Exploring Alaska on our first year of full-timing was considered ambitious and brave by some of our friends. But we’re so glad we did it! The experience taught us so much in a very short time. We learned to navigate tight spaces, deal with rough roads, make due with minimal utilities and live in remote campgrounds with like-minded adventurers. We have synchronized to perfection our tasks of moving in and out of tight sites and hooking and unhooking the tow. We feel more than ready to live on the road full time from now on.
The road to Alaska via British Columbia and the Yukon Territory in Canada can not be taken lightly. No matter how many long hours and hundreds of miles of driving, you will never get tired of the endless views of incredible scenery. Coupled with the scenic drive are unavoidable road hazards; unending road repairs with lovely female road workers waving at you, frost heaves, dips, gravel breaks and so on. These hazards were realities that we were prepared for and dealt with as part of the experience.
As much as we tried to cover most of Alaska, it is just not possible. Alaska is immense and super-sized; we covered only a fourth of it. Mountains are higher (Mt. Mckinley aka Denali) and parks larger (Wrangell-Elias National Park). Check these stats: Alaska is 2.3 times larger than Texas and the size of Texas, California and Montana combined. It’s home to the biggest this, the highest that and the most of these – with less than a million residents (about 700,000) enjoying all of it.
And the fishing – oh yeah! To all my fishermen/women friends, this is the place to be excited about the fish. I don’t fish, but I hooked a Halibut here. As long as you know how to navigate the complicated fishing regulations, you’re in for the tastiest and freshest Salmon and Halibut you’ve ever had. Fishing is well managed here, and its monitored to support subsistence living for Alaskan residents.
Glaciers, glaciers everywhere! There are approximately 100,000 glaciers here, with only about 600 named. We never got tired of gawking at them, hiking to them (Portage and Exit Glaciers), driving to them (Mendenhall Glacier), flying over them (Kennicott, Root Glaciers, Grewingk Glacier), landing on them (Mt. Mckinley) and sailing to them (Knik, Aialik, Holgate, Meares glaciers). Many time we just drove by them while enjoying their beauty (Matanuska Glacier). They were always unbelievably pristine and beautiful.
Wildlife, yes. Alaska is where the wild things are! Wildflowers adorned highways, mountains and homes, wild animals roamed around and across roads. Birds chirped and/or just hung around, tart but tasty wild berries grew everywhere. We never got tired of enjoying all of these things in their natural habitats.
Hiking and biking trails galore. They were all there for the taking, with scenic views and often some wild animals along the route.
Alaskans live in a different frame of mind. They are relaxed, hardworking, resourceful and rugged. They are surrounded by such beauty, yet they thrive in the harsh nature of their environment. We hung out with two couples – Wilma/Randy and Gemma/Steve – who had lived there for two decades. Amazing people! Are we planning to go back to Alaska? We can’t wait!
Our trip stats:
Arrival in Canada, start of trip = 5/30/12
Departure from Canada, end of trip = 9/17/12
Miles traveled (including 410 on inland passage ferry) = 5,722
Miles driven in Alaska = 1949
Miles driven in Canada = 3773
Days of trip = 110
Days in Alaska = 73
Days in Canada = 37
Gallons of diesel burned = 648
Border crossings between U.S. and Canada = 8
Campgrounds/RV parks visited = 37
Animals squashed while driving = 1 squirrel and 2 birds of unknown species (obviously not fast enough flyers). We had some close road encounters with moose, deer and a couple of bears, but fortunately they didn’t get together with Betsy.
For those planning a driving adventure into Alaska, here are some must-haves:
- Milepost – it beats a GPS hands-down. Order one in March for the latest version.
Passports- you are going in and out of Canada, whether by ferry or driving.
Be prepared for sticker shock; e.g. Halibut and Chips $16-$21 (but worth it), lemons $1.79 each.
For RV’rs, the campground /RV parks are just that, nothing fancy – live with it.
A spirit of adventure and plenty of patience. You don’t want to rush this trip!
A word of advice and caution to be given those intending to visit Alaska…If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait. The scenery of Alaska is much grander than anything else of its kind in the world, and it is not wise to dull one’s capacity for enjoyment by seeing the finest first. –Henry Gannet, Harriman Alaska Expedition 1899.