14205
Alaska
On the Road: Interior Alaska — Life at Latitude 65 North
Come discover what it’s really like in Alaska, from discussions with indigenous people to explorations of national parks, from an Iditarod race to a journey to the Alaskan Interior.
Rating (5)
Program No. 14205RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
3,975
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12 days
11 nights
28 meals
11 B 7 L 10 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Fairbanks, AK
D
Springhill Suites

Afternoon: The hotel is in an excellent location, right in the heart of downtown Fairbanks. Check in begins after 3 p.m. If you arrive before 3:00 p.m., the hotel will hold your luggage in their storage room for you, so you can drop it off and then be free to explore downtown. Since Fairbanks is far away from pretty much anywhere, we strongly suggest that people fly up a day early if at all possible to help get over any potential jet-lag before the program starts. The hotel offers us a special rate for early arrivals. Full information will be available after you enroll.

Dinner: Meet in lobby around 5:45 pm for dinner.

Evening: Orientation around 7:30 pm at hotel

DAY
2
Aurora Borealis Class, U-Alaska Large Animal Rsch. Station
Fairbanks, AK
B,L,D
Springhill Suites

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the hotel dining area. Choice of eggs, meat, cereal, yogurt, muffins, coffee, tea.

Morning: We begin with a field trip to the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center for a class on the fabled Northern Lights, the beautiful and awe-inspiring Aurora Borealis. Learn about the science that creates them, along with the history of the various mythologies different cultures created to explain this night time celestial mystery. Find out what creates the Aurora and why Fairbanks is such an excellent location for viewing it, WEATHER AND SKY CONDITIONS PERMITTING. The Aurora has had a hold on the imagination of people since ancient times. And it continues today-even when we’re pretty sure we’ve figured out the scientific reality that creates them. Field trip to the Large Animal Research Station. The research station is a branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology. Studies of the large ungulates of the Arctic, the musk-oxen, caribou and reindeer, have been ongoing for decades. A researcher or station guide will talk about the biology of the animals and the ecosystems they inhabit. A strong focus is on the different adaptations that the species have made to the same environment. Life cycles and survival strategies will be explained. Pelts, skulls, antlers and horns will be available for hands-on examination and study. One of the highlights of this field trip is the opportunity to see and learn about the musk-oxen. In the same way that seeing giraffes and zebras in the wild indicates you are in Africa, the musk ox is an iconic emblem of the Arctic-you could see bears, wolves and whales in their natural habitats in many other places in the world, but if you want to see musk-oxen in their natural habitat, you must travel to the Arctic.

Lunch: Lunch with local Elders

Afternoon: Field trip to the University of Alaska Museum of the North. The museum building is an architectural gem housing an outstanding educational facility with extensive collections of artifacts and exhibits focusing on all areas of Alaska. Learn about Alaskan fauna, flora, geology, Native culture, post-contact history, the gold rush, the Aurora and many other facets of life in America's farthest north state. There are also special rotating art and photo exhibits. The museum has always been the main repository for material collected by scientists during their research projects all over Alaska. There are collections from the rain forests of Alaska's Southeast Panhandle and South Central Region on the Northern Pacific Ocean; from the Aleutian Chain that stretches so far towards Asia that it actually crosses the 180th Meridian, resulting in the most western part of Alaska being in the Eastern Hemisphere; from the vast boreal forests of the Interior with its great winding rivers that run east from the Canadian border hundreds of miles west to the shores of the Bering Sea; and from the flat tundra ecosystem of the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Dinner: Dinner at a restaurant.

DAY
3
Alaska Pipeline, Great Alaskan Gold Rush
Fairbanks, AK
B,D
Springhill Suites

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the hotel dining area. Choice of eggs, meat, cereal, yogurt, muffins, coffee, tea.

Morning: Class: "Life in Fairbanks", an informal presentation from locals on daily life in Alaska. Topics may include the economy, demographics, wages, costs, schools, health care, political issues, legal systems, police and fire protection, and the logistics of daily living in a place with a temperature range from 99 above to 68 below. Class: "History of Fairbanks and the Great Alaskan Gold Rush". Hear how the flood of immigrants the gold rush brought to Alaska in the early 1900' changed the state and her people. Field trip for a close up view of the famous Alaska pipeline, one of the largest civil engineering projects ever completed in the United States. No matter how one feels about what drilling for oil did for and to the state of Alaska and her people, physically creating the 800 mile pipeline in an absolute and mostly uncharted wilderness was an amazing engineering accomplishment. Due to estimated costs, seven oil companies pooled their money to build it. Problems included having to summit numerous major mountain ranges, solving the stability problems presented by the permanently frozen ground of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic that underlies nearly half of the line and having to cross most of the great rivers of Alaska, including building the first ever bridge to cross the mighty Yukon River. And these were just the main challenges. The pipeline was built using the most advanced mid 1970's cutting edge technology that included refrigerated units to keep the frozen ground frozen and therefore stable. They used a precursor of a Teflon type material that provided a way for the pipeline to slide from side to side on its vertical support members, to allow it to withstand earthquakes caused by plate tectonic movements of the "Ring of Fire", the unstable deep earth shifts of the northern Pacific which reverberate throughout the state. Informal presentation on building the pipeline, how well the pipeline is holding up and possible future plans for oil development in the Arctic.

Lunch: Explore Fairbanks during your lunch hour. We will start you off with some suggestions on nearby restaurants.

Afternoon: Field trip to a dog musher's house and kennel. Step into the musher's dog yard to visit with her dogs. (Petting allowed if desired.) Learn about her philosophy of breeding and training these four legged athletes for long distance racing and wilderness camping. Visit inside her house to hear about running the Iditarod race when it first started as a simple, local Alaskan competition, before it became a world-famous phenomenon attracting dog mushers from all over the world. She will also talk about participating in an international friendship dog sled race in the Russian Far East which was held shortly after the "Ice curtain melted" (as we locals refer to the opening of Russia to foreigners).

Dinner: Dinner in restaurant

DAY
4
Denali National Park
Denali National Park Area
B,L,D
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Breakfast: Breakfast in hotel breakfast room.

Morning: Drive 120 miles south on the Parks Highway to Denali National Park. (In a lovely coincidence, the Parks highway was NOT named that because it allowed road access to Denali National Park, but rather it was to honor George Parks, who was an engineer and an Alaskan Territorial Governor.) Denali National Park was established in 1917 primarily to protect the Dall Sheep and other large wildlife of the area which were being heavily hunted to feed miners and the workers building the new Alaska Railroad. At that time, it was named Mt. McKinley National Park in tribute to President McKinley who never once set foot in Alaska. Unfortunately, by mistake, the original park did not contain all of Mt. McKinley--including the summit which lay outside the boundaries they had established. In 1980, the name was changed when President Carter established a national preserve abutting the park boundaries, making the original park the heart of the new, expanded Denali National Park and Preserve. This time, the mountain was fully included within the protected area. And in 2016, President Obama came to Alaska and formally restored the original name used by the local indigenous people, Denali, to the massive peak itself.

Lunch: Lunch in a Parks Highway roadhouse.

Afternoon: Field trip to the front country of Denali National Park. There is a visitor's center with very informative exhibits on the ecosystem, history and lands included in the park and preserve. There are films and/or ranger presentations. There are often planned afternoon hikes with a park ranger or you may hike on your own along well marked trails. IF YOU HAVE A NATIONAL PARK GOLDEN EAGLE PASSPORT, PLEASE BRING IT ALONG WITH YOU. We will leave the park around 5:00 p.m. or so to check into our lodgings, six miles south of the park entrance.

Dinner: Dinner in a restaurant.

DAY
5
6 hour field trip into Denali National Park
Denali National Park Area
B,L,D
Denali Grizzly Bear Resort

Breakfast: Breakfast in restaurant.

Morning: Approximately six hour field trip into Denali National Park to the newly reopened Eielson Visitor's Center which was completely renovated only a few years ago. The park restricts access for private vehicles, and along with other visitors, we'll be riding in school buses over gravel roads. The buses stop often for stretching, taking photos of wildlife and for rest room breaks. There are modern flush toilet facilities at various rest stops that are approximately two hours or so apart. There are NO food services in the park--you will be provided with a sack lunch with one sandwich, one piece of fruit, one beverage and a simple dessert. We recommend you also pack your own filled water bottle and any snacks you might like to have along. Most of the bus drivers are very knowledgeable about the park and enjoy sharing their knowledge and their love of the park with their passengers. Note: sightings of Denali cannot be guaranteed. Denali is a massive mountain, both in height and in width, with two separate and distinct peaks. It is such a large land mass that it makes its own weather and unfortunately spends a lot of time hiding behind the clouds it traps at its summit.

Lunch: Sack lunch on bus.

Afternoon: Field trip continues.

Dinner: Dinner in a restaurant

DAY
6
Morris Thompson Cultural Ctr., Athabascan Elders Tea
Fairbanks, AK
B,D
Springhill Suites

Breakfast: Breakfast buffet in the hotel dining area. Choice of eggs, meat, cereal, yogurt, muffins, coffee, tea.

Morning: Drive from Denali National Park back to Fairbanks.

Lunch: Lunch

Afternoon: Return to Fairbanks. Road Scholar is hosted in Fairbanks by Denakkanaaga, an organization founded by the local Athabascan Elders of the indigenous tribe of the vast Interior of Alaska and Canada. Denakkanaaga is housed in the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor's Center. The center has exhibits and dioramas on the people of Interior Alaska and the ecosystem in which we live, with a focus on Athabascan life in the past and in the present. There are workshop areas where on some days Native artists and craftspeople demonstrate their skills and explain the cultural significance of their work. The Alaska Public Lands Information Center, a storehouse of information and exhibits on the public lands in Alaska, is also located in the same building. We will have access to films and possibly lectures/presentations from their staff.

Dinner: Dinner in a restaurant.

DAY
7
Fly to Nome
Nome, AK
B,L,D
Nome Nugget Inn

Breakfast: Breakfast in a local restaurant. Order off the menu.

Morning: Flight to Nome. This flight is on a regularly scheduled Alaska Airlines jet. Arrive in Nome in the early afternoon.

Lunch: Lunch

Afternoon: Get acquainted with Nome. Suggestions: Check out the visitor's bureau for all kinds of information on Nome. Walk along the main street, turn south one block and stand on the shore of the Bering Sea. Go to the Carrie M. McLane Memorial Museum, small, but with an extensive collection of artifacts and articles on Nome. Drop in at the city library where there is free computer online access. These are all within a short walking distance from our hotel. Board a van to drive down to the fabled beaches of Nome, where tens of thousands of people lived in tents on the beach in the early 1900's as they panned for gold during the great Alaskan gold rush. Walk along the beach and watch the folks who come up today to spend the summer mining for gold just like they used to do in the old days. We will have a couple of gold pans along for you to try your luck at beach panning the "Golden Sands Of Nome".

Dinner: Dinner at a restaurant.

DAY
8
U. Alaska NW, Inupiat Songs, Dances & Stories
Nome, AK
B,L,D
Nome Nugget Inn

Breakfast: Breakfast in a local restaurant. Order off the menu.

Morning: Field trip to the University of Alaska Northwest Campus. Learn about the classes, the student body and the locally specific educational mission of this very isolated campus of America's northernmost university. The college serves students from Nome and from many of the very rural villages of the Seward Peninsula. Walk around the campus, on the boardwalks built on pilings that support the buildings above the permanently frozen ground as we visit classrooms, the library and the computer center, and learn about the history of the school.

Lunch: Lunch at the Nome Senior Center. A chance to visit with the locals.

Afternoon: Class on various topics on the ecosystem of Nome, Depending upon who is in town when we are there, we might have a class on fish or sea mammals or geology or the biology of the local musk oxen herds that, if we're very lucky, we just MIGHT see as we drive around the "suburbs" of Nome.

Dinner: Dinner in a Nome restaurant.

Evening: A visit with some of the local Native Alaskans who will share some of their traditional stories, songs and dances with us.

DAY
9
Field trip to Teller, an Inupiat (Eskimo) village 70 miles north of Nome.
Nome, AK
B,L,D
Nome Nugget Inn

Breakfast: Breakfast at a restaurant

Morning: Drive in small vans on an all day field trip to Teller, a small Inupiat village about 70 miles northwest of Nome, going as far north as the road will take us. We will make a number of stops to enjoy the beautiful, largely undeveloped landscape outside of town. Drive along the Bering Seacoast, take short hikes on the tundra, check out the flora and watch for wildlife. See examples of permafrost, the frozen soil underlying the vegetative layer on the treeless ancient glacier-scarred landscape of the Seward Peninsula. Our experienced guide will discuss the geology and ecology of the area and also the human history of the people of Nome, from ancient hunters and gatherers to the modern day inhabitants.

Lunch: Picnic lunch on the banks of a small river. No outhouses available but there are plenty of bushes.

Afternoon: Field trip to Teller and return to Nome continues.

Dinner: Dinner in a restaurant.

DAY
10
Council Road "Train To Nowhere" Field Trip
Nome, AK
B,L
Nome Nugget Inn

Breakfast: Breakfast in a local restaurant. Order off the menu.

Morning: Drive 35 miles out the Council Road to the world famous Alaskan "Train to Nowhere". During the gold rush, local entrepreneurs decided that building a railroad from the gold fields to the ocean would increase their profits. They laid miles of track, bought steam engines that had been in use on the New York City subway system's elevated train lines and loaded them unto barges to sail them up to Nome. Before they completed the project, there was a huge flood that washed away some of the tracks and tossed one of the engines onto the nearby tundra. Where it has "rested" ever since, the railroad never being completed after this disaster. There is also a defunct gold dredge that sits alongside the Council Road. Both the train and the dredge have very informative and interesting billboards that explain their history and the dreams of the people that brought them here. As we drive, we follow along the home stretch of the Iditarod dog sled race course, along the shores of Safety Sound and onto the tundra of the Bering Sea coastline. We almost always see birds along the way, we always have our eyes peeled for sightings of musk-oxen and once in a great while, we get to see sea mammals out in the Bering Sea.

Lunch: Lunch at the Nome Senior Center.

Afternoon: Fishing is a mainstay of life on the Seward Peninsula. DEPENDING UPON THE DAILY WORK SCHEDULE THIS DAY, take a field trip to a crab and fish processing plant on the Nome wharf. See the boats, hear about the fishing laws and procedures used on the Bering Sea, go inside the plant to observe the processing area and learn where the seafood gets sent after it's packaged and frozen or canned.

DAY
11
Fly to Anchorage for the last night of the program
Anchorage, Alaska
B,D
Anchorage Ramada Inn

Breakfast: Breakfast in a local restaurant. Order off the menu.

Morning: Lecture: "Daily Life Of An Oil Spill Worker" Presentation by a medic who worked on the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. There was a lot of information and coverage on the impact of the oil spill on the animals of Prince William Sound-this presentation focuses on the workers who were also impacted by the spill but about whom very little was recorded. The most recent BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico has brought that past disaster back into the spotlight. The most amazing realization for the people who experienced the Exxon Valdez clean-up first hand, was how little progress has been made in the 20 years since that spill in the response plans, organization and in contingency procedures by the oil companies. The clean up plan they used in 2009 was almost exactly the same as that used 20 years ago-and no one considers the 1989 clean up a success story.

Lunch: Lunch on your own

Afternoon: Depart for the airport for the flight to Anchorage. Anchorage is Alaska's largest city, located in a beautiful setting on Cook Inlet, surrounded by the Chugach Mountain Range. We spend the final night of the program in Anchorage.

Dinner: Graduation dinner at a restaurant.

DAY
12
Program concludes after breakfast
Anchorage, Alaska
B

Breakfast: The Ramada Inn has an excellent location, a few blocks away from the heart of downtown Anchorage. Since Anchorage is situated in Alaska's South Central Region rather than the Interior and is too far south and of a very different ecology to be a Latitude 65 Sub-Arctic region, we have not included time there in our "Interior Alaska: Life at Latitude 65 North" program. We encourage you to explore Alaska's biggest city on your own.