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.
It can be hard to tell the difference between a beautiful dream and an actual tour from Alaska's Finest Tours & Cruises. Participants enjoy surreal experiences such as taking a boat cruise right up to the face of Portage Glacier, or heading to an active mine to learn gold-panning techniques superior to just yelling "Gold!" and hoping it comes when called. Tours also traverse across Alaska's wildlife, giving guests an up-close look at belugas, eagles, and bears. These unique tours are why Alaska's Finest Tours & Cruises was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor in 2015.
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.
Southern hospitality dictates that guests be taken into the home, fed, and kept cozy for the night. But up north, the Alaska Travel Adventures team warmly welcomes visitors by urging them to veer far from their front door. They help guests explore the landscape by designing whitewater-rafting adventures, kayaking tours, nature-trail walks, or panning for gold and sharing bits of history. For lunch, riverside campfires grill fillets of wild salmon and inspire stories from the Klondike gold rush. To complete the day, Alaska Travel Adventures keeps a fleet of newer-model RVs for guests to sleep in so they don't have to set up tents or convince a bear to share its cave.
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