This guaranteed to depart tour will show you how innovative and hardy farmers are successfully growing crops in some of the world's most challenging (and stunningly beautiful) regions. This very off the beaten track tour commences in Alaska, ventures into the Yukon Territory, cruises the Inside Passage, follows in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and stampedes into Calgary – all the while meeting up with farmers with a passion to succeed.
Depart various Australian capitals for Anchorage, Alaska with connecting flight options including Honolulu, Los Angeles or Vancouver. Depending on the airline, departure maybe the afternoon of June 24. On arrival in Anchorage, we are met and transferred to our hotel for a well-earned rest.
This evening we will meet with our Alaskan-based tour director and be given an overview of the adventure ahead of us.
(*Option to leave earlier than the main tour and enjoy some extra time in Hawaii or Alaska. There are numerous ‘bucket list’ options such as a enjoying a few days in an Alaskan wilderness lodge. This is peak trout and salmon – and bear viewing – season).
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Anchorage. With a population of over 300,000, Anchorage is home to around 40% of all Alaskans. We will also be given on overview of Alaskan agriculture including grain, hay and forage production. Lunch in a downtown restaurant and then it’s a free afternoon.
Every summer Saturday and Sunday, the Anchorage Market & Festival involves more than 300 vendors spread over 7 acres of downtown Anchorage. A wide variety of Alaskan-made goods and food from all over the world are on sale and there’s free entertainment.
You can also enjoy an optional float plane or helicopter flight over the magnificent surrounds (our Alaskan tour director can help with those options).
We board our charter coach this morning and travel north to the agricultural community of Palmer where world record monster size vegetables grow in the 24-hour daylight. We also visit the Palmer Visitor Center Botanical Gardens to learn about the early colonists who came to farm this very rich land in the mid-1930s. The Musk Ox Farm introduces us to these Paleolithic ruminants.
Later this afternoon we enter the magnificent Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali encompasses 2.4 million hectares of Alaska’s interior wilderness, its centerpiece being the 6200 m (20,310 ft) Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. The park is also home to grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou and Dall sheep and of course, spectacular scenery.
This evening will be at your leisure for optional tours such as guided hikes, flightseeing, white water river rafting and other activities.
This morning we travel deep into Denali National Park. Our journey is fully narrated by a naturalist and we have a great opportunity to see the resident wildlife.
We also visit the community of Nenana – nestled beside the Tanana River – where we learn about the Nenana Ice Classic. Ice on the Tanana accumulates each winter to a depth of around 110 cm. The Nenana Ice Classic is a fundraiser for local charities. It began in 1917, and is an annual guessing game about the exact date and time of the Tanana River ice break-up at the town of Nenana. Over the years, the break-up date has varied from April 20 to May 20. Each year, thousands of people pay a few dollars for each guess. The record prize has been around $350,000.
We continue on to Fairbanks, with a population of 32,000, it is the largest city of the Alaskan interior.
This morning we visit the Fairbank’s Experimental Farm and the Large Animal Research facility.
Afterwards, as we travel to the southeast along the Alaska-Canada Highway, we will have views of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and hear stories about the building of this pipeline as well as the Highway.
We have lunch at Rika’s Roadhouse – one of the few remaining roadhouses along this Alaskan corridor – before visiting Wrigley Farms, a 1700 acre operation with the only commercial wheat and barley flour mill in Alaska.
We also visit Delta Meat and Sausage – a family owned business priding themselves on using only Alaskan grown produce. Continue onto Tok for overnight.
Today we turn to the northeast and onto the historic Taylor Hwy. This is a route through gold mining history. Prospectors searched for gold in this region well before the famous Klondike stampede of 1897. As early as 1881, gold-bearing gravels were discovered foreshadowing the area’s future reputation as the richest goldfield in the Yukon valley.
Communities such as Jack Wade, Chicken (originally named after Alaska’s state bird, the Ptarmigan, but the early residents couldn’t spell it!), Franklin, and Steele Creek established almost overnight. Miners quickly wore a series of trails which later became wagon roads that, in turn, became parts of the Taylor Hwy. The highway was built during the winter of 1945–46 and completed in 1951.
We travel through magnificent valleys and open taiga forests – keep your eyes open for moose, bear and other wildlife – before turning east and onto the ‘Top of the World’ Hwy and our border crossing into Canada and the mighty Yukon Territory.
The Yukon has a grandeur and beauty only appreciated by experience. Few places on the planet have been so unchanged over the course of time. We continue along the Top of the World Hwy, with its spectacular views, before crossing the Yukon River (by ferry) and arriving at historic Dawson City.
Dawson City was the centre of the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1896 it was a quiet First Nations camp – two years later it was a thriving city of 40,000 people. By 1899, the gold rush had ended and the town’s population plummeted. The population dropped again after World War II when the Alaska Hwy bypassed it 480 km to the south.
The current official population is around 1400 but with today’s high price of gold, local mining operations are profitable, and along with the growth of the tourism industry, Dawson City is a well-serviced community with modern and comfortable facilities.
Today we visit some of the local attractions. For those keen to jump back on board a bus again, there is an optional (5 to 6 hour) tour to Tombstone Territorial Park. This is an area of exceptional beauty 2 hours or so along the (in)famous Dempster Hwy.
Today we head south along the Klondike Hwy and onto Whitehorse. This is 500 km along an excellent paved road through utter wilderness. The highway loosely follows the original winter overland route to the Klondike goldfields first used in 1902.
This scenic drive offers views of the Tintina Trench (geological fault) which extends from the Northern Rocky Mountain Trench in British Columbia, Five Finger Rapids and many spectacular lakes. Keep an eye out for moose, black bear, elk, caribou, fox and other wildlife.
Straddling the Yukon River, Whitehorse is the capital and largest city (28,000 population) of the Territory. For trivia buffs, Whitehorse, as reported by Guinness World Records, is the city with the least air pollution in the world. It is also the agricultural capital of the Yukon.
Less than two per cent of Yukon’s 483,450 square kms is suitable for agricultural development because of limitations of geography, climate and soils. Farming takes passion and hard work to produce high quality products. Cooperative equipment, new farming techniques and funding have helped improve the viability of farms. These farms provide fresh, healthy products for local consumption. Yukon’s agricultural and agri-food industry continues to be relatively small, but it is vibrant and diverse.
Agriculture is considered on lands south of 64.5° north. The Yukon has a sub-arctic continental climate, with temperatures reaching as high as 30°C in the summer and as low as –50°C in the winter. The average frost-free period ranges from 93 to 21 days which varies substantially from year to year at any location. Long hours of daylight during the summer promote rapid growth and compensate, to some extent, for the cooler summer temperatures. Adequate heat units are the largest environmental/agricultural constraint. Rainfall ranges from about 200 mm to more than 400 mm.
We visit the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center which focuses on the animals and way of life during the ice age. We also get to meet some canine friends with a visit to a working sled dog team. We learn how the team operates and how the dogs are worked. We have a free evening.
Today we continue 170 km south along the Klondike Hwy. We cross once again into Alaska (US) before reaching the Pacific Ocean and Skagway. Situated at the head of the Lynn Canal, Skagway is now a busy tourist port town with up to five cruise ships a day docking during the peak summer period.
Historically, it was the stepping-off point for thousands of fossickers seeking their fortunes in the Klondike. Later this morning you have some free time in Skagway to enjoy lunch at your leisure - and maybe explore some of the many shopping opportunities - before boarding our private boat charter to Juneau.
This afternoon we enjoy some of the incredible sights of the famed Alaskan Inside Passage including the chance to have up close (but safe) encounters with whales, bears and glaciers. Our charter delivers us to Juneau then it’s a free evening to enjoy July 4 (US Independence Day) celebrations.
Some free time this morning before transfer to the airport and our direct (2 hr 20 min) flight south to Seattle, Washington state. Our charter coach meets us at the airport and we are transferred to our downtown hotel – home for the next 2 nights.
Free evening to enjoy Seattle’s famous cultural and entertainment precinct.
This morning we have breakfast at Pike Place Market overlooking the historic Elliott Bay waterfront. The market opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the US. We then enjoy a guided city tour, including the famous Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit/museum, and other Seattle sights. In the afternoon, you have the option of doing the famous Boeing factory tour and visiting The Future of Flight Aviation Center. Here we enter the world’s largest (by volume) building to see where the 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft are built.
The afternoon and evening is essentially yours to relax or do your own exploration of this exciting city. Perhaps dinner atop the nearby (and revolving) Space Needle might appeal.
Along with USDA agronomist Frank Young, we board our charter coach early this morning and travel southeast into the spectacular scenery and farmlands of the Pacific North West (PNW). The PNW takes in the US states of Oregon, Washington and a part of western Idaho – an area bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west. Nearly a quarter of the land area in this region is agricultural.
Wheat, barley, hops, fruit and vegetables and dairy production are the farming mainstays. And the PNW is flourishing due to access to water, strong demand for agricultural land and a favourable farming environment. The Columbia Basin Irrigated region in central Washington is widely considered one of the best places to farm in the entire US. The Columbia River is the largest US river emptying into the Pacific.
We visit farms in the Columbia River valley before picking up the trail of the famed explorers, Lewis and Clark, and head east towards the Snake River. At 1735 km long, the Snake is the largest tributary of the Columbia River. We are in the region called the Palouse prairie – or simply the Palouse – noteworthy for its fertile rolling hills where winter and spring wheat, barley, lentils, and peas are grown. We cross the border into Idaho and our overnight destination of Moscow (we might have taken a very left turn somewhere?).
Today we track eastwards following the Clearwater River towards Missoula before heading south into the Bitteroot Mountains – a part of the spectacular Rockies. We follow fertile farming valleys before arriving at the small town of Salmon, famed for whitewater rafting and fishing. The Salmon River is one of the longest free flowing (ie. unregulated), rivers in the US. The area boasts an abundance of wildlife such as deer, elk, black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, cougar, moose, bobcat, coyote, red fox, etc. It’s Friday night in the Rockies!
We continue southeast this morning before crossing the border into Wyoming and the spectacular 130,0000 hectare Grand Teton National Park. The 4000 m Grand Teton peak towers over the valley known as Jackson Hole. The park is famous for mountaineering, hiking, backcountry camping and fishing. Just 16 km to the north is Yellowstone National Park, the first National Park in the US (and arguably the world’s first). Protecting around 900,000 hectares of wilderness, Yellowstone is known for its diverse wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful Geyser.
With our specialist Yellowstone guide, we enjoy guided touring of the major attractions of the Park then some free time in the afternoon.
This morning we travel north and into Montana, one of the top wheat producing states of the US. We visit research facilities and farms in the ‘Golden Triangle’ – an area encompassing Shelby, Havre and Great Falls (the southern point of the inverted triangle). Pulse production is also a major activity in Montana. The Golden Triangle region produces about 45% of Montana’s wheat crop each year.
More farm and cultural visits in the Golden Triangle as we travel north through Shelby and into Alberta, Canada. We visit a farm in the vast western prairies before arriving in Lethbridge. This is a major centre for both dryland and irrigated cropping as well as beef and dairy production.
We meet with Agri-Food Canada researchers this morning before travelling north through magnificent farmlands towards Calgary. We visit another farm before a late afternoon arrival in Calgary – and it’s Stampede time! This evening we have tickets for the spectacular chuck-wagon races and variety show.
It’s back to Stampede Park this morning with free time to visit the many farming and livestock exhibits before taking your grandstand seats for the afternoon rodeo events. Free evening.
We travel west this morning through rich farmlands to Canmore and the option of an unforgettable 30 minute helicopter flight over the Mt Assiniboine Glacier. Dubbed the ‘Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies’ Mt Assiniboine rises majestically to 3611 metres along the Great Divide. The surrounding valleys, glaciers and icefalls are astounding. We continue onto Banff National Park and marvel at the incomparable beauty of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake before returning to Banff in time to enjoy a spectacular gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Free evening.
Today we travel north along the lcefields Parkway – one of the most spectacular drives in the world. This is a wilderness habitat for elk, big horn sheep, moose, mountain goats and bear. Waterfalls, emerald lakes, alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks complete the scene as we wind along the shoulder of the Great Divide. We arrive at the Columbia Icefield covering nearly 325 square km. Melt water from the icefield feeds rivers emptying into three different oceans: North to the Arctic; East to the Atlantic; and, West to the Pacific. We have a guided tour of the icefield and glaciers in purpose-built buggies. We return to Banff for our farewell dinner and overnight.
An option today is to board one of the world’s great train journeys and travel with the Rocky Mountaineer on their ‘First Passage to the West’ route from Banff to Vancouver (with an overnight stop in Kamloops). We will travel through Canada’s stunning Rocky Mountains (including the famous spiral tunnels - more than 100 years on and still an engineering marvel) and pass by monumental landmarks from the early days of the railway. This legendary route is famous for uniting Canada’s east and west.
We arrive in Vancouver early evening of the 18th and are transferred to our hotel.
The discounted cost we have negotiated for this Rocky Mountaineer add-on – including transfers and overnight accommodation (July 18) with breakfast, at the Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver is:
Silverleaf class $1950 per person; or,
Goldleaf class $2590 per person.
*Please note if viewing the Rocky Mountaineer journey details and price on their website, the overnight accommodation in Vancouver is not included.
Those not taking the Rocky Mountaineer train option are transferred to Calgary for their connecting flights home.