Heart of Alaska 48 Day RV Caravan
Alaska …our last, great American frontier. An iconic destination on many bucket lists …exciting, wild, untamed and beautiful. Here’s your chance to tour America’s 49th state in just 48 days on Fantasy’s Heart of Alaska RV Caravan. Departing on the cusp of Summer — traveling from Dawson Creek to the northern reaches of Fairbanks, Alaska and the astonishing coast and Kenai Peninsula and south to Smithers, British Columbia, with a whole lot of fabulous wildlife, glaciers and open country along the way.
Our journey begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia with …the official Milepost ‘0’ of the Alaska Highway. Here we enjoy our Fantasy Welcome Dinner and participate in a presentation about the history, construction, challenges and triumphs of this great Highway. We’ve time to work with our Fantasy team of leaders to make sure our vehicles, supplies and expectations are properly prepared for the adventure to begin. We taking that necessary moment to commemorate the start of our journey north with a group photo at the Milepost gateway.
Day 3, we are on the road – headed for the friendly community of Fort Nelson, here we have the opportunity to explore the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum at our own pace, this museum is dedicated to the history of the construction of the Alaska Highway – with artifacts, equipment, stories and so much more.
The next day we make our way to beautiful Muncho Lake – home to Stone sheep and the occasional moose as well as Muncho Lake’s jade colored water. Just north of Muncho Lake we can take a short drive to the Liard River Hot Springs to soak in the soothing waters and enjoy the scenery.
We move onward to Watson Lake – the Gateway to the Yukon Territory – and home of the Sign Post Forest, started in 1942 by a homesick soldier who planted a sign for his home town – Danville, Illinois. Today, there are more than 72,000 home town signs posted, and growing! You too can be a part of this tradition by bringing a sign from your home town or simply make your own. We celebrate our Yukon arrival with a campground cookout this evening.
Our journey continues to Whitehorse, where we have earned a welcomed, three-day stop. With a population of 26,000, Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory and its largest city.
There’s plenty to do here, and Fantasy has arranged a Whitehorse bus tour, a visit to the SS Klondike (a restored sternwheeler and national historic site), time for a little downtown shopping, and visiting the Whitehorse Fish Ladder — which allows salmon to bypass the Whitehorse Rapids dam and continue their return journey from the Bering Sea to Whitehorse – nearly 2,000 miles and the longest salmon migration in the world. It’s really very interesting …through underwater windows, we gaze at the salmon making their way up this 1182 foot ladder rising 60 vertical feet. That evening, we revel in the past at the “Frantic Follies” Revue – a vaudeville show with entertainment similar to that seen by the Yukon settlers and miners of the past.
We stop for a Yukon lunch of bison burgers and then get to interact with a pack of Alaskan huskies at Muktuk Kennels, where mushing legend Frank Turner and his wife care for these amazing canine athletes. Expect lots of slobbery kisses and cuddle time!
We leave the Alaska Highway the next day and travel along the Klondike Loop as far as Dawson City, nestled along the banks of the Yukon River and where we spend the next three days visiting and reliving the Yukon gold rush days. We trek through historic buildings and back alleys on a guided walking tour, where we learn about the colorful characters who roamed the streets during this period. We spend an evening at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Canada’s first licensed gambling hall, complete with casino games, entertainers and cancan dancing by the high-kicking Gold Rush Girls. Finally, no trip to Dawson would be complete without some photographs from the Midnight Dome, where we capture panoramic views of the countryside.
Alaska! …or BUST! Today, we cross the Yukon River via ferry and begin our drive on the ‘Top of the World Highway’, winding our way along the top of mountain ranges for a truly breathtaking drive. We stop in the tiny town of Chicken for the night – one of the Last Frontier’s last surviving gold mining towns. How did it get such a weird name? It wasn’t named after chickens….originally the townsfolk wanted to call their new town Ptarmigan, after the local grouse which is now the Alaska state bird.
However, the community wasn’t exactly sure how to spell Ptarmigan, and not wanting to be the laughing stock of the new Alaska territory, they settled on Chicken instead. We could even order a chicken dinner at the local café if we wish, but we also tour the Pedro Dredge. Although we can’t guarantee you’ll strike it rich, you can at least try gold panning before our Alaskan dessert party. The next day, we’re off to Tok – aka the ‘Sled Dog Capital of Alaska’.
Continuing our journey north, and heading in to Fairbanks, where we can expect about 20 to 22 hours of daylight each day. Those sunny hours will be crammed full of activities here in Alaska’s second largest city! After a busy day, we head to an Alaska Salmon Bake – fresh salmon and Halibut caught in Alaskan waters, grilled to perfection.
After dinner, we stroll over to the Palace Theater to enjoy a comedy revue of life in Alaska’s Last Frontier. The next day we board a sternwheeler boat and cruise out into the Alaskan wilderness, looking for wildlife along the riverbank. We’ll see a floatplane take off right from the River and at a riverside fish camp to learn how and why Alaskans smoke salmon. Further down the river, we share in the joy and hard work of an Iditarod dog kennel operated by the family of late champion Susan Butcher. We’ll make an unforgettable stop at a constructed Athabascan village, where native Alaskan guides show us around, giving us insight into their rich history and heritage, and top it off with hearty miner’s stew for lunch.
Later, we take a narrow-gauge train ride to Gold Dredge 8 where we see first-hand how the dredge worked the gold fields. Back at camp, we try panning ourselves – and this time, maybe we really will strike it rich!
Our long days in Fairbanks continue with a visit to the University of Alaska Museum, where we experience native cultures, natural wonders, diverse wildlife and more than 2,000 years of Alaska art. We cool off at the Fairbanks Ice Museum viewing imaginative and creative ice sculptures and sculpting demonstrations.
At the Trans Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center, we find informational displays about the 800-mile pipeline which snakes its way across the tundra, delivering ‘black gold’ to the lower 48. We even take a day off, you can just relax back at camp or do some exploring on your own, even including optional excursions to the Arctic Circle or to the North Pole Santa Claus House, where it’s Christmas every day!
We leave Fairbanks’ ‘big city’ life behind and travel to Denali. Here, we journey 62 miles into Denali National Park – with incredible scenery, tour narration on our bus, and some great opportunities to look for the park’s wildlife inhabitants, including Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears. If it’s a clear day, we may get an amazing view of Mt. Denali from base to summit. There’s even time in this beautiful location for some optional whitewater rafting on the glacially-fed Nenana River.
Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city might be quite cosmopolitan, but it still maintains the frontier spirit. There’s even a salmon stream in the heart of the city, and mighty urban moose can often be seen grazing along the freeways right next to tall buildings. We explore the city’s past and present on a guided tour complete with lunch, and share the heritage of Alaska’s eleven major cultures at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
It’s a short drive to Homer, and Fantasy has left us with plenty of free time in this charming town. Why? Homer is the ‘end of the road’, actually it’s only the end of the Sterling Highway …but it is surrounded by wilderness and ocean. It’s also known as the ‘Halibut Fishing Capital of the World’, and many Fantasy guests use this opportunity to make some extremely large catches! And for those who don’t want to go halibut fishing, our full service RV park is located right on the famous Homer Spit with a private beach and lagoon fully stocked with both King and Silver salmon. But it’s not all about fish – Homer offers a number of interesting boutique shops, eateries and eclectic art galleries; there’s a bike path along the Spit and opportunities for bear viewing. Homer is also the starting point for some very interesting optional excursions to view bears or even the art community of Seldovia.
We move on to Seward, located at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. Here there are more optional charter fishing opportunities, and so much more – Seward is one of Alaska’s oldest and most scenic communities and its ice-free harbor serves as a natural gateway to Alaska’s huge interior. The city was officially founded in 1903 and was named for President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. After a short walk through the forest we encounter Exit Glacier, and we follow its gradual melting path over the past 120 years. We visit the Alaska Sea Life Center and learn about their work and research of marine mammals, birds and fish in the arctic, and meet some very cute puffins up close and personal at the Puffin Experience.
Traveling the Glenn Highway, we spend the night in Palmer, home of Matanuska Valley’s legendary giant vegetables. Years ago, this area was covered by glaciers and the silt left behind (combined with long daylight hours) made the area very fertile – hence a wide variety of vegetables. Here, we’ll enjoy a campground cookout before continuing on to Valdez.
Our stay in Valdez leaves time for optional salmon fishing trips in this outdoor paradise. We take a day cruise of the majestic waters of Prince William Sound, on the lookout for sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, humpback whales, porpoise, eagles, and puffins on our way to Meares Glacier, the only tidewater glacier at the head of the Unakwik Inlet in the Chugach National Forest.
Heading back to Tok for the night, we then cross back into Yukon Territory, camping at Destruction Bay, home to 43 hardy souls, some of whom put on a special Yukon dinner and show for us. Then it’s back to Alaska and on to the charming town of Skagway.
More than 400 cruise ships stop in Skagway each year, disgorging thousands of visitors into this small town and making it look as it did when it boomed during the Gold Rush days. But these people only get to stay for a few hours in this historic location – our group is here for four fun-filled days. We begin with a cruise to Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. We sail through the Lynn Canal, the continent’s longest and deepest glacial fjord, where humpback whales and other sea life take advantage of the glacial nutrients feeding these waters. Once in Juneau, we board a motor coach and enjoy a city tour and time for lunch in Juneau before heading to the world famous Mendenhall Glacier. Back in Skagway, we take an unforgettable journey on the ‘Scenic Railway of the World’ traveling 20 miles to the summit of the White Pass, relaxing in vintage railroad coaches and enjoying breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and historic sites, including the original Klondike Trail. Our Skagway grand finale is spent at the ‘Days of ’98 Show’, the tale of Soapy Smith — Alaska’s most notorious outlaw. Con man Soapy reigned over Skagway during the wildest days of the Klondike Gold Rush, and his story is retold in this fun vaudevillian musical.
Our next stop is in Teslin, YT, the former home of photographer George Johnston who using a brownie box camera, self-taught skills and a rough dark room in the corner of his bush cabin, produced hundreds of photographs depicting the life of the Tinglit people. We stop at the George Johnston Museum where his works are lovingly displayed. The next day it’s on to Nugget City, continuing to Dease Lake, British Columbia where we enjoy another campground dinner.
We move on to Stewart, right on the U.S./Canadian border. Crossing back into Alaska we drive to eclectic Hyder, driving under a hand painted sign which reads ‘The friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska’. With a town population of about 87, Hyder has no law enforcement, uses Canadian currency and the B.C. time zone (even though we’re in the U.S.), has no grocery store, gets mail service twice a week via the mail plane from Ketchikan and naturally has two saloons. Why are we here? We’re going to see the bears at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site just out of town. Both grizzly and black bears come here to fish for salmon. Here’s our chance to see and photograph an epic Alaskan scene – bears in their natural habitat in this beautiful glacial river valley.
Forty-seven days after our rendezvous at Milepost 0 in Dawson Creek, we arrive in Smithers. We enjoy a Farewell Dinner, reminiscing about our Alaskan adventures and the time we’ve spent together. It’s been an experience like no other exploring this great, Last Frontier.