July 17-30, 2020
Day 1: This is the day we have been waiting and planning for! For those who choose, we meet at the office in Yoder for our transfer to the Wichita airport. We fly into Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, to start our journey. Overnight in Anchorage.
Day 2: This morning we enjoy breakfast before leaving by motorcoach. Traveling on Highway 1, our first stop is at the Matanuska Glacier. This is the largest glacier accessible by vehicle in the United States. Its terminus feeds the Matanuska River which we will be traveling alongside this morning. We stop at the Wrangell St. Elias Visitors Center to learn about the largest National Park in the United States, Elias National Park. We continue on to Tsaine Lodge just north of Valdez. Dinner is served at Tsaina Lodge on arrival. (B, L, D)
Day 3: After breakfast at the Tsaina Lodge, we depart for stops along the route into Valdez, visiting Bridal and Horse Tail Falls. Later we board the Stan Stephens Columbia Glacier Cruise, where we visit Prince William Sound and Meers or Columbia Glacier (ice pending). At the Columbia Glacier area, we view history in the making as the glacier retreats back into the Chugach Mountains. In addition to the amazing ice in Columbia Bay, we will see wildlife along the way that calls the Sound home. Here we learn about the mining, oil shipping, earthquake, and fishing history of the area. A light meal is served on board. There is time on your own to explore the town of Valdez before returning to Tsaina Lodge. (B, L)
Day 4: What an exciting day is in store for us! After breakfast, we depart Tsaina Lodge for a unique day trip experience. We fly on a small charter plane into the community of McCarthy. On our flight, we will see awe-inspiring views of Mt. Blackburn and Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. A flyby of Kennicott and McCarthy before we land helps orient us to the area we are about to explore. We visit Kennicott Mine, an abandoned copper mining camp established in 1903. Kennecott Mining Corporation operated 5 mines in the area. Kennecott became a bustling mining camp filled with miners and their families. Here we view the giant red mill building from the old Kennecott Copper Company, which stands 14 stories above the Kennicott Glacier. After our flight back to Chitna, we take a tour of the Fish Wheel on the Cooper River. This is a well-known area where Alaskan natives get their winter supply of salmon. Dinner is at Gilpatricks in Chitna before we return to Tsaina Lodge for the night. (B, L, D)
Day 5: This morning we head up the Richardson Highway to Fairbanks. We make stops along the Pipeline. Upon arrival in Fairbanks, we have some leisure time. (B, L)
Day 6: Today you choose what you would like to do on your own. We get many requests to experience “North of the Arctic Circle” since it is only about 150 miles from Fairbanks. You may choose to fly to Fort Yukon, an historic fort, or to Utqiaqvik (Barrow), the northern most point in the United States. Maybe you would like a driving tour to the Arctic Circle or a drive/fly to the Arctic Circle. Fly to Anaktuvuk Pass, a remote Eskimo Village or to Manley Hot Springs. There are attractions right in Fairbanks, including golfing or fishing. Or it may feel good to simply relax at the lodge for part of the day. We will help you make arrangements for your free day on your own. (B)
Day 7: This morning we tour Fairbanks. Next we board the Riverboat Discovery for a trip that will introduce us to a family who has made the rivers of Alaska a way of life for five generations. A bush floatplane will takeoff alongside the boat and we will be immersed into the ancient Athabascan Indian culture on a tour of the Chena Indian Village. No stop in Alaska is complete without talking about the Iditarod. We visit Susan Butcher’s home, Trail Breaker Kennels, for a hands-on dogsledding and Iditarod demonstration. Lunch is included. Leaving Fairbanks this afternoon, we are in store for an incredibly scenic drive as we head south on Highway 3. By late afternoon we arrive outside the Denali Park entrance for our 2 night stay. Upon arrival, we can explore the area outside the park. (B, L)
Day 8: This morning we board the Park bus for a narrated tour deep into Denali Park. We visit Kantishna, the farthest point into the park guests are allowed to travel. An experienced driver/guide shares the natural and cultural history of Denali. We enjoy views of the Alaska Range while hearing stories of the historic climbs of Denali. If weather permits, we may enjoy a sighting of “The Mountain” and possibly wildlife. Bring your cameras and binoculars for this taste of Denali! (B, L)
Day 9: This morning we enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel before boarding the Alaska Railroad Goldstar for a scenic train ride to Talkeetna. We travel along the Nenana River and Denali Park for the first part of the journey before going over Broad Pass. We cross Hurricane Gulch at 296 feet above the creek. The bridge was built in 1921 and spans 914 feet, the longest on the railroad. As we enter Talkeetna, we cross the Talkeetna River near the confluence of the Talkeetna, Susitna, and Chulitna Rivers. Talkeetna is home for the next 2 nights. (B, L)
Day 10: This morning breakfast is at the world famous Talkeetna Roadhouse before embarking on Mahay’s Jet Boat. On the boat, we experience a 130 mile round trip river excursion through Denali State Park and into the nationally registered Wild River Park of “Devil’s Gorge.” Along the way we stop and see how the early settlers of the area lived. There is also a visit to an authentic trapper’s cabin with its original furnishings to see how trappers lived in "Bush" Alaska at the turn of the century. This evening for dinner, we enjoy the fresh fish of Alaska. (B, L, D)
Day 11: This morning we leave Talkeetna and continue south, stopping at a Musk Ox Farm in the Matanuska Valley. After a quick stop in Anchorage, we continue to Seward with a few stops along the way. You have some free time in Seward this evening. (B)
Day 12: Today we cruise the Kenai Fjords National Park on our wildlife and glacier tour. We travel to towering walls of ice where you can hear the glaciers move as well as see the brilliant blues in the ice. The most commonly seen sea life includes otter, sea lions, seals, eagles, and possibly whales. Lunch is served onboard the vessel with dinner at Fox Island, an isolated corner of Kenai Fjords. We can walk its pebbled beach, skip rocks, or relax on the deck overlooking the inland lagoon. We return to Seward for the night. (B, L, D)
Day 13: Today we have free time to continue exploring this beautiful state. We make our way back to Anchorage for a late evening flight. No seaplanes for us today as we go to the International Airport in Anchorage for our flight home. One more last glance at the majestic mountains, unusual glaciers, thunderous waterfalls, and shimmering sea, as we soar into the blue skies with wonderful memories of our awesome vacation in ALASKA!
Day 14: After our overnight flight, we arrive at the Wichita airport by midmorning then transfer to Yoder.