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.

 

 



Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier – Palmer

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From Portage we drove to the east on the scenic Glenn Highway and spent a few days in Palmer  located 42 miles northeast of Anchorage. This town is  considered as the garden hub of Alaska due to its microclimate which produces amazing giant vegetables but we missed seeing most of them since it is too late in the season.

Palmer Alaska

Record of giant veggies in Palmer through the years

Palmer Alaska

A sampling of these giant veggies at the Visitor Center

During our stay at the Mountain View RV Park we found out about the Knik Glacier tour via a brochure, which advised that we would be whisked away via 4-wheel-drive van, airboat and jetboat to the glacier.  Airboat was the magic word for Steve, who wants to experience every form of transportation known to man before he dies.  It was a fairly short trip (3 hours) and very affordable, so off we went. On our way there a mama Moose and calf crossed the highway.  We didn’t have to pay extra for that!

Knik Glacier

Mama moose showing baby moose the right way to get hit by a car.

We met our guides Tom and Tom, who split up the group and took us in 2 vans over some very rough roads and across streams that were at least a couple of feet deep and quite wide.  That part of the trip was exciting, but it was only to get us to the boats.  Then half of the tourists got in the airboat (us included) and the other half in the jetboat.  Off we went for a 20-minute ride to the Knik Glacier where Tom  skirted several large chucks of ice as we got to the edge of the glacier and then we turned to dock at the camp.  The drive was beautiful as the riverbed was adorned with pink and white wildflowers, and the sight of ice in front of us from the boats was amazing.

Knik Glacier, Palmer, AK

The airboat

River Bed at Knik Glacier, Palmer

Drive onto a river bed

Knick Glacier, Palmer

Driving around the icebergs

Knik Glacier, Palmer

Flowers looking like ice or snow

Knik Glacier

Icebergs are actually clear, not blue.  But in large chunks you will see blue in the parts of ice that have been compressed to the point that hardly any oxygen remains.  This allows only the color blue from the light spectrum to reflect into our eyes.

Once on shore, we were served hot drinks and snacks while relaxing across from the glacier.  The icebergs were too numerous to allow us to get right up to the glacier, but since the boats were so small we were able to navigate closely around them to check them out on our.  Pretty cool to be able to actually reach out and touch an iceberg!  Knik is stunning, so vast and quite different from the other glaciers that we have seen on previous tours or hikes.

Knik Glacier

Amazing iceberg formation

Knik Glacier

Venturing out into the bank of glaciers

Knik Glacier

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier

Rivers of Ice, Knik Glacier

After kicking back and exploring around the area for wildlife (we saw only one black bear from a distance), we switched places in the boats so we could ride the jetboat and headed back to “headquarters.”

Looking for wild animals, Knik Glacier

Looking for wild animals

It was a fun trip and the weather was decent.  A nice way to spend an afternoon on a bit of an adventure in yet another beautiful part of Alaska.  If you are in the area, check them out at:   www.knikglacier.com

The RV park we stayed at has mountain views and the sites were grass.  While there, we had company one day, 20 motorhomes and fifth wheelers on an Alaskan Tour caravan.

Mountain View RV Park, Palmer Alaska

Mountain View RV Park