Nat Geo Television Stars Offer Alaska Travel Tips

Alaska Travel Tips - Don't Miss Denali!There is no question that Alaska is one of the top adventure travel destinations in North America, if not the entire world. The brief Alaskan summer brings incredible opportunities for climbing, backpacking, camping and fishing, giving visitors a chance to explore everything the state has to offer in relatively warm conditions. During the winter, Alaska becomes the ultimate outdoor playground for those who enjoy cold weather escapes. From dogsledding and snowshoeing to cross country and heli-skiing, it is paradise for the adrenaline junkie and explorer alike.

Covering an area more than twice the size of Texas, Alaska is by far the largest state in the Union. That makes it a daunting place for travelers, who often struggle to determine what it is that they want to see and do in the limited time that they have there. Fortunately we were able to call in some local experts to provide Gadling readers with some great travel tips for visiting the 49th state. These experts all happen to be residents of Alaska and they also happen to be featured on two new television shows that are debuting soon on the National Geographic Channel. They have been kind enough to share their thoughts on the best experiences that Alaska has to offer.

Our first two experts are Dallas Seavey of Willow and Marty Raney of Wasilla, both of whom appear in the new Nat Geo show “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” which debuts tonight at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The show drops eight survival experts into the Alaskan backcountry, where they must cross 3000 miles of remote wilderness with nothing but the gear on their back. Dallas is best known as the youngest winner in the history of the infamous Iditarod sled dog race, while his co-star Marty is a mountain guide who has led 17 successful expeditions to the summit of Denali – also known as Mt. McKinley.Dallas recommends that visitors to his state take a scenic drive to really get immersed in the Alaskan landscapes and culture. He says:

Alaska Travel Tips - Dallas Seavey“It’s hard to see all of Alaska in one trip. But if I only had a week to go to Alaska I would travel between the coastal town of Seward, where I grew up, and Willow (4.5 hours north) where I live now. This would give you a good sampling of what Alaska has to offer. Between these two locations is one of America’s top ten most scenic highways and many of the “must see” sights. While the summer months are by far the most popular for guests, I would also consider seeing Alaska in the winter when the state boasts it’s most unique and extreme side.”

On the other hand, Marty says if you have just one day to kill, under no circumstances should you miss his favorite mountain:

Alaska Travel Tips - Marty Raney“Here in Alaska there are a million things to do. To choose just one, I would recommend a drive or a train ride from Anchorage International Airport to Talkeetna. There you would take a flightseeing tour of Mt. McKinley. It’s the most impressive thing in one day any average Joe could do. There is nothing like it on planet earth. Landing at base camp, you will stand on glaciers one mile thick, while one of the tallest mountains in the world looms above. Dwarfed by mile high granite spires cloaked with thousands of deep blue hanging glaciers, you quite possibly will be scared s—less. This breathtaking, beautiful landscape-and also foreboding and eerie landscape-will be up close and personal. It is a masterpiece of God’s handiwork. You will realize your insignificance like never before. It’s surreal. It’s spiritual. It’s meditative. It’s contemplative. Whether atheist or believer, it will be the loudest sermon you’ve ever heard.”

Our other two Alaskan experts are Andy Bassich from the town of Eagle and Sue Aikens of Kavik. They’ll both appear on the show “Life Below Zero” when it debuts next Sunday, May 19 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. That program follows the lives of six Alaskans who live off the land, scraping out a life in one of the harshest environments imaginable. Andy and his wife Kate live along the beautiful, but remote, Yukon River, which freezes solid each winter, completely cutting them off from civilization for months at a time. They may have it easy compared to Sue, however, as she is actually the sole inhabitant of the Kavik River Camp, which is located 197 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Andy tells visitors that they shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to explore the river on which he lives. He says:

Alaska Travel Tips - Andy Bassich“An experience you will never forget is a three day to two week float down the Yukon River. It is a very peaceful way to experience the true wilderness via a canoe, which was the traditional way of travel in the early years. You could float up to 50 miles a day, and in addition to amazing scenery you’ll see moose, bears, eagles and many other types of birds and wildlife. I recommend camping along the shores of Island, and fishing the feeder streams for grayling pike and shee fish. You also may get lucky enough to meet the hardy people who have carved out a quality life along the Yukon River. You’ll experience true quiet and solitude at a relaxed safe pace. It’s also a great trip for novice.”

Meanwhile, Sue tells us we shouldn’t overlook a visit to the remote high Arctic:

Alaska Travel Tips - Sue Aikens“My home (Kavik) in the high Arctic puts me in the center of the great caribou migration, the migratory bird path and nesting grounds as well as having the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge out my door. In some ways even I will never have enough time to see all that my own area has to offer, but with careful planning and homework done, you could easily chip away at seeing and experiencing some of this state’s s most beautiful and challenging experiences. Fly fishing, rafting, hiking in untouched areas, and watching 500,000 Caribou thunder past on their migration route. I can raft down wild rivers and see rare and wonderful sights, and you can too!”

There you have it, great travel advice from four Alaskans who have intimate knowledge on what their state has to offer. You might not be able to take advantage of all of their suggestions on your visit to the state, but they’ll certainly provide a nice starting point.

[Photo Credits: National Park Service, National Geographic]

June Mountain Ski Resort To Re-Open For Winter 2013/2014

June Mountain will open for winter 2013-2014The management team for the June Mountain ski resort, located in northern California, announced plans to re-open later this year. The resort, which has long been a favorite amongst the locals, was closed for the summer season last year and remained that way throughout this past winter. But after a one year hiatus, June Mountain will return to action for the 2013/2014 ski season while ownership develops a plan for keeping it operational moving forward.

June Mountain is the sister resort of nearby Mammoth Mountain and boasts some impressive stats to draw in visitors. For instance, it averages about 250 inches of snowfall each season, with ski runs traditionally remaining open from December through April. It features seven chairlifts and 35 groomed trails, the longest of which is over two miles in length. Its 500 skiable acres features terrain that is suitable for a variety of experience levels although the resort’s options for beginning skiers and riders has long been a part of its appeal.

The closure of June Mountain last summer was of particular concern with the local community. The resort had been in operation for 50 years and it helped bring revenue to the small towns in the area. Its return to operation will be a welcome boost later this year and management says there are plans to potentially open a new lift and expand the snowmaking capacity.

Once June Mountain does open again, holders of the Mammoth Mountain MVP season pass will gain access to the slopes just as they have in the past. This is a nice way to extend the value of that pass even further, expanding on the options that Mammoth already offers.

[Photo Credit: Mammoth Mountain]

Ski To The South Pole Just Like Prince Harry!

Skiing the last degree to the South PoleYesterday, we told you that Britain’s Prince Harry is planning on joining an expedition to the South Pole later this year in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the Walking with the Wounded program. The adventurous Prince will take part in a cross-country skiing race that will cover 335 kilometers (208 miles) in approximately 16 days, crossing the final three degrees of latitude before reaching 90°S. This will be a grand adventure to say the least, but did you know that you could go on a similar expedition yourself? That is, provided you are physically fit and have plenty of cash.

There are a number of adventure travel companies that offer what is known as a “last degree” journey to the South Pole. Those taking part in such a trip will spend their days skiing across the frozen expanse of the Antarctic Plateau and their nights in a winter camp on the frozen continent. Most itineraries cover about 60 miles in ten days, with the trip culminating with their arrival at the southern-most point on the planet.

Participants on a last degree expedition will need to be in excellent shape as they will be skiing over very tough terrain while pulling a sled filled with gear behind them at all times. They’ll also have to be capable of enduring cold weather, unexpected storms and harrowing whiteout conditions, which can arise unexpectedly. This is certainly not a trip for someone who prefers to take it easy on their vacations, as this type of expedition will push travelers to their physical limits.This isn’t a trip for someone with a small bank account either. A last degree journey to the South Pole will set you back approximately $58,000. Yes, you read that right – $58,000. That cost includes transportation to your starting point in Antarctica and a pick-up at the Pole, as well as guides, meals, support staff and everything you’ll need while out on the ice. International airfare to and from Punta Arenas, Chile, the usual starting point for an Antarctic adventure, is not included.

If you have the cash and the adventurous spirit required to undertake this type of journey, some of the companies that provide a last degree expedition to the South Pole include Adventure Network International, the Adventure Consultants, Abercrombie & Kent and Alpine Ascents. Personally, I’d love to do this trip, but unfortunately I only have one of the two requirements. Can you guess which one?

[Photo Credit: Adventure Network International]

Britain’s Prince Harry Racing To The South Pole In November

Prince Harry annoucing his expedition to the South PoleWe’ve known for sometime that Britain’s Prince Harry has an adventurous streak in him, and I’m not just talking about those questionable photos that emerged from his now infamous trip to Las Vegas last year. In April of 2011, he joined an expedition that skied to the North Pole, although he was forced to depart early in order to be home in time for his brother’s impending wedding. Last week it was announced that the Prince will once again set off for the colder regions of the planet as he now intends to join one of three teams that will be racing to the South Pole.

Dubbed the South Pole Allied Challenge 2013, this race will pit three teams against one another on a 335-kilometer (208-mile) journey that will cross the final three degrees of latitude to the Pole. Those teams will include a group from the U.K., another from the U.S. and a third combined squad from the Commonwealth nations of Australia and Canada. Each team will attempt to be the first to ski to the South Pole while battling high winds, whiteout conditions and temperatures that are expected to routinely fall below -30°F.

As with his previous arctic endeavor from a couple of years back, Harry’s new expedition is also taking place in conjunction with the Walking with the Wounded foundation. That organization was created to support men and women who have been injured in the line of duty while serving their country. The Walking with the Wounded program helps those soldiers to prepare for a return to civilian life after their tour of duty has ended. Harry has taken a particular interest in the program and has served as its patron for several years. The teams racing in the Allied Challenge will largely be made up of soldiers who have recovered from serious injury.

The teams will all gather in Antarctica in late November and begin the race shortly there after. It is expected to take approximately 16 days for them to reach the finish line at 90°S with the entire Allied Challenge wrapping up sometime around December 17 of this year.

[Photo Credit: Getty]

National Park App Maker Back With Better, Free Offer

national parkLast year, in celebration of National Park Week, Chimani Apps gave away their suite of National Park apps. Normally, the apps sell for between $4.99-$9.99 each with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars, but the company gave away one million downloads. Now, Chimani is back with five new national park apps that feature an augmented reality viewer, crowd-sourced maps and a social sharing tool enabled with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. Better yet, they are all free.

“Chimani users are now able to actively contribute to the national park community and help build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks,” said Kerry Gallivan CEO/Co-Founder in a NationalParksOnline article.

The company is releasing a new app on each of the five days of National Park Week. New parks added are Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Bryce Canyon National Park. These, and all other Chimani apps, will be available for free starting Monday, April 22.

The apps have constantly updated maps, event schedules, points of interest, hiking details, as well as sunset and sunrise times for scenic overlooks. Users can access tide schedules along the coast, review lodging options and more on the apps, all designed to work without a cellphone signal.

We like that Chimani does not just throw their apps out there and hope for the best. Their users actively contribute to the national park community by helping build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks.

“A great example of this is Openstreetmaps.org’s user Tomthepom who spent the winter meticulously editing the park data within Grand Canyon. Thanks to Tom, the data found within the Chimani maps is the most detailed and up-to-date available anywhere – digital or print,” said Gallivan.

The Chimani apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, Amazon Kindle and Android devices. They can be downloaded directly from Apple’s iTunes App Store, Google Play and Amazon AppStore.


[Photo credit – Flickr user Dark_muse]