Our Alaska Trip Part XII Whitehorse, YT

This entry is part 13 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 26, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 23 Comments

This is the 12th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, is the big city, providing residents and visitors with all the food, hardware and souvenir shopping opportunities available in the more traditional areas of North America. It doesn’t offer the selection of items that we’re used to down below — and maybe seeing the limp parsley made us realize how spoiled we are, but what is there was enough to satisfy our needs.

Friday was for us caravan members a “free day,” meaning we could rest, tend to our RV needs, shop, play tourist or socialize as we wished.

 

The Yukon Between Whitehorse and Our RV Park

The Yukon Between Whitehorse and Our RV Park

Eddies & Undertows in Miles Canyon Have Taken the Lives of Many, According to Tlingit First Nation People We Met

Eddies & Undertows in Miles Canyon Have Taken the Lives of Many, According to Tlingit First Nation People We Met

Monique and I hiked a bit, chatted with the Yukon locals in museums and stores, learned about the danger of the Yukon River from local Tlingit [pronounced “Klingit”] First People, and bought food at reasonable prices. Here, as all through Canada, we have met only friendly, helpful people.

I again hesitate to show scenes from the area, since even the best photography can’t get across the splendor of the region. Mainly, I don’t want to make you think you’ve seen the Yukon Territory or any other scenic land just because you saw photos online or in a book. Many of the views range from incredibly beautiful to breathtaking. Since Miles Canyon carved out by the Yukon River is off the beaten path, I decided I would allow myself to drop in a few pictures of the scenery there.

A Tour Boat Crosses Under the Yukon River Suspension Bridge

A Tour Boat Crosses Under the Yukon River Suspension Bridge

Most interesting, you wouldn’t know if the photos were taken at noon, 3:30 a.m. or 11:00 p.m. That’s the phenomenon of being in “The Land of the Midnight Sun.” Last night as we hiked around and above the RV park at 10:45 p.m. we watched the sun setting behind layers of clouds.

I hope the readers of these articles are learning from those who have experienced the trip in the past and added their own observations in the Comments Section. I urge others to contribute comments to help those considering whether to embark on the trip alone, with one or two friends or with a group.  And if you have questions for the “experts,” as you have seen, you can get them answered by experienced travelers.

A few more random thoughts.  First, it was suggested that putting the miles-per-hour/kilometers-per hour numbers on my steering column wasn’t needed. While my eyes are good enough to read those little metric numbers on my speedometer, I have to take off my sunglasses to see them. It’s a case of whatever works.

Did I call the ride boring?  It isn’t … only, hundreds of miles on a fairly straight road with manicured open spaces on each side does get monotonous. We are able to stay alert looking for wildlife, admiring the beauty, watching out for gravel areas and bumps on the road, and every now and then having infrequent conversations with fellow caravan members via CB radio.  We enjoy the profusion of wildflowers – including fireweed, which is the Yukon provincial flower

I mentioned in an earlier article that XM radio was fading. We do get it loud and clear most of the time even now, but when I turn to Laugh USA, the clean comedy channel, it always seems to go out during the joke but comes back when the audience is roaring with laughter and applauding. Our OnStar telephone service is sporadic in the hinterlands.

Take the advice of the experts: Don’t go to the Yukon without a copy of Robert Service’s poems or at least seeing the animated films at The Exploration Place in Prince George, B.C.

Time to Don a Sleep Mask -- Sunset is After 11 p.m. at the Start of Summer

Time to Don a Sleep Mask — Sunset is After 11 p.m. at the Start of Summer

Not a day has gone by when we weren’t glad that we made our decision to take this trip.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

23 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XII Whitehorse, YT”

▪.  Bob West on June 26th, 2010 10:08 am  
Enjoy your reflections. Did you stay at Hi Country in Whitehorse or I should say on the edge? Always interested in observations about the places to stay and dine as well as scenery. As you point out the scenery can be found in books to some degree but nothing like a personal reflection from someone standing there and taking a picture and then returning to the comfort of their RV in preparation for the next adventure. From here you will find some real frost heaves and I am sure your guides will tell you slow and easy. I even got out of the vehicle a few times to plot my course through on the bigger ones. Save your Appetite for Fast Eddy’s in Tok. Good food and huge portions. Safe travels.

▪.  Robert Russell on June 26th, 2010 11:02 am  
Brings back memories. My dad was stationed in Whitehorse during WW2, we lived at “Station E” (Military) in ‘45-’47 timeframe. Thanks for pix.

▪.  John on June 26th, 2010 2:43 pm  
Absolutely amazing scenery. I have wanted to go camping in Alaska for a while now and this just make me want it more.
I think your photos do show the splendor of the area.
Thanks for sharing.

▪.  Don Thompson on June 26th, 2010 4:27 pm  
Have been reading your Blog as you go along. We are a little behind you. In Montana now and plan to go in to Calgary on 29 June and head up your way. We did travel this route in 2008 with another RVer, however this trip we are by ourselves. Looking forward to getting up there. Really enjoy your Blog. Thanks for sharing. 
Don..

▪.  Bill on June 26th, 2010 4:49 pm  
You don’t mention the insects much. I’ve heard that in the winter it is really cold and snowy and in the summer the mosquitoes eat you alive. How much of a problem has that been for you when you are outside?

  [We haven’t had any problem with mosquitos … yet!]

▪.  Bea Kay on June 26th, 2010 5:05 pm  
Our first trip to Alaska was in a 24′ Winnebago in 1974. We had 3 daughters with us-20, 17 & 14.
At that time all the roads in Yukon Terr. were gravel but we didn’t hit that until later.
We took the shakedown cruise of the Alaska Ferry Columbia up & at that time we got off at Haines as there was no road from Skagway to Whitehorse.
The road from Haines to Alaska was gravel & sort of elevated. I thought the cabinets were going to fall off the walls the road was so bad.

▪.  John on June 26th, 2010 6:08 pm  
Yes, there are mosquitos in the Wal-Mart area there since it is right beside the Yukon River. Whitehorse has a wonderful transportation museum, old interesting vehicles, story of the lady who graduated from college in NY and answered an ad in a newspaper for a pilot in California who wanted someone to share expenses for him to fly a plane to Alaska. It crashed not too far away and it is quite a story. An old movie was made of it after she returned and wrote a book. They did not die in the crash but of course suffered some broken bones. Their survival until rescued is quite a story. We camped at the Wal-Mart parking lot right near the Honda dealer while they examined our tow. We had a ball visiting with the huge amount of campers on the Wal-Mart parking lot. I did not count the rigs but the parking lot was loaded with all types of RVs, motorhomes, travel trailer, 5th wheels, etc. We enjoyed the canyon area, too, but the most interesting was the museum. Also the Pizza there was superb. I believe it was a Boston Pizza outlet.

▪.  John on June 26th, 2010 6:18 pm  
On our trip in 2006 to Alaska, I only remember mosquitos at Munchin Lake area where we camped overnight (it was moist, misty area, and inside Artic Circle). In the Circle, they will try to eat you alive, but I bought my wife a pullover mosquito net while at the Cabellas in Mitchell, SD, that worked beautifully. Although, they were thick inside the Circle, I did not get one bite as a result of the trip. Nor did we get a bite in Whitehorse, although we saw a number of mosquitos, especially on the side of the parking lot closest to the Yukon River. We were in Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Seward, Eagle River, Homer, and Valdez and did not have a problem with the mosquitos where we parked.

▪.  Tisha on June 26th, 2010 6:22 pm  
We have been enjoying your postings for some time as my husband will be starting a tour of Alaska with Tracks to Adventure on June 30th. When I spoke with him today, I reminded him to check out your latest posting as this will be one of the stops on his tour.
Thanks for sharing … I feel as though I am there when I read your posts!

▪.  Bill Mann on June 26th, 2010 7:15 pm  
Do you use a shield to keep gravel from destroying your toad headlights and paint? What about gravel problems on your rig itself from either following vehicles or those passing or approaching you?

▪.  Lee Ensminger on June 26th, 2010 8:27 pm  
If you haven’t left the area yet, tour the paddlewheel riverboat and take a drive out to the airport. They have the world’s most interesting weathervane: A DC-3, mounted on a swivel and balanced so well it swings around and always points into the wind. Very cool. I can’t wait to go back there.

▪.  Garry Scott on June 27th, 2010 12:13 am  
Thanks very much for the blog so far, just fantastic, feels like I am almost there with you, keep on trucking, regards Garry Scott England UK

▪.  Ralph Delgado on June 27th, 2010 8:47 am  
Great blog; we’re planning on going next year. I saw that the caravan charge is over $7,000 per couple, even including campground fees and the occasional outing. It seems pricey. Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?

  [Yes, we do.  We’re given info about what’s ahead, which cuts down on the stress of where to get diesel and what to see; we go on excursions, etc., that we wouldn’t have wanted to pay for but have enjoyed; we travel with others but are by ourselves 90% of the awake time; we are fortunate to be with people whose company we enjoy.  It ain’t cheap, but, yes, we feel we are getting our money’s worth.]

▪.  Gary Altig on June 27th, 2010 10:45 am  
I’m curious as to activities; events; and venue aspects for limited walking
people? Would Electric or Gas carts be necessary or even practical?/ga  

[There is one member of our group who uses an electric cart.  He misses out on a few of the sights but not many.  Not always easy, but he seems to make the best of it.]

▪.  Merrily on June 27th, 2010 11:54 am  
My dad was working on the AlCan during the ‘war” as a civilian in ‘43. He, too, was stationed at military camp ‘E’ in Whitehorse just near your campsite. I have been up your way twice and will be returning. We went without a caravan! Great memories!!!
I want to get to Inuvik before there is a Walmart there!!

▪.  Merrily on June 27th, 2010 11:56 am  
I forgot to mention….I am REALLY enjoying your blog!
THANKS!

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on June 27th, 2010 3:35 pm  
Someone earlier mentioned staying at the Hi-Country. I whole-heartedly recommend it. Just down the road is the Pioneer. They are both rated “7″. The Pioneer is a parking lot. The Hi-Country is wooded and friendly. There are 7’s and then there are 7’s.

▪.  Old Gray on June 27th, 2010 5:58 pm  
I’d love to see more photos but I understand your concern about spoiling things for those folks who will follow you. However, many of us who are reading your blog will never get where you are going so don’t worry too much about it. If you have a great photo, publish it! 
I’m making do with Google Earth’s photos in Panoramio – and in Whitehorse, I’ve been walking the streets with Street View.
Many thanks for your dedication to publishing daily. I’ve tried that and it’s an enormous task.

▪.  Jeff Glazer on June 27th, 2010 9:37 pm  
Right on! We found Whitehorse to be an absolute jewel.
But you didn’t mention our favorite feature – restaurants. Whitehorse has some really good restaurants. Our favorite is the Klondike Restaurant right in town.

▪.  rswelborn on June 28th, 2010 9:13 am  
Our family RV’d Alaska in 2003. Your blog really evokes refreshing memories of our trip. Great job! Please go SLOW from here on; those frost heaves can be ENORMOUS in places. You are truly on an amazing adventure. The most beautiful scenery our family ever saw!

▪.  oregon coast cabin rentals on June 30th, 2010 7:58 am  
I am really enjoying your post and the stuff regarding to your trip. It would be great if you post some pictures too. Looking forward to see more such stuff.

▪.  Nancy Giammusso on July 1st, 2010 1:50 pm  
Loving your blog. Look forward to the same kind of trip when I retire in 29 months. Thank you for such great information, you are just making me more determined to take the trip to Alaska.

 

Our Alaska Trip Part XIV Caught in the Spell

This entry is part 15 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 29, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

This is the 14th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Alaskan Poetry

In the Broadway play, “Oklahoma,” the song “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City” mentions, “You can walk to the privy in the rain and never wet your feet.” I harkened back to those days while here, with two changes: the privies are in the quaint stores and you can’t cross the wet streets without getting a line of mud up the back of your legs.

The Boardwalks

The Boardwalks

Front Street, Dawson City, Hasn't Changed Much from the Early Days

Front Street, Dawson City, Hasn’t Changed Much from the Early Days

There’s lots to experience here; too much to see to get it all done in a day. Our group paused here for two-and-a-half days, and we are leaving with things that we still wanted to see.  The history and historic sights in town are truly interesting, from the dredge to the “kissing” buildings.

From 1897-99, mining flourished. Since then, as the price of gold fluctuated and mining technology improved, there have been several revivals of the industry, and over the past 113 years, the population has gone from as few as 50 residents up to 60,000. The street along the foothills is 8th Avenue, but at its height (literally), it went to 19th, up and over the hill.

In the summer of 1898, Dawson City became the largest city west of Winnipeg and north of San Francisco. That’s despite the fact that 100,000 sourdoughs left their homes in hopes of striking it rich, but only 30,000 made it to the Klondike. Some 88 percent of the gold in the

Tailings -- Rocks Left Behind by the Gold Dredges

Tailings — Rocks Left Behind by the Gold Dredges

Yukon comes from the Dawson area, and the Klondike became the fourth largest gold producer in the world.

Big-time gold prospecting was done with dredges that inched their way along creeks of the Klondike plying their course until the early 1960s, leaving mounds of “tailings,” piles of rocks churned up by the behemoth machines looking for precious gold.

More of a glimpse of the story of today’s Dawson City, Yukon Territory.

Kissing Buildings, The Effect of Permafrost, & TastyByte --Technology at the Frontier

Kissing Buildings, The Effect of Permafrost, & TastyByte –Technology at the Frontier

Dredge #4 -- A Monster in Dawson History

Dredge #4 — A Monster in Dawson History

IMG_8054This warehouse is one of Dawson’s numerous storehouses in 1898, which “provided the lifeblood” for the city. For four months a year, the Yukon was open for shipping “and in the ensuing flurry of activity, the warehouses were loaded with every conceivable item … Over the next eight months, virtually cut off from the rest of the world, Dawson City drew on these supplies to satisfy the needs and wants of a modern metropolis.” Nowadays, when the cold comes, about 2,000 people or half of the town’s population, head south for the winter. The others brave temperatures as low as 60 below. Don’t even think about RVing in the winter, unless you have eight huskies along.

[In rereading what I’ve written so far, I realize it sounds very bloggy, full of information you don’t really need to know.  What I hope you get out of it, however, is that there is so much history, so much variety, just a wealth of fascinating stuff everywhere.]

More thoughts about visiting and RVing in the area. We’ve been caravanning for 20 days, awaiting the onslaught of bad roads and mosquitoes. I’ve written about the roads often – there have been bad spots, but not as bad as we expected.

And from the comments to Part XIII, we know that what’s coming up promises to be far worse. Yesterday on a not-very-bad portion of the road, a rock hit a back side window in RV #11 shattering the glass. Strange, but those things happen.

Tailgunner Spence advised me on the road ahead not to move onto the side of the road for an on-coming vehicle. Just stop! He also said that if it’s dry, the dust is terrible; if it’s wet, you’ve driving over mud. Hope that it rains Tuesday and clears up Wednesday.

The worst invasion of mosquitoes was at the Ancient Cedar Forest in British Columbia.  Other than that, not much of a problem, and I can’t say we’re disappointed.

Responding to a question about travelers with disabilities. Group member Jenks has used his scooter only twice, once in Prince George and once at Liard Springs. Since we are only in most places one or two nights, he said it’s not worth unloading it. He uses braces with a painkiller instead, which, in his opinion, is not a good solution, but it’s the best alternative. Using the motorized disability scooter rocks him on the bad surfaces.

We’ve been learning to live with the long days, which sounds like a plus. It is, except, of course, adjusting our sleeping times to the clock. We look at the clock and it’s 11:30 and still daytime. And we don’t want to go to sleep now anyway because when we sat down to eat and looked at the clock, it was 9:45. Where did the day go? Answer: It didn’t. It’s still here.

Finally, Monique and I are not qualified to judge restaurants, campgrounds or caravans. We eat most of our meals onboard, leaving the dining out to our fellow travelers. We only know the campgrounds we stay in, most of which are full-hook-up places. We don’t know what else is out there. We know our caravan and the people who comprise it. This is our first time going with others, so we can’t give a knowledgeable opinion, and besides, each of us has our own criteria for judging.

This is most important. These articles are letting you know our impressions of some of what we see and experience, and, incidentally, we play tourist much more than these blogs indicate. For instance, we’ve been to two shows and several museums, etc. As for the decision of how to RV to Alaska, it’s your decision about caravanning, going alone, or making the trip with a few compatible friends.

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

11 Responses to “OUR ALASKA TRIP PART XIV CAUGHT IN THE SPELL”

▪.  Peggy of Texas on June 30th, 2010 8:15 pm  
Beautiful pictures and wonderful story… Thank you for passing it on…

▪.  Margaret on June 30th, 2010 8:52 pm  
Two years ago husband/I travel basically this same route by rental van (thinking we’d save bucks sleeping in the back). Love your pictures, brings back memories. We drove from NH to Fairbanks and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Enjoy your visit. I anticipate every evening reading your blogs. Bet it’s the most popular.

▪.  susan on June 30th, 2010 8:53 pm  
Still here…reading your posts and enjoying them. Love the pictures too!
We were in Alaska 10 years ago, not RVing, but on cruise/land package…so some of it is bring back memories. Thanks for sharing.
Sue

▪.  George on June 30th, 2010 9:38 pm  
The photo with the Downtown Hotel is taken with Front Street (which parallels and is next to the Yukon River) behind the photographer. This shot is looking towards 8th Ave. For more fantastic Yukon scenes, and songs, go to http://www.youtube.com and query Hank Karr who’s a wonderful singer who lives in Whitehorse. His CDs are available on line too.

▪.  Mike A on June 30th, 2010 10:55 pm  
THANK YOU so VERY much for your thoughts and comments. I am dying (not literally) to get to AK. Travelling vicariously with you this trip.

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on June 30th, 2010 11:22 pm  
Yes, when you get to the gravel and dirt washboard roads just outside Chicken and just past Boundry, please be very careful when other RVs try to pass you on those curved roads. They will shove you onto the shoulder, which is almost nonexistent. Couple of hold-your-breath moments every time we go that way. You will LOVE the Wrangell-St Elias National Park along the Taylor Highway. Be sure to look behind you when you leave Glenallen to drive towards Anchorage (if you’re not going to Fairbanks first) so you can get a look and a gasp at the jaw-dropping Mount Drum. If you are going to Fairbanks first, you’ll get to see her when you leave Anchorage and go up the Glenn Highway past Matanuska.
You’re going to love what you see after Chicken!
I have a lot of pics, too on my website in a flash movie format, if anyone wants to see them.
Lynne

▪.  Ron on July 1st, 2010 8:03 am  
First, great travelogue! We spent 4 days in Dawson in early June last year. The place was almost deserted. We were about 2 weeks ahead of the tourist season, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It is one of our favorite places on our Alaska trip. Hope you got to spend an evening at Diamond Tooth Gerties. 
Every day when we’d go into town, I would spend some time looking at the little ferry crossing the Yukon River and couldn’t quite convince myself we would fit on it and actually get to the other side without a problem. Of course, we did and it was quite an adventure. Thanks for the travelogue.

▪.  Dale Kincaid on July 1st, 2010 8:21 am  
If you haven’t left Dawson City yet, you might consider leaving a day early and playing the golf course on the other side of the river and spend the night there. That way you will reduce or eliminate the long wait you will have getting on the little ferry and you can play golf until about 10:30. We did this in 2003 and left early the next morning. The route to Tok was mostly gravel in Canada, but just plain dirt on the Alaska section. Good luck.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on July 1st, 2010 5:52 pm  
Great pictures, Lynne.  We travel almost yearly to Yukon/Alaska and live in the North (Terrace BC) we are so thankful that we chose our home up north and away from the hustle and bustle. We actually have time to “smell the roses.”
Anyone reading this go to Lynne`s viewing!

▪.  
Ralph Delgado on July 2nd, 2010 5:31 pm  
Excellent blog, my wife and I enjoy reading it. It’s been a few days since your last post, probably difficult to get internet service from time to time. I hope your ride to Chicken was uneventful.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXII News from the Homer-front

This entry is part 24 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 18, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 10 Comments

This is the 22nd in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

NEWS FLASH!!!   The Top of the World Hwy., Alaska Hwy 9, is closed for an undetermined time due to a washout.  You may know more about this than we do since the news didn’t reach us until Saturday while we were at an overlook in Homer, Alaska, when we got into a conversation with a couple planning to take the notorious route home.

The official Alaskan road conditions website [http://www.511yukon.ca/#advisories] Saturday night stated:  Highway 9, the Top of the World Highway, motorists are advised that the Taylor Highway in Alaska is closed from the Yukon/Alaska border through to Chicken due to washouts. Re-opening of the highway has not been determined, as water levels have not started to recede.

View from TOW 2 - 8120

Our caravan crew hasn’t been able to find out anything more current.  We took that road June 30 without incidents, although we were warned that it is hazardous driving.  A few days earlier, we talked with a two-RV group that had decided to turn back rather than risk driving that road.

Now for some random observations by Monique and me, jotted down before finding out about the Top of the World situation:

We are in mid-July.  The short-sleeve weather here is perfect almost everyday, with intermittent overcast skies.  Our travels for the past week or more have taken us down highways lined with wildflowers of every color, highlighted by the magenta fireweed, blue-purple lupines and white cow parsnip.  You may not be into appreciating weeds, but the colors are overwhelming.

En route to Homer: Mt. Redoubt in Lake Clark National Park & Deacon Andre in Ninilchik

En route to Homer: Mt. Redoubt in Lake Clark National Park & Deacon Andre in Ninilchik

We continue to see endless lines of RVs on the roads, many of which are rental C-Class rigs, apparently picked up by tourists from the Lower 48 and foreign countries who flew into Alaska or Canada.  Unfortunately, it seems that the high traveling population is

Carved Creature Hiding at the Sterling Saw Fest

Carved Creature Hiding at the Sterling Saw Fest

reducing the number of moose to be ogled.  In Fairbanks a sign states that vehicles there have killed 225 moose this year with another 170 hit in the small City of Sterling.

The Alaskan roads are really much better than we expected, even in the Interior.  There is construction and it causes problems, but it’s not something that stops people from loving the adventure.  There are no Interstate Highways in Alaska for an obvious reason.

Mosquitoes – no big problem this season.  We had to go looking for them Saturday in the bog area of the Carl Wynn Nature Center in the hills above Homer.   Matter-of-fact, all the mosquitoes in Alaska may be in those few acres of marsh … but not something that should stop you from hiking the nature center.

IGarden Mts - 0334

Each day since June 20 we have lost 3½ to 4 minutes of daylight.  Doesn’t sound like much, but multiply that by a seven-day week and you can tell the days are getting shorter from their 19-hour maximum.

In the Lower 48 we hear all-too-often, “If you don’t like the weather here right now, just wait five minutes.”  We laugh politely and groan to ourselves.

Hundreds of RVs Park on the Homer Spi

Hundreds of RVs Park on the Homer Spit

When you’re in Northwest Canada and Alaska, try to limit yourself to only making a joke once about “we’ll do that when it gets dark,” being cute about the fact that it doesn’t get dark in mid-summer.  Also, everyone here knows it gets cold in the winter.  In the play and movie “The Music Man,” it was explained that you won’t get accepted in the community if you joke about winter there.  Comments about winter get a cold reception here, too.

One caravanning note since that’s the focus of these blogs.  We had a wonderful day Thursday going to Exit Glacier and going into town for a halibut dinner.  Others did the same on their own.  Still more went on a fishing trip and a few couples ventured out for another cruise.  Except for the dismal day fishing, everyone seemed to enjoy the course they set for themselves.  While we enjoy the community, we also enjoy the chance to get away from the entourage to do our own thing.

We are in Homer, a town that borders on the beautiful Kachemak Bay on Cook Inlet.  If that weren’t spectacular enough, everywhere we look we see the incredible Aleutian Range with its snowy mountains, volcanoes and glaciers.  On this rainy Sunday morning, we’re heading out across the bay.

[A NOTE WRITTEN TWO YEARS LATER:  Re-reading these blogs is rekindling my memories of this fantastic trip.  It’s easy for the splendor, the grandeur, the majesty, the beauty to fade over the years.  I hope you’re enjoying this trip as much as I am.]

Homer Spit Scenes: the Boneyard & the Huge Marina

Homer Spit Scenes: the Boneyard & the Huge Marina

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

10 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXII News from the Homer-front”

▪.  D.Branch on July 18th, 2010 4:52 pm  
Can you tell us what caravan your on? We hope to make the journey in 2011.
Thanks

  [Adventure Caravans’ 58-day trip.]

▪.  Dave on July 18th, 2010 5:29 pm  
We have been in Chicken for four days waiting for the Top Of The World Highway to open, and have been told the inspector is up there right now. If he okays it, it will be open tomorrow. Wish us luck!

▪.  Jack Harris on July 18th, 2010 6:16 pm  
We took the trip up to Fairbanks from Fort Worth, TX, and back about this time of the year in 2008. Are you on the way back home (i.e. I guess you have already been to Fairbanks) and where is home?
Happy trails, 
Jack Harris 
PS: Our trip is on the following web site:
http://www.drivingtoalaska.com

▪.  Deepwoods on July 18th, 2010 6:44 pm  
We remember Homer when we traveled in Alaska in 2001. We still have the bumper sticker we bought there,
“HOMER ALASKA, A QUAINT DRINKING VILLAGE WITH A FISHING PROBLEM”

▪.  Lynne Schlumpf on July 18th, 2010 7:22 pm  
I love Homer. We spend at least 2 weeks there every summer at the Heritage RV Park. A little pricey, but it is worth it with satellite TV, internet, and full services. They have someone 24 hours to help you with literally everything. They have a great coffee shop, a gift shop, great showers, and a laundry. Our all-time favorite place to RV in Alaska because it is so “modern” and is right on Kachemak Bay. It is also right next door to the fishing hole, where you can catch silvers as long as you can keep them away from a crafty seal that steals fish off your line often. It is also walking distance or taxi distance from town.
Hope you have a great time in Homer. (the end of the road the man who does the Motel 6 commercials talks about a lot)

▪.  Bill Claypool on July 18th, 2010 8:01 pm  
Barry,
If you want to see moose just walk down the road to the Platt museum from where you are staying. I took a walk on their interpretive trail today and saw a cow, her calf an another moose on the trail.

▪.  Jerry on July 18th, 2010 10:02 pm  
I hope you got a chance to check out the Salty Dog Saloon They make a good drink there and have some interesting wall paper

▪.  Dave on July 18th, 2010 10:27 pm  
The Taylor and Top Of The World Highways are now open, with a pilot car escort through the bad sections. Come to Chicken and Eagle Alaska. They need the business!

▪.  Don & Marlene Blackburn on July 19th, 2010 6:32 pm  
Hi.
We are currently in Anchorage and the skies have been very gray so we are trying to figure out where you are that the pictures are so sunny … Anyway we did know that the road was washed out when we got to Tok they told us because we were planning to go home that way. Oh well I guess we will just go back the way we came up through Haines Junction. Have really enjoyed your blog.

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVI The Weather in Alaska

This entry is part 28 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 27, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 13 Comments

This is the 26th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Our caravan has arrived at its 23rd stop in 48 days.  We have seen an incredible amount of geography from Washington State through British Columbia and Alaska, with a glimpse of Alberta. This series has focused, not on the scenery, history or wildlife, but on our experiences as RVers taking part in a caravan.  There have been dozens of side trips, excursions, cultural talks and events that haven’t been included, but they have definitely contributed to this journey-of-a-lifetime.

Bad Road - 0238

We are still finding more RV-related topics to discuss as we enter the final 10 days of our caravan and probably after that, but we’re always interested in what else you want to know about the trip.   Please let us know in the Comments Section.

THE WEATHER – Can you image the shock if you sat down at a Blackjack table in Las Vegas and were dealt 10 Blackjacks in a row?  That’s the thrill that Monique and I have felt over the past six weeks.  While we have had dreary, chilly days along the way, rainy nights and travel days, it seems like clouds have parted and the sun came out for every tour and daylong cruise on our route.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, it may be that the Creator of all this beauty wanted us to see it at its best so we could convey our excitement to readers in words and pictures.  The weather has just been too awesome.

We aren’t experts on the weather, particularly as it relates to the territories we have covered, but we do know that you probably don’t want to be in Alaska or the Yukon between late September and early May.  If you’re very adventurous and think you can defy the odds, forget it.  Almost everything RVers need closes for those months.  The RV parks drain their systems and pour in a form of antifreeze, lock up their electric system, close the gates and head for more tolerable climates.  Most gas stations – and there aren’t many to begin with – do the same.  Inns, also.  Locals travel by dogsled, seriously, often over frozen roads and rivers; intercity travel is by floatplanes or planes that land on ice.  Mostly, though, folks up here don’t travel much at all.

Priscilla at an RV gift shop said that she doesn’t go from Valdez to Anchorage when there’s a winter storm.  Thompson Pass gets 350 inches of snow a year and up to 800 inches.  In Valdez on the south coast, winter temperatures don’t get all that cold, only to minus-20 usually, but there is a constant 25 mile-an-hour wind, gusting up to 80.  The school bus in Tok is still picking up kids when it’s minus-73.

When the mercury drops to those levels, car batteries explode and metal cracks.  Those were some of the circumstances faced by workers building the Alcan Highway and the TransAlaska Pipeline.  When you get up here and see films on those projects, you’ll begin to appreciate the enormity of those tasks.  Infrastructure isn’t big on our list of interests.  However, seeing the weather conditions they encountered and the faces of those who ”got ‘er dun,” you’ll understand our admiration.

Come to Yukon and Alaska in June, July and August and you should have no problem.  Our preparations for the trip included 1) leaving some unnecessary stuff at a son’s house; 2) having the truck and RV checked over by a professional, 3) buying a spare fuel filter, and 4) putting a screen over the front of the car to intercept rocks and bugs.  Nothing else.  It’s been t-shirt weather for most of our trip, augmented by sweats and jackets when appropriate, like in front of glaciers.

If on your trip to Alaska you find yourself without adequate clothing for an unexpected change in the weather, have no fear.  There is a gift shop nearby selling a wide variety of jackets and sweatshirts emblazoned with logos you will want to show off when you return home.

You wouldn’t expect the weather to be the same in Chicago, New Orleans, Denver, Vermont and San Diego on any given day.  Alaska has its own variety of weather conditions, from Fairbanks to Skagway (the RV drive-able places).  It’s not all cold or pristine clear.  Variations in different areas of the coastal regions are caused by ocean currents, glaciers, mountains ranges, elevation and more.  As you head into the Interior, like Fairbanks, it’s colder, but in Juneau 800 miles away, things are totally different.  Ketchikan in the south enjoys 14 feet of precipitation a year.

Monday’s journey from Tok, Alaska, to Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, a distance of 225 miles, was among the worst stretches of highway we have ever faced – we were told it’s worse than the drive to Chaco Canyon, Arizona, which Monique and I have heard is the worst.  Frost heaves, construction, mud, gravel, moose, bears and only a couple of diesel fuel stops stood in our way, but we made it (on fumes).  Even the most experienced RVers in our group reported damage to their rigs.

 

Looking out over dwarfed spruce in a permafrost field &, at right, the Alaska Pipeline makes its way across 799 miles of terrain

Looking out over dwarfed spruce in a permafrost field &, at right, the Alaska Pipeline makes its way across 799 miles of terrain

The weather for the trip was drizzle, then beautiful, puffy clouds over the majestic peaks in the distance – and we arrived with the air conditioner on.

The message for today is that if you want to be comfortable during your visit, pick months that offer the best chance of warm weather.  Nothing you can do about the rain and low-lying clouds, so focus on temperatures.

Mama Moose and youngster & Mama Bear teaches three offspring the art of salmon fishing

Mama Moose and youngster & Mama Bear teaches three offspring the art of salmon fishing

Incidentally, as we get used to the “Land of the Midnight Sun” effect, it’s beginning to get dark for a few hours a night.  I guess we’ll get used to seeing stars again in a couple of weeks.

In Destruction Bay, population 30, we encountered "Loose Gravel," a professional-quality band with Loren, our campground host, on the drums

In Destruction Bay, population 30, we encountered “Loose Gravel,” a professional-quality band with Loren, our campground host, on the drums

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVI The Weather in Alaska”

▪.  John A. Kerr on July 27th, 2010 5:28 pm  
In Oct 1973 my family and I were reassigned from Ft Carson, CO, to Ft Wainwright, Fairbanks, AK. We traded our 1969 Winnebago for a 1973 20-ft Winnebago Brave, hooked our Jeep on behind and headed off for the Alcan Highway. We encountered everything from rain to snow to beautiful conditions on our drive up on the dirt/rock road. We encountered no problems with either fuel or RV parking on the trip up. On arrival at Ft Wainwright I learned that my assignment had been changed and I was to report to Ft Richardson, Anchorage, AK, where we spent the next 3 years. We utilized our coach year round and learned quickly that you had to have an engine heater, a heated oil dipstick and a battery heater. We were limited to only a few campgrounds during the winter, but during the summer months we encountered no problems. You did learn to come around bends in the road slowly to ensure that moose, bear or caribou were not “lounging” on the warm asphalt pavement. We were never bothered by any animals in the camping areas during the summer or winter, though we did learn to look before we ventured out of the coach.
The weather is extremely unpredictable so you learn to have clothing for all seasons in the coach. A good folding snow shovel got us out of trouble on several occasions. If you are going to go in the winter make sure that you carry plenty of food, water, and I might suggest a set of chains as they may be needed for some of the roads. Also be prepared to encounter roads that are closed for periods of time due to snow.
Go to Alaska, whether by yourself or in a caravan, and experience the beauty of the state. Beauty that you cannot find anywhere else in the United States. The summer is of course the ideal time to visit, but I would not rule out fall, winter or spring. Just go prepared and be ready to encounter weather the likes of which you have never before seen.
Alaska is an adventure and one that I would recommend to anyone.

▪.  Constance on July 27th, 2010 5:49 pm  
I lived all over the Northwest Territories and Alaska as a child, and I do not recommend travel in an RV on those roads in the winter. Perhaps a 4-wheel drive Pickup camper or even pulling a small trailer.
The last few years have been mild compared to the years I spend there. Visitors and newbies are often ignorant of conditions, which is how my eyeball fluid got frozen the first year we were there…caused permanent damage to my eye muscles.
Constance

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 27th, 2010 6:28 pm  
Alaska’s best season is winter. The Northern Lights and clear skies and mountains so clear. Quiet, peaceful. No bears. No mosquitoes or no-see-ums up your nose. Just peaceful contemplation.
Lynne

▪.  Bob Derivan on July 27th, 2010 6:54 pm  
Stumbled onto your blog and have enjoyed it immensely. We drove to Alaska from Arizona alone last summer. We did encounter vehicle problems in isolated areas such as The Yukon and it would have been nice to have a caravan to help but we wouldn’t trade the experience for any place we’ve been. We spent the whole summer in Moose Pass on the Kenai. You drove through it on the Seward Hwy from Anchorage to Seward. Your blogs have brought back many great memories. We hope to someday do it again. I do agree that anyone who gets the chance to do it, to take it. They won’t be disappointed. Our most exciting experience was on the way home. We were driving North on the George Parks Hwy between Anchorage and Fairbanks and we too had been told chances of seeing Denali were slim. But as we turned the curve at Willow, there she was standing high and proud. We were still 160 miles away but were able to take many gorgeous photos of the Great Mountain. Although we were hoping to visit Denali up close, we were delayed in Wasilla again because of vehicle problems and missed the park closing for the season by one day, that experience enough we will remember for a lifetime. Travel safe.

▪.  Ron Thill on July 27th, 2010 11:33 pm  
We’re thinking about driving to Alaska next summer. I’m surprised you’ve not said much about mosquitoes or no-see-ums. I assumed they’d be a constant harassment throughout much of Alaska. Also, is it necessary to make RV park reservations along the Alcan Highway if one departs early (say by 6 or 7 a.m.) and only travels for 5-7 hours? Are there lots of boondocking sites along the Alcan Highway that would be considered RV friendly – – i.e., reasonably level, plenty of room to get in and out, not too rocky, etc. We won’t be in a caravan, so large boondocking sites aren’t a concern. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us.

▪.  Roger Garner on July 28th, 2010 5:03 am  
To Ron Thill’s questions, I would respond: forget about the mosquito stories. They’re no worse than a lot of places in the lower 48. Wind drives them away, so camp on a site that catches the wind. The ‘king of the road’ for this kind of trip is a pickup camper without a toad. The versatility of a truck rig will allow you to do many things you won’t get to do otherwise. Boondocking opportunities are everywhere in Canada and AK, but it takes the clearance of a pickup (preferably 4-wheel drive) to get to many of them. By planning to pitch camp before 4:00 I’ve never had trouble finding hookups. Long daylight hours cause people to drive later, thus waiting too late to find full-service vacancies. When you are in remote areas remember to fuel up when your tank is down to ½. Thanks Barry & Monique for a wonderful travelogue.

▪.  Kenneth Hospital on July 28th, 2010 7:21 am  
Thanks for telling us about your trip . We did this same trip a few years back with a tour and it was great. The only way to see Alaska is by RV . The road to Destruction Bay sounds the same as when we were there … bad . Thank for the great stories .

▪.  Bob Wiggs on July 28th, 2010 7:51 am  
I have really enjoyed reading your Blog. We drove the ALCAN last year to Alaska and had a BALL. This was our 1st time there and we could not get over all the beautiful scenery we saw. We’ve never been able to see Moose, Bears, Dall Rams on the road. We had such a good time, we’re planning a second trip in 2011 and plan to stay till about mid SEP in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. Happy Trails Bob.

▪.  Dale Kincaid on July 28th, 2010 10:59 am  
Was or is Dubie still making bowls out of Black Spruce Burls at Destruction Bay?
He had a workshop behind the RV office. He was making some beautiful bowls back in 2003 when we went through there with Adventure Caravans.

[Yes, he sold several to our group, and after we bought a beautiful folding table from him, others in the group followed suit.]

▪.  roland lajoie on July 29th, 2010 10:01 am  
Of most interest is the toll that the roads are doing to the RV’s, i.e. tow trailer, 5th wheels , and particular to the motorhomes . You have talked of losing windshields, etc. ; what other damages have occurred to vehicles and how about toads?, are toads being taken along on this trip . We are trying to plan this trip to Alaska and most interested at this point of potential damage to vehicles; as the writings seem to indicate, roads over/all are not very good . Any information you can give would be appreciated. Trying to decide what vehicle to tow / leave somewhere else in storage and how to prepare for what appears to be a bumpy but toll / taking trip. 
Thanks for any help you may be .
Roland

▪.  Jimmie McElrea on July 29th, 2010 5:59 pm  
I am missing Part XVI of Our Alaska Trip and would like you to email or repost the blog. I am enjoying your blog tremendously. Thank you

▪.  Cathy on April 7th, 2011 8:41 pm  
Thanks for this blog. We are planning an RV trip to AK and these personal accounts are priceless! I had to comment on this Part since we have driven the Chaco Canyon entrance road. The rough part is only about 13 miles long, not 225! 
I wonder just how slow you had to go and how long it took you. We have a short Class A and had to go less than 10 mph into Chaco or it sounded like the whole thing would rattle apart. It was worth it. If you are towing a trailer, maybe you don’t hear or heed all that rattling?

Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You

This entry is part 29 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 30, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

This is the 27th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Wednesday we arrived in Skagway, Alaska, after a long drive from Destruction Bay, Yukon.  The trip took us into two provinces (Yukon Territory and British Columbia) and one state (Alaska) and included two surprises.

Surprise 1 – The road out of Destruction Bay began as another of those horrid blacktops with jarring frost heaves that caused members of the caravan to be ready to stomp on the brakes at all times for about a hundred miles.  The tough part was that the highway was fine for a mile or two until we began bouncing unexpectedly.  Some spots were marked with signs or flags but most weren’t.  Caution, caution, caution! 

Surprise 2 – The second surprise was that this was one of the most awe-inspiring segments of the trip that we have encountered.  Monique called it “outrageous” because of the beauty.  Not only are the lakes, mountain, rivers and terrain gorgeous, but there are a variety of attractions along the way that slowed down our progress.  A “glacial desert” among the mountains, the historic village of Carcross, two interesting bridges and other unexpected sights begged us to make roadside stops.

"Outrageous," "Awe-Inspiring," Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

“Outrageous,” “Awe-Inspiring,” Call it what you will, the drive to Skagway (top right) is worth taking the bumps in the road

Skagway is a major port of call for cruise ships, many of which carry more passengers and crew than the town’s population where it docks.  The ocean tourists tear down the ramp at the harbor and immediately rush into town to soak up a few minutes of history before or after visiting the dozens of jewelry stores and other shops selling things they didn’t know they needed.  A few hours later, they’re back on deck comparing the bargains they think they got.

We spent last winter in Key West, Florida, which is another cruise ship port, but it has held much of its characters, probably because of the characters who live there.  Skagway, on the other hand, according to locals, has changed in the past six or so years to accommodate those passengers sprinting through town.  Some do get to take the ride up the fantastic road on which we arrived, but probably most stay within sight of the massive bows of the ships at the end of Broadway.

Monique is out today, Friday, on a National Park Service-led walking tour of the town, and later we’ll head for the hills to visit sites important during Klondike gold rush days.

An Orca ("Killer Whale") comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

An Orca (“Killer Whale”) comes alongside as we cruised to Juneau

Now for some responses to your comments:

Traveling in Truck Campers:  To the response about truck campers being the best way to see the Far North, that does seem to be a very practical way to visit Yukon and Alaska, but it’s not necessary.  We are of the opinion that you’re better off choosing an RV to fit your lifestyle, not just for a long trip.  We see every type of RV on the roads and in parks.  No one seems to have any special problems.  Age of the rig shouldn’t matter, but it’s strongly recommended that it be in good condition for the trip.  It will get a workout.

Toads:  I checked with Wagonmaster Ken and Tailgunner Spence about damage to towed vehicles.  They both said it’s not an issue.  The damages done could have happened anywhere on North American roads.  Yes, there is rough riding up here, but you quickly learn to take it slow and watch for problem areas.  If you’re worried, take it even slower – nobody behind you will get mad.

Pull-outs:  Earlier we reported that many pullouts have “No Camping” signs.  That was probably in just a few places.  We have since seen lots of pullouts with RVs apparently staying for a few hours, a day or longer with no restrictions.

Mosquitoes: They have only bothered us a couple of times.  We’ve gotten bitten by insects much more often in the lower 48 (but we’ve been bitten hard by the bug to return to Alaska, maybe even in winter when the Northern Lights are visible).

Reservations:  We don’t know for sure because our caravan planners took care of that for us.  Getting into private campgrounds early is probably a safe bet, like around 4 p.m.  Most of the campground owners seem to try hard to accommodate everyone, even if it means providing dry-camping spaces.  There are lots of public campgrounds in most places, and, again, the roadside stops seem like good “resting” places.  Don’t expect to find back roads to snuggle into – most off-the-highways roads aren’t suitable for rigs.

As RVers, we think of night as dark.  In Skagway in late July, which is in the southwest, we have about 16 hours of light, 5 hours of dusk and 3 hours of night.  In mid-summer in mid-Alaska, it turns to dusk for about three hours per day.  It’s not the type of darkness that makes the night scary.

Wooden Bowls:  Dubie still makes the bowls of black spruce burls and hiking sticks of diamond willow.  We and several others in our group bought beautiful folding tables in Destruction Bay made of laminated birch, aspen, cedar and oak with spruce legs, and some had a strip of purple heart embedded.  Those are handcrafted by Evalt Miller of Burns Lake.

This century-old "Thunderbird House" panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

This century-old “Thunderbird House” panel of the Shangookeidi Clan, Yakutal Tlinglit welcomes visitors to the Alaska State Museum near the State Capitol in Juneau

From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXVII Responding to You”

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 30th, 2010 4:56 pm  
What Alaskans do get a little angry about is RVers from the Lower 48 who ignore the signs that say it is illegal to delay 5 vehicles behind you. This means “PULL OVER” when you start to see them stack up behind you.
 It is a law in Alaska. That’s why there are so many turnouts. But don’t hurt yourself trying to pull over where there are no turnouts. We’ll wait for you to get to one.
 And yes almost all of them allow camping as much as you like. A week even. Most don’t say “no overnight camping.”
We’re known to just pull over anyplace we get tired.

And come back the last week of February and the first week of March. Fur Rondy, Iditarod, Ice Castles in Fairbanks, Northern Lights.

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on July 30th, 2010 5:21 pm  
Please don’t forget to give us a tally of the total fuel costs for your trip. It would be appreciated.

▪.  Peggy from Texas on July 30th, 2010 8:57 pm  
Thanks again for your write up of your travels and passing on what you have seen… I’ve said this before that we rode to Alaska twice, two-up on a 1998 Harley 1200 Sportster then a 2009 Harley TriGlide…
Believe it was riding through British Columbia then into Yukon Territory where there were many pullouts where there was a warning ‘not to pull in and/or park’ as there were gas pipes above ground and very dangerous per the signs…
You mention your ride into Skagway and pictures… On August 3, 2009 we rode on our TriGlide from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska, USA via Klondike Hwy 2 – through town of Carcross, over the wooden-planked bridge, etc – absolutely awesome…
If you click on our site http://triglide.multiply.com – photos – page 3 – album named 2009-08-03 Whitehorse to Skagway, click on first picture then click on slideshow – 171 pictures… View from the Rear as I took pictures all along the roads we traveled… Then click on album named 2009-08-03 Skagway – click on first picture then slideshow – 45 pictures of Skagway…
What I liked being in Skagway, Alaska, USA was I could use my cell phone to call family in lower 48 and not as an International call which would have been from Canada…
We never worried about the price of gas – always used high test for any of the Harleys – but the gas was a necessity for our travels throughout the country, we didn’t let it stop us from riding…
By the way, I just bought a 32′ Jayco, Class C as I’ll be a full-time RV’r…
Peggy (cubbear)

▪.  Barbara Mull on July 31st, 2010 7:53 am  
I’d like to echo Lynne’s suggestions about timing of a winter trip to Alaska – late Feb, early March. Fur Rendezvous (Rondy) is a 2-week time of carnival in Anchorage. By that time in the winter you usually need some diversion so the events are kind of wacky – like the outhouse race, snowshoe softball, etc. You can see more about Rondy at http://www.furrondy.net/. You can also view the World Championship Dog Sled Race during Rondy – amazing to see how those dogs love running. And Fairbanks is a great place to see the Northern Lights – less city light there. You might try the Aurora Borealis Lodge http://www.auroracabin.com/ or Chena Hot Springs Resort if you’d like a warm soak as well http://www.chenahotsprings.com/ You might also see ice fog (sometimes with a mirage) or sundogs. Just be prepared with lots of warm clothing, including boots. Winter in Alaska is a fine time. Since I moved back to North Carolina I’ve been impressed with how much darker country roads are here at night than they are in Alaska where there’s lots of white, bright snow cover from Oct to April/May.