A CHANGE REGARDING OUR SCHEDULING
For several years we have offered a flexible scheduling program for our Prince William Sound trip. It has been working well enough for us to try it in our Arctic trips as well. Wilderness Alaska conducts small personalized Alaska trips; it is our specialty. Having flexible scheduling allows us to be as helpful to you as possible. We are not big business processing faceless tourists. We are a company that makes friends and shares experiences.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
Below is a listing of all our trips for 2017. Beside them is the "season" we feel is most appropriate for that trip, that is when that part of Alaska sparkles. Look through the trip listings, select the trip that seems most interesting and then call us to discuss dates. Three outcomes are likely. First, your proposed dates might fit in our schedule and we will adopt them. Secondly, we may already have that trip scheduled, but for slightly different dates that may work with your schedule. And lastly, we may have a similar experience which we can recommend that will fit in your travel plans. Working with small groups means we are never very far from filling a trip.
None of the pack raft trips have a price. Please call about the trip you are interested in. The largest part of the trip is logistics and that will change with our distance from the pilot’s headquarters. The rest of the trip price will be determined by how much equipment and advanced preparation you will be bringing to the trip, so best to talk about it directly.
During the last couple summers we are having an increasing number of couples visiting Prince William Sound book custom trips. It requires an additional fee which represents the extra responsibility of covering all logistical cost rather than sharing them throughout a group, but they have been very relaxing and successful outings. We will gladly help design such experiences for you anywhere we do trips.
SUMMER 2018 SCHEDULE
PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND, SEA KAYAKING - $1850
May 22 - 29, July 15 - 21, and August 12 - 18
We have used this spring trip to celebrate the beginning of the field season since the 80s. This is OUR New Year’s party. Winter is over and exploring has returned. Prince William Sound changes dramatically throughout the summer and in late May there is a transparency that does not last long. Fragile new growth dangles thinly and precariously revealing the inner deep dark forest to all those present. Many land mammals are busy harvesting nutrients along the now snow bare beaches while the marine mammals are more at ease patrolling their usual pelagic haunts. Night is gone. The mountain tops and hillsides for the most part are still shrouded under deep blankets of snow and this adds to the illusion of their unquestionable glory. On a blue sky day these mountains seem twice as tall as they are . We will pick a travel route that optimizes the spring break up and the welcoming beaches that have abandoned winter’s grasp. This year we will explore the west and northern coast of Knight Island, an area noted for lots of marine mammals and many pleasant upland hikes with commanding views. Prince William Sound changes dramatically through the short summer and so the July and August trips will celebrate this progression as the rain forest greens up and then ripens with fall harvest.
KONGAKUT RIVER - $5250
June 21 - 30, July 25 - August 3, and August 3 - 12
Perhaps the number one contender for Wilderness Alaska’s favorite arctic river trip. We have decided to return our focus on the Arctic Refuge after several years exploring western Alaska’s NPR-A. Another assault is underway to open the Refuge to Industry which is just a reminder to appreciate what you have everyday. A symphony of breeding birds, a dynamic palette of color during the peak bloom of wildflowers and with luck, a parade of caribou. Expect excellent hikes and incredible scenery. Thus there is no better place to celebrate the explosion of the Arctic spring than here. In fact, the river’s numerous wonderful hikes are it’s most frustrating attribute for there isn’t nearly enough time to do even half of them. By trip’s end you will have also probably seen most of the classic arctic mammals and loads of migratory birds from several continents. I could go on, but it would be embarrassing and unnecessary; this is an Arctic classic. This is the standard mountain/foothills trip ending at Caribou Pass and with so many great places to explore we generally move everyday, floating for half the day and hiking the remainder. The endless daylight energizes us during this busy schedule. Though the birds aren’t in full on breeding mode and the flowers are a little past prime, the country is still green and the hikes are all still there and the extra elbow room may make it the perfect trip for you.
KONGAKUT FOOTHILLS PACK RAFT TRIP
June 30 - July 6 and August 12 - 17
Last summer, I started to envision how one might use pack rafts to enhance a Kongakut float trip. I am still of the mind that if the river floats it, take the larger boat, you’ll have more fun; I know it’s true. But I’ve come to see that to exploit some of the more interest ridge walks a small boat might open some fun loop possibilities. I have also always believed that some of the best habitat on the Kongakut are the last foothills. I thought of a couple ways how one might use the packrat to extend the float/ridgewalk experience in this hard to reach part of the river. Spending more time looking at the map, I realize that there are a number of interesting routes in this zone. There is a range of trip options from easy short hiking sections and simple paddle sections to more classic cross country travel. But none are just a little boat in a big river, they all include high country hikes and a array of drainages.
MARSH FORK RIVER - $4795
July 25 - August 1
The Limestone formations of the Marsh Fork are spectacular. With the sun at its zenith, these mountains are constantly changing in the revolving light of solstice. One could sit in one spot all day and be amazed by the way the light plays on the intricate features of the hillsides commanding your attention. Though there will be time to sit around, that won’t be featured on our ‘to do’ list. This is a shorter trip with regard to river miles which leaves plenty of time for hiking. Though there are plenty of peak bagging opportunities, there are also some very interesting erosional features that can feel like SW desert slot canyon hiking; we’ll probably do some of both. The river is clear and fast, there are long sections of fun whitewater in between big braided sections of classical ephemeral arctic waterways. And at this time of year, we will pass by a few of the unique and totally arctic aufeis fields which leaves no mistaking where you are. Though we do have a chance at seeing several species of mammals there is a hungriness about the land that doesn’t support as much wildlife as other valleys. This is peak breeding period for birds, so they may become the wildlife highlight.
For better or worse, the Marsh Fork is located entirely in the mountain zone habitat; therefore it’s more of a high grading trip rather than a sampler. It is perfect for mountain lovers on a time budget. And without question it is scheduled solidly during the most glorious days of high summer.
LATITUDE 69 TRAVERSE PACK RAFT TRIP
August 1 - 8
Pack rafting is not for everyone, but if you have a sense of adventure, sturdy back and a tolerance to ignore inconvenience then this sport is something to consider. This year’s version will not be as aggressive as a few in the past. It is somewhat shorter and reliant on paddling to make our traverse from mountains to ocean. Therefore a solid foundation of fundamental boating skills is important. We start at the head waters of a major river within the view shed of the tallest mountain of the Brooks Range, Mt Chamberlain. We will start with both boats and packs walking downstream just long enough to gather up enough water to float. Early on there will be a few challenges that may need portaging. In time the river will settle down and we will take it to the northern slope of the final foothills and a warm springs. One of the great aspects of pack rafting is the ability to travel several drainages; the boats make miles and your feet switch venues. It enriches the experience by adding to the variability. From this foothills location, we will hike over to a food cache (a weight saving gift as nice as christmas) before continuing on along the spine of the northern foothills range. Discovery is still high on my own list and this final section is my reward of new country. We’ll drop back down to the coastal plain along a river that should eventually be floatable and is a tributary to the river we will float down to the coast.
The entire region is quite productive. Early on there should be great wildlife viewing as well as a near constant view of Mt Chamberlain. The rock beds are filled with fossils and there are many signs that the country has been important to man for thousands of years. The coastal plain is always much more interesting to people than what they imagine. And everyone loves the ocean, even cold ones still entertain.
The trip is slightly shorter then in the past, has the one cache and relies on most of our miles made from the boats so it should take some of the suffer out of the notorious hardships associated with this mode of travel. It will still be work. Call if you are interested in trying something new and extraordinary.
MARSH FORK AND CANNING RIVERS - $5095
July 25 - August 1
These two rivers are perfect compliments to one another. What one doesn’t have the other does and between the two there is a remarkably comprehensive overview of the Refuge. The Canning is monumental in terms of scale and diversity. The Marsh Fork is spectacular in terms of scenery exploring and vistas. The trip starts exploring the hills and hollows of the Marsh Fork with lots of walking less paddling and even our best whitewater action. When we join the main river the panoramas get ‘panoriffic’ and scale gets much harder to get a hold of. We paddle more and walk a little less but the variety of things increases exponentially. Wildlife, birds and mammals increase dramatically as well. The most common comment at the end of the trip was how surprised people were to discover how interesting the lower section of the river is.
All said and done, one can usually see all the large mammals with the possibility of large numbers of caribou. There is fantastic birding along the whole route, but especially further north where the loons and raptors are more concentrated.
This time of year sees the return of sunsets and the inevitable end of endless days. In the beginning these are the nights of long long sunsets where the sun skips along the horizon before stumbling below for a couple hours. Almost the entire section of the main river has unobscured views of this odd nightly solar passage. The tundra takes on color and there is a sense that the animals know its time to start packing. We float out the foothills and part way out onto the coastal plain. At our take out we are only about 16 miles from the ocean and will wander out to an overlook to take it all in. With luck we will be serenaded by a pair of yellow billed loons as we stare out over this last piece of North America.
LOWER CANNING TO THE COAST, PACKRAFT
August 16 - 21
Pack raft trips are well known as very tough outings. On this trip we are using the boats as a convenience. Though one of the biggest rivers in the Refuge the lower section braids into dozens of small channels before making it to saltwater. Switching to the little rafts allows a greater cushion as the route gets much less obvious. Once at the coast, the most reliable airstrips are several miles away. Once again, we can choose to paddle the saltwater if the conditions allow or choose to link large coastal plain lakes and if all else fails, roll up the boats and walk. I have never made this section and look forward to discovering a new place buzzing with birds preparing for migration as well as all the normal creatures of this distinct habitat. As a very short trip we can cheat the normal restraints of pack rafting and bring a few luxuries to make life more comfortable. In the ideal world this is mostly a paddle trip.
4x2 SOUTHSIDE PACK RAFT TRIP
August 6 - 17
This trip breaks from our tradition of traversing the north slope. I have traveled the upper section several times by boat and foot and it is gorgeous in a Marsh Fork kind of way. I spotted the final canyon which looked like a perfect scale for the pack rafts from a flight back to Coldfoot. The ‘tweens are a cartographer’s connection linking both these treasures. I am calling this trip the 4x2 which represents the fact that we will paddle on 4 different drainages requiring 2 portages. Optimistically this translates into about 30 miles of hiking and ~100 miles of paddling. Crunching the numbers it’s a fairly equal outing to our classic epic north slope traverse trips just in an opposite direction. We start above tree line not far from the continental divide and spend about a third of the time in the alpine habitat before we drop into the boreal forest. Autumn colors should be starting and there will be long evenings of dusk starting to allow for star and aurora gazing improving each evening as the days shorten by 14 minutes. The trees provide wood which adds a new level of comfort unfamiliar to our north slope trips. Pack rafting is a wet and cold sport, so this should be a real treat.
The trip is comparable to the epics of the past. Boating skills are a necessity. We will be in the boats most of the time. The drainages are small and technical. Once we enter the forest there is the constant issue of sweepers. Some tight corners may require walk arounds. This is an original outing. You will have the satisfaction of saying you did something no one else has, but you’ll need to accept the responsibility of never quite knowing what is in store. We may have the luxury of a cache after the first portage but we won’t escape all the notorious hardships associated with this mode of travel. It will still be work. Call if you are interested in trying something new and extraordinary.
SHEENJEK RIVER - $5050
August 27 - Sept 5
We have been using the Wind River as our fall colors trip for the last several years. Before that it was the Sheenjek which can legitimately be called the birthplace of the idea of the original Arctic Refuge. Olaus and Marty Murie concocted the idea way back when and pitched it in situ to many conservation heavies. In fact we can even find signs of that camp along our way. So we are planning a return to this long time old favorite. This is a long, relatively lazy paddle trip through the open tiaga habitat. A wild and scenic river on the south side of the Brooks Range it is a perfect place for us to float through fabulous fall colors by day and stand by on aurora watch in the evenings. With an abundance of wood there will always be welcome warming companion fire to accompany the aurora watch parties.
There is a reasonable chance to find some of the Porcupine caribou herd as well as many of the other large mammals that prowl this habitat. Lynx and river otters are two which are virtually exclusive to this region and we may be more likely to see black bears than the brown bears we see all summer. Archeologists have found nearly a hundred sites of early American hunters here and we will find plenty as well. There are several lakes in the upper section of the trip which are good homesites for loons and swans. This is a great farewell to summer outing.