the town of Whittier to board our chartered yacht, The DREAMCATCHER, for snacks as the cruise begins.
|The following day-by-day description is typical, but not necessarily the exact schedule that we will follow. The captain may change direction depending upon conditions like weather and whale sightings.|
The region near Whittier serves as a favorite kayak destination, due to the intimate waterways of the narrow passage. The crew will brief us on the use of kayaks and we can be put out of the yacht at various points this afternoon, depending upon how long we wish to kayak. The DREAM CATCHER then sails ahead and rendez-vous’ with the kayakers a few hours later. Those who wish to remain on board can, of course, due so. After dinner, an optional shore-side rainforest hike reveals a wonderland of tundra pools and vegetation reminiscent of a Japanese garden. Giant vertical cliffs pour water down their rock faces into streams and ponds. Overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.[b-d]
Mornings aboard The DREAM CATCHER are pretty casual with an open breakfast served from 8-10 a.m. Enjoy a variety of warm fresh breads, muffins, rolls, fruits, cereals, various warm egg dishes, juices, coffee and tea are all available. Remember, it never gets totally dark, and even when anchored all sorts of things happen along shore. The morning’s sail is scheduled through the Knight Island and Dangerous Passages towards Icy Bay. Some of the Sound's most frequent orca and humpback whale sightings are found along this route. By midday we expect to be in the Nassau Fjord of Icy Bay. We’ll begin to encounter little icebergs as we approach the calving face of Chenega glacier. The massive 200 square mile Sergeant Ice field feeds Chenega. The glacier is a 200-foot high wall that topples giant blue chunks into the sea. This tidewater calving is one of the awesome spectacles available near Alaska’s great glaciers, and our experienced crew and small boat gives us a specially close view.
After lunch, we exit this ice-laden fjord for Bainbridge Passage, where you can try your luck fishing for Pacific halibut and rockfish, or join some of the crew on another kayak excursion. This is a particularly good area for orca and humpback, and kayaks can often approach quite close. The inlets near shore are also filled with just returned migratory water fowl beginning to nest. Hundreds of harbor seals make Icy Bay their summer home, using the floating ice as resting platforms and safe places for birthing. The rocky mountains around Chenega glacier support a healthy, frequently visible population of mountain goats as well. If conditions allow, we’ll be able to take a short hike above the glacier for some fantastic views. Meals and overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.[b-l-d]
Cruising northwest through more "sea pastures" fertile with whale watching opportunities we should encounter the noisy and raucous Steller Sea Lion colonies. These entertaining creatures put on quite a display, with graceful water acrobatics while roaring and bellowing. A longer hike of about three hours is perfect for today as the trail leads through the world's northern-most temperate rain forest, rich with ferns, mosses, towering spruce, hemlocks and cedars. This is a particularly good time for birding in Alaska as many of the migrants yet destined for above the Arctic Circle should be coming through and many can be seen, now, in these forests. At the end of the hike is a 300-foot waterfall near the yacht rendez-vous. As we settle in for dinner The DREAM CATCHER motors on towards some of the greatest glaciers left on earth! Meals and overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.
Global warming is seriously impacting Alaska, and while the difference between glacier melt in the north and south of Alaska might not yet be terribly scientifically significant, there are many who feel the previously outstanding Glacier Bay National Park -- to the south -- is not quite as glamorous as it used to be, and that the icefields and glaciers in Prince William Sound and other more northerly areas are now better.
On tap today is some of Alaska’s grandest scenery, a mixture of sprawling glaciers and a panoramic skyline of mountain grandeur. We’ll encounter many more harbor seals living on the flotillas of icebergs as we navigate into the icy, blue waters of Barry Arm. The enveloping mountains of this inlet stretch skyward to nearly 10,000 feet, with glacier after glacier descending the terraced mountain valleys. Alaska's lush rainforest vegetation drapes the hillsides with streaming waterfalls lining the rocky cliffs. The morning is filled with the cracks, pops and thunderous roars of the Cascade, Barry and Coxe glaciers!
Touch the impressive face of Coxe glacier, watch the showy Black Oystercatchers strut across the rocky shorelines, then hike among curious Hoary marmots hiding in the bright pinks of fireweed and the intense blues of the alpine lupine. After lunch the yacht sails into Harriman Fjord for a close-up of Surprise Glacier. Hikes of several different durations will be offered along with kayaking among the ice. Spend the evening anchored in Harriman Fjord. This evening we enjoy a memorable farewell dinner aboard The DREAM CATCHER. Meals and overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.[b-l-d]
The DREAM CATCHER returns to dock in Whittier after another exciting day usually past dozens of playful sea otters foraging in the shellfish-rich shallow waters we'll likely use to get home. As a protected species, these otters exhibit little concern for people sometimes allowing very close access on kayak. We’ll return to Anchorage by this evening and an overnight is included at the Copper Whale Inn.[b-l]
We will all individually cab or Uber back to the airport for the 7:15a flight to the far west. The flight is scheduled to arrive King Salmon just outside Alaska’s Katmai National Park at 8:20a. Katmai is the start of Alaska’s massive undeveloped forest frontier. The four largest national parks in America are in Alaska, and Katmai is one of those, about the size of Connecticut.
For the next three nights and four days we’ll be based at the Alaska Gold Creek Lodge. This is one of the very few inclusive properties serving Katmai NP which mostly draws individual adventurers who camp and wander. The modest log cabins and lodge rooms all have private facilities, and AGCL is considered the best lodging in the area. It’s located about a 20-minute ride from the airport, situated in 16 acres along the Naknek River.
But today immediately after arriving at the airport we don’t go to the lodge but get on a water taxi for a half hour ride to Brooks Falls where the short Brooks River runs out Naknek Lake into Brooks Lake. The falls is the single-most famous attraction in Katmai N.P. and not for the waterfall itself, but because it’s one of the major salmon runs in the State. The falls are about a half-mile wide, not very high (nowhere over 8') and so perfect for bears hunting salmon. From the end of June to the end of July the falls attract more giant Brown Bears (Grizzlies) than probably any other place on earth.
If everything is on time we should arrive Brooks Falls around 10:30a. Your time at Brooks is self-guided with national park rangers around to answer questions. A series of water taxis leaves Brooks regularly back to the King Salmon airport dock, and you’ll be able to choose how long you’d like to stay here. A hot buffet lunch is included at Brooks Lodge. From the lodge is a several kilometer trail maintained by the parks service that follows the river to the falls. At the falls is a raised viewing deck where you can watch the bears.
Professional photographer guides who have licenses to leave the platform and approach the bears more closely can be hired for $300 for three hours. If you are particularly interested in very unique and close-up photography, this is available to you if booked far enough in advance as these licensed guides are limited.
Dinner and overnight at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge.[b-l-d]
Walrus are so much a part of American legends, cartoons and jokes we don’t realize how rare an animal they are. They are no longer endangered as most hunting was banned about 30 years ago when their numbers were falling precipitously. Now only certain native American tribes retain the right to hunt them and their numbers are doing well. There are approximately 200,000 Pacific Walrus (and another 50,000 Atlantic walrus). All walrus live in very northern climes and actually spend about 2/3 of their time in the high sea hauling out onto icebergs. But in the summer they gather in incredibly dense colonies on coastal shores. In Alaska’s case this is the Aleutian peninsula, another 50 miles west of King Salmon.
The whole day is spent on a guided excursion to Pilot Point on the Aleutian Peninsula. Small floatplanes leave the lodge before 8 a.m. Guides will lead us on a several-mile long trail to the shoreline where walrus colonies are found. Sometimes as many as several hundred are in the same colony. A picnic lunch is prepared for us and part of the day may be spent just wandering along this remote northern shore. The flight is about an hour each way and we generally return to the lodge around 4 p.m.
Dinner and overnight at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge.[b-l-d]
Today you choose your option. Three options concentrate on the Naknek River and include guided salmon fishing (license not included), guided kayaking, or a guided motorboat safari. The river, which runs just outside the lodge, is a magnet for wildlife in the summer months and in addition to brown bears, moose and elk, black bear and even wolves are sometimes seen.
Another available option is a backcountry ATV guided excursion. ATV’s are a necessary device in this remote land during the summer, replaced in the winter of course by snowmobiles. The guide will gear the excursion to your interest: fishing, wildlife or bird viewing, or hiking. You can choose how long you wish to do this and a picnic can be carried with.
Not far from the lodge is Dumpling Mountain, one of the few high elevations in Katmai National Park. The guided hike up the mountain begins rather steeply but planes off quickly to the top which is only 2,441'. But the view from the top is exceptional, 360-degrees of Katmai including both the Naknek and Brooks Lakes.
Those who wish can also return to Brooks Falls.
Finally, there is another option at the additional cost of $895 per person, minimum two, for a very very remote flight excursion into the far regions of Katmai. The guide is exceptional and the flight is breath-taking and where you land and hike for a while is a place that few people have ever been to... ever!
Everyone is back to the lodge by 6p when we gather around the campfire before the 7p dinner. Overnight at Alaska's Gold Creek Lodge.[b-l-d]
Checkout from the lodge is right after breakfast and the morning flight is available for your return to Anchorage with a scheduled arrival just after 10 a.m. But because you may want to pursue additional options like returning to Brooks Falls, an overnight is included today at the Copper Whale Inn. There are usually around four flights daily from King Salmon back to Anchorage. Many flights back to the lower 48 depart Anchorage in the evening anyway, so you can use the inn as best suits you.[b]
Check-out is at 10 a.m. EWT is happy to assist all its clients with airline reservations.[b]