North America Travel Expert, Camilla, was lucky enough to head up to Alaska recently to discover this spectacular wilderness. In this blog she writes about her time at the remote and luxurious lodge Ultima Thule.
My few nights at Ultima Thule, located in the heart of Wrangell St-Elias National Park, was a truly special experience and one that certainly will be hard to beat.
Our day started with delicious and homely sourdough pancakes topped with foraged blueberries, homemade jams and salmonberry syrup – a good start, for sure! We wandered through the lodge’s pretty gardens to the ‘air strip’ marvelling at the thought that everything here – from furniture to cooking equipment and food (if not grown in the family’s impressive greenhouse), and even a tractor – was at some point flown in by bush plane. It is so remote, tucked away overlooking a glacial river in the middle of a National Park the size of Switzerland.
Full of anticipation and excitement, we climbed into one of the lodge’s ‘Super Cubs’ and set off on our flight safari with Paul, the owner of the lodge, and our extremely skilled pilot and guide for the day. These little planes seat three people (including the pilot) and feel a bit like a motorbike with wings! Over the course of the day, we made four landings. First on a big wide glacier where we stepped out onto the ice for a gentle hike and admired the incredible views. Next, we flew south to Icy Bay where the spectacular landscape suddenly opened up to the Bay and the North Pacific beyond. We landed with a bump (thank goodness for those huge squishy tyres!) down on the beach where we saw hundreds of seals, hiked a little, spotted wolverine tracks, and then sat and watched as huge segments of the glacier broke off (warned by a big rumble sound) then crashed into the ocean creating huge swell and the ice to move and creak! Our third stop was for an impressive picnic lunch on the other side of the bay looking out over to a big waterfall. We saw lots of Dall sheep and shaggy mountain goats from the air, as well as a young moose too! Our final stop was on an alpine meadow covered in colorful lichen and lupins, where we hiked up to a peak that Paul had never climbed before. It was hard work as there were no trails, just making our own way through shrubs and miles of blueberry bushes, and it is likely that no other person had stood where we stood for a good twenty minutes taking in the huge open skies, looking down on our tiny plane in the distance, and taking in the complete silence.
As cheesy as it sounds, this place really does have to be seen to be believed!