As US-based, UK expats on the verge of heading home, we wanted to enjoy a final wonderful vacation in the US and chose Alaska as our destination. We wanted to put together our own itinerary which included horse riding, walking and rafting and were doing a lot of internet research for ideas. For the rafting trip, we found McCarthy River Tours through the internet and from the first contact, we were impressed. Nik was extremely valuable in helping us plan our whole trip. He suggested multiple ideas in a different part of Alaska and we spent a fun few days horse riding, taking a boat ride and walking, prior to our 4 day rafting and camping trip. Logistics all went smoothly. We left the rental car at the small airport in Chitina and Nik picked us up in a van and drove us the 4 hours to McCarthy, chatting all the way about the area and his experiences of living in Alaska. McCarthy is a very small, beautiful town of characterful, traditional buildings. We stayed in a simple but clean and convenient hostel and enjoyed a fabulous meal in the town's fine dining restaurant and a great breakfast from the cafe. We also enjoyed visiting the nearby town of Kennicott which boasts some nice gift shops, a museum, the significant remains of a copper mine and amazing views across a land locked glacier to the Blackburn and Atna peaks. A fabulous location from which to start our rafting tour.
We met Nik to get outfitted for our trip the next morning and were supplied with dry suits and old tennis shoes for wading in the water. We filled our water bottles at the nearby spring and headed out to the rafts. A party of 4 guests, with 2 guides and Loma, a beautiful German Shepherd, we had 2 rafts and put in after an hour or so of packing up. What followed was 4 spectacular days that were the highlight of our Alaskan trip. Our guides, Nik and Kyle, were experienced rafters and we felt totally safe as we made our way from McCarthy to Chitina. They were great company and the only other human beings we saw for 4 days. The scenery was magnificent and we saw mountains with and without snow, wild life (eagles, bear, moose, seal) and the most stunning sun sets. The pace was perfect for leaving behind the cares of the world but despite the remoteness we were very well provided for. Nik provided all the camping equipment (including portable toilet) and planned a great menu for our trip. A cooked breakfast kicked us into action every morning with an ample lunch about 3 or 4 hours later and finally, 3 course dinners every night including grilled salmon (caught by Kyle prior to the trip) and beautiful salads with edible flowers, and brownies cooked in a Dutch oven. Whilst our guides cooked, we put up our tents and explored the area, gathering wood for our nightly camp fire. We enjoyed rivers with salmon; drift wood piles like sculptures; animal tracks and stunning views all the perfect backdrop for conversations with our daughter (14) and son (then 11).
We will truly remember these 4 days as one of the best trips ever and can only thank Nik and Kyle for everything they did for us to make it so special.
Malcolm and Sam, Chicago, US now Farnham, Surrey, UK.
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