Scouts from Phoenix, Arizona, Embark on a Thrilling 10-Day Journey of Natural Wonders, Wildlife Encounters, and Unforgettable Experiences in the Heart of Alaska
Troop 41 of Phoenix, Arizona, always looks forward to its annual summer trip, but perhaps none as much as the Alaska adventure planned for July 2023. Nearly a year of planning culminated with a 10-day excursion to Anchorage, Seward, and Denali National Park, where Scouts and families would experience the beauty and adventure only Alaska can offer.
Scoutmaster Brian Cook had been to this region of Alaska before, and his travels helped to narrow down the seemingly limitless opportunities. Activities were penciled in, researched, and discussed in terms of cost, travel options, food, and group size. The troop raised money by selling Christmas trees at their lot on 11th Street and Northern Avenue in Phoenix.
Tent camping kept accommodations thrifty and added to the Scout spirit. The large group of 56 people was organized into patrols for cooking, cleaning, and activities. Sleeping outside also offered a unique way to experience the Alaska summer, which comes with variable weather and more than 20 hours of daylight.
The trip began with a flight into Anchorage, Alaska, where the larger group met up with some who had flown in a day earlier to procure rental vans, trailers, and food. After a restful night in a hotel (it would be all tent camping from there on out!), the troop headed to Alyeska Resort for a scenic tram ride to the top of Alyeska Mountain. At an elevation of 2,300 feet, they witnessed frosty views of the Turnagain arm, “hanging” glaciers, and endless peaks deep into the Chugach mountain range.
The next day, the troop boarded the Kenai Fjords National Park Glacier Cruise. “Welcome to the fifth sunny day of summer!” announced the captain of the ship, as the clouds parted, and sunlight revealed teal blue milky waters clouded by sediment from melting glaciers. The sunshine was a welcome surprise, but the true highlight of the cruise was the sight of eight humpback whales feeding together in the fjord. “Bubble net feeding” is a coordinated hunting strategy that requires solitary whales to work together to surface feed. Only an estimated 10% of humpback whales come to southeast Alaska; of this, only a few of them actually bubble-net feed. This rare natural wonder occurred around a dozen times while those on the cruise ship quietly observed with clicking cameras and wide smiles. Along with the humpback whales, wildlife sightings included harbor seals, sea lions, puffins, a sea otter, and even a black bear walking along a nearby beach.
Seward KOA Journey Campgrounds served as the troop’s hub for the next few days while groups alternated kayaking in Moose Pass and fishing in the Kasilof River. The sockeye salmon were biting, feeding the entire troop for two nights and leaving 50 pounds of fish to be shipped back to Phoenix. Many also chose to hike to Exit Glacier, an accessible glacier in the Kenai Fjords that is a stunning example of how the massive “ice rivers” reshape a landscape as they travel over time.
After four nights in Seward, the troop packed up camp in the rain and broke off into two separate adventures. Thirty-six boarded a charter bus to Denali National Park, while the remaining 20, all members of Venture Crew 2041, began a three-day backpacking journey across Resurrection Pass. The 20-mile trek served as the final challenge before the group headed to Philmont Scout Camp the following week. While rain was expected, the crew enjoyed sunny skies and breathtaking scenery.
In Denali, the 36 remaining Scouts and family members camped for four more nights. Denali National Park is a sprawling landscape with flowing rivers and lush hills crowned by Denali, the highest mountain in North America, looming at 20,301 feet elevation 71 miles in the distance. A highlight of the trip was the full visibility of this icy mountain, which only 30 percent of park visitors are lucky enough to see! The group also enjoyed the interactive visitor’s center, ranger-led and self-led hikes, sled-dog kennels and mushing demonstrations, and playing in the glacier-fed waters of Savage River.
On the final day before heading home, the Venture Crew rejoined the rest of the troop in Denali National Park for one last Alaskan adventure: white water rafting on the Nenana River! The group enjoyed a thrilling ride through glacially-carved valleys along splashing ice-cold rapids. They even spotted a moose and her calf drinking from the river as they sailed by. With laughter and excited screams from everyone, rafting was the perfect way to end a magical and action-packed journey to Alaska!
Troop 41 meets at First United Methodist Church in Phoenix, AZ. For more information, visit bsatroop41az.org, or email Scoutmaster, Brian Cook at email@example.com. Submitted By Rachel Luman
Scouting is all about fun in the outdoors. Camping, hiking, rafting…in Scouting, we do it all! There’s something cool and exciting for everyone to learn and do! Every skill level welcome!