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.

 

 



Rainy Daze in Seward

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After basking in the sun in Kenai, we packed up and moved to the southeastern side of the Kenai Peninsula to  Seward. It is a  small picturesque city ringed by steep mountains on one side and the sparkling waters of Resurrection Bay on the other.  This is not only a fishing town but  it also offers a little bit of everything, hence tagged as  “Alaska starts here.”

Old Seward

Old Seward

Seward, nestled in by Mt Marathon

Seward, nestled in by Mt Marathon

We left the sun shine and drove thru rain again.  The plan was to stay here for five days but the forecast for that time was rain, rain and more rain.  The consolation however was that the RV park we stayed in had awesome views – we were entertained daily by playful sea otters, bald eagles, sea gulls, kayakers, and cruise ships passing over the bay outside our front window.

Miller Landing

Awesome view but surrounded by mud pools

Millers Landing

Kayakers ready to go

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle with prey ready for take off

Bald Eagle

Seagull flying after the fish that the Bald Eagle caught

Sea Otthers

Sea Otters frolicking right in front our window

Seward

Cruise ship passing thru

What to do on a rainy day and not get wet?  Go see some  animals at the Alaska SeaLife Center.  The center serves as a marine research center as well as an educational institution.  This sea life center is filled with amazing and wonderful displays of sea life and birds in Alaska that would otherwise be a rare sight.  There is a bird rockery display where beautiful and cute puffins were flying around.

Alaska SeaLife Center

Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffin

Horned Puffin

Horned Puffin

It  continued to rain the following day, but we went ahead and explored Exit Glacier, one of the attractions in Seward.  Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible by foot and it emerges from the Harding Icefield .  We followed a moderately strenuous hike which lead us to the wall of the blue ice at the edge of the glacier.  The trail has markers showing where it ended on various years as it continues to recede during the past hundred years.

 Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Lines shows marking of moraine as glaciers extent in a year

Edge of Exit Glacier

Edge of Exit Glacier,note people at the edge

exit glacier

Result of a powerful river of ice carving the bedrock

Exit Glacier

The year where the toe used to be

There will be a part 2 of Seward to talk about the Kenai Fjords National Park tour in my next blog.

After the 4th day we realized that the rain was going to continue, and we had seen just about everything we wanted to.  So we hooked up the car and headed to Portage, which also had some nice surprises to offer.  Stay tuned!