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Lodge mixes nature and comfort

Friday, August 31st, 2007

“What cruise ship are you sailing?” That’s the question I’m asked when I say we’re Alaska bound. This is our third year landing on the Yentna River at Riversong Lodge, Accessible only by float plane or boat, the lodge and surrounding cabins have wood burning fireplaces and rustic appeal. No internet access or infinity pools here, but if you enjoy nature, gourmet meals and a remote setting, you will not be disappointed. The rates are expensive, but include transportation from Anchorage, all meals, your own Coast Guard certified guide, jet boat, fishing tackle and the guide cleans and fillets your catch.


Owners Robin and Randy Dewar remembered our anniversary and left chocolate covered strawberries and champagne in our room after a morning on the river. My husband and I fished for three days and came home with 150 pounds of salmon. We also saw eagles, beavers and moose and spotted a bear from the plane.

Jim and Kimberley Bowers shared some father/daughter bonding and silver salmon fishing at

If you’re looking for family adventure, Robyn Palano recommends Circle Alaska Family Adventure, The itinerary appealed to the Lafayette family of five because it included numerous activities and served as an introduction to the Alaskan Interior.

“It was one of our best vacations ever,” says Palano. “The prices for kids 11 & under are amazing.” They added on a few days to the tour because it’s fast paced with multiple modes of transportation. The family took a riverboat cruise in Anchorage and visited a sled dog team. They traveled to Denali via Alaska Railroad and continued to Fairbanks where they picked up a van and drove the scenic Richardson Highway, spending an extra day in Valdez. From there they sailed on a ferry from Prince William Sound to the final destination of Seward where they added a day and visited the Alaska SeaLife Center and an Iditarod kennel.

Palano said the company was willing to customize the tour and planned an itinerary that made them feel like they were on their own. “You live out of suitcase, but its fine. After our day in Denali our son Sammy said, ‘This has been the best day of my life.”

Often a launch point for cruise ships, Vancouver, British Columbia is a favorite destination for Bob and Farrel Vance. Bob recommends the 45 minute ferry ride to Bowen Island, the impressive collection of totems at the Museum of Anthropology on the University of BC campus and the aquarium in Stanley Park.

Karen Chuck and her family sailed Alaska’s Inside Passage on Celebrity Cruises for a multi-generational vacation. Her advice was to book any land tours ahead of time because they filled up fast. She also recommended the Sitka Rose charter boat,, for fishing and whale watching. “It was the highlight of our trip,” reflects Chuck.

Lafayette’s Kim and Mark Figone recently returned from their Alaska voyage on Princess Cruises and loved the kid’s program for their five-year-old, while their girls had the freedom of roaming on board. They saw plenty of wildlife and glaciers.

Also from Lafayette, Bill Abbott of Berkeley-based Wilderness Travel,, arranged for Patti and Dave Schreiner to board a 97 foot yacht in Glacier Bay. Formerly a WWII Minesweeper, the wooden boat has been converted to accommodate 12 guests. They flew into Gustavus, sailing and hiking around the area. “The captain and crew members are naturalist, so you spend your time learning about Alaska,” reflects Patti. In one instance, their kayaks were 30 feet from a mother brown bear and cubs feeding on the bank.

I’m off to Spain in September. Anyone been there lately?

Guest Blog by Nancy Brown: The Book Passage Travel Writers & Photograpers Conference – A Review.

Friday, August 24th, 2007

“Writing is like love making,” shared author Isabel Allende. “You find a place to do it; on a desk, behind a door.” Playing off her banter, The Great Tree of Avalon author T.A. Baron adds that writing begins with the senses. “Our job as writers is to change the world.”

Allende and Baron were two of the many writers who joined us at the 16th Annual Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference held August 16-19, 2007 in Corte Madera, California. From sunup to sundown we were writing ledes, creating the perfect nutgraf and searching for a sense of place while dining al fresco on California cuisine.

Morning sessions found us in classroom settings with San Francisco Chronicle Travel Editor John Flinn, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel Travel Editor Thomas Swick and Los Angeles Times Deputy Travel Editor Vani Rangachar or reviewing photos with Robert Holmes among others.

World Hum’s Jim Benning, Vagabonding’s Rolf Potts and LA Times Travel Deal Detective Jen Leo slogged us through the Brave New World of Blogging. And while blogging may be the wave of the future, not everyone’s blog spot will be acquired by The Travel Channel.

One evening a tall thin man addressed our group of travel writers daring us to spin the mystery wheel. Each peg represented one of Jeff Grenwald’s wild adventures. One of the tales he shared was from Burning Man. It involved an unquenchable thirst for ice cold Horchata tea and a long, blue penis. I guess you had to be there.

Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, came in for a touch-and-go landing as he regaled us with airline stories. He noted that we live in a world of citizen journalism.

Conference alum Paola Gianturco delved into the ethics of mindful journalism for the greater global influence and offered her website as a resource.

There were many well known publishers and writers such as Larry Habegger and Amanda Jones and photographers like Mikkel Aaland to rub shoulders with. I hesitate to list them all for fear of name dropping. I will say that Conference Chair Don George has a wicked sense of humor and Book Passage Owner Elaine Petrocelli’s enthusiasm drives this thriving, independent bookstore.

The conference reminded me of my journalism college days when students and faculty engaged in animated conversation about the craft of writing and photo journalism. Afternoon private tutoring sessions were available for the ambitious. And what university experience would be complete without an evening fraternity party with alcohol fueled karaoke?

If you fancy yourself a travel writer or photographer, you’ll want to note next year’s August 14-17, 2008 conference dates. Visit Book Passage for more information.


Guest blogger Nancy Brown of California writes What a Trip for the Lamorinda Sun.