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.

 

 



On the way to Mile 300 – Ft Nelson, BC

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We broke ground early Friday and headed off north to begin driving on the Alaska Highway.  Destination -Mile 162 Sikanni Chief River Bridge.

Between now and when we reach the end of the Alaska Highway at Delta Junction in Alaska we will be describing most of the blogs with reference to a historical mile marker.  This is because we are traveling through an intriguing history of the highway and mile markers are ingrained in its history.  Most importantly, our tool or tour guide in this adventure  is the the MilePost.  It is a an inch thick book that provides mile-by-mile descriptions of the highways and byways of the north and tells you of campgrounds, food and lodging, gas, turn outs, litter bins and warns you of steep grades, wildlife and more. So if you are planning a trip to Alaska and Northern Canada, get yourself an updated Milepost which comes out every March.

The Milepost and a large planning map, which is included.

Our drive was again ushered with vista after vista one after another and we are seeing green hills and forests  as far as the eyes can see and every turn we made.  Simply beautiful !

The road was good so far except for the 4 mile stretch with loose gravel starting at  mile 227.  Overall the highway is clearly marked for any hazards on the road and or any constructions going on.

We arrived at Mile 162, where we spent the night after three hours of mountain driving. This is also a historical marker as this is where  one of the first wooden bridges was completed, the  Sikanni Chief River Bridge.  It was significant, since the 300 foot wooden bridge was completed in 84 hours. Unfortunately the bridge burnt down in 1992 and has been replaced.

The following day we left for Fort Nelson which is located at historical mile 300 and spent the night there. We explored the Ft Nelson Heritage Museum, a must if you are in the area. The museum was started by Marl Brown in 1957 and now has grown big with impressive  collections of pioneer artifacts, highway construction displays, vintage autos and much more.  This is also the location of the Alaska Highway Veterans and Builders monument, a commemoration of the workers who helped build the Alaska Highway.

Now we are leaving for Muncho Lake and the next blog will be dependent on internet access. So far we had been lucky with good  wifi connection. Have a great Sunday.

RV Parks we stayed in:

Mile 162 – Sikanni Chief River RV Park; along the river and quiet

Mile 300- Triple G Hideaway RV Park; along the road very noisy with singing tent campers next door.