Trip Number: 13023B
Staff: Cristina Breen
- Observe whales, seals, birds, and other wildlife while traveling on
a small yacht
- See bears fishing for salmon in their natural habitat
- Hike through temperate rainforest to beaches, waterfalls, and wildflower-covered
- Yacht lodging and all meals
- On-trip naturalist/marine biologist
- Use of sea kayaks
Join us as we explore the breathtaking beauty of this area, as well as the
natural history and tribal heritage of southeast Alaska's Inside Passage from
the comfort of a small yacht. We will watch humpback whales as they gather in
these rich northern waters to feed on herring and krill that thrive here. These
whales were once the most abundant whale species in the world. Now, they are
on the endangered species list. Fortunately, the population is increasing. It
is truly an amazing site to see pods of whales feeding and frolicking.
We will also journey into fjords to see icebergs and a tidewater glacier, look
for bears and other wildlife. Most of our voyage will take place in the Tongass
National Forest -- the largest in North America. Each day, we'll go ashore to
experience beautiful beaches and forests, tumbling waterfalls, alpine meadows,
and wetlands filled with incredible plants. Accompanied by a naturalist, we'll
comb the shoreline for intertidal creatures, birds, plants, and marine animals
as well as go on some hikes to enjoy the lush forests and wildlife that abounds
there. Additionally, we have applied for a permit to include a visit to the
Anan Creek Bear Observatory where we’ll likely see bears feasting on salmon.
This permit is a lottery, and we will know the status in February 2013. However,
we have excellent chances, as there are typically more permits than applications.
We have not been disappointed yet!
We'll begin our voyage in picturesque Wrangell, Alaska. This was traditionally
a logging town, but has evolved with tourism. Our group will gather the evening
before the trip begins to get acquainted and take a look at the trip plan.
Our flexible daily itinerary will be based upon group interests, weather conditions,
and, of course, animal sightings. Therefore, what follows is only a sample itinerary!
Photo: Daniel Leighton
Days 1-2: The trip officially begins at 10 a.m. at Wrangell’s
municipal harbor. We’ll board our new home (a 65-foot steel motor-vessel),
assign cabins, have a safety talk, and then get underway. We’ll likely
stop for a short hike, or perhaps visit Virginia Lake, where the hardy can enjoy
a chilly swim.
We head for Anan Creek, which has the largest run of pink salmon in southeast
Alaska. It has long been used by bears (both brown and black bears) and humans
as a fishing and food-gathering site. Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Forest
Service improved a trail to the falls and built a simple observatory on the
site of a former Tlingit village. The Forest Service has a half-mile boardwalk
trail, deck area, and blind that give us an opportunity to watch the bears up
close. We will take our time enjoying at Anan area and the Anan Bear Observatory.
Day 3: Heading north through the Wrangell Narrows, we may
stop at some interesting petroglyph-inscribed rocks before stopping near Petersburg,
an interesting small town. We may take a hike through a nearby bog full of fascinating
plants that are native to that environment, or take a hike out of Petersburg
itself. We will then continue north on Fredrick Sound to Thomas Bay.
Days 4-5: With good weather, we’ll awake to see spectacular
mountains, seascapes, and glaciers. Frederick Sound, Chatham Strait, and Stephens
Passage are considered the best areas in southeast Alaska to see humpback whales.
This area is the home of hundreds of humpback whales, and one of the only places
in the world where it is possible to witness the feeding style known as "bubble-net
feeding." We will be watching for the whales and this method of feeding.
We'll explore all of these areas. With luck, we'll see some spectacular whale
behavior. We also likely observe sea otters, orcas, dolphins, porpoises, terns,
and other interesting seabirds. We’ll spend a night at an island group
called The Brothers, where we can take our skiff or kayaks to observe sea lions.
A gorgeous hike through a rainforest also awaits us at these islands.
Photo: Daniel Leighton
Days 6-7: A treat is in store for us as we cruise up one of
the fjords to the foot of a large tidewater glacier, perhaps the Dawes Glacier.
These glaciers extend hundreds of feet above the water and are constantly calving
icebergs into the water below. Depending on schedule and interest, we may continue
to Five Fingers lighthouse for a shore excursion, or even go as far as Kake
-- one of the native villages in this part of Alaska.
Days 8-9: We'll visit Baranof Warm Springs for a relaxing
soak and a chance to hike to a lake above the picturesque falls. During this
time we will also visit Admiralty Island National Monument, which has the highest
concentration of brown bears (coastal grizzlies) and nesting bald eagles in
Day 10: Weather and sea conditions permitting, we’ll
head to St. Lazaria Island, a wildlife refuge, where we should see tufted puffins,
pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and several other bird species. We will
aim to reach our final destination, Sitka, by noon.
Occasionally, changes may occur in the trip -- either in advance or during
the trip. Please be aware that we will make every attempt to stay within this
itinerary. However, if weather, equipment, or any other condition causes a change,
please be flexible and respect the decision of the leader. The safety of the
group is our number one concern. While wildlife in the Alaska islands is tremendous,
we cannot guarantee that you will see all species listed as examples.
Although the trip is officially over when we dock in Sitka, you may want to
spend at least another day in this fascinating city. Sitka is rich in Native
American (Tlingit), Russian, and American history. Visit the Sitka National
Historic Park, which memorializes the battle of Sitka in 1804 between the Russians
and the Tlingits, and contains remarkable Tlingit and Haida totems. On the way,
stop by wonderful native exhibits at the Sheldon Jackson Museum. Also within
walking distance of the park is the Alaska Raptor Rehabilitation Center, which
provides medical treatment to various birds of prey and allows you to see these
creatures up close.
Photo: Daniel Leighton
This trip starts and ends in different cities. You will need to make your
transportation arrangements to arrive in Wrangell and depart from Sitka. Alaska
Airlines serves both cities. In both places, taxis are available between the
harbor, airport, and town.
There are several reasons we always recommend that you plan to arrive at least
one day before trip departure. One is because weather in Southeast Alaska is
unpredictable, and bad weather causes flights to be delayed or cancelled. Another
reason is that with a 10:00 a.m. departure, there are not many options other
than to arrive the night before. There is much to do and see in Southeast Alaska,
and this trip can serve as the centerpiece for an extended trip. Our gateway
city, Wrangell, provides some interesting options for those curious about history
and the Tlingit native culture. Visit Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House,
and Petroglyph Beach (with more than 40 petroglyphs), and Wrangell Museum (Tlingit
house posts and native baskets, and the history from Gold Rush to Russian occupation,
fox farming, fishing and the timber industry). Or take a day trip to the mighty
Stikine River, experiencing the same incredible scenery, glaciers, wildlife,
and adventures that John Muir did in 1879. The trip leader can provide you with
additional suggestions for ways to extend your trip.
Accommodations and Food
Our home will be a 65-foot power vessel. Built in 1973 as a private yacht,
this U.S. Coast Guard-certified passenger vessel boasts a motorized inflatable
raft for shore excursions, and several sea kayaks to allow any or all of the
passengers to quietly explore islands and shorelines. The knowledgeable crew
consists of a captain, a professional cook, and an experienced deckhand. We'll
also have a naturalist onboard with expertise in marine biology, ornithology,
The yacht sleeps 12 passengers in six private (all double-occupancy) fully-heated
cabins, and has three toilets and two hot showers. The main deck features an
airy salon, a library, a galley, and a dining area. Large windows permit unobstructed
views out all sides, and access to the outside is easy. The upper bridge deck
provides a good vantage point for spotting wildlife and has comfortable seating
for passengers who wish to learn about navigation. Please note that smoking
is not permitted aboard the ship.
The small vessel allows access to shoreline areas inaccessible to larger ships.
We will spend days traveling from place to place, observing marine life, and
stopping for shore excursions one to three times every day.
Photo: Daniel Leighton
All meals will be onboard the ship. We will have a social hour before dinner
and evening discussions about our experiences that day. Most nights will be
spent anchored in quiet coves. The trip price includes all meals, starting with
lunch on the first day and ending with breakfast on the last day. A professional
cook will prepare all the meals. Volunteer help is always welcome. There will
be ample quantities of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy products.
Delicious, wholesome meals will be served family- or buffet-style. Complimentary
wine is served before and with dinner. Otherwise, guests are responsible for
bringing their own alcoholic beverages or soft drinks. Coffee and tea are also
This will be a leisurely trip. Hikes will be optional and generally easy,
covering moderate terrain. Insects should not be a significant problem, although
mosquito repellent will be useful on some hikes. You must be able to descend
a short ladder to board an inflatable launch for shore excursions. You must
be able to maneuver on the boat, descending and ascending stairs to the cabin
level. Daytime temperatures usually range from 55-85 degrees. Although we should
have days with sunshine, we must also be prepared for rain and gusty winds.
The minimum age for the trip is 12 years.
We use a professional captain, cook, and naturalist for our Alaska Inland Passage
cruise. The industry practice is that outfitters require participants to sign
a waiver similar to the Sierra Club waiver you will be asked to sign. Your trip
leader will provide you with the details for your trip.
Equipment and Clothing
Interests may vary from one person to another, so the equipment list may vary
a bit too. You'll certainly want to bring layered clothing with excellent raingear
and knee-length rubber boots, a camera, and binoculars. Photographers of all
skill levels will have ample opportunities to take pictures of wildlife and
scenery. For all except serious photographers, a point-and-shoot camera -- preferably
with a zoom lens -- works quite well. Those who are particularly interested
in bird-watching will have a treat in store, so good binoculars are essential.
Although this is not a fishing trip, there may be some limited opportunities
to fish. An Alaska fishing license is required and may be purchased in Wrangell
or online before the trip. You will receive a detailed clothing and equipment
list specific to this trip from the leader after signing up.
Photo: Daniel Leighton
- Otteson, Paul, Alaska Travel Smart. This guidebook gives excellent
overviews of places of interest in Alaska.
- Muir, John, Travels in Alaska. Discover Alaska through the eyes
of the Sierra Club's founder.
- Mitchner, James A., Alaska. Explore Alaska and its peoples from
early times to the present day.
- Reid, William, The Raven Steals the Light. Savor Reid's fascinating
stories and legends of the Haida people.
- L'Amour, Louis, Sitka. An early adventurer faces the dangers of
- McPhee, John, Coming into the Country. Alaska is far more complex
geographically, culturally, ecologically, and politically than most Americans
appreciate, and few writers are as capable of capturing this complexity as
McPhee, who describes his travels through much of the state.
- Wiley, Sally, Blue Ice in Motion, The Story of Alaska’s Glaciers.
This book provides an illustrated introduction to Alaska's glaciers, with
details on how they form, why they move, and the landforms that result.
- Hedin, Robert and Gary Holthause, Alaska, Reflections on Land and Spirit.
This book provides a collection of stories by writers who are native to Alaska,
or have traveled and lived in Alaska. It includes accounts of explorers, natives,
naturalists, and others.
- Heacox, Kim, The Only Kayak. An account of the past 25 years that
the author has spent living in Glacier Bay. Includes a look at his own development
as a conservationist.
- Schooler, Lynn, The Blue Bear. Schooler worked for many years as
a guide in the Alaska Panhandle. This book chronicles his search with photographer
Michio Hoshino for the rare glacier bear, a blue-tinted variation of more
common black bears.
- Schooler, Lynn, The Last Shot. In breathtaking detail, author Lynn
Schooler re-creates one of the most astonishing events in American military
history -- a final act of war that brought about the near-demise of the New
England whaling industry and effectively ended America's growing hegemony
over worldwide shipping for the next eighty years.
- Lende, Heather, If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town
Alaska. Her offbeat chronicle brings us inside her busy life: we meet
her family and a colorful assortment of friends and offbeat neighbors, including
aging hippies, salty fishermen, native Tlingit Indians, Mormon spelunkers...as
well as the moose, eagles, sea lions, and bears with whom they share this
wild and perilous land.
- Lende, Heather, Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: A True Story
of Bad Breaks and Small Miracles. Lende’s irrepressible spirit,
her wry humor, and her commitment to living a life on the edge of the world
resonate on every page. Like her own mother’s last wish -- take good
care of the garden and dogs -- Lende’s writing, so honest and unadorned,
deepens our understanding of what links all humanity.
- Kantner, Seth, Ordinary Wolves. The readers experience life on
the Alaskan plains through the character’s own words.
- Jans, Nick, The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell's Fatal Obsession with
Alaskan Bears. This book is about Timothy Treadwell, self-styled "bear
whisperer" who dared to live among the grizzlies, seeking to overturn
the perception of them as dangerously aggressive animals. When he and his
girlfriend were mauled in October 2003, it created a media sensation.
Photo: Daniel Leighton
The Alaska Inside Passage is a vast and delightful wilderness, but human impacts
increasingly affect this area. Drawing upon the knowledge of our crew and your
trip leader, we will experience and discuss several environmental issues for
southeast Alaska, including logging in the Tongass National Forest, mining,
and climate change. Further information will be coming as we prepare for our
Travel in Alaska and the Arctic
Sierra Club outings in Alaska and Arctic Canada are special experiences in true wilderness, but they also carry an element of risk. Trip locales are often remote, away from the amenities of civilization, including sophisticated medical care and immediate evacuation possibilities. Many of our Alaska and Arctic Canada trips now carry satellite phones, but even with this technology, communication with the outside world can be difficult and emergency assistance can be days away. Weather in Alaska and Arctic Canada is unpredictable, and inclement weather can be severe. Among other hazards are cold river and stream crossings, tidal activity, calving glaciers, the psychological effects of remoteness, and the presence of large wild animals. You're in good hands, though, so don't worry: Your trip leaders have vast experience in the Last Frontier, and they'll provide all the guidance you need.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Cristina Breen has been rafting and kayaking rivers in the West and Alaska for the past 18 years. The first time she visited Alaska, she was very tempted to leave San Francisco and become a bush pilot. She dreams of seeing wolverines in the high passes and exploring the Last Frontier's 34,000 miles of coastline. A licensed contractor and garden designer in the Bay Area, she enjoys beach combing, hiking, kayaking, and ceramics. She has a passion for rocks, music, fossils, books, mollusks, maps, birds, succulents, and wild places.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips