Guided by Liz Heck
July 5 – 17, 2023
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 comfortable with full facilities, and 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: 5-17 July||$ 12,830||$ 17,565||$ 1,850|
|Extension: 17-20 July||$ 2,195||$ 2,725||$ 350|
Have a great trip!
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.
Liz leads you through the city’s attractive river front park to the Welcome Center for a 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 most precious large wild animal, the muskox. (You’ll be able to purchase Quiviut yarn and sweaters.) Then to the Museum of the North with its excellent displays and video theater. Return to the motel for a short time before Liz 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.
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 at the Kantishna Road House for dinner and overnight.
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.
Kantishna is at the far northwestern edge of Denali National Park and the northwest face of Mt. Denali. Liz 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. Regardless of how we arrive, in Talkeetna we’ll transfer to the Susitna River Lodge. 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!
We take the 11 a.m. park service bus to Anchorage, which is scheduled to arrive at 1:30 p.m. 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 Hotel Captain Cook.
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 of Prince William Sound 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 on the cruise. The DREAMCATCHER then sails into the Sound along shore sides of rainforest and wonderlands 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.
Mornings aboard The DREAMCATCHER 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, there are only a few hours of darkness. The morning’s sail through the Knight Island and Dangerous Passages towards Icy Bay often encounters orca and humpback whales. 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 which with luck make close approaches to humpbacks and orcas. 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. Overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.
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 is perfect for today through the world’s northern-most temperate rain forest, rich with ferns, mosses, towering spruce, hemlocks and cedars to a 300-foot waterfall! Settle in for dinner as The DREAMCATCHER motors towards some of the greatest glaciers left on earth! Overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.
Global warming is seriously impacting Alaska, and Glacier Bay National Park — to the south — is almost out of existence, so 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 calving. Dinner and overnight on The DREAM CATCHER.
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 DREAMCATCHER.
The DREAMCATCHER returns to dock in Whittier after another exciting day usually past dozens of playful sea otters foraging in the shellfish-rich shallow waters we often 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 Hotel Captain Cook.
Checkout is at 11 a.m. Take individual cabs or Ubers to the airport for your departure home or to continue on the Bears Extension.
- Everything as described in the day-by-day itinerary
- Meals as indicated in brackets at the end of each day’s description
- Flightseeing around Mt. Denali from Kantishna to Talkeetna
- Small plane day-trip to Katmai from Homer
- Railway tickets in the premium glass dome car
- Hosting throughout by Liz Heck, provided that a minimum of 6 persons are reserved.
Additional Expenses Not Included
- All commercial air fare
- Tipping (Liz Heck does not accept tips)
- Some meals
- Most beverages
- Items of a personal nature like souvenirs or gear