2017 All-Alaska Tour, July 7-19 - $3,758

13 Days: Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka

Day One (7/7, Fri.)

The 2016 All-Alaska tour begins in Fairbanks, Alaska’s Golden Heart City. Each guest arranges (and pays for) his/her own flight. It is recommended that you arrive in Fairbanks in the afternoon or early evening, so you can have some time to acclimate and to get a good night’s sleep. You will be met at the Fairbanks International Airport by a Fairbanks UU and/or one of the tour directors. You will stay the night with your Fairbanks UU host.

(Option #1, Early Fairbanks Stay: $80/person per night)

If you wish to arrive one or more days early and explore Fairbanks on your own, WhaleCoast Alaska can arrange for you to stay with a Fairbanks host. You can hike, soak in a nearby hot springs, visit other local attractions, or simply relax under the midnight sun. Your host can offer suggestions. Please note that Early Fairbanks Stay is only available to guests arriving before 11:00 pm.

Day Two (7/8, Sat.)

Riverboat Discovery You will have breakfast with your hosts this morning. After breakfast, we will meet for a tour orientation. It’s fun to get to know the people that you will be traveling with. Last year’s group represented 17 states! Afterward, we will shuttle to the UAF Large Animal Research Station (locals call it the "Musk Ox Farm") where a docent specially trained in the biology of the large mammals will tell us about them. We’ll see musk ox, caribou and reindeer there. The musk ox lived through the last ice age. This is the only successful large terrestrial mammal to continuously occupy the arctic for the past 10,000 years. Lunch will be catered by the local UUs at a beautiful campus location. After lunch, we will visit the magnificent University of Alaska Museum of the North. The building is exciting inside and out, and its art and exhibits are outstanding. It includes outstanding exhibits on Alaskan animals, Alaska history, and the arctic environment. One permanent exhibit by Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams is in a room titled “The Place Where We Go To Listen.” It creates music from data streams measuring the rhythms of night and day, the phases and positions of the moon, the changing sky conditions, seismic readings, and disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field. There will also be time to take a walk to around the campus or on the adjacent trails. Following our day on campus, the local UUs will drive us to their beautiful sanctuary for a delicious dinner that they have prepared for us. They will also entertain us with their hometown talent. Be prepared for a strange experience of “nighttime.” It will not get dark in this land of the midnight sun during our entire stay! Your host will take you home for a well-deserved night’s sleep.

Day Three (7/9, Sun.)

Chena Canoe Musk Ox You have a choice about how to spend the first part of your Sunday morning. After breakfast with your hosts, you are invited to join the local UUs at for a gentle canoe trip on the Chena River, ending at the UUFF sanctuary for their morning service. No experience is necessary, since they match novices with experienced locals. We might see beaver or moose. If you would rather sleep in, that’s just fine. Your host can drive you directly to the 10:30 am service. The Fairbanks UUs will host us for a light lunch and drive us to the nearby riverboat dock. The Riverboat Discovery, Alaska’s last sternwheeler paddleboat, travels down the Chena River. Along the way, we'll stop at a sled dog kennel, where an Iditarod veteran educates us about the sport of dog mushing. We’ll even get to see the dogs enthusiastically pull a dogsled on wheels. Later, an Athabascan woman will welcome us to her fish camp to show us how she catches salmon in a fish wheel, cleans them, and smokes them. We’ll meet her again in the reconstructed village and see her sewing gorgeous parkas from different furs. Native Alaskan young people, home from college for the summer, are docents in the village. This is a fascinating window into Athabascan culture. Dinner($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own. If you are so inclined, tonight would be the time to take your hosts out to dinner to thank them for their hospitality. (Note: whenever you see the ($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day.)

Day Four (7/10, Mon.)

On the Train! After breakfast with your hosts, you will board the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. The train route travels across scenic boreal forests, through the village of Nenana, and high on the ledge of a canyon. Lunch($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on the train. Our scheduled arrival in Denali National Park is 12:15 pm. Your luggage will be delivered to your comfortable cabin so that you can have the entire afternoon to experience the park on your own. Some options would be to enjoy a Ranger-led walk, hike on your own, explore the Visitor’s Center, visit our country’s only National Park Service sled dog kennel, or participate in other activities of the day. Dinner($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own at one of several area restaurants. Don’t stay up too late. Tomorrow we have an early start.

(Option #2, Whitewater Rafting, $94)

You have the option of a thrilling whitewater rafting trip on the Nenana River. No experience is necessary, since your professional guide will navigate the rapids. You will be issued a drysuit to keep you comfortable. The $94 cost includes an action photo of each rafting group plus all gratuities. If some of the rafters wish to dine together($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. at a local restaurant after the trip, your tour director can arrange a dinner reservation. Whitewater Rafting

Day Five (7/11, Tue.)

Guests in front of Denali Bear Breakfast at the restaurant will be early this morning. We board a Tundra Wilderness Tour bus to take us into the park. When I first came to Alaska in 1981 “for the summer,” it was to drive this same tour. I became enchanted by the land and people of this great state, and have lived here ever since. This 8-9 hour tour is a great way to see many animals – moose, caribou, sheep, grizzly bear, wolf, fox, unusual birds, etc. – and get a feel for the sheer expanse of Denali National Park. It’s the size of Massachusetts. If we’re fortunate enough to see the mountain called Denali (“The Great One”), we’re in for something spectacular! Denali is the highest mountain in North America at 20,320 ft. Measured from base to peak, Denali is one of the tallest mountain expanses on earth. Even if the mountain is not visible (it’s in full view only a few days per month, but one of our groups saw it in full view last year), the wildlife and natural beauty of the area is still well worth the trip. A light box lunch is included in the tour. After the tour, you may have time to participate in another park activity. Dinner($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own. There are some options for evening entertainment. You could also relax in one of the outdoor hot tubs at our lodging site.

(Option #3, Extended Tour of Denali: $55)

Extend your time in the park by taking this 14 hour tour instead of the standard one. This tour ventures 34 miles farther along the Denali Park Road, giving you additional time for viewing wildlife and scenic mountains. This tour includes a hearty buffet lunch and interpretive program at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. (Seats on this tour are limited. Please read information on the FAQ page and ask about availability before registering.) Wolf

Day Six (7/12, Wed.)

Breakfast($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own, and you have the option to sleep in. Our shuttle to the train depot departs in mid-morning. If you arise early, you can squeeze in one last walk or activity. Around noon, you will board the Alaska Railroad train to Anchorage – one of the world’s most scenic train rides. Our journey takes us through the Alaska Range, along several wild and scenic rivers, through isolated small towns, and above breathtaking Hurricane Gulch. If it is clear, there will be stunning views of snow-capped mountains, including Denali. This is a train ride you will never forget. Lunch($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. and Dinner($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. are on your own, either in the dining car or the in the Wilderness Café. After dinner, we arrive in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, where your UU hosts will greet you and take you home for the night.

Day Seven (7/13, Thur.)

After breakfast with our hosts, we will meet at the Native Heritage Center, where five indigenous groups – Athabascan, Yupik, Inupiaq, Alutiiq, and Tlingit/Haida – have created a veritable living museum. Reconstructed Native dwellings surround a small lake. Native docents at each structure explain the traditions of their people. Contemporary artists, dancers and storytellers put on performances every half hour in the main hall of the museum while Native craftspeople in another wing will be demonstrating their work and talking about their craft and heritage. Lunch($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own at the Native Heritage Center Café. After lunch, we will shuttle downtown. There, you will have a choice of three activities. One option is to visit the world-class Rasmussen Museum of History and Art. The museum has superb collections of Native and contemporary Alaskan art exhibits on Alaska’s cultures from the earliest inhabitants to the 730,000 people living in the state today. You can explore the museum all afternoon if you like, or take some time to walk around or shop downtown. If you want something more active, two alternatives are offered: renting a bicycle for an afternoon ride along the popular Coastal Trail, or visiting the Public Lands Information Center and taking their guided walking tour of Anchorage. The Anchorage UUs will prepare an excellent dinner for us at their church. You will spend the night with your hosts.

Day Eight (7/14, Fri.)

Waterfall After a quick breakfast, your hosts will drive you to the Ted Stevens airport for an Alaska Airlines flight to Juneau. A bus will take us to the Mendenhall Glacier and Visitors Center. There, you can see a glacier that has been retreating dramatically for decades. A short trail highlights the glacial ecology of the area. You can also take a 5-minute walk the on Photo Point Trail to a scenic overlook. Still another trail leads to a waterfall. There are also many interpretative displays, both in the Visitors Center and on the trails. After our visit, our bus will take us to lunch at your choice of two downtown restaurants. After lunch, the tour provides you with a choice of activities. You can take a tram ride to the top of Mount Roberts and take in a grand view of the valley. If you are interested in local history, culture, and current events, you can visit the Juneau-Douglas Museum, then take a very informative walking tour with one of their guides. At 5:30 pm, you will take a short bus ride to the Juneau UU Fellowship building, where the UUs will host a delicious dinner. Since the Juneau congregation is small, some of us will be hosted by Juneau UUs, and some of us will be in a hotel.

Day Nine (7/15, Sat.)

After breakfast with our hosts or at our hotel, we will meet at the Juneau boat dock. We’ll board a small boat for a visit to the beautiful Tracy Arm Fjord. This all-day excursion is an experience that many guests find to be the highlight of their entire tour. We will see tidewater glaciers calving icebergs into the sea, mountains and 2,000 foot granite cliffs rising straight up from the water, and incredibly deep and narrow fjords. The fjords wind past waterfalls to massive glaciers, their icebergs dotted with fur seals. Humpback whales, Orcas, and bald eagles are often seen at the mouth of the fjords. You won’t find the big ships here, they are simply too large. A box lunch will be provided on the boat. You’re on your own for dinner($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day.. There are several restaurants within walking distance of the dock. This would be a great time to treat your host to dinner, if you are so inclined. You will spend the night with your host or at your hotel.

Day Ten (7/16, Sun.)

Eagle After breakfast, we will fly to the historic town of Sitka, Alaska’s original territorial capital. After a bus tour of this beautiful town, the Sitka UUs will host us for lunch. We will also visit the Alaska Raptor Center for an interpretive tour. The Center’s scenic 17-acre campus, its bald eagle hospital, and its other programs are all managed by a nonprofit organization. Our admission fees support its work. We will walk to the UU Fellowship building, where we will have our Sunday Service. The title of our program will be, “Inspired by Nature,” and will feature literary readings that you and your fellow guests bring to share. Afterward, the Sitka UUs will prepare dinner for us. The small Sitka UU Fellowship will host most of our group, and the rest of us will stay in a hotel or guest house.

Day Eleven (7/17, Mon.)

Russion Bishop's House After breakfast at the Fellowship building, we will walk to the Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center. There’s a Sitka Spruce forest behind the Visitor’s Center with many totem poles along the ocean shore. This is the location of the final battle between the Tlingits and the Russians. With its soaring spruce trees, the forest feels like a natural open-air cathedral. Rangers lead interpretive walks at various times throughout the day – an opportunity you won’t want to miss. As an option, you could go kayaking during this time (see below), and visit the National Park Visitors Center in the afternoon. After our visit, we will walk to Crescent Harbor to board our chartered boat for a “Wildlife Quest” tour. We will have the opportunity to observe some of Sitka’s most famous residents – sea otters, humpback whales, puffins, bald eagles, or even brown bear – in their natural habitat!  Every tour is unique. We might trace the rugged coast of pristine Sitka Sound or explore the narrow waterways that divide countless untouched islands. A naturalist will tell us about the features and habits of the wildlife we see. If we’re fortunate enough to find whales during this tour, it will be breathtaking! A delicious lunch will be included with this tour. Afterward, we will walk to the clan house, or “Sheet'ka Kwaán Naa Kahídi” for a Tlingit dance performance. The clan house’s large structural beams, central fire pit, and tiered seating provide an ideal ambience. It all starts with the smell of burning cedar that is lit during the introduction of the first dance. The deep sound of the box drum fills the room as Tlingit dancers enter wearing beautiful regalia. They sing ancient songs that have been handed down for generations. The narrator begins with a Tlingit story and then interprets and explains all that is seen and heard. A dozen members of the tribe, also wearing traditional outfits, sing and dance three songs. The program lasts a half hour, but the dancers will linger a while to visit with us. Dinner($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own, at one of Sitka’s many fine restaurants. If you are staying with hosts, this would be a good opportunity for you to take them out to dinner and learn more about what it’s like to live in Sitka. You will return to your host’s home, your guest house, or your hotel for the night.

(Option #4, Guided half-day Kayaking Tour: $145)

Instead of going to the Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center, you will paddle through mazes of reef and kelp forest – areas accessible only by kayak – to look for colorful marine life visible below, including crab, sea stars, anemones, and sea urchins. On the surface, you might see harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions, and bald eagles. The tour begins with a thorough orientation and safety demonstration, and ends at one of the many islands. Conveniently, our Wildlife Quest tour boat will pick us up on its way out to Sitka Sound. No experience is necessary. Double kayaks are used for this tour, and the guides try to pair novices with more experienced paddlers. If you opt for kayaking, you are committed “rain or shine.” Rain gear is provided for guests who do not have their own. Kayakers will have an opportunity to go to the visitor center tomorrow during their free afternoon. (Maximum weight is 275 pounds. Space on this tour is limited. Ask about availability before registering.)

Day Twelve (7/18, Tue.)

Sitka Town After breakfast at the UU Fellowship building, we will walk to the historic Russian Bishop’s House, which was once the center of Russian Orthodox Church authority in a diocese that stretched from California to Siberia. A National Park Service ranger will give us a fascinating tour that includes a discussion of local history and of the relationships between the native Tlingit and the Russian conquerors. Many of the original furnishings and icons of the house are preserved inside. From there, we will walk to the Sheldon Jackson Museum. This jewel of a museum is Alaska’s oldest. It contains a superb collection of Alaska Native cultural artifacts gathered from 1888 to1898 by a prominent missionary. Lunch($)Note: whenever you see the ($) symbol, it means that you are responsible for the designated meal. Your tour includes an average of two meals per day. is on your own. Sitka has many nice restaurants that are within easy walking distance. You will have the afternoon free to explore Sitka. If you opted for the kayak trip on Monday, this would be your opportunity to visit the Sitka National Historic Park Visitors Center. Other options include visiting the historic St. Michael’s Cathedral, relaxing by the harbor, renting a bicycle, hiking one of Sitka’s trails, or visiting Baranof Island Brewing Co., Sitka’s craft brewery. We will meet at the UU Fellowship building for a delicious dinner, often featuring locally caught salmon. We will view a slide show of pictures of the tour and say our goodbyes.

Day Thirteen (7/19, Wed.)

Your tour ends this morning. You are responsible for arranging and paying for your transportation home from Sitka. After breakfast with your hosts, they will transport you to the airport if you have a morning flight. Our last transport to the airport will be at 11:45 am. If your flight leaves later in the day, you can either go to the airport at 11:45 am and relax, or arrange your own taxi (2 miles) later in the day.

We know you’ll be thrilled with your WhaleCoast Alaska experience!

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