Homer, Kodiak, the Aleutians, and Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Homer, Kodiak, the Aleutians, and Dutch Harbor, Alaska – August 20–26, 2018 

Limited to 6 participants

An extraordinary opportunity to experience and photograph some of the most dramatic scenes in Alaska. When totaled, your trip by land, sea, and air will cover more than 1,750 miles through some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery Alaska has to offer.  Your journey begins with a flight from Anchorage to Homer, an eclectic and picturesque town bordering Kachemak Bay, at the end of the Kenai Peninsula. You will enjoy: 

  • Expert instruction, geared to your level of expertise for an enhanced learning experience.
  • Full days in the field shooting, with instruction provided as needed to elevate your photography.
  • Tour designed to create a fun and interactive environment that enhances your individual experience.
  • Experienced location guidance.
  • Feedback and image critiques and helpful suggestions throughout the trip.
  • Instruction on image processing as requested.

 

To register, click here:

  • Standard registration — $4,250.
  • Single supplement — $600, Homer and Dutch Harbor only. Single supplement may be available on the Tustumena for an additional fee; inquire early if you are interested.
  • A $1,000 deposit will secure your reservation.

Alaska Off the Beaten Track

We will explore Homer and the surrounding region and then board Alaska’s legendary M/V Tustumena for a an unparalleled 840-mile voyage through the Aleutians to Dutch Harbor / Unalaska, with a day in Kodiak and shorter stops at several Aleutian communities long the way — Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass, and Akutan, each with its own unique appeal. We will see dramatic coastal landscapes, towering cliffs, active volcanoes, with good chances of seeing whales, sea lions, harbor seals, puffins and other seabirds, and other wildlife. In Kodiak, you will have an opportunity to take an optional flight to see and photograph Kodiak grizzlies in action, and in Dutch Harbor, we will visit sites associated with the Aleutian campaign of World War II (Dutch Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, and two islands to the west, Attu and Kiska, were taken and held by Japanese forces) as well as exploring deep into Unalaska’s remote and lush backcountry. Keep reading for more details on this unique adventure . . .

Tour Itinerary:

Monday, August 20

Flights from Anchorage to Homer (included in tour cost). Multiple options are available to fit with your travel plans, and you should have some excellent scenic views en route. Depending on your schedule, you will be met at the airport by Jim; if you’re arriving after 5:30 PM, a cab will be waiting to take you to our lodging.

  • Lodging will be at the Pioneer Inn, located in downtown Homer.
  • At 6:00 we will gather in the lobby, and head out to Homer Spit for dinner at Little Mermaid (most folks consider “her” the best restaurant in Homer; an excellent view of Kachemak Bay comes as a bonus).
  • After dinner, we will return to our lodging to get some rest — tomorrow will be a long, active day.
  • 9:46 PM — Sunset; dusk is at 10:35 PM. There will be light twilight all night.

Tuesday, August 21

  • 9:00 AM — Breakfast.
  • 10:30 AM — We check out of our lodging, and head out to explore Homer and the surrounding region. Through the course of the day, we will visit the Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, the Pratt Museum, historic Old Town Homer, Homer Spit (including a “graveyard” of old, abandoned, and unrepairable boats); we will also check out some hotspots where we are likely to see bald eagles, and take some scenic drives, stopping wherever we find appealing scenes (fireweed should be at or near peak bloom). And, yes, we will break for a long, leisurely lunch at a time and place agreeable to participants.
  • 7:30 PM — Dinner at AJ’s Oldtown Steakhouse & Tavern, with a live performance by Alaska’s official state balladeer, Hobo Jim.
  • 9:15 PM — We head to the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry terminal on Homer Spit to board the M/V Tustumena and check into our cabins.
  • 9:43 PM — Sunset; dusk is at 10:30 PM.
  • 10:30 PM — The Tustumena sails for Kodiak, 126 sailing miles to the south.

Wednesday, August 22

  • 6:48 AM — Sunrise. Dawn is at ~6:04 AM.
  • 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM — Breakfast is served onboard the Tustumena. The Tustumena is one of only two Alaska Marine Highway System vessels with a dining room offering sit-down food service and a menu with some very good options..
  • 8:30 AM — The Tustumena arrives in Kodiak. We will be in port for 8 hours, the longest stop on our westward journey, giving us ample time to explore Kodiak and the surrounding area.
  • ~8:45 AM — Pick up time for optional fly-in bear viewing and photography. There is an additional fee (on you) for this activity, paid directly to the flight service. You will be brought back to the Tustumena by 3:30 PM.
  • 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM — If you choose not to go on the bear-viewing fly-in, Jim will guide you to several historic and cultural sites in Kodiak, as well as to some beautiful natural scenes in the surrounding area (we will have a rental 4×4). Stops in Kodiak will include the Alutiq Museum, the Baranov Museum, and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of Christ (completed in 1896, incorporating portions of earlier structures dating back to 1808). Lunch will be in town, at a time and place agreeable to participants. After lunch, we will visit Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park (the fort played an important role in WW II, but today, it’s the beautiful natural scenes that predominant, with wildlife sightings possible. The park includes an exceptionally good site for whale watching). We also plan stops at Mill Bay and White Sands Beach if the whales aren’t actively breaching.
  • 12:00 noon to 1:30 PM — Lunch is served on onboard the Tustumena for those who choose to stay onboard or re-board early.
  • 3:30 PM — Re-board the Tustumena.
  • 4:45 PM — The Tustumena sails for Chignik, 248 miles and 18.75 hours sailing time to the west.
  • 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM — Dinner is served on onboard the Tustumena. A special entree will be available for dinner each evening, in addition to the standard menu offerings.
  • 9:59 PM — Sunset; dusk is at 10:41 PM.

 Thursday, August 23

  • 7:19 AM — Sunrise. Dawn is at ~6:37 AM.
  • 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM — Breakfast is served onboard the Tustumena.
  • 11:30 AM — The Tustumena arrives in Chignik, a small village (population 91) where life revolves around fishing and fish processing. The approach to Chignik is marked by the dramatic spires of Castle Cape, rugged cliffs, waterfalls, and in the distance, Mount Veniaminof, an active volcano and one of Alaska’s tallest (we will see more volcanos as we sail westward). We will be in port for 1.5 hours, and will go ashore for a quick photo walk through the village.
  • 12:00 noon to 1:30 PM — Lunch is served on onboard the Tustumena.
  • 12:30 PM or as directed by the Captain — Re-board the Tustumena.
  • 1:00 PM — The Tustumena sails for Sand Point, 121 miles and 9.5 hours sailing to the west.
  • 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM — Dinner is served on onboard the Tustumena.
  • 10:00 PM — Sunset; dusk is at 10:40 PM.
  • 10:30 PM — The Tustumena arrives at Sand Point, home to the largest fishing fleet in the Aleutians, with a population of around 976. We will be in port for just over an hour, and there is usually some interesting activity, even at this time of night. It’s worth going ashore for nighttime photos of the Tustumena and wharf area, but we will need to stay close and re-board within no more than 30 minutes.
  • 11:45 PM — The Tustumena sails for King Cove, 86 miles and 6.75 hours sailing to the west.

Friday, August 24

  • 6:30 AM — The Tustumena arrives at King Cove. One of the largest fish processing operations in the United States, with King crab, salmon, halibut, cod, and other seafood species being prepared for market. Seabirds of many species are drawn here in large numbers, We will be in port for just over an hour. As with Sand Point, it’s worth going ashore for a quick visit, but we will need to stay close and re-board within about 30 minutes.
  • 7:40 AM — Sunrise. Dawn is at ~7:00 AM.
  • 7:45 AM — The Tustumena departs for Cold Bay, 21.5 miles and two hours sailing to the west.
  • 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM — Breakfast is served onboard the Tustumena.
  • 9:45 AM — The Tustumena arrives at Cold Bay, population 108 or so. Mt. Frosty provides a dramatic backdrop to the harbor, and that’s just the beginning — there is much more in the area, including two active volcanoes and the Izembeck National Wildlife Refuge. We will be in port for about three hours. A highlight of our visit here is the possibility of visiting the Izembeck National Wildlife Refuge. Izembek consists of 315,000 acres, 300,000 of which is wilderness. The refuge plays a critical, unique role in the protection of migrating waterfowl; for example, during autumn, Izembek is home to nearly the entire population of Pacific black brants (150,000 birds), as well as Taverner’s Canada goose (55,000), the emperor goose (6,000), the threatened Steller’s eider (23,000) inhabit the lagoon each fall. Izembek is also home to healthy populations of wolf, fox, and wolverine, caribou (the Southern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd, about 5,000 caribou), moose, and brown bears. U.S. Fish and Wildlife will pick up approximately 30 passengers from the Tustumena, and will take them on a guided tour of portions of the refuge. If more passengers wish to visit Izembek than the USFWS can accommodate, participants will be chosen by lottery (during Jim’s 2017 trip, everyone who had an interest was able to go — but there is no guarantee; the excursion to Izembek NWR is administered entirely by the USFWS and is not part of the RRPT tour. If a lottery takes place, and any of RRPT’s participants are excluded from the USFWS excursion, Jim will lead a walking tour of Cold Bay and the surrounding area; there will still be plenty to see and photograph.
  • 12:00 noon to 1:30 PM — Lunch is served on onboard the Tustumena.
  • 12:45 PM — The Tustumena departs for False Pass, 58 miles and 4.25 hours sailing to the west.
  • 5:00 PM — The Tustumena arrives at False Pass, a small (population of about 45) Aleut village situated between the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska; the greatest commercial fisheries in the world are found just north and south of False Pass. The area is home to more than two dozen active volcanoes. Directly or indirectly, False Pass relies heavily on commercial fishing, particularly for salmon, halibut, and crab. We expect to be in port about an hour and 45 minutes, and will have time for a productive photo walk.
  • 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM — Dinner is served on onboard the Tustumena.
  • 6:45 PM — The Tustumena departs for Akutan, 134 miles and ten hours sailing to the west.
  • 10:05 PM — Sunset; dusk is at 10:45 PM.

Saturday, August 25

  • 5:00 AM — The Tustumena arrives in Akutan for a short stop. Akutan is one of the busiest fishing ports in the country, while remaining one of the most traditional Aleut communities; the population is about 1,027. Trident Seafoods, one of the largest fish processing plants in Alaska, is located here, and is the major employer. Akutan volcano, seven miles to the west, is active, with steady steam emissions and an occasional dusting of volcanic ash. The whiskered auklet is found on the nearby Baby Islands, one of only two places in the world where this species is found. After the Japanese attacked Unalaska in June 1942, the U.S. government evacuated the entire population of Akutan to the Ketchikan area. During the June 1942 attacks, a Japanese Zero fighter crashed on Akutan Island and was recovered by the United States Army Air Force. Recovery of his plane significantly aided American tacticians in devising dog-fighting techniques to defeat the Zero, and helped change the course of the war. We will be in port for no more than about 45 minutes. Early risers can stretch their legs ashore, but shouldn’t stray too far from the immediate vicinity of the Tustumena.
  • 5:45 AM — The Tustumena departs for Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, 45 miles and 3.5 hours to the west.
  • 7:58 AM — Sunrise. Dawn is at 7:19 AM.
  • 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM — Breakfast is served onboard the Tustumena.
  • 9:15 AM — The Tustumena arrives in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, our final port of call. We will turn in the keys to our cabins, and head directly to our lodging to drop off our gear. Our lodging is at the Grand Aleutianand it deserves its name. From there, we will provide some historical and cultural background by visiting the Museum of the Aleutians and learn about the critical actions that took place at Dutch Harbor and Unalaska during WWII by visiting the Aleutian World War II Visitor Center.
  • Lunch will be in town, at a time and place agreeable to participants.
  • After lunch, we will visit the WWII fortifications and bunkers on Amaknak Island, including Fort Schwatka. There are excellent views of Unalaska Bay, the port of Dutch Harbor, and Iliuliuk Bay (during Jim’s 2017 visit, dozens of whales cold be seen breaching offshore), and there will be impressive stands of fireweed and other wildflowers at peak bloom. We will close the day with a driving tour that will include stops at the Russian Orthodox Church and other notable sites, and a short (one mile), easy hike up Bunker Hill. We will return to the Grand Aleutian by 5:00 PM.
  • 6:30 — Dinner at Amelia’s, a local favorite with an extensive and diverse menu. After dinner, we’ll return to the Grand Aleutian. If you prefer, you can enjoy excellent meal at the Grand Aleutian’s Chart Room restaurant. After dinner, the rest of the evening is yours to relax and prepare for tomorrow.
  • 10:15 PM — Sunset; dusk is at 10:54 PM. A full moon will rise at 10:18 PM.

Sunday, August 26

  • 8:03 AM — Sunrise. Dawn is at 7:25 AM
  • 9:00 AM — Breakfast at the Grand Aleutian’s Margaret Bay Cafe.
  • 10:00 AM — We head out to explore Unalaska Island’s untamed and scenic backcountry. During the course of the day, we will travel along Iliuliuk Bay, out to Summer Bay and Morris Cove, and to areas around Mount Pyramid. We will pause for a quick bite around noon.
  • 3:00 PM — We return to the Grand Aleutian to pick up our gear.
  • 3:15 PM — We arrive at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport (DUT) to check in for our flight back to Anchorage.
  • 6:55 PM — Scheduled arrival at Anchorage International Airport, and the end of our adventure.

Additional tour details and travel advice will be provided upon registration.

Included in the Cost of this Tour:

  • Expert instruction, geared to your interests and level of experience.
  • Tour designed to create a fun and interactive environment that enhances your individual experience.
  • Experienced location guidance.
  • Feedback, image critiques, and helpful suggestions throughout the trip.
  • Instruction on image processing as requested.
  • Lodging in Homer (one night) and Dutch Harbor (one night).
  • Your cabin and passage on board the M/V Tustumena (four nights); two or three participants per cabin (cabins have 4 berths, we will only use 2 or 3 leaving extra room for luggage and gear), each cabin has a private bath. Generally the only time that will be spent in the room will be for sleeping. 
  • Transportation throughout the tour, originating and ending in Anchorage for convenient connection to your flights to and from Alaska. This includes —
    • Your flight from Anchorage to Homer (122 miles);
    • Passage on the M/V Tustumena from Homer to Dutch Harbor (840 miles);
    • Your flight from Dutch Harbor back to Anchorage (794 miles); and
    • Ground transportation in Homer, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor/Unalaska.
  • Ounalashka land access permits.
  • Experiences you can’t find elsewhere and memories to last a lifetime.

Not Included:

  • Your flights or other transportation from your home to Anchorage and from Anchorage back to your home.
  • Optional fly-in bear viewing and photography in Kodiak. The fee for this optional excursion will be collected by the provider (Road Runner does not receive any payment or compensation for facilitating this adventure). More information can be provided upon registration. 
  • Your meals and drinks aboard the Tustumena.
  • Your meals and drinks in Homer, Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, and all ports along our route from Homer to Dutch Harbor.

Trip Insurance

All participants are strongly advised to purchase travel protection insurance. Travelinsurance.com offers many different options from various vendors and allows for product comparison.

Participant Information, Waiver, and Releaseclick here.

Healthy Packing Listclick here.

 

Homer, Kodiak, the Aleutians, and Dutch Harbor, Alaska

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