This summer I was fortunate enough to be invited on an Alaskan Land Cruise with my grandparents. What a extraordinary experience! It was the last of the 50 states my grandparents had visited, and the furthest north and west for me! I document below the timeline of our journey, mostly for my own memory, so feel free to skip.
I rented a lens for my camera, a Sigma 50-500mm, to take with me. I had so much fun using the lens, but it drew so much attention! That being said, you’ll have to excuse some of the images being a little soft, as I did not use a tripod.
We started the trip in Anchorage and joined up with our tour group who would be together for the next 11 days. We honestly had such a wonderful group of folks and our tour guide was terrific!
The first couple of days we traveled by train, working our way north through Alaska. It was such a fun way to travel, the views were incredible and they only got better throughout the trip.
The first stop was Denali National Park. We stayed in a lodge just outside of the park and took a chartered flight around the mountains. Wow, what an unbelievable flight! The pilot took us past the Alaska Range all the way to Mt. McKinley (Denali, as the locals insist is the proper name). That man knew those ranges like they were his own backyard! He narrated throughout the flight, naming each range as we flew past, so close we thought the wings might touch the mountains!
The next day was a four hour ride into the park and four hours back on a bus! What and exhausting journey but so worth it! We saw wildlife including the ptarmigan, blonde grizzly bears, dall sheep, and caribou. Such a vast landscape, with views you just have to see to appreciate. The first half of the trip ended at a turnaround spot for the bus, since there is only one road in the park. This spot was worth the trip. From there we could see Denali off in the distance. How fortunate we were that the weather cooperated so we were able to see the mountain without interference from clouds. This is very rare as the mountain is regularly obstructed from view by cloud cover.
From there we rode by motor-coach further north to Fairbanks. We toured part of the Alaskan Pipeline and panned for gold at the Gold Dredge #8, followed by a riverboat cruise. Seeing the pipeline up close and learning a bit more about it was really neat. One fun fact about the pipeline is it is buried underground partly due to the fact that caribou will not walk underneath it! They walk along the pipeline until it goes underground and then cross. The Gold Dredge and Riverboat Cruise was one of the more “touristy” stops, however still a fun excursion.
We then continued by motor-coach onto the ALCAN Highway back down through Alaska and crossing into Canada. We made a stop in Beaver Creek before continuing on to Whitehorse, YT. White horse quickly became my favorite little town of the trip. The community overlooks the Yukon River and boasts many wonderful local venues. One, being the restaurant with the best meal of the entire trip, the Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ. I ordered the appetizer of Sweet Smoked Salmon with Fruit and Nut crackers (made in-house) and Herb Cream Cheese (also made in-house), and a side Caesar Salad. So delicious, fresh, and local!
Sorry about the image quality, it was taken with my phone.
The last leg of the motor-coach trek was a short jaunt to Fraser, BC, where we would catch the White Pass and Yukon Route Train, a narrow-gauge railroad. We passed through the unincorporated community of Carcross and along past amazing Emerald Lake, before catching our train. The ride was one where the scenery was breathtaking; just when you think you saw the best of it, around the next turn were even more gorgeous views!
The train ride ended in Skagway, AK, where we would board our ship to cruise down to Vancouver, BC. We spent a few hours wandering about in Skagway, watching the salmon run and venturing out to “the point” overlooking the harbor.
Once aboard the MS Volendam, our cruise ship for the last four days of the journey, we would travel down the Inside Passage and pass through Glacier National Bay. I spent the majority of my time on the deck with my camera, taking photos and admiring the glaciers. I did not know I could be so cold! The weather was the least pleasant of the trip. Most of the first two days of the cruise were foggy making it hard to see much of anything. We did see some whales, sea-lions, and otters, but just briefly and from quite a distance.
We made one more stop in Ketchikan, AK, saw a Lumberjack show, before finishing the adventure in Vancouver, BC. We did not see much of Vancouver, as we were quickly ushered to the airport, only to wait several hours for our flight home.
I am so thankful and grateful to my grandparents for taking me along to visit the “Last Frontier”. It was a trip I will always cherish, not just because of the things we saw and did, but because I was able to do it with them!