DO NOT TRAVEL to ALASKA, if…

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DO NOT TRAVEL TO ALASKA, if…

1)   You don’t like dealing with unpredictable weather.

2)   You hate it when your GPS signal sometimes gets lost because you’re so far north.

3)   You don’t like people who work at a more leisurely pace than you’re used to.

4)   You get aggravated when a Bear or Moose walk near the road you’re driving on.

5)   You don’t like being in areas away from supermarkets or an internet connection.

6)   You can’t stand to drive a dirty car.

7)   You don’t like to fish, hunt or spend a lot of time outdoors.

8)   You hate it when other drivers wave Hello at you all the time.

9)   You think up to 20 hours of sunlight per day during the summer is a bad thing.

10)  You get tired of eating the Best salmon and halibut in the world all the time.

But, if like us you think these are just some of the “minor inconveniences” that make Alaska an interesting and charming place, YOU MUST TRAVEL TO ALASKA for one of the best experiences of your life!

~Steve

Lazy Days at Tolsona Wilderness -Glennallen

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Continuing east we headed out to the town of Glenn Allen, 187 miles from Anchorage. The drive along the Glenn Highway designated as a National Scenic Byway  is one of Alaska’s most beautiful, traversing a broad tundra and because of that we are reminded once again of frost heaves, damaged roads, dips… The road winds through gorgeous mountain ranges with spectacular scary drop offs. One of the most breathtaking sight is another glacier, the Matanuska Glacier. We even had a glimpse of the Wrangell Mountains as we arrived in Glenallen.

Glenn Highway

Wildflowers along the Glenn Highway

Chugach mountain ranges

Snack break facing the Chugach mountain ranges

Sheep Mountain,AK

Sheep Mountain

Matanuska Glacier

Glimpse of Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Rive

Matanuska River flows through the valleys

We spent our days at Tolsona wilderness catching our breath and taking a break  from all the fun activities that we had. This is our 47th day since we arrived in Alaska and time is moving so fast.  We played scrabble and had a camp fire for the first time in a long while.  We were able to finally enjoy the sun, which made its rare appearance once again.

Wrangell Mountains

Plaque about Wrangell Mountains

Mt Sanford on the left and Mt Drum on the right

Mt Sanford on the left and Mt Drum on the right

Mt Drum

Mt Drum as seen from the highway

BearFooting in the Kenai Peninsula

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We completed our “bear footing” (having a good time), in Alaska’s playground – the Kenai Peninsula. It left us full of wonderful experiences and spectacular scenery.  The bountiful wildlife in the peninsula borough allowed us to meet the real locals (critters) in Cooper Landing.  We got hooked, we clammed and then traded clams for Halibut in Ninilchik. We gazed at volcanoes and walked and biked the well-maintained pathways in Soldotna.  We went all the way to the end of the road in Homer and to the most westerly point in North America at Anchor Point.  The Harding Icefields and Kenai Fjords National Park formed the backdrop of stunning scenery on the horizon at Seward.  We witnessed frenzy Salmon fishing (or combat fishing as they refer to it) and dip netting for subsistence at the Kenai River in Kenai.  ML even met in person, for the first time, Gemma,  whom  she has been communicating with through FB for eight years.   We spent an afternoon with her, her husband also named Steve and sisters at their home in Nikiski.  The sea life, the Alaskan life,  the glaciers and everything else in between were just astonishing to watch and to experience.

Kenai Peninsula

Kenai Peninsula

The two weeks we spent traveling through the area were not enough. The pictures below are some of the many we took, attempting to capture the essence of what its like to be in the Kenai Peninsula.  We had a great time and we urge you to come and play in Alaska’s playground!

Anchor Point, AK

ML modestly posing at another sign

Homer Spit

Viewing snowcapped mountains from Homer Spit

Homer Spit

Beautiful Sunset at Homer

Anchor Point

North Fork Loop road in Anchor Point

Floatplane

Steve’s first floatplane trip, out of Homer.

Harding IceField

The Harding IceField covers over 700 square miles at the top of the mountain ranges, and spills over the peaks as hundreds of glaciers.

Grewingk Glacier

Grewingk Glacier

Glacier view

Yet another glacier, as seen from the plane from Homer during Steve’s flight.

Mt Redoubt

Mt Redoubt

Mt Iliamna

Mt Iliamna

Gemma, ML, Joy and Wennah

Ninilchik, AK

Steve attempts to fly with the seagulls. They were very graceful, he crash-landed.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle hanging out near our RV site

WooHoo…we made it to Alaska!

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We have arrived in Alaska in one piece!  We’re celebrating a very significant milestone in our journey, with a tale for this stretch of the drive.

Tok Alaska

Celebrating our most significant milestone so far, arriving in Alaska!

Mile 1083: Destruction Bay was the stopover we chose between Whitehorse and Tok. Getting there was a slow 4-hour drive.  The highway between Whitehorse and Destruction Bay was rough and required slowing way down and paying close attention to the changing road conditions.

Frost Heaves, Yukon Territory

One of the hundreds of frost heaves – slow down!

However, Steve complained that it was hard to focus on the road with the beautiful scenery surrounding us.  Leaving Whitehorse took us into about 10 miles of dusty gravel breaks.  Here our speed was between 17 and 20 mph, and we were happy to let other vehicles pass us.  Whenever they did, or whenever a fast-moving vehicle approached from the other direction, we simply pulled over and stopped to prevent rock damage.

We encountered several marked and unmarked frost heaves as we approached Destruction Bay.

Kluane IceField Ranges

Kluane Icefield Ranges

The highway skirted the shores of Kluane Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world!   Wow, even my new favorite, Muncho Lake, was surpassed by its size alone – Kluane Lake is 43 miles long and gorgeous.

Kluane Lake.

Steve in front of Kluane Lake.

Destruction Bay has a place in Alaska Highway history – it was one of several camps built to supply the army during construction of the highway.  It got its name after an extremely violent storm destroyed buildings and much of the highway construction material that was stored there for the project.

Koidern

Koidern

We stayed overnight at Destruction Bay RV Park, and the owner Loren was very happy to see us, since we were the first customer to show up there in several days.  We got to pick the spot we wanted with a mountain and lake view.  Nothing fancy, just electric and we did not bother extending the slide outs, since we wanted to leave early the next morning.

The mosquitos were very excited to see us, too!  This was our first encounter with the big suckers on this trip, and they were living up to their reputation so far.

Destruction Bay

We had the whole RV park at Destruction Bay to ourselves, with views of mountains and Kluane Lake

We were aware of all the warnings and cautionary reminders of the tough road ahead, so at this point Steve placed a modified tarp cover over our Honda CRV to protect it from rocks and gravel.

Protecting the Toad

Steve’s crude way of protecting the Honda from rock damage. $30, and it worked!

Our drive from Destruction Bay to Tok, AK was 225 miles; about 100 miles of it being the worst Steve has driven.  Although not a problem for cars, the frost heaves and dips in the road gave Betsy’s upgraded suspension a real test.  It’s difficult to see the upcoming dips from so high up in the RV cab, and running through them with 60′ of RV and car caused some interesting moments for us.  However, we were moving very slowly and the vehicles seemed to have survived the ordeal.

The bummer is that we will need to travel most of this stretch of road again when we return to Haines to catch the Maritime Highway in September.  Our average speed on this stretch was 39 mph and it took us seven hours – including a lunch break and a 30-minute wait at the U.S. border, to get into the state.

This stretch of the Alaska Highway remains the wonder of the north, for it has been rebuilt and straightened several times.  The annual outbreak of frost heaves is a never-ending challenge for road maintenance crews, and they have a short window of time to repair them before the “crowd” of summer travelers arrives.  We can see they are trying their best to patch them up.

We were so happy to see the U.S. border, thinking the road would be better on the American side.  However, we were given only a 14-mile reprieve and after that the frost heaves and dips prevailed for the next 91 miles.

We gave each other a “high five” right after crossing the border – we were so pumped to finally be in Alaska.  After over a year of planning we had arrived to fulfill our trip of a lifetime.  We had arrived at Tok, the first community in Alaska that weary travelers like us see after crossing back into the U.S.

But hey, where are the Walmart and Costco stores?  Oh, I guess we need to wait until we get to Fairbanks in a few days.

US Border, Alaska

A 30-minute wait at the U.S. border

We are staying at the Sourdough RV Park, very quiet and big-rig friendly.  There was power and water available, which we are learning is fine for short stays.  We simply dump our tanks at the dump station when we leave these parks.  And it’s usually a few dollars cheaper when using partial hookups.  But for stays of a week or more we still prefer full hookups so we won’t risk filling the waste tanks and having to move the rig just to empty them.

Sourdough RV Park,

Our site at Sourdough RV Park, very quiet and lots of privacy.

One thing we’ve learned about RV parks in Canada and Alaska – sewer is optional or not available, and 30-amp power is standard.  Since we don’t need air conditioning this time of the year (which pretty much requires 50-amp service if running at full power) the 30-amp service with water is fine.

Bike path at Tok

We took a 13-mile ride on this bike path in Tok

While in Tok we checked out the Visitor’s Center, a required stop for getting information ranging from road conditions to “things to do” around town and in the state of Alaska.  We also took a 13-mile bike ride along the highway.  We’re just relaxing for a few days and taking a break from the tedious drives.

Biking in Alaska

Taking a break and a pose 🙂

The sun rose at 4:30AM and set at 12:30AM…the long days enabled us to enjoy every minute of our summer in the Last Frontier.  We haven’t seen darkness and stars in quite a while.  And oh, Alaska is on its own time zone, an hour ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Stay tuned for good stories ahead!



 

Mile 0 on the Alaska Highway

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As we were studying and planning for our trip of a lifetime, we had occasional discussions about the city of Dawson Creek.  It seemed to be almost a magical waypoint – so far away!   But here we are now, 1,628 miles and several months from Tracy, CA.

Dawson Creek is centrally located between four highways; the Alaska Highway (97 N), the John Hart Highway (97 S), Highway 2 and Highway 49 (to Alberta).  It is also known as Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.  The image below was typical of one we would see for “Mile 0”, and now we were here!

Mile 0 Alaska highway

This cairn is the location that the US Army surveyors designated as the beginning of the Alaska Highway

What about Mile 0?  Dawson Creek is famous for being located at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, where it begins and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.  The Mile 0 cairn is the exact spot that the U.S. military surveyed as the starting point for the construction of the Alaska Highway.  All mileages on the Alaska Highway were and still are measured from this actual spot.

A scrap iron Surveyor sculpture is pointing the way to Alaska.

A scrap iron sculpture of a surveyor pointing the way to Alaska.  OK, off we go!

We strolled around the city’s downtown to get a flavor of its historical past.  Next we dropped by the Alaska Highway House to learn how the history of the highway unfolded.

It was quite an epic tale of hardship.  The original Alaska Highway consisted of 1,528 miles and was completed in just eight months on Nov 20, 1942.  Seeing the movie/documentary made us appreciate the incredibly hard work and hardship of the men who built it.

Alaska Highway

The famed Alaska Highway, from Dawson Creek, BC to Delta Junction, Alaska

Also in the downtown area was the post that symbolized designation of Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.

Mile 0 Post Alaska Highway

Mile 0 post landmark

We intended to visit here for just a couple of nights, but because of torrential rains up north in the Yukon territory, a portion of the highway had been washed out.  So we extended our stay for several days to explore more of the city and the surrounding area, while waiting for the road to get fixed.  Just part of the adventure!

We also took this opportunity to do some small maintenance and preparation projects on Betsy and the car, to make them ready for the challenging trip ahead.  The park was quite packed, as everyone was waiting for news that the highway ahead had been repaired and reopened.  We mingled and made friends with our neighbors, exchanging stories and plans about our upcoming adventures.

This is where Betsy got her wash

Steve getting a good work out

To kill some time while at Dawson Creek, we drove out of town and explored the Bear Mountain Wind Farm, which is a 30-minute gravel-road drive.  There were 34 wind turbines on the farm, each weighing 236 tons and standing 256 feet tall.  At the base of turbine #34 was a trail that lead out to a meadow.  In Tracy, CA where we used to live, there were hundreds of wind turbines adorning the Altamont Pass just a few miles away.  We came to this farm to hike and enjoy the view that our hometown turbines can’t match.

After hiking down to the meadow, we stopped for a quick lunch.  We rate this trail as “strenuous”, since the climb up/down was every bit as steep as the one to Vernal Falls in Yosemite.  When we got back to the trailhead an hour later, we saw another trail which led to the rim of the rocks and offered spectacular views west to the Rocky Mountains.  We did not encounter any wildlife, but the views were amazing.

Base of the 256′ tall steel tower of #34 Wind Turbine

That’s way up there!  Up close, the blades make an unusual sound as they spin

Steep climb up and down this trail

Dawson Creek, BC

Taking it all in

Dawson Creek, BC

We walked across a beautiful meadow

Next we drove north to check out the the only remaining wooden bridge on the Alaska Highway.  The Kiskatinaw bridge, at 534 ft. long, is sloped and has a 9-degree curve to conform with a bend in the highway.

Kiskatinaw Bridge

Historic curved wooden bridge and the only original Alaska Highway bridge still in use.

Pay a dollar for using the shopping cart and get reimbursed afterward.  Some places charge for plastic bags, too.

After four days of waiting, the road finally reopened with limited traffic and warnings to expect long delays.  Most of our neighbors left, but we decided to hang out another day to avoid the rush of RVs and trucks going in and out of Alaska.  We will be leaving on the 15th and pick up the pace a bit until we arrive at our next milestone stop, Whitehorse in the Yukon territory.

Canadian tidbits:

Diesel fuel is about a dollar more per gallon than in the USA.

Blinking green lights warn of pedestrians crossing ahead.

The sun rises at 5:43AM and sets at 10:46pm right now, long days are ahead!

A six pack of beer costs $12.00-$15.00, and we had to go to a liquor store to get it – grocery stores do not sell alcohol here.

You pay $1.00 to use a shopping cart, but get reimbursed when you return it.

Be ready to cough up 5 cents for each plastic grocery bag if you don’t bring our own reusable bags.