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TRAVEL VIDEOS

Tape Reveals Reel Truth About Alaska's Gulf

May 26, 1991|BETTY MARTIN

"Alaska's Gulf Coast" (Alaska Video Postcards, 45 minutes, 1989).

The land bound on the east by the northern end of the Inside Passage, on the north by the mighty Alaska Range and on the west by the long tail of the Alaska Peninsula is the Gulf of Alaska. Although its temperature is somewhat moderated by the Japanese Current, it is still a place of vast ice fields, calving glaciers and miles of wilderness filled with fish and game.

Most major tourist attractions are along the northwest coast of the gulf, including Valdez, at the southern end of the Alaska pipeline where the video begins. Scenes are of salmon fishing, spectacular waterfalls, river rafting, kittiwakes nesting and the huge Columbia Glacier, more than four miles wide and 300 feet high.

The film stops at Cordova, scanning the city and its fishing fleet, a bridge destroyed during the 1964 earthquake, nearby Copper River Delta with its glaciers, and Whittier, where cruise ships anchor.

Then to Kodiak Island, Alaska's largest (100 miles long and 60 miles wide), to Kodiak City and early Russian influences. Across the Shelikof Strait, to the west of Kodiak, the film tours Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula, where a popular attraction is the brown bear, which can be seen nurturing their young and catching salmon. Other views are of Brooks Camp, where tourists come by seaplane to fish, the desolate Valley of 10,000 Smokes that is still recovering from a volcanic eruption in 1912, and Naknek Lake and wilderness area.

Anchorage follows with scenes of summer flowers, high-rise buildings and rush-hour traffic. Float planes and helicopters take viewers sightseeing, with aerial views showing the peaks of the Chugach Mountains, glaciers and farmland, and the Palmer community, known for its giant cabbages.

Activities include windsurfers and baleen whales cavorting on Cook Inlet and the Idatrod dog-sled race to Nome. Viewers can also explore the Kenai Peninsula, visiting the Portage Glacier, salmon runs, Kachemak Bay (a popular artists' haven), Homer (a halibut fishing center), the town of Seward near the Harding Ice Field and the sea otters and glaciers of Resurrection Bay.

The 45-minute video can only look superficially at this lengthy stretch of Alaska's coast, but it's enough to provide some appreciation of its robust lifestyles and bountiful scenic beauty. There are no tips or travel recommendations.

A tape is available from Alaska Video Postcards, P.O. Box 112808, Anchorage, Alaska 99511, (800) 248-2624. Price: $22.95, including postage.

"Napa Valley Wine Train" (Pentrex, 30 minutes, 1990).

This is one of a series on world railroad journeys, produced by Pentrex, with the trains as the star and the scenery secondary. It will have special appeal to train buffs.

Viewers can join the Wine Train in Napa for a three-hour lunch run on a 36-mile trip to St. Helena and back.

As the various cars are prepared for departure, the film offers the history of the old rail line and describes where and when the cars were built, how they were obtained and how they were restored.

After food is prepared, it is loaded into a kitchen car, where it is kept until ready to be served. Also shown are the interiors of the dining and parlor cars, the observation platform and the engineer in the cab.

As the train chugs north through Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford, viewers get glimpses of the countryside, vineyards, trees and flowers along the route.

At St. Helena there is a turn-of-the-century railroad station, where the locomotive is switched to the other end of the train for the return journey.

After a typical lunch menu is described, passengers relax in swivel seats, sipping beverages, including California wines, as they watch the scenery through large windows.

For a tape and/or a catalogue, write Pentrex, P.O. Box 94911, Pasadena 91109, (800) 950-9333. Order No. PEN-NVU. Price: $19.95.

"Moscow" (Rand McNally VideoTrips, 1990, 50 minutes).

At the heart of this historic city is the Moscow that most visitors come to see--Red Square and the Kremlin. In addition to covering them well, the film offers the viewer other tourist attractions and pertinent travel tips.

As the video covers the huge, cobblestoned Red Square, the narration provides historical background on such sites as Lenin's Tomb and the changing of the guard; the familiar rococo domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Lobnoye Mesto, the dais from which Ivan the Terrible issued edicts and, some say, held executions.

In the Kremlin are its massive walls and a history of its 20 towers, five of which are topped with the large ruby and glass stars including the 220-foot-tall Spassky clock tower, the Big Ben of Moscow. There's a visit also to the Armory, now a museum filled with stunning treasures, including Faberge eggs, silver, jewels, the 800-diamond throne and crown of Ivan the Terrible, plus other regalia.

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