Our exploration begins at 8 am, meeting in downtown Anchorage at the Snowshoe Inn. Dispatching quickly with Alaska's largest city, we'll head for more tranquil locales, turning south and hugging the shore of Turnagain Arm where the Chugach Mountains meet the sea. Reaching the end of the Arm, Portage Valley has been carved by its namesake glacier, and here is found the Portage Glacier Visitor's Center that gives a nice overview of the phenomena that we're going to be witnessing more than once in the next few days. Rising up over Turnagain Pass in the Kenai Mountains we'll then descend toward the Gulf of Alaska and the scenic town of Seward, situated at the uppermost reaches of Resurrection Bay. A deep water port that remains ice-free all year, Seward was one of the earlier Alaskan settlements, serving the mining and various trades of the Interior, as the southern terminus of the state's single rail line. Surrounded by mountains the scene is quite impressive, with the quaint downtown nearly at water's edge.
It is here also that the Seward Sealife Center has just been completed, a world class research and visitor facility we'll tour, that will provide us with a wonderful basis for understanding the habitats and creatures that we'll soon be exploring. Midafternoon we'll board the boat for the trip out to the mouth of Resurrection Bay. Amongst the islets dotting the area, we'll ferret out one called Fox and disembark for a truly unique overnight experience. Comfy cabins just off the water make for some great beach walking, with the option to go sea kayaking if conditions permit. It's a pristine spot, and you may just want to sit and take it all in. Includes: (B), (L) and (D).
After breakfast we'll leave our island home and head farther afield, around the point and into the Chiswell Island Wildlife Refuge, sliding between the rocky islands that are home to an incredible variety of marine mammals and sea birds. Reaching Kenai Fjords National Park, inaccessible by road, we'll linger off the face of the calving Holgate Glacier for an otherworldly experience. We'll cruise right up to the rugged coastal cliffs, providing wonderful opportunities for viewing murres, puffins, sea otters, and sea lions, with the stretches in between always holding promise of porpoises, humpback and maybe even orca whales. The mainland awaits in late afternoon, for the trip through the Kenai Mountains to the end of the road and the delightful little town of Hope on the shores of Turnagain Arm.
One of the oldest gold rush communities in Alaska, Hope boasted three thousand souls long before Anchorage existed. As gold rushes pass so did many of the people, with now about two hundred folks in the community. Its unique atmosphere is quite palpable, in the many log cabins, the log Social Hall, the one room schoolhouse and certainly in the local folk that have chosen to call it home. It's a piece of Alaska many have in mind before they come. We'll lodge for the night in log cabins on the edge of rushing Bear Creek, with a hot tub waiting after dinner at a wonderful cafe just down the creek. Includes: (B), (L) and (D).
After an early breakfast we'll hit the road to Homer to arrive in time for our 11AM appointment with a boat. Enroute we'll follow the beautiful Kenai River through Cooper Landing and pass through Soldotna to skirt the eastern side of Cook Inlet with the towering volcanoes of Iliamna, Redoubt and Augustine framing the other side. We'll dawdle a bit more on the return trip, but the views are nonetheless, quite regal in any direction. Arriving at the end of the Homer Spit, we'll board the boat to cross picturesque Kachemak Bay. With the nearby mountains and glaciers on the other side of the bay and the Alaska Range across the mouth of Cook Inlet, it is truly a beautiful mix of geography. Aiming toward the mouth of the Bay, our captain will circle Gull Island and a few others enroute to our destination, giving great explanation to the sights before us.
Mid afternoon finds us on the dock in the unique community of Seldovia, inaccessible by road. Originally and still a fishing village, the name comes from the Russian word for salted herring, as this fish was the reason for its existence, prior to the purchase of Alaska in 1867. A working fishing town but also one of refuge for artists and those looking for a little less access and the pace of life that it brings. It's a special little town to wander, with the great Sitka spruce and forests unlike any other we've seen, starting at the end of almost every street. A good stroll is in order before dinner on Main Street. Our lodging for the night is in a lovely establishment on the waterfront, with views of the midnight sun framed over the mouth of the small boat harbor. Includes: (B), (L) and (D).
The morning is as leisurely as it should be, with time to further explore town or just watch the tide come in out the back door. Those looking to stretch their legs might try the "Otterbahn", a great little trail starting by the school that weaves through tall grass and spruce thickets to end at the ocean for an unlimited opportunity to stroll or beachcomb. We'll set our return flight for early afternoon, climbing aboard to convince the pilot just how long a detour he should make on the return, to sightseeing over the Bay and maybe swoop over part of the seemingly endless Harding Icefield. It's almost hard to get back in a vehicle again, but we'll have to to peruse some of Homer's singular shops, in this town known for its artist community drawn to the local beauty. Heading back north, we'll pass through Anchor Point and make a photo stop at an old Russian Orthodox Church on a high bluff overlooking Cook Inlet.
The faith of Alaska's earliest non-Native settlers remains strong among many of the coastal Native communities. We know the way, so Hope will seem like home when we get back to our snug log cabins. A barbecue is planned on the deck of the lodge, with a creekside fire an apt possibility afterwards. Or, there might be those that prefer to head "downtown", to Main Street that ends in the ocean, and the Seaview Bar that is often a colorful mix of visitors, locals, and gold miners still eking an income from the creeks. Includes: (B), (L) and (D).
After breakfast at the Discovery Cafe, the social crossroads of quiet Hope and principal commercial establishment, we will follow the road to the small town of Girdwood, home of the world-class Alyeska Ski Resort situated here due to a much higher level of precipitation than even the adjacent valleys. It is a microclimate that gives rise to a temperate rainforest (yes, rainforest) with flora completely different from Hope, just a couple dozen miles away. Lush ferns and undergrowth along with large spruce trees are dominate.
Some might want to explore this environment directly, following the trail up Winner Creek to its beautiful little gorge, while others might opt to take the tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska for a commanding view. It might be a late lunch but worth it at the Alyeska Bakery upon return. The Seward Highway hugs the edge of Turnagain Arm and we just might have to stop at Beluga Point to see if any of the creatures for which it takes its name, might make an appearance. And then it's on back to Anchorage in the late afternoon, each of us probably just a bit different than when we left, and most likely figuring out just when we can return. The Kenai is some of the best of Alaska, but then there are still many other Alaskas that remain. Includes: (B) and (L).
This tour can be coupled with the Alaska and Yukon Explorer tour for a truly comprehensive Alaskan experience. 5 separate departures each season May-Sept. Single Supplement price upon request, subject to availability.
Costs of associated services caused by weather or factors beyond our control will be the responsibility of our guests. Cancellations or changes by individual service providers will not necessarily result in refunds for promised services.
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USA Alaska Nature & Wildlife Wildlife Viewing Cultural Journey
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