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Combine Your Alaska Flight with a Rail Tour
by Jerry W. Bird

In our newest "Rails to Adventure" feature, Muguette Goufrani describes her Alaska experience, part of which included a scenic trip from Fairbanks in the interior, to Anchorage on the Pacific Coast, aboard the Alaska Railroad. She told us about the service, and how the scenery and grandeur left her breathless. To give you a quick introduction to the Alaska Railroad, here is a welcoming message to our readers and viewers from former Gov. Bill Shellield, President and CEO, Alaska Railroad Corporation . "Welcome Aboard Alaska Railroad, the last full-service railroad in the United States. We owe our success of the past 77 years to the hard work and dedication of our employees and the loyalty of our customers. From tidewater at Whittier and Seward to the heart of Interior Alaska, our route covers more than 500 miles."

The first rail trip I ever took was also in Alaska, on the famous White Pass & Yukon Railroad, as we rode the shoulders of the Sawtooth Range from Whitehorse, Yukon to the port of Skagway on the Lynn Canal. Remnants of the Klondike Gold Rush were evident then, and a few remain today around Lake Bennett. That's why they called it the Railway Built of Gold. This experience was what started me on a quest to seek, discover and write about great railways trips. It also took me to Sacramento, California for the Railfair in the 80s, which is held every 10 years, sponsored by the California Railway Museum. This combination led to a feature that has been appearing in the travel media since 1989. My last railways trip was January, 2003, when we traveled from Marrakech to Casablanca, Morocco. The following item by Scott Banks is sure to whet your appetite for a railway tour to the interior of America's great frontier state, Alaska.

Look no further. Here is a specialized web site that will tell you everything you need to know about cruises to Alaska. It's one of our publisher's favorite topics and a vacation experience you will never forget.

Alaska Railroad Packages Adventure in 2003

By Scott Banks

Few railroads in the country target adventure travel quite the way the Alaska Railroad does, and 2003 will be no different. In fact, the railroad will showcase Alaska adventure with a full summer schedule of tours and packages. Running more than 550 miles between Seward and Fairbanks, the railroad can place Alaska visitors at the face of hanging glaciers, traverse remote birch forests in Alaska's Interior and slide by Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak.

In the 2003 summer season, trips will range from 10 days to two-day overnighters, and the railroad also will debut a new service, the Glacier Discovery Tour, to Spencer Glacier and Grandview. Beginning May 11, 2003, visitors will be able to take the Glacier Discovery train that runs along Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. Continuing past Whittier, the train will take visitors up Placer River Valley to the base of the Chugach Mountains where Spencer Glacier terminates at a spectacular lake complete with floating icebergs. Wild and remote, it's nearly impossible to believe you're within a few hours' travel of downtown Anchorage.

On the shores of the lake, rafters will be able to sample a spread of Alaskan smoked salmon and caribou sausage. Passengers will then board rafts that will take them up close and personal to the glacier and then down the gentle waters of the Placer River. The two-hour trip features a leisurely float with time to take pictures and spot wildlife.

The oarsmen are experienced guides who can relate the natural history of the valley, geology of the glacier and point out wildlife like moose, bear and bald eagles. Motor coaches will return passengers to Anchorage. Passengers on the Grandview tour climb the 3 percent grade to view alpine meadows and catch glimpses of the historic railroad loop district, wildlife and wild flowers before the return to Anchorage by train.

Here are a few of the railroad's other 2003 package offerings:

… The Best of the Kenai Fjords & Denali National Park &endash; Visits to two of Alaska's premiere parks round out this tour. Denali National Park is a major stop for the railroad. This 6-million-acre park is famous for its wildlife and Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak. At the railroad's southern end is Kenai Fjords National Park. The tour boat noses up cozily to tidewater glaciers and views of marine wildlife pop up from every angle.

… National Park Tour &endash; One day shorter than the "Best of" tour, visitors will still enjoy Alaska's most popular national parks. Board the northbound train out of Anchorage to Denali National Park and take the tundra wildlife tour. Return to Anchorage and the next day ride the train to Seward and cruise Kenai Fjords National Park. That night take the train to Girdwood for a stay at Alyeska Resort. Return to Anchorage by motorcoach.

Glaciers and Hot Springs &endash; Cruise Prince William sound and see Alaska's highest concentration of tidewater glaciers. Listen closely and you can hear the ice creak and groan. The next day travel north to Denali National Park & Preserve for a night's stay and then on to Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs for a muscle-relaxing soak under the arctic sky.

Glacier Views Adventure Tour &endash; This trip gives you wilderness Alaska in a short package. Ride the train north to Talkeetna and enjoy a sightseeing flight over Mount McKinley. Return to Anchorage in late afternoon. The next day board the Glacier Discovery train to see Spencer Glacier and a raft trip down the Placer River.

Coastal Cruise and Real Alaska Tour &endash; Ride the railroad's most scenic route to Seward and a cruise around Resurrection Bay. The next day visit the Alaska SeaLife Center and later, experience the thrill of mushing behind a team of world-class sled dogs. Finally, visit Exit Glacier and then take in Seward's charming shops and restaurants.

Alaska By Daylight - Travelers with a leisurely schedule should book the Alaska by Daylight tour. Ten days to experience Alaska and everything it has to offer: dog sled rides, glaciers, Mount McKinley, jet boat tour, riverboat ride, wildlife tour and a visit to a gold mine &emdash;the best Alaska offers.

Deluxe Alaskan Adventure Sampler- This eight-day tour features rafting, dog mushing, flightseeing over Mount McKinley and traveling aboard the Riverboat Discovery along Fairbanks' historic Chena River. If you want to see glaciers, this is the tour.

Packages are all inclusive of hotels, tours and rail travel, and can be booked via the railroad's toll-free number. Visit the Alaska Railroad website at www.AlaskaRailroad.com for information and then call the toll-free number at 800-544-0552 to book your reservations. (The railroad plans to have package online booking early in 2003. Currently, you can only book rail travel online.)

The Alaska Railroad, has 575 miles of track from Seward north to Anchorage, through Talkeetna, Denali National Park to Fairbanks in Alaska's Interior.

More details: The Denali Star departs daily from Anchorage and Fairbanks with stops at Talkeetna and Denali. The Coastal Classic serves Anchorage and Seward, with magnificent walls of ice, jagged peaks and gorges along this route. The Glacier Discovery connects Anchorage and Whittier, winding along the scenic Turnagain Arm of the Cook Inlet. In addition to our daily service routes, the Hurricane Turn offers a unique "flag" service between Talkeetna and Hurricane Gulch, providing a vital transportation link for rural Alaskans. Please join us for one of North America's truly great scenic rail journeys. Thank you for considering the Alaska Railroads as part of your Alaskan adventure. If you have any questions or comments about our service, please call 1-800-544-055

Alaska Railroad Corporation Passenger Services
PO Box 107500, Anchorage, Ak 99510-7500
Anchorage Depot 411 West Ist Avenue
Fairbanks Depot 280 North Cushman, Toll Free 1-800-544-0552
Reservations Fax 1-907-265-2323
Anchorage 1-907-265-2494, Fairbanks 1-907-458-6025
e-mail reservations@akrr.com,