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 ventures onto Vancouver Island, railroads through the Rockies, stampedes into Calgary, follows in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, cruises the Inside Passage, goldrushes into the Yukon Territory and admires Alaska – all the while meeting up with local characters and farmers with a passion to persist and prosper.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE 2 DAYS ON VANCOUVER ISLAND (JULY 2-3) AT THE START OF THIS TOUR IS AN OPTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF TIME IS A LIMITING FACTOR, YOUR TOUR COULD COMMENCE IN VANCOUVER ON JULY 4. THE TOUR PRICE (TBA) WILL VARY ACCORDINGLY.
THERE ARE ALSO A NUMBER OF ALASKAN WILDERNESS LODGE/BEAR VIEWING/FISHING ETC OPTIONS AT THE END OF THE TOUR.
Flights depart various Australian capitals for same day (thanks to crossing the International Dateline) arrival into Vancouver. We clear customs and connect to our direct and short flight to the nearby and spectacular Vancouver Island – home of the very quaint capital of British Columbia, Victoria.
After checking-in to our downtown/portside Victoria hotel, and a chance to freshen up, we stave off jet lag by enjoying a leisurely, privately guided tour of Victoria and the nearby area.
At around 500 km long and 100 km wide, Vancouver Island offers a wide and fantastic range of sights and activities including the world renowned Butchart Gardens. The island is also home to a thriving agricultural industry which benefits from a maritime climate of warm, dry summers, mild and wet winters and a long frost-free season. There is a wide range of farming including field crops, berries, tree fruits, dairy products, pigs, sheep, poultry, floriculture and ornamental crops.
We visit the the Butchart Gardens today as well as some farms and other spectacular locations on the island.
A leisurely morning to take in the sights of this beautiful and unique portside capital at your own pace. We then board our chartered float plane for a spectacular flight and water-landing arrival into downtown Vancouver. We check-in to our nearby hotel before enjoying a guided city tour to help get our bearings.
More Vancouver activities before a late morning visit to the Viterra grain handling facility at Cascade Terminal. We meet with the Viterra staff and discuss the Canadian grain scene as well as grain handling/storage logistics in a country faced with vast haulage distances. We continue eastwards into the lower reaches of the Fraser River Valley and visit farms in the area before returning to Vancouver.
This morning we board our train eastbound for Kamloops. We will see dramatic changes in scenery today, from the lush green fields and farmlands of the Fraser Valley, through forests and winding river canyons surrounded by the peaks of the Coast and Cascade Mountains, to the desert-like environment of the BC Interior. Highlights include the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon and the steep slopes and rock sheds along the Thompson River. We overnight in the historic town of Kamloops where the North and South Thompson rivers meet.
This morning we board our train to continue our journey eastward bound for Canada’s stunning Rocky Mountains. Once again we will see a spectacular array of scenery as we travel across ranchlands, along rocky lakeshores, over high mountain passes and through the remarkable tunnels that form part of the rich rail history of the Canadian Rockies. Today’s highlights include Craigellachie, where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven, the climb over Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Canyon, the Spiral Tunnels and, of course, the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Our rail journey ends this evening in Banff.
This morning we visit the nearby and majestic Moraine Lake and afterwards, the equally majestic Lake Louise to drink in its incomparable beauty. We also enjoy 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 returning to Banff for some free time.
An option this afternoon is an unforgettable 30 minutes chopper flight 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.
This evening we take a spectacular gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain, overlooking Banff, where we will enjoy dinner.
Today we board our charter coach and travel north. 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 visit the Colombia Icefield Discovery Centre and travel by specially adapted vehicles onto the glacier.
We continue onto Rocky Mountain House – nestled on the eastern foothills of the Rockies and the edge of the Great Plains – for overnight.
With our Canadian farm specialist on board we set out from Rocky Mountain House this morning to meet with farmers and ranchers typical of the region. Over the next few days we will visit highly successful farming operations. We will also visit a Hutterite colony where very traditional lifestyles belie the sophistication of their large scale farming operations.
Our general route takes us from Rocky Mountain House, through to Red Deer and onto Drumheller.
Nearing Drumheller, we enter an area of amazing landscapes dubbed the “badlands”. We will discover that this moniker does an injustice to the very good farms, and farmers, in the area.
The unique soils and geology around Drumheller also create a unique window into the world of fossils, particularly dinosaurs. We visit The Royal Tyrrell Museum – a world-famous centre of palaeontological research – located on the outskirts of town.
We also enjoy a BBQ tonight at a unique country pub – the Last Chance Saloon – located a short distance out of Drumheller.
Some more farm visits this morning as we head towards 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 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 rodeo events contested by the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world – and for the biggest rodeo prize money in the world. Then it’s a free evening.
Time to saddle up and head south this morning into even more magnificent farming and grazing country. We visit a farm and feedlot in the area as well as call into a unique exhibit – one of the world's oldest, largest and best preserved buffalo jumps. The World Heritage listed (and quaintly named) Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump bears witness to a method of hunting practiced by native people of the North American plains for nearly 6000 years.
This archaeological site preserves the remarkable history of the Plains People. Because of their excellent understanding of the regional topography and bison behaviour, the native people were able to hunt bison by stampeding them over a cliff.
Overnight Pincher Creek.
This morning 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, travelling 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 (again) 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 visit the nearby and world-famous Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit/museum. We then board the Seattle monorail – which opened in 1962 as part of the Seattle World Fair – and travel downtown to Pike Place Market for brunch. Our cafe overlooks the historic Elliott Bay waterfront. The Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the US.
We then board our bus for a guided city tour before continuing north to Everett and the famous Boeing factory tour and Future of Flight Aviation Center. Here we will 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.
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 north 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 was 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 pick up the route of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline as we continue on to Delta Junction.
While in the Delta Junction area we will 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 then continue south, along the Richardson Highway, to the Wasila/Palmer region - the "salad and vegetable bowl" of Alaska.
This is a place 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 also visit a musk ox operation where we are introduced to these unique paleolithic ruminants.
Later in the morning we continue south – with our route meandering from sea to mountains to sea again across the Kenai Peninsula – ending in the harbour town of Seward on Resurrection Bay. The US government has named the Seward Highway an ‘All-American Road’, suggesting it's a destination unto itself.
Seward is also the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, where glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield into coastal fjords. Surrounded by peaks, the fjords are a whale and porpoise habitat.
We overnight in Seward.
We will have a full day of activities in and around Seward before travelling north to Anchorage for overnight.
With a population of over 300,000, Anchorage is home to around 40% of all Alaskans. We have a guided tour of the city this morning before some free time for last minute shopping or your own exploration of town.
We enjoy a farewell dinner this evening.
Transfer to the airport for homeward flights today – or you might want to continue your adventures with some independent travel plans. Alaskan wilderness lodges, flightseeing etc are all very accessible from Anchorage. Regular direct and connecting 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.