This Kropping the Klondike tour will show you – in spectacular fashion – 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 includes Alaska, ventures into the Yukon Territory, cruises the Inside Passage, railroads through the Rockies, follows in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and stampedes into Calgary – all the while meeting up with farmers with a passion to succeed.
One of the many highlights will be a visit to the famous Calgary Stampede, an event not to be missed.
Unless you have made your own alternative arrangements, you will be met at Vancouver airport and will be transferred to our hotel for a freshen up. Welcome dinner this evening.
Those group members choosing to arrive a few days early might like to visit the nearby and spectacular Vancouver Island – home of the very quaint capital of British Columbia, Victoria. At around 500 km long and 100 km wide, Vancouver Island offers a wide and colourful range of sightseeing options and activities including the world renowned Butchart Gardens through to magnificent wilderness areas where remote fishing and bear viewing are definite bucket list items.
Morning guided tour of Vancouver to help get your bearings and then a free afternoon to do your own exploration of this beautiful city and location. Dinner this evening is at one of Vancouver’s famous downtown restaurants – Kirin.
We board our charter coach this morning and travel east into British Columbia and the fertile and very scenic Fraser and Okanagan River valleys. Most of the annual agricultural revenue generated in the province of BC comes from these two mighty river valleys. The Okanagan, centred on the town of Kelowna, is a region of particular beauty. Agriculture has been focused primarily on fruit orchards, grain and pasture production as well as vineyards. We will visit farms in the region before arriving at Kelowna for overnight.
This morning we travel northwards along the magnificent shores of Okanagan Lake towards Kamloops – located near the confluence of the north and south branches of the Thompson River. More farm visits and scenic stops along the way. Kamloops is also a freight and transportation hub where several highways and transcontinental rail lines converge. Overnight Kamloops.
This morning we board our train for our journey eastward, bound for Canada’s stunning Rocky Mountains. In dome car comfort, the amazing scenery changes gradually from rolling plateau, interspersed with irrigation areas, through to the lusher, evergreen forests farther north. Narrow farming valleys bordered by mountains on both sides, forests, logging camps and small communities roll on by. When we enter the Rockies, sights such as Mt Robson (at 3594 m, the highest point of the Canadian Rockies), snow fed rivers, alpine meadows and the local wildlife will keep the cameras clicking. We will travel through tunnels and across rail bridges which, more than 100 years on, are still engineering marvels. This legendary rail route is famous for helping to unite Canada’s east and west in the early 1900s. This train journey not only crosses the Continental Divide, by late afternoon, it delivers us into another province (Alberta) and the beautiful Jasper National Park.
Today we board our charter coach and travel south. We are travelling 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 Continental Divide. The Columbia Icefield covers 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 call into Lake Louise to drink in its incomparable beauty whilst enjoying lunch (a very special high tea) in the luxurious Fairview room of the Fairmont Chateau. There's time for a paddle on Lake Louise, or whatever else floats your boat, before continuing on later this afternoon to nearby Banff. Free evening.
This morning we visit nearby Moraine Lake and other majestic sights. We return to Banff by late morning and it's time to enjoy lunch, shopping, sightseeing etc at your leisure.
At 3 pm this afternoon, those opting for the chopper flight will enjoy an unforgettable 30 minutes over the Mt Assiniboine Glacier region. The flights depart from Canmore, around 15 minutes east of Banff. 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.
Late this afternoon the whole group will take the spectacular gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain before enjoying dinner.
We board our coach this morning and head into the rolling eastern foothills of the Rockies – and magnificent farming and grazing country. With our Canadian farm specialist on board for the next few days, we track north to Red Deer with farm visits along the way. We will also visit a Hutterite colony where very traditional lifestyles belie the sophistication of their large scale farming operations.
We continue to the southeast this morning and the amazing farming vistas of the “badlands” surrounding Drumheller. As we will discover, the badlands moniker does an injustice to the very good farms, and farmers, in the area. The soils and geology around Drumheller create a unique window into the world of fossils, particularly dinosaurs. We visit The Royal Tyrrell Museum – a world-famed centre of palaeontological research – before overnight in Drumheller.
This morning we head to Calgary – and it’s Stampede time! Our hotel is in
downtown Calgary. You can head out to the nearby Stampede Park (about a 5 minute light rail ride or a 20 min walk) to visit the many farming, livestock and handicraft exhibits or take in some of the live music on offer. This evening we have tickets for the finals of the spectacular chuck-wagon races and variety show.
It’s free time in Calgary this morning – or out at Stampede Park. We have
grandstand seats booked for this afternoon’s finals of the richest rodeo events in the world contested by the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world. Then it’s a free evening.
Time to saddle up and head south this morning through fertile and scenic farming country where the foothills of the Rockies meet the Great Plains. We continue through Claresholm and call into the quaintly named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump exhibit. Here we discover one of the world’s oldest, largest, and best preserved buffalo jumps. The jump bears witness to a method of hunting practiced by native people of the North American plains for nearly 6,000 years.
The site is World Heritage listed and provides a great insight into the proud history and culture of the native North Americans.
We cross into the US and Montana’s Glacier National Park. The Park features pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains and spectacular lakes.
Evidence of human use in this area dates back to over 10,000 years. The Blackfeet Indians controlled the vast prairies east of the mountains, while the Salish and Kootenai Indians lived in the western valleys, traveling over the mountains in search of game and to hunt the great herds of buffalo on the eastern plains.
The first European explorers came into this region in search of beaver and other pelts. They were soon followed by miners and, eventually, settlers and homesteaders looking for land. By 1891, the completion of the Great Northern Railway sealed the area’s fate, allowing a greater number of people to enter into the heart of northwest Montana. In 1910, US President Taft signed the bill establishing Glacier as the country’s 10th national park. Over 1 million acres of this beautiful region is now preserved.
Our visit to Glacier will include travel along the Going-To-The-Sun Road – as the name suggests, it is about the most spectacular 80 km of road imaginable.
Continue to the southwest today, crossing the Continental Divide and into Idaho. Rich farmlands open up as we enter 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. Overnight in the agricultural/university town of Pullman.
Along with our local farm specialist/advisor, we board our charter coach early this morning and travel west into the spectacular scenery and farmlands of the Pacific North West (PNW – Oregon, Washington and a part of western Idaho). Nearly a quarter of the land area in this region is grain, hay, fruit and dairy farming.
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 as we travel west. Late afternoon arrival into the beautiful seaport city of Seattle, one of the most liveable cities in the US.
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. Our final visit on the tour is the famous Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit/museum. And we arrive via the Seattle monorail which opened in 1962 as part of the Seattle World Fair. Chihuly is a 5 minute walk from our hotel giving you plenty of time to enjoy the glass garden – and lunch at your leisure – before meeting the bus at the hotel at 2 pm.
From the hotel we will head north to Everett for the famous Boeing factory tour and Future of Flight Aviation Center. Here you enter the world’s largest (by volume) building to see where the 747, 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft are built.
On return to Seattle, the evening is yours to relax or do your own exploration of this exciting city. Dinner tonight atop the nearby, and revolving, Space Needle might appeal – but booking ahead is recommended.
This morning we transfer to the airport for our 2 hr 20 min flight north to Juneau, the gateway to the famed Alaskan Inside Passage. On arrival we are transferred to the nearby marina where we board our 65 foot catamaran and cruise north to enjoy some of the incredible sights of the spectacular Lynn Canal waterway – including a good chance of up close encounters with whales, seals, bears, eagles and other wildlife.
Our destination is at the head of the Lynn Canal and the town of Skagway. Historically, Skagway was the stepping-off point for thousands of prospectors during the late 1890s who were seeking their fortunes in the Klondike. The nearby Chilkoot Pass was an important milestone which the very hardy – and invariably ill-equipped – prospectors had to conquer in order to reach the Klondike.
Free evening in Skagway.
Along with our local guide, we board our coach this morning and not far north of Skagway, we cross into Canada (again) and the vast Yukon Territory. Around two hours to the north, along the Klondike Hwy, is Whitehorse. Straddling the Yukon River, Whitehorse is the capital and largest city (28,000 population) of Yukon Territory.
Successful farming in this region takes passion and hard work to produce high quality products. Cooperative equipment, new farming techniques and funding have helped improve the viability of farms. 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.
On arrival at Whitehorse we visit the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center – a great introduction to the region. 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. Overnight Whitehorse.
We board our coach this morning to continue along the Klondike Hwy towards Dawson City. Not far out of Whitehorse we visit some very intrepid grain and hay growers supplying produce for the local livestock and horse farms.
The Klondike Hwy loosely follows the original winter overland route to the Klondike goldfields, centred around Dawson City, and 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.
Late afternoon arrival into Dawson City, our home for the next two nights.
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 it is a well-serviced community with modern facilities. The history of the town is well preserved with its original architecture and ‘olde world’ businesses, including Diamond Toothed Gerties Gambling Hall! Today we visit some of the local attractions including a chance to try your luck at panning for gold. Then it’s a free afternoon and evening.
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. This morning we cross the Yukon River (by ferry) and travel the famous ‘Top of the World Highway’ where we again cross into Alaska. We travel through magnificent valleys and open taiga forests and join the historic Taylor Hwy. This is a route through gold mining history. Prospectors searched for gold in this region well before the Klondike stampede.
Communities such as Jack Wade, Chicken (originally named after Alaska’s state bird, the Ptarmigan, but 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. We arrive at the small village of Tok for overnight.
We continue to the northwest this morning (with views of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline) towards Delta Junction. Here we visit 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 processing and farming business priding themselves on using only Alaskan grown produce.
We continue on to Fairbanks for overnight, the largest city of the Alaskan interior.
Today we continue south through Nenana – nestled beside the Tanana River – where we learn about the Nenana Ice Classic. This is a fundraiser for local charities which began in 1917, and is an annual guessing game about the exact date and time of the Tanana River ice break-up.
We travel into the magnificent Denali National Park. Denali is 2.4 million hectares of wilderness, its centrepiece being the 6200 m (20,310 ft) Mt Denali (formerly Mt 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. We enjoy a guide tour of Denali’s scenic highlights.
Overnight is accommodation within the park.
If the weather is with us, early this morning is a great (optional) opportunity to ‘flightsee’ Denali and its spectacular glacial valleys.
We board our charter coach this morning and travel south to the agricultural community of Palmer where world record monster size vegetables grow in the 24-hour daylight and grain crops grow through to harvest in less than 100 days. We visit a local grain and vege farm as well as a musk ox operation where we are introduced to these unique paleolithic ruminants.
We continue on to Anchorage for overnight.
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. After our tour it’s a free afternoon for some last minute shopping or you might like to enjoy enjoy an optional float plane or helicopter flight over the magnificent surrounds (our Alaskan tour director can help with those options). Farewell dinner this evening.
Homeward flights today or continue on with additional independent travel plans (Alaskan wilderness lodges, flightseeing etc are all very accessible from Anchorage. Regular flights to anywhere in the ‘Lower 48’ of the US are also available. We will make sure your international air tickets mesh in well with any before or after the main tour travel plans you might have.)