Our Alaska adventure parting thoughts and stats

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Above is Our Alaska Adventure Route, the red pins on our way in and the purple ones on our way out.

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 GlaciersGrewingk Glacier), landing on them (Mt. Mckinley) and sailing to them (KnikAialik, 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:

  1. Milepost – it beats a GPS hands-down.  Order one in March for the latest version.
  2. Passports- you are going in and out of Canada, whether by ferry or driving.

  3. Be prepared for sticker shock; e.g. Halibut and Chips $16-$21 (but worth it), lemons $1.79 each.

  4. For RV’rs, the campground /RV parks are just that, nothing fancy – live with it.

  5. 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.

 

 



Water music – Seward adventure part 2

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One morning in Seward we woke up with a surprise, the sun showed up!  When we reserved for the Kenai Fjords National Park tour, we were expecting rain and so were happy the sun chose to come out this day.  We took a 7-hour cruise tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park and on board was a knowledgeable national park ranger to point out interesting wildlife and answer questions from the passengers.  This tour also offered a prime rib and salmon lunch buffet that is actually very good.

Tour route

Seward Harbor

Clear sunny day at the Seward Harbor

We  saw  a lot of water wildlife on this tour, including humpback whales, sea otters, puffins, eagles and a bunch of dall porpoises that gave us a great show right next to the boat.

Raft of Sea Otters

Raft of Sea Otters

Otter

Isn’t the otter cute?

humpback whale

Our first humpback whale sighting

humpback whale

Here is a rare photo of a humpback whale fluke breeching the water. You normally only see this when the whale is doing a deep dive.

Steller Seal lions

Steller Seal lions

Steller Seal lions

Cute Steller sea lion

Dall Porpoises

Dall Porpoises

Puffins

Puffins

Kittiwakes

Kittiwakes, called as such due to their rhythmic calls of their names: kitty-weeeeik…it was really fun to listen.  Kittiwake is just a fancy name for a seagull…

Chiswell Islands

Chiswell Islands, where we heard harmonious singing from the sea birds

We learned how the fjords have been created as two tectonic plates collide and sea water fills in the glacier-carved valleys.  We really enjoyed hearing and watching the Holgate and Aialik glaciers calving, as we were able to get very close with the small boat and then sit there and experience them.  Very cool!

The many glaciers in the Kenai Fjords Park are spawn from  the Harding Icefield, named after Pres Harding. This icefield  is the largest icefield contained entirely within the United States and one of the reasons the park was established. Both Holgate and Aialik glaciers that we approached  are tidewater glaciers terminating at sea level and calves directly into the ocean.

Holgate Glacier

Holgate Glacier, has a face of 400 to 600 ft

Icebergs

Icebergs

Kayakers

Kayakers

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals basking in the sun

Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier, where we saw and heard a lot of calvings, awesome!

Aialik Glacier

Calving at Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier

For perspective, check how small the tour boat is.

Aialik Glacie

Colorful kayakers with Aialik Glacier as the background

Although there were some swells as we crossed into the Gulf of Alaska (where Deadly Catch is filmed), it was a great tour and a great day.  We heard different voices from the moaning of the Murres, to the grumble of Puffins and chirping of the Gull chicks.  Not to be outdone, we heard the growling of the Steller sea lions and the slap of flukes of the Humpback whales and splashes of the playful Dall porpoises.

We recommend this tour (Major Tour Co)to everyone going to this part of Alaska!