Sometime ago, I flew to Canada to experience Alaska and the Yukon. I went with the hope of securing some bucket list sights such as the wildlife in both Canada and Alaska; the Aurora Borealis phenomenon; walking on a glacier; and hiking in Tombstone National Park. What ensued was even better than what I could have imagined.
As this trip was about Alaska and the Yukon, I only spent a day and night in Vancouver. It was a busy time visiting the sights which included the Capilano Suspension Bridge which was exhilarating and somewhat wobbly; the Girl in the Wetsuit located in Stanley Park; the “A-maze-ing Laughter” smiling statues; and dinner at Vancouver’s old and very vibrant Gastown where the amazing food aromas wafted into the night air. There was also time for a ride up to the Vancouver Lookout where a clear night made for fabulous views of Vancouver.
Before sailing the next day from Canada Place, I was able to bus over to Granville Island where breakfast and some market shopping were squeezed in; the local berries were divine.
I boarded the ship for a short passage so was intent on making the most of my days. I was up early to watch for whales and wildlife as I cruised past the Admiralty Islands. If you could withstand the cold long enough, you had a chance of viewing one of the 1000s of bears habituating there.
I reached Juneau and it was great to go onshore; albeit a rainy day. Juneau had charm. I took the cable car to the lookout and met the rehabilitated bald eagle called Lady Baltimore; she was beautiful. From Juneau I also took a rather undulating helicopter flight up to the Mendelson Glacier. Despite the turbulence the views were spectacular. It was a brisk -2 celcius on top of the glacier but the purity of the ice was incredible; I got to drink glacier water from a pool on top of the glacier.
After three nights of sailing, I disembarked the ship in Skagway; part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. I spent a full day exploring this town with all its gold rush history and I was also able to see the salmon making their way upstream in a nearby river.
The next day I took the White Pass Scenic Rail toward Whitehorse. The journey was marred by rain, but the mist and rain created a beautiful ambiance; mysterious and fresh. After a few hours, I arrived in Fraser; the boarder between USA and Canada. It was here that I transferred from train to bus. It was a simplistic crossing where our passports were viewed by a local ranger while we sat on the bus. Here I was at the very top of British Columbia about to venture into the Yukon Territory. The lakes and mountains in this region were spectacular. Within the first few hours of driving I saw a black bear climbing a hill and had a stop at Carcross; originally known as Caribou Crossing. This very small community was home to the Carcross Tagish First Nation people and it was rugged. The bus then ventured along the Carcross Desert, finally arriving into Whitehorse mid afternoon. Here I explored the SS Klondike; a sternwheeler that carried goods from Whitehorse to Dawson along the Yukon River back in 1929 to 1936 and then again from 1937 to 1950.
After a night in Whitehorse, I was driven north to Dawson, stopping along the way here and there. I crossed some nice bridges and saw the Five Finger Rapids. I also stopped for lunch at the Minto Resort; a Selkin first nation location. After an eight hour drive the bus stopped at the Dome just outside of Dawson to view the City; it was such a remote location. I rolled into Dawson City late afternoon, along with a spectacular storm. This town was picturesque and like being in a movie set from the goldrush era.
The sky was ominous and made for great photos and this town was amazing. There were colourful, yet dilapidated buildings and a beautiful paddle steamer named the Klondike Spirit. As I walked around town, it began to rain and the dirt roads underfoot turned to mud. As I searched for shelter, I followed the sounds of honky tonk music coming from the Red Feather Saloon. I walked in drenched; it was like stepping back in time and entering the 1900s.
From the Saloon, I made my way to Diamond Tooth Gerties for the Klondike show. This was a local gambling hall like no other and set the scene for the stay in Dawson City.
Next day, it was off to Tombstone National Park which included a hike. Before hiking into bear country we were instructed regarding best practices for this activity. Our guide carried bear spray and I stayed close behind him. I could not shake the thought that I was now in wild animal territory; regardless of how beautiful this place was. Upon safe return from our hike, we had a picnic lunch. It was so authentic with a checked table cloth and picnic basket. Once again, I found myself wondering if Yogi Bear was going to visit us while we feasted on sandwiches. We visited a number of lookouts and learnt about the Arctic Tundra and the permafrost in this region; you could feel the frozen earth beneath the grass. We also drove on the Dempsey Highway and I was amazed at the amount of wildlife we sighted. I saw the valleys in greens and golds; just prior to full autumn, and it was stunning.
Once back at the hotel I placed a call for the Aurora Borealis wake-up. To my delight at 1:20am it happened. The wake up call rang out and within seconds I was rugged up and outside looking at the Aurora activity dancing in the sky. It was early in the season to see this phenomenon and I stood for an hour watching ribbon after ribbon of green appear in the dark, clear sky.
Next morning I flew to Fairbanks. It was a cold morning and our bus dropped us onto the tarmac where our plane waited. As this flight went from Canada to the USA, we cleared customs by getting off the bus, presenting our hand luggage to the authories and then climbing the stairs to our charter plane before flying west.
Fairbanks was an interesting city where I experienced the Riverboat Discovery. This immersion into the Chena Indian Village was fascinating. I also learnt about the sled dogs.
From Fairbanks I bused to Denali National Park. Denali was one of the highlights of this journey allowing me to spend a full day in the National Park. I saw numerous grizzly bears, moose, and other smaller animals. What I loved was the time allowed to get photos and watch the animals go about their lives. The absolute highlight of this stay for me was flying in a 6-seater aircraft over Denali Mountain. The day was perfectly clear, and the majesty of this scenic flight brought tears to my eyes. This must be seen to be believed and words cannot explain how these snow-covered mountains can make you feel. I also visited a local dog sled homestead where I cuddled one of the puppies. I learnt so much regarding the Iditarod race held in Alaska each year. Denali was beautiful and already I know that I will return one day.
From Denali, I took the domed carriage train toward Anchorage; the last stop of the tour. I spent the day wildlife spotting and taking in the sights. I was amazed at how much wildlife I saw along the way and how comfortable this journey was.
If you are searching for adventure and want to see places that are unique and rugged, this is the trip for you. Every thing that I had hoped to experience on this Alaska and Yukon journey happened. I saw endless amounts of wildlife; viewed the Aurora Borealis phenomenon; weather permitted my heli-walk on the glacier; I hiked in Tombstone National Park and got up close with Denali Mountain and the wildlife that resided in the National Park. What a journey.
By Tammi Sirett
For further information or to book a trip like this, Tammi’s your girl. Call Clean Cruising on 1800 121 187.