Over sweeping evergreen pine forests and snow-capped mountains, the pilots from Above Alaska Aviation's FAR flight school hone their craft. FAA-certified instructors coach students in a range of specialized flight training in a fleet of 7EC Champ aircraft, as well as a PA-18 Super Cub and Cessna 180B. They train private pilot students in tailwheel aircraft from start to finish, tailwheel endorsements, and single-engine sea float ratings on the mountain lakes of Susitna Valley. Students learn the basics of flying tail-wheel aircraft?planes with landing gear on the tail?to hone skill sets, enhance their understanding of flight safety, and help them feel superior to carrier pigeons. When not teaching flight, bush pilots ferry passengers to remote wilderness areas where they can hike, fish, or hunt with rifles and bows.
With gargantuan Mt. McKinley in the horizon, groups of adventurers glimpse Alaska’s untouched wilderness as Talkeetna River Guides’ staffers lead them down the glacier-fed Talkeetna River. After pairing off with a swift-water expert, guests set out on the pristine waterway on a variety of tours packed with information on the area’s flora, fauna, and history, as well as sights of salmon and vacationing Loch Ness monsters. With safety instincts developed over years exploring the Alaskan country, guides keep guests’ well-being at the forefront of their minds at all times. They also lead overnight rafting and fishing trips during which campers lounge on remote streams while watching moose and bears swap hunting stories.:m]]
Moose saunter through the Alaskan wilderness in the warmer months; salmon and grizzlies fill the streams. When visitors mount ATVs or snowmobiles behind the local guides of Alaska Backcountry Adventure Tours, they count themselves among these lucky inhabitants of the woodsy Alaskan landscape. Patrons can also opt for hiking, camping, and rafting day trips or overnight stays in lodges and log cabins cozier than a sleeping bag stuffed with marshmallows. During summer, they can drink in the monolithic majesty of Knik Glacier, and awe-inspiring mountain peaks and glaciers backdrop each of the excursions, some of which include campfire meals cooked up in front of the natural grandeur.
Amateur pilots can learn how to fly Cessna planes, Piper J3 Cubs, and Maule MX7s during float ratings, bush courses, and tailwheel training with Legends Aviation. For those who'd rather see the sights than take the controls, tours traverse some of Alaska's most notable landscapes, including Denali National Park, the Mount Spurr volcano, and the Knik Glacier. Soar over the icy peaks and deep valleys or hire a plane to take you to official checkpoints along the Iditarod Trail to look for abandoned foam fingers.
As the sun crests the mountains that border the Kenai River Valley, sunlight permeates the thin walls of lodge sales manager Chad Carter’s Yukon-style cabin tent, and the surrounding pine forest erupts in a chorus of birdsong. As if that weren’t enough to rouse Mr. Carter from slumber, there’s also the prospect of what he may spy when he looks out his window: a lone moose or perhaps bear cubs.
Mr. Carter, along with the rest of the Alaska Wildland Adventures staff, remain immersed in the Alaskan wilderness for the summer season, which has helped them develop an extensive knowledge of region. But even more significantly, Mr. Carter notes how the secluded environs have helped forge bonds between staff, who enjoy a close-knit community during summer months. “They become your family,” says Mr. Carter. “You go on adventures together—it’s definitely a teamwork approach here.” Guides strive to incorporate guests into that community, limiting expeditions by foot, raft, and kayak to small groups of 10 people. They also empower guests with the tools they need to navigate the region, including maps and safety tutorials. And, after a long day’s journey, they treat overnight guests to communal, home-cooked meals of Alaskan seafood.
Aboard the deck of the Rainisong, a 65-foot U.S. Coast Guard–certified charter boat, the licensed boat captains and experienced crew of Seward Fishing Club steer guests into salmon-rich waters during morning or afternoon fishing trips. Shipmates cast professional bait and tackle into the sea with enough time to nab a silver salmon or entertain schools of fish with synchronized worm kick lines. In between reeling, guests can amble across the walk-around decks to stare at the scenic surroundings, or venture below the cabin to relax in the wooden interior, equipped with seating, 16 bunks, and two bathrooms.