Alaska, June 9 - 20, 2018

I’ve been leading trips to Alaska for more than 20 years now, and I never let too much time lapse between the completion of one trip and planning for the next.  When the Audubon Naturalist Society’s August 2018 trip to Alaska was filled with a wait list, I was quick to suggest we try a second departure.  The new trip will be held in June, and while the itinerary is similar, we’ve changed a few things, as is appropriate for June as opposed to August.  My co-leader will be Tom Reed, an extraordinary young naturalist from Cape May.

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Our trip begins in Anchorage and heads south to the port of Seward, where a full day boat trip through Kenai Fjords National Park is a highlight.  The scenery is spectacular from start to finish (see left as an example), and the wildlife viewing opportunities are exceptional, with many sea birds such as the Horned Puffin (below left), Common Murres, Tufted Puffins, Kittlitz’s Murrelets, and many others.  The trip is also great for marine mammals, often spotting Sea Otters, Orcas (below right), Steller’s Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and Humpback Whales.  We’ll also have a day to explore forest and coastal habitats around Seward.

From Seward we head to Whittier and then ride the Alaska Ferry across Prince William Sound to the port town of Valdez.  The crossing of the Sound is exceptionally scenic, and it gives us another day on the water to watch for marine wildlife.  From Valdez we travel north along the Richardson Highway, paralleling the Alaska Pipeline, to the tiny settlement of Paxson and a delightful small lodge known as Denali Highway Cabins.  Here we are surrounded by snowy peaks of the Alaska Range.  Summit Lake, at right, is one destination we will visit near Paxson.  Birds of this region include (below, l to r) Pacific Loon, Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Arctic Tern.

We next head west along the Denali Highway, a lightly traveled, mostly unpaved road (shown at left) that leads through areas of exceptional scenic beauty and biological richness.  Arctic Warbler, below left, can usually be found in the willow thickets here.  The road eventually reaches Denali National Park, home of North America’s highest peak (below).  Private vehicles aren’t permitted on the Park’s one road, so we’ll ride a park bus one day to the Eielson Visitor Center.  If the clouds permit, we’ll enjoy spectacular views of Denali and surrounding mountains.  Whatever the weather may hold, Denali is a great place for wildlife and, at this season, for wildflowers.

We stop at Wasilla on our way back to Anchorage, taking time to visit the natural areas at Lake Lucille and along the Little Susitna River, with cultural stops at the Iditarod Sled Dog Race Headquarters Museum and at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  The trip wraps up with return to Anchorage.  Cost for this tour is $3900.  For more information and registration information please contact the Audubon Naturalist Society Travel Program at 301-652-9188 x10 or email carol.hayes@anshome.org.