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