In Alaska, Yukon, exploring wildlife and a prospector past
Cruise Editor Johanna Jainchill
recently embarked on a tour of
Alaska and the Yukon Territory.
In order to sample two different
products, she chose the land portion of Holland America Line’s
cruise tour, which included Fairbanks and Canada’s Yukon Territory; and a cruise on Cruise West.
A portion of her dispatches follows;
for more, see all five of Jainchill’s
dispatches on our website, www
On the third day of my trip, I
was determined not to sit.
I had spent two full days almost entirely on my rear end,
along with the rest of the Holland America Line tour group,
on a motorcoach rolling through
the dusty, gravel-packed roads of
Alaska’s eastern interior, en route
to Canada’s Yukon Territory.
When we finally arrived in
Dawson, we had one free day to
spend on our feet in the Yukon’s
capital city before embarking on
another eight-hour ride to points
farther into the province.
Such is life during a land tour
of Alaska and the Yukon. This
area is massive: Alaska itself is
more than twice the size of Texas.
So getting anywhere takes time
and a willingness to appreciate
astounding views from a window
My HAL tour began two days
earlier, in Fairbanks. Most of my
group had already been traveling
for four days, visiting Anchorage
and Denali National Park.
For many of them, the tour
began or will end with a Holland
America Line cruise. I’m actually
doing something a bit different:
combining a HAL tour with a
Cruise West cruise.
HAL has invested a great deal
into being the tour company of
the Gold Rush route, the leg of
the trip that I joined. The Gold
Rush route begins in Fairbanks
and crosses the border into Canada’s Yukon Territory.
HAL’s mark is all over the
route. In Fairbanks, we panned
for gold at a site where HAL purchased and restored a massive
gold dredge —a literal gold digger that tore up much of Alaska
and the Yukon in the early half
of the 20th century. The next day
we were on the Yukon Queen II,
a HAL-owned riverboat that took
us down the 100-mile stretch of
the Yukon River into Dawson.
HAL’s Westmark hotels dot
the path, even in places unlikely
to have a hotel, such as two-road
Tok, Alaska. We stayed there the
night before we crossed the border into Canada.
Since HAL is the only company
running tours here, their motorcoaches have become transporters of goods for some towns, like
Chicken, a former Alaska gold-mining town with a population
of fewer than 100.
The coach stops in Chicken
for coffee and fresh baked goods
from the Chicken Creek Cafe.
Besides the aforementioned Yukon Queen, most of our waking
hours are spent on motorcoaches,
so HAL put some money into a
new fleet that entered service last
year. They are very comfortable as
far as buses go, with leather seats
and legroom that HAL says is the
equivalent of that on a first-class
domestic flight. But it’s still tough
to sit for eight hours no matter
how comfortable the seats are.
That’s what we did on day two,
beginning at 6 a.m. We left Tok,
beginning a 160-mile ride to
Eagle, Alaska, where we would
board the Yukon riverboat.
Kurt, our driver extraordinaire
from Michigan, let us stretch our
legs at places where the view was
too good to pass up. We had clear,
sunny days with the snow-capped
Alaska Range in view as we passed
miles and miles of forests and rivers, still clogged with patches of
Most of the trip to Eagle was
spent on the winding Taylor
The word “highway” is a
stretch, since this narrow road is
Clockwise from top left, a train travels through
Canada’s Yukon Territory during the Holland America
Line tour; a seal seen in Tracy Arm, Alaska, during
the Cruise West cruise; Glacier Bay as seen from
aboard the Spirit of Endeavour; Spirit of Endeavour
Capt. Michael Fleming, right, leads a singalong with
Kevin Skeek, a Huna cultural interpreter.
made of gravel. The Taylor begins
where the famed Alaska Highway
ends, and HAL is the only tour
company that dares traverse it.
The road has several drop-offs of
many hundreds of feet, and several riders had the white knuckles
to prove it.
Our coach was escorted by a local whose pickup truck had a sign
on top of it that said “Two Buses
Ahead,” as there really isn’t room
on the road for a bus and car.
But the road was so empty that
Kurt and R achel, our tour guide
up for the summer from Missis-
sippi, started a game where we all
put in $1 and waged guesses on
how many cars we would see on
the way to Eagle.
T W PHO TOS B Y JOHANNA JAINCHILL
Caribbean, Mexico & Costa Rica
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