DESTINATIONS PART 1 — Where have you been

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the seriesRVers Choices
Old Faithful in Yellowstone -- right on time

Old Faithful in Yellowstone — right on time

By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers*

WHAT ARE RVers FAVORITE DESTINATIONS?  I asked RVers two questions via the Internet.  Responses poured in from more than 200 other travelers.  Question No. 1 was, “What is your favorite RV destination?”, which I’ll talk about today.  PART II is responses to the second question, “Where are you planning to go?”

Topping the immediate itinerary list is Yellowstone National Park.  It’s gratifying to realize that every one of the top responses would be on our list of favorites, although not necessarily in the order of voting.  Meanwhile, some of our favorites – the Ozarks Mountain region of Arkansas, for instance — was rarely mentioned.  Bryce Canyon, the Oregon Coast, the Michigan Upper Peninsula and the route to Alaska through British Columbia are definitely high on our list, but didn’t make the top five.

Music all around in a Mountain View, Ark., "pickin' shed"

Music all around in a Mountain View, Ark., “pickin’ shed”

Why didn’t the Ozarks get the recognition we feel it deserves?  I would attribute it to differences in our likes, dislikes and reasons for traveling in recreational vehicles.  Before we started our first cross-country trip in our get-acquainted-with-RVing 22-footer, I told Monique, “You’re going to love Arkansas.”  … and she did!  As soon as we crossed the state line from Missouri, the beauty of the serrated, thickly forested hills enthralled her.  When we stopped at the usual travel spots on our way to exquisite Blanchard Springs Caverns, she felt the warm reception from everyone she met.  And when we parked in Mountain View, she was swathed by the loving folk music wafting from throughout the town and in the “Pickin’ Shed.”

This August when, on our way westward from the Canadian Maritimes, I complained that I was tired of staring straight ahead at interstate highways.  A jolt of joy surged through me when she asked, “Do you want to take a detour to Mountain View?”   Of the thousand places we’ve been, I think that little happenin’ town is my favorite.

Now to list places that got the highest number of responses in that online survey after

Spectacular scenery at Bryce Canyon

Spectacular scenery at Bryce Canyon

Yellowstone: 2) Bryce Canyon was often mentioned, and it’s definitely among our favorites.  To me it is the brightest gem in the crown of Southern Utah parks, which include Zion, Capitol Reef and Arches.  3) The Oregon Coast is spectacular, but probably not so different than Northern California and Washington State.  Why it was singled out over its neighbors, I suspect, is there are fewer other must-see places competing for the traveler’s interest (Columbia Gorge between Oregon and Washington and the Cascades are worth a few days on its own.)

One of my favorite memories -- the Oregon Coast offers serenity in the fog

One of my favorite memories — the Oregon Coast offers serenity in the fog

4) “Uppies,” as the denizens of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are known, are fiercely loyal to their spit of land among the Great Lakes, and they have a right to be proud.  It’s a different kind of place, a secluded woodland away from it all.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a different kind of place with some unconventional folks

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a different kind of place with some unconventional folks

5)  As for the inland roads up to Alaska through British Columbia and the Yukon by way of

The Alaskan Coastal areas are unforgetable

The Alaskan Coastal areas are unforgetable

Banff and Lake Louise, I vote it as the most beautiful scenery that we’ve seen in North America.  That leads you to ask, “What about Alaska itself?” Alaska is friendly.  The people there are, well, Alaskans, quite a bit more independent, more “I-can-do-anything” types.  When it’s 60degrees below and you have sled dogs to care for, you’ve got to be heartier than us lower-48ers.  There are adventures in Alaska around every curve.

1.Glacier National Park’s Weeping Wall greets motorists on the Road to the Sun – but park your RV and take your tow on this narrow, steep drive.

Glacier National Park’s Weeping Wall greets motorists on the Road to the Sun – but park your RV and take your tow on this narrow, steep drive.

The top pick in the survey, Yellowstone National Park, is what I consider “Nature’s Amusement Park.”  It’s miles of almost unbelievable unique colorful formations, plus bison, elk, moose, bear and other critters rarely seen in such abundance around the contiguous states.  It also has campgrounds with hook-ups, making it more popular than many national parks.

Stay tuned to find out what the RV community named (in my unofficial survey) THE NUMBER ONE PLACE TO TRAVEL IN THEIR RV.

As for the * Asterisk at the top, let me take a moment to explain that Monique is my “Cruel Editor!”  She fixes punctuation and spelling, inserts words that I forget to put in, and scratches out sentences that she finds offensive in one way or another.  Cruel, but I agree with her changes 99% of the time.  She definitely earns having her name included in the creation of my blogs and articles.

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

© All photos by Barry Zander.   All rights reserved

Our Alaska Trip Part XI The Alaska Highway

This entry is part 12 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 24, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 22 Comments

This is the 11th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

“Those people who turned back are more focused on the destination than the journey.”  Monique Zander

WiFi – FINALLY!  We haven’t had WiFi available for a few days, including Thursday morning when all power was out in the metropolis of Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.  It’s part of the journey.  To celebrate being connected again, this edition of Our Alaska Trip blog is divided into two parts:  1) Notes on our travels and 2) Impressions of RVing to Alaska.

CHAPTER 1 – THE LONG, BORING ALASKA HIGHWAY

 This Is the Scene Before Us for Many of 1,500 Miles of the Alaska Highway

This Is the Scene Before Us for Many of 1,500 Miles of the Alaska Highway

When we left off on our blog two days ago, we were excited about the prospect of feeling the rubber on our 10-ply tires rolling onto the famous Alcan Highway, which is officially the “Alaska Highway” because it was built by the U.S. Army in 1942 to get materiel to Alaska needed to head off a Japanese invasion.  It was originally called the Pioneer Highway and the Military Highway … now is officially Hwy. 97.

At about 9:50 a.m. we were on the road headed toward Fort Nelson, B.C., and then the fun began … and faded.    During the intervening 283 miles, we saw a Walmart/Sam’s Club truck, the carcass of an animal that had died of boredom, and a bicyclist pumping up his tire on the side of the road at Mile 235.  If this was a tough ride for us, we couldn’t imagine what he was going through.

A promised highlight of the drive was the Honey Place, billed as the world’s largest glass beehive.  Like many other attraction along the way, it had a CLOSED sign on the side of the building.  [We did see a swarm of bees circling the place, probably waiting for it to reopen.]

Earlier in the day we flew past fuel pumps at Pink Mountain, electing to fill up at Sasquatch Crossing since we live in Sasquatch’s cousin, a Bigfoot trailer, but there was no fuel there, so we went about 100 yards to the Husky station, which was closed.  It was back to Pink Mountain to fill up at $1.19 per liter.  And this is a good time to mention that we now appreciate the advice of filling up the tank whenever you can.  We have passed numerous service stations that are closed.

When we entered a patch of farming country after about 200 miles of this monotony, I suggested we might consider agriculture since we were already growing weary [Moan from Monique].  This, the longest leg of the journey so far, could be characterized as a journey between monster trucks carrying large cargo, and, on the good side, the ^^^ signs along the way indicating bumps weren’t as devastating as the previous day’s drive.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  We have been on other beautiful, but monotonous highways in America, and the prospect here of seeing incredible vistas in a day or two keeps us ready for more driving.

Muncho Lake, B.C. -- Surreal Beauty

Muncho Lake, B.C. — Surreal Beauty

We saw no muskeg mires (the name for the deep muck that the Army contended with in 1942) or permafrost, which, as it melts takes the road away with it.  As mentioned previously, while in Dawson Creek we watched an outstanding PBS movie about the building of what the American Society of Civil Engineers labeled, “a Historical Civil Engineering Marvel.”  Seeing all the pain and pride that went into its construction made us eager start at Mile 0 of the Alaskan Highway.

 In the eclectic Fort Nelson Museum there is a mini-theater that features another version of the history of the road, this one much different than the PBS production.  This less-polished film filled us in on improvements made after the road officially opened in August 1942.

For a big finish on the day, we walked through Marl Brown’s auto museum.  Our

Marl Brown -- Still Chuggin' Along

Marl Brown — Still Chuggin’ Along

tailgunner’s wife, Madeline, asked Marl if he’d been here all his life.  “Not yet,” he told her.  Two years ago this month, Marl drove a 100-year-old Buick from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse and back.  He has a wonderful display of antique cars in operating condition.

Monique and I have seen a few animals on the way, but not nearly as many as our fellow travelers report.  Common sightings are black bears, bison, stone sheep and moose.  We may be the only one’s to see (and photograph) a

Our Red Fox

Our Red Fox

beautiful red fox, and today a wolf watched us go by from the side of the road.

Just to clarify, a “stone sheep” or “stone bear,” etc., is a beautiful animal seen from a distance, but as you get closer, you realize it’s a boulder with an sort of animal shape.

There hasn’t been as much delay as we expected from bad roads or road repairs.  There have been a few incidents of damage to caravan vehicles; however, all of them seem to be typical when you consider we are a group of 20 rigs, and the distractions are many.  We’ve been lucky.

IMG_7741

And for me, Wednesday was one of the most important days of the trip:  we crossed into Yukon Territory.  Lots of people have been to Canada and the number who have traveled to Alaska is incredible.   To me, the Yukon has always held a special fascination.  It symbolizes wilderness and hardship.  After all, it was the patrolling grounds of Sgt. Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with his heroic dog, Yukon King.  No change in scenery since British Columbia, but I’m still excited.

  CHAPTER  2– THE RV EXPERIENCE

Tuesday while enjoying the heat in the natural spas of Liard Hot Springs, we met some folks heading back to Manitoba after having a boat excursion cancelled and because two of them were afraid of driving on the high roads.  Asked about enduring the boredom ahead going down that same highway, one gentleman replied, “No problem.  At our age we can’t remember what we saw yesterday anyway.”

Monique and I have no problem being together for these long hours.  Yet, the opportunity to run into other members of our crew at roadside cafes and in the campgrounds makes the trip more enjoyable for us.  Another plus for group travel.

Even with fairly manicured roads, this is not a trip for the timid.  We met a lady who was begging her husband to turn back because she didn’t like conditions of the private campgrounds.  They are overflowing with RVs and tent campers, and although the owners appear to be trying to do everything they can to accommodate their guests, it can get to be a zoo.

Remember, they can’t exactly run down to the hardware store to buy items to make repairs.  What we’re seeing mostly is trees, with a few rivers and lakes, and every now and then a service station/restaurant without a closed sign, but mainly trees.

If you have a car or RV problem along the way, be prepared for inconvenience.  We heard a report of a truck that needed service, and at three repair shops the travelers were invited to make an appointment for the next day or beyond.  And, despite the advice of the local mechanics, the repair wasn’t needed.

Lower back pain from being in the vehicle everyday for long hours can creep up on you.  Mine was allayed by a dip in the sulfur-rich Liard Hot Springs.  I wanted to stay there for two weeks, but our travel schedule wouldn’t allow the break.

And speaking of that, the nature of the planned caravan is that we have little free time, time to rest or do minor changes and repairs to our RVs.  Is that good or bad?  Well, if we traveled on our own and wanted to stay two weeks in Liard Hot Springs or three days in Dawson Creek to rest up a bit, it would mean that our trip would take longer, and it would play havoc with any reservations for side-trips ahead.

Prices of diesel and gas vary according to the remoteness of the service station from $0.83 up to $2.00 a liter (a liter is just a little over four to a gallon).  Food prices also rise as you get further into nowhere, but, in the defense of the owners, their cost of electricity and other services does too.  We’ve indulged in very good cinnamon rolls two days in a row.

The weather has been beautiful, warm and party cloudy for most of our journey.  I personally welcome the low-hanging clouds as a variation on the theme of abundant trees with beautiful dark green rivers and the Northern Canadian Rockies in the distance.

Enough for today.  According to the clock, its sunset, but someone forgot to tell the sun.

70,000 signs in Watson Lake and 7,500 Hats at Toad River Lodge

70,000 signs in Watson Lake and 7,500 Hats at Toad River Lodge

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

Comments

22 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XI The Alaska Highway”

▪.  jim on June 24th, 2010 10:18 pm  
sounds like ur having a great time.
i would think the benefit of riding with a caravan would be warning of the upcoming permafrost.
a litre is greater than a quart. i think there are 0.948 liters/qt. ur doing a little better on fuel prices than u think. although, $2/litre is high no matter how ur convert it.
my wife and i are really enjoying ur trip. we look forward to ur post.

▪.  Bob West on June 25th, 2010 8:05 am  
I assume you either got the wifi after power returned or in Whitehorse. The scenery will be lovely along the way and you will have some frost heaves but overall the journey is the key. Always interested in the perspective of those enjoying the trip. I especially enjoy your reflections on a guided caravan. We considered that and then decided to go it alone but the folks running together seemed to be having a lot of fun as well.

▪.  Jeff Glazer on June 25th, 2010 9:22 am  
Having been both a Trekmaster and a Tailgunner on Alaska treks I agree with many of the things you say. The biggest down side to a caravan in my opinion is the fixed schedule and the inability to stay a day or 2 longer someplace. I think the security and camaraderie more than make up for it.

I have to strongly disagree, however, with your characterization of the ride as boring. We never got tired of the beautiful scenery, and there were always interesting animal and sights around the next bend. Yes, some stretches were longer than others, but we always looked forward to new sights and new adventures.
Your descriptions of the gas stations was right-on as was that of the campgrounds. Those campgrounds are what our family refers to as a “dancing bear.” The amazing thing about a dancing bear is not how well it dances but that it dances at all. Some of these campgrounds barely eke out a living in the middle of nowhere. I always appreciate that they are there at all. And with rare exceptions the people are always terrific to work with.
The one most important things to bring on an Alaska trek is a sense of humor. Things will go wrong. Roll with the punches. It makes for a great story when you get home. Like the time I left a campground on the Cassiar Highway with the parking brake on in my toad. 300 miles to the nearest new tires in my size. How we made it I will never know.
If you like to drive and are willing to take things as they happen the Alaska Highway is an absolute must for an RVer.

▪.  Bert Smith on June 25th, 2010 5:05 pm  
I have made the trip 6 times and it was never boring I enjoyed ever minute of the trips. The first trip was 1964 and the last trip was 2006. O what a bunch of changes were made. I hope to make the trip again in 2012

▪.  Kurt Hammerschmidt on June 25th, 2010 5:51 pm  
Something to look for when you are in Alaska is a book of poems by Robert Service.
They all speak of the life of a miner during the gold rush days of Alaska and most Alaskans are very proud of his poems. Many bars in Fairbanks have recital contests.
Or at least they did when I lived there in 1964.

[Barry’s note:  I bought the book]

▪.  Jim Sathe on June 25th, 2010 7:01 pm  
I am following this closely because we made the same trip in 2008. This brings back many memories. We loved the whole experience except the last 60 miles before the Alaskan Border.
Anyone wanting to read my blog on our trip can go to http://www.jimrosietravels.blogspot.com
Eagerly waiting to hear of your future adventures.
Jim

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on June 25th, 2010 8:00 pm  
We have made this trip nearly every year for the past 10 years or so as we live in Northern BC (Terrace) it makes the journey easier for us. We have gone both ways often going up Hwy 37 out of Kitwanga and returning down the Alaska highway and twice taking the Alaska ferry from Skagway to Prince Rupert BC only 1 1/2 hrs away from our home. That is a journey fondly remembered but somewhat costly.
We often go up into Alaska as well as the North no matter whereis such an experience. The Yukon once had a slogan “the majic & the mystery” We also always go it alone as it is truly the journey not the destination.
Memories last for a lifetime and I hope you capture all the north has to offer. You will likely return.

▪.  Peggy on June 25th, 2010 8:18 pm  
You labeled Chapter 1 as: ‘…CHAPTER 1 – THE LONG, BORING ALASKA HIGHWAY…’
I love reading your updates and how it is traveling in an RV…
As I said in an earlier post, I have travelled this same route with my husband via motorcycle… 
I was the passenger; we were together 24/7; only a 3.2 gallon gas tank on our first ride to Alaska; remember Pink Mountain; a couple of the areas where we were lucky to get gas and who had those HUGE cinnamon buns… I remember two of those places we stopped at I had used one of our debit cards and didn’t look at the amount until we were at our next destination… I was so disheartened that they were so dishonest…!!! I keep saying “..I will trust people…” and then something like the large-overcharging occurs…
Believe the Alcan Highway is the Alaskan/Canadian Highway…
Abundant trees – I’m not sure but think they are ‘fir’ trees that can be seen throughout the mountain ranges, etc, especially from Yukon Territory towards Whitehorse and Alaska…
We found many of the gas stations were closed on Sundays but the owners said “…just knock on our door and we’ll get you some gas…” Some of the little stations/cafes were set back off the road where we had to turn around and go back… Once we stopped then so many others saw us (motorcycles; RV’s; campers, etc.) and stopped too…
Watson Lake and the ‘Sign Forest’ – I have a sister and brother-in-law who nailed their sign from Oakdale, Connecticut in one of those areas… We stayed in the area of Watson Lake twice in 2009 (once up and once back)… Personally, it was hot; dirty and nothing available for the traveler… Very little air in the motel room, etc… We had decided in the future we would bypass that area even if it meant riding further…
Love the picture of you on the ‘open road’ with all the trees, bush etc on the side of the road… I was happy to see the trees/bush cut back at least 20/30′ along each side of the highway… Certainly helped in seeing the animals alongside the road – moose are really huge animals along with the buffalo…
It was so interesting and love what you are passing onto others… Thank you…

▪.  Alice on June 25th, 2010 9:31 pm  
I’m loving your blog. I have too many fond memories to ever be bored of the trip but it is an endurance drive to be sure.
I’ve driven the Alcan 9 times, plus took the ferry once. Each time is an adventure. The first time I drove it was in 1964 in a brand new Karman Ghia. I’ve driven it twice alone and in every season. One of my favorite spots is Liard Hot Springs. Well worth a two-week stay! And Winter in Liard, wonderful!
Expensive fuel, closed businesses–it’s always been that way. Although even more closures October thru May. The roughest time on the road is Spring, very messy and rough.
Watch out for rocks. They take out a windshield in nothing flat. When you get into Alaska, make sure everything is battened down and take her easy, usually lots of ^^^ though they never used to give you those lovely warnings.
 All that said, I’m feeling the need to do it again, and go for number 10.
Happy trails! Oh yes, I was one of those crazy people reciting Robert Service and doing the Can-Can in Fairbanks, entertaining the tourists! When my kids and I get together, we turn off all electricity and fire up the kerosene lanterns and recite him still…”The Northern Lights have seen queer sights..”

▪.  Bill on June 25th, 2010 11:01 pm 
We took the same trip last year with another tour company. You are pretty much following the same route we did. We loved the trip and made it in our Cameo 5er with only a few defective tire problems. We enjoyed the museum at Fort Nelson and met Marl. What a great guy. He started the old Buick and drove it around the yard. Isn’t the scenery amazing? We couldn’t get over the Canadian Rockies. I look forward to reading your blog and hope continue to have a safe trip.

▪.  Jerry X Shea on June 25th, 2010 11:13  Just did this trip last year. Driving I-5 in California can be boring, driving the Alcan, no way. Just take a look at the photo you posted above tell me what road in the lower 48 you drive all day long and see that beauty? I guess everyone has their own definition of what is “boring” but I have to go with Jeff Glazer above. Sounds like this trip will give you a good perspective of what “full timing” is like. Works for some and not for others.
Still enjoy reading about your travels and remember every place well.

▪.  Frank on June 26th, 201Thanks for your Blog, it is VERY interesting! I made the trip in 1981 on our honeymoon, and still remember all the sites you are talking about. Man….I gotta make time to do it again!!!!!
Thanks again for writing about your trip!

▪.  Barry S on June 26th, 2010 7:45 am  Thanks for such a great write. As for Sergeant Preston and Yukon King, all I can say is, ” ON King…..ON you Huskies.”

▪.  Ken C on June 26th, 2010 10:59 am  
Boring can be good. I drove to Whitehorse in the early 60s in an old jeep as a scout car ahead of my sister’s 50′ x 12′ trailer home that they had overloaded with all their worldly possessions – blew 6 tires on the trip. Road mostly gravel/mud then. Couldn’t get above 25mph without blowing tires! I had a horrible toothache the whole way. Boring would have been nice.

▪.  Jim Hutt on June 26th, 2010 8:34 pm  
Thanks so much for your wonderful travel log. The wife and I were scheduled to make the trip to Alaska this summer. But due to my medical problems, surgery and chemo, we are having to postpone the trip until next year, Lord willing. We are enjoying your experiences and pictures as you are able to share them along the way. I know that your travel log and pictures take some time to generate and share. Those of us that are currently unable to make this trip can at least get a glimpse of the nature’s beauty of the U.S. and Canada. I look forward to reading your experiences along the way, great job! Many thanks from South Texas. Hope to see with my own eyes what you and Monique are now experiencing and enjoying along the way.

▪.  oregon coast cabin rentals on June 30th, 2010 8:01 am  
This post has remind me some of the great memories which I spend with my friends in Alaska. It seems that you guys are having quite great fun.

▪.  property management las vegas on January 3rd, 2012 12:18 am  
Recently He was started the old Buick and drove it around the yard. Isn’t the scenery amazing. We couldn’t get over the Canadian Rockies. I look forward to reading your blog and hope continue to have a safe trip.

▪.  home owners association management on January 6th, 2012 11:48 pm  
”When we entered a patch of farming country after about 200 miles of this monotony, I suggested we might consider agriculture since we were already growing weary.”

▪.  Barry Zander – I think that by saying it was boring I was setting you up for a couple of one-liners; e.g., an animal that died of boredom.  Neither of us would ever opt for the destination over the journey.  We soaked up beauty, serenity, grandeur and the excitement of being there.

 

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 XIII The “Fireweed” Highway

This entry is part 14 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

June 28, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 11 Comments

This is the 13th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Good news!  If you’re looking forward to driving across vast expanses where you can still find opportunities for adventure, the Yukon is the place.  And obviously if you plan to drive to Alaska, you will see the Yukon.

Fireweed Aside the Yukon River

Fireweed Aside the Yukon River

While previous travelers say the road has improved over the past 10 years, it’s nowhere near as easy to drive as even rural state highways in the U.S.  Is that good or bad?  I’m in agreement with those who want the Yukon to be unrefined forever, a territory where the frontier spirit lives on.

Where we were Sunday was remote.  There was a cabin down a dirt road every 20 or 30 miles.  Few settlements, gas stations or restaurants on today’s route and other than the Five Fingers rock formation on the Yukon River, very few photo op stops.

Five Fingers rock formation on the Yukon River

Five Fingers rock formation on the Yukon River

This was our caravan’s longest travel day of the 58-day tour in miles:  339 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson City.  The road we followed is the Klondike Highway, a.k.a. Hwy. 2, but at this time of year it could also be called “The Fireweed Road.”

Fireweed All Along the Klondike Highway

Fireweed All Along the Klondike Highway

Fireweed, the magenta and pink official flower of the Yukon, grows profusely along the miles of two-lane highway, intermixed with white, yellow and blue wildflowers.

Historically, this road was built in the Tintina Trench, a natural geological canyon caused by shifts in fault lines.  When the route was first being considered, running it in the trench was the easy choice.

Arctic Ground Squirrel

Arctic Ground Squirrel

It was another slow day for wildlife.  Several members of the group, including us, saw only perky little Arctic Ground Squirrels scurrying across the pavement in our 8-hour drive.

The most important observation I can pass along to future Alaska-bound trekkers is stay alert for bumps.  A few are marked with signs but most aren’t.  After an hour or two of blacktop observation, dips, potholes and gravel are easier to see, but I doubt that anyone won’t get jolted unexpectedly a few times along the way.  It didn’t seem like we had any bad bumps; yet, our radio/TV /DVD player combo remote in the trailer fell and was shattered under the weight of a recliner that obviously jumped.  It could have been while we were on the 15.6 miles of gravel we encounter halfway along the trail.

Enough about the trip for the moment.  Time for a vocabulary lesson:

You must get used to “loonies” and “toonies.”  In Canada there are not dollar bills, but rather, copper-colored $1 coins called “loonies” because there is a loon on the back.  A small loonie inside a larger silver ring is a “toonie” because it is two coins equal to $2.

If you go into a restroom in a store, do you rest?  Probably not.  Or if you ask for the public bathroom, are you planning to take a bath?  Probably not.  Up here they are called “washrooms,” which makes sense, since calling it by what you really plan to do isn’t polite.

RVers see signs along the road saying RV parks have “full service.”  Translation: “Full-Hookups.”

We arrived at our Dawson City RV resort in the rain this afternoon, happy to be able to squeeze into a parking spot.  As mentioned before, every campground up here is full or close to it every night.  For us, the caravan staff has made the arrangements; for the independent traveler, it seems like a good idea to make advanced reservations or just hope for the best.  There are alternatives, including dry camping in provincial parks and off-road pullouts, but we haven’t experienced them.

Weed 1-8013And finally, did Einstein visit the Yukon?

“… escape from everyday life, with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness from the fetters from one’s own shifting desires.  A finely tempered nature longs to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of the high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.”

1918 speech by Albert Einstein    [Contributed by Brent Puniwai]

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

Comments

11 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XIII The “Fireweed” Highway” (+ several spam comments)

▪.  Jim Sathe on June 28th, 2010 4:49 pm  
The next phase of your trip is the ferry crossing of the Yukon River followed by the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska Border. There the road turns from asphalt to gravel and it is about 60 miles to Chicken, Alaska. A great drive.

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on June 28th, 2010 5:27 pm  
You think the roads were rough in the Yukon? Wait until you drive the potholes and loose gravel of the Top of the World Highway, then the washboard dirt and gravel roads to Chicken. We make that trip every year from Anchorage to the Taylor Highway and on to Dawson City. We love it, but it is a kidney puncher. We chuckle at the Chicken General Store when we hear other RVers say it was the worst drive of their life.

▪.  David Rohwer on June 28th, 2010 6:13 pm  
I just rode up to Dawson City and back from Fairbanks. Your next leg after crossing the Yukon on the ferry is 65 miles to the US/Canadian Border on a mix of gravel and chip seal. It is then 43 miles from the border to Chicken on gravel/dirt road that can be slick when wet. Be cautious and watch the edge carefully. We saw lots of RV’s on the road. The Top of the World Highway is a visual treat! From Chicken to the ALCAN is 66 miles of reasonably good chip seal and asphalt. Chicken is a cool town and I recommend stopping at the Chicken Creek Cafe/Saloon/Mercantile Emporium, a very short drive on the right just past the main lodge on the road. And there is a dredge there too to see.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on June 28th, 2010 6:15 pm  
Oh! the Top of the World/Taylor Highway. Spectacular drive, we have traveled it both directions from Dawson to Chicken and Tok and the reverse. Definitely not for the faint of heart and those that are not good judges of where the right side of their RV is in relation to the edge of the road.
Yes potholes are a fact of life on many northern roads part of what makes the adventure. There`s been thousands before you and there will be thousands after you have left.
Guaranteed many will repeat the trip but likely on their own rather than a caravan. The Yukon and Alaska are very safe places to have the travel and adventure like this unlike the crime that seems so much a part of the lower 48.
When you are in Chicken be sure to take a few minutes to see the “post office” and the big dredge if you missed the dredge #4 at Dawson.
Not sure of your return route but it could be by highway 37 south from Watson Lake heading back into British Columbia. Another venture in itself. Please enjoy and come back.

▪.  Merrily on June 28th, 2010 6:56 pm  
When I drove up to Alaska, we stayed mostly in provincial parks and boondocked and had NO problems getting sites. We did book for our stay in Denali (way ahead of time) & in Anchorage at a RV park w/hook ups!
Love hearing about your adventure!!

▪.  Old Gray on June 28th, 2010 8:08 pm  
I love hearing about Canadianisms! As a Canadian traveling along the east coast of the U.S. somewhere in the Carolinas, I once asked directions to a marina’s “washroom”. I ended up in the laundry. 
Things like that make a trip more memorable.

▪.  Brian Morris on June 29th, 2010 6:59 am  
Reading about your trip brings back some great memories. Although I have not read all of your “travel logs” what I have read reinforces our decision to travel with the benefit of another trailer or two along with us but not to be a part of a “caravan”. 
The trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City passes by so many interesting places to “wile away” a little time here and there, while learning about some of the fabulous places and people we met and how they landed up in the Yukon. I am not sure if your writings are representative of the things you are seeing and doing along the way, and of necessity when you are making such a long trip as part of a caravan I am sure there is not much time to “dally” along the way. I have learned from my travels however, that it is often in the “dallying” when you have some of your most memorable experiences. Also for those who have never travelled to/in the Yukon you are missing one of the great adventure of your lives, and every Canadian should make the effort to see this part of their country and it’s people. Although in peak season some of the campgrounds can be very busy, there are many, many opportunities to safely boondock and spend time with the wonderful pioneer spirited people you will meet along the way. While I don’t always recall without some prompting from my sons the names of every place we visited in the Yukon, I sure do remember the people I met and the interesting conversations we had and the places we saw in the “back of the beyond”.
Although you mentioned the profusion of Fireweed all along the road, what was not mentioned was the origin of the name “Fireweed”. This name comes from this plant being in the forefront of new vegetation that appears shortly after a forest fire, of which there would have been plentiful sites in various stages of regrowth along the road to Dawson City.
The only other thing I can say is I wish I were making the trip but without the caravan. Have a safe, enjoyable journey.           

[Thanks for your input (every comment is appreciated).  I am not working for the caravan companies, just enjoying the trip and the opportunity to share it with so many readers.  Go with a group or alone, it’s up to you, but Monique and I are really enjoying meeting the locals – even some natives – and seeing some of the offbeat places not seen by most travelers.  We enjoy “dayllying,” also.]

▪.  Ali Shumate on June 29th, 2010 7:52 am  
I have a great fear of heights, especially on the edges of any. Would you advise me not to take the ” Top of the World/Taylor highway”?

 .

[I think the risk is worth the reward.  You’ll be talking about that road for years.]

▪.  levonne on June 29th, 2010 4:07 pm  
I would love to campground host in Alaska. You’re having a great time! If you have a minute, come visit my blog: A Camp Host Housewife’s Meanderings.

▪.  Don & Irene Ritchey on June 29th, 2010 6:24 pm  
Nervous of Heights?? This is to Ali Shumate the trip in reverse from TOK up through the Taylor Highway is a lot easier to take if fear of heights is a factor. Been both ways.
Going up Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing to Tok you are on the inside for the most part heading over the top and down to Dawson City. It is so memorable you just got to grin and bear it. It’s driven every day … no reason really not to go. It’s an adventure you will cherish forever.

▪.  marianj on July 25th, 2010 5:41 pm  
Just read of your trip to Dawson, YK. Great pictures of Fireweed. We live in Alaska so find it interesting to hear a newcomer take on the Alcan. Hope you have a great time. Come back soon. Marianj

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 XV White-Knuckle Driving

This entry is part 16 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 4, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 9 Comments

This is the 15th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska

NOTE:  For whatever reason, Part XV didn’t get posted, and since the Top of the World Highway is one of the real adventures of the trip, I want to make sure it is available.  By way of a weak excuse, we’ve had long days of travel and touring.  My energy level is eroded by the need to be alert for hours on the road, and these days with only three hours of daylight are confusing.  I think the problem was probably my fatigue.

Time Change sm - 8121

Did you even know there is Alaska Daylight Time?  Wednesday we set our clocks back an hour as we waited to cross the border from Canada back into the United States.  We entered Alaska.

Getting through the border checkpoint at Poker Creek was the easy part.  Getting to this remote outpost at the border and from there to the next town, Chicken, Alaska, was the part that many travelers dread.  The ride took us four-and-a-quarter hours from Dawson City to Chicken, a distance of 108 miles.  Some of you who have already made that trip are probably wondering how we made it so fast.  Well, road conditions were good, except for slow-going through the clouds.

The Top of the World Highway -- A Memorable Adventure of Our Trip

The Top of the World Highway — A Memorable Adventure of Our Trip

This fabled Top of the World Highway is torturous to vehicles — not more difficult than IMG_8130some other roads we have traveled, just a lot more of it.   Because of careful preparation, we and apparently all other 20 rigs in the caravan made it with no major damage.  When we weren’t socked in, we could see for at least a hundred miles.  What we saw were trees and more trees, creeks and rivers, and beyond it all were the mountains dressed in blue, grey, purple and emerald.  We were told that you can see Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) from the road, but we didn’t take the time to stop at the overlooks except to get snacks from our trailer.

One other thing that helped speed us along was that Monique and I left Dawson Tuesday afternoon, catching the Yukon River ferry after only a three-minute wait, and driving six miles of washboard to the Top of the World Golf Course.  This 9-hole course carved out of the forest is rustic, particularly the greens.  I suspect that the same guy who made the roads around here also did the greens.

 

Having played in Key West, Florida, at the Southernmost Golf Course in America just six months ago, I had to play at the Top of the World in the Yukon.  Two other members of our group and their wives had a very enjoyable time, particularly since we didn’t keep score.  The tradition is to play at midnight, but since that’s a bit past our bedtimes, I proposed that we tee off at 8:30 and just tell our friends we played in the bright daylight of midnight.  Please don’t tell anyone we cheated.

Main Street Chicken.  An outpost in the middle of nowhere that's a welcome sight.

Main Street Chicken. An outpost in the middle of nowhere that’s a welcome sight.

The bustling city of Chicken is a hoot.  In addition to the no-hook-ups RV park with a restaurant, office/gift shop, gold-panning opportunity and the Pedro Dredge, there is the town.  It consists of one building about 100 feet long separated into another gift shop, a liquor store with reasonable prices, and a saloon.  We passed another RV park nearby.  After the drive up here, it is an oasis.

The reward for reaching Chicken was a chicken dinner prepared by the caravan staff.  Afterward we sauntered over to the restaurant for homemade dessert and to hear owner Mike’s talk about Chicken’s history and ability to survive despite minus-80-degree weather.  There are only four year-round residents; the rest (146) begin to disperse for less harsh conditions in the fall.

Two days before arriving in Chicken, I didn’t know what a gold-mining dredge is.   Now I’ve toured two of them, one in Dawson, the other in Chicken, which is probably my lifetime quota.

Pedro

Pedro

This morning I joined an expedition to find a mama moose that Larry had photographed standing in a pond just up the road from the camp.  By the time we made another excursion, she was gone, but the scenery made the hike a complete success.  So now it’s on to Tok, another rustic spot, before reaching Fairbanks for a five-day recovery stretch and rehabilitation of our RVs.

 

I called out to ask this bicyclist how his trip was going: "FANTASTIC!!!"

I called out to ask this bicyclist how his trip was going: “FANTASTIC!!!”

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

Comments

9 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XV White-Knuckle Driving”

▪.  Mike Busby on July 5th, 2010 12:06 am  
Sounds like you enjoyed your stay in Chicken at our park, http://chickengold.com. Even though you had no hookups, we do provide hookups in the lower park and soon will in the caravan park. Hope your travels are great. Nice blog! You will find more info on our Chicken life in our blog: http://chickengold-blog.com.
Mike

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 5th, 2010 4:19 pm  
Glad you made it ok!
Lynne,
Chugiak, Alaska

▪.  Alex Gendron on July 5th, 2010 4:22 pm  
It is quite interesting to get other views on the Alaska Trip as we just returned from a one month visit to the North via Dawson Creek, BC to Whitehorse, Dawson City, Top of the World, Fairbanks, Wasilia, Tok, and down HW 37 to Stewart and 16 to Prince George and South again. It was truly a wonderful experience in contrasting scenery. All I can say is the North is especially beautiful and its beck-and-call will take me back to some special spots in the next few years. Atlin, Dawson City, Dease Lake area to name a few that I thought were special.
I look forward to another RV venture up there.

▪.  Sharon Brandt on July 5th, 2010 7:37 pm  
We went over the Top of the World Highway to Chicken on the day the road opened. It was so very quiet at Poker Creek that we saw a hoary marmot taking a sunbath in the middle of the road. Though Top of the World was slow going (we stopped a lot to take in the scenery — no clouds), it was a much smoother ride than we had on our return through Destruction Bay.

▪.  Jerry X Shea on July 6th, 2010 4:52 pm  
It took us about the same time last year, going from Chicken to D.C. We made the trip on our way out of Alaska. Two days before our trip over the Top of the World Hwy it was all fogged in and raining. The day we made the trip it was between two storms and it was sunny and clear. One of the best and most beautiful drives we made in Alaska – the road however was the worst we ever drove on or ever will again. The next day in D.C. it rained.
My advice to those of you following this trip and planning your trip – check the weather. If it is raining or foggy, just pass, as you will see nothing. Go when it is sunny and it is beautiful – but bumpy.

▪.  Gordon and Martha Wagoner on July 7th, 2010 1:20 pm  
My what memories that picture of Chicken brought back. We went thru there in 2000–IT HASNT CHANGED A BIT! Ha.
Was the bearded lady[?] still working there running the place?
We traveled on a tour bus however, and when we left to start our trip up the Highway, it was a misty rain…by the time we got to Chicken is was completely raining. We were told then, that we were the last persons allowed to travel on the road as parts of it had washed away. We drove thru little rivers made in the gullies of the missing road and slid on the muddy road. Fortunately we had a truck spotter who traveled ahead of us to warn us of oncoming vehicles since there were very few places to pull over. Can’t say I got a lot of pictures as we were all holding on for dear life as the bus slipped and slid along … and our driver [who looked all of 17 yrs old] kept assuring us that she had it under control and had driven that road many times. Oh, yes what memories we had of our Alaskan trip, but that ‘highway’ was one experience we often relate to others. Enjoy your trip!!

▪.  marianj on August 12th, 2010 5:57 pm  
Boy you had a nice trip on the Top of The Highway. It has since been closed most of the due to washouts and rain part of the road is no longer there, it will take months to fix it.

 [It reopened in a couple of weeks, reportedly with a constant flow of traffic.]

Our Alaska Trip Part XIX-B Stalling for Time & Healthcare!

This entry is part 19 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 12, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 13 Comments

This is the 19th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska. 

[Oops, it’s actually the 20th entry in the series, but I guess a tinge of exhaustion overtook me and I lost count.  Because of information in the comments section, it’s one of the most important episodes.] 

“I’m wiping reindeer hair off my shoes,” Marvin Curb told me yesterday when I asked what he was doing at the door to his motorhome.  Now there’s something you don’t hear everyday, but in Alaska, well, a lot of unusual things happen.

On the serious side, one of the caravan members went to an Anchorage urgent care provider when an insect stung her.  She was refused treatment there and at a second clinic, because they don’t take Medicare or accept secondary health insurance.  I hope we hear more about this from others who have asked for medical care in the 49th state.

To be honest, this edition of Our Alaska Trip journal is stalling for time.  I have three items that I want to put together, but the photos that go with one story were fried in a laptop, so we’re trying to resurrect them, and a member of the group that I want to talk with hasn’t been available to tell his story.

So now for some random notes and just a tad of travel log:

RVers who travel to Alaska with their dogs and who plan to embark on a 12-hour tour, as we have, need to plan ahead for pet care while they are gone.  We’ve had a dog-walking service available at one private campground and I’m sure others offer it, also.

I mentioned before there are something like 2.5 gift shops per tourist in Alaska.  Still true.

Landing - 0286A more interesting statistic is that one of every 59 Alaskans has a pilot’s license.  Our tour yesterday stopped along a lake that is the busiest seaplane airport in the world, with an average of 250 takeoffs a day, according to our bus driver.  It goes up to 800-1,000 a day on occasion – I don’t recall Anchorage ever hosting the Superbowl.

In addition to the seaplanes parked on the lake, there’s a parking lot filled with seaplanes

On calm waters for the moment, but more challenges lie ahead

On calm waters for the moment, but more challenges lie ahead

on the tarmac or on trailers.  Since these little aircraft can’t make it to the Lower 48, I asked where they all go.  In addition to hunting, fishing and sightseeing excursions, lots of them make trips to the Interior to deliver supplies.

And that segues into the life of our whitewater rafting guide, Tim.  Tim shares an apartment with others and apparently survives on Chef Boyardee from the can.  Not only are food prices steep in Denali, but it’s over a hundred miles to the nearest supermarkets in Anchorage or Fairbanks.  They make the drive once or twice a month.

And that brings us to today’s outing.  We started the day at Costco for lunch and stopped at Walgreen’s on our way to the Alaskan Native Heritage Center.   Our knowledge of native life among the many clans (tribes) of Alaska was broadened greatly.  I found out that the Aleutian Island chain is “the birthplace of the winds.”  Winds there often top 100 miles per hour and get up to 200 miles per hour.  I suspect it’s not a good place for a high profile RV, even if there were roads there.

An Athabaskan youth shows his nimble abilities in the native warrior games

An Athabaskan youth shows his nimble abilities in the native warrior games

From Left, Natives' Relationship to the Sea Otter and Crafting a Totem Pole

From Left, Natives’ Relationship to the Sea Otter and Crafting a Totem Pole

We’re “goin’ coastal” tomorrow, heading to Seward, headquarters for the Kenai Fjords National Park.

 Thanks to Ada Beavers for the rafting photo.  Good thing she didn’t get a shot of me volunteering to take a dip in the 38-degree river — Monique would panic.  Well, you only live once (in theory).

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

Comments

13 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XIX Stalling for Time”

▪.  joe on July 13th, 2010 4:42 pm  
Is the lack of Medicare providers a problem in Alaska? I bet that would put a severe damper on their tourism trade with retirees. Did they try a hospital? I will not plan any trips to the state until I checked those things out for sure. OUCH!

▪.  Gary Altig on July 13th, 2010 5:09 pm  
No urgent care for Medicare or supplemental medical insurance in Anchorage? That’s disturbing. What was the final outcome?
 Are we expected to purchase a medical insurance rider for Alaska?/ga

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 13th, 2010 9:26 pm  
Alaska has a very severe Medicare problem. There are no doctors who take Medicare here. Some have tried, but the government doesn’t pay them enough so they refuse new patients.
The only option for most Medicare patients are Alaska Regional Hospital, Providence Hospital, and the Matanuska Hospital.
 Channel 2, our NBC station, did a special on Medicare in Alaska and found not even one doctor that would take a Medicare patient.
Alaska also stopped the longevity bonus, which used to be $250.00 to retirees. Both of these things sent retirees out of the state in droves.
Alaska has the highest concentration of veterans in the U.S., but if they cannot get Medicare help, they may leave as well.
The only thing left is the property tax exemption for up to $150,000 of your house value.
I have talked to many, many retirees who cannot stay. There’s just nothing to stay for.
If you have anyone coming here who needs emergency or any kind of Medicare assistance, the hospitals are ‘It.”
Thanks for a great travel log.
Lynne
P.S. Hope Whittier is one of your stops. I am so in love with Prince William Sound and its beauty. And hope you get to take the 26-glacier cruise. What a beautiful 1/2 trip to visit all the glaciers of the Sound.
You will LOVE Seward, too…love that town. It is so beautiful and has made such an amazing recovery from the ‘64 earthquake.

▪.  truman on July 14th, 2010 8:37 am  
Count me out for a long visit to the great state of Alaska NO Medicare No second insurance!  Guess you have to bring a ton of money when you visit? And someone from that state was running for vice president! WOW!! Just count me in for a brief excursion to that wonderful state. Thanks

▪.  Stan Zawrotny on July 14th, 2010 8:52 am  
We didn’t have any health problems in Alaska, but coming back through British Columbia, my wife had a serious finger cut and had to go to an emergency room. I’m pleased to say that the Canadian health care system had no problems with our Medicare coverage.

▪.  Kellie on July 14th, 2010 10:46 am  
Truman – surely you aren’t suggesting that the government can FORCE docs to accept Medicare are you? What exactly does Sarah Palin have to do with this problem? I’m quite certain it is the FEDERAL govt which sets the reimbursement level for Medicare and she was not elected to a federal position. Perhaps this would have been something she could have helped to resolve.

▪.  clkek on July 14th, 2010 11:40 am  
The refusal to see Medicare patients is as big a problem in the lower 48 as well. My our GP is reimbursed $11 for a Medicare office visit- that does not even cover the costs of her office help and utilities for the time of the office visit, not to mention her professional liability insurance and medical school student loan payment. The Federal Gov reduces the costs of Medicare by cutting provider reimbursement!!! That in turn has raised private pay costs as some how the bills have to get paid.

▪.  Mike on July 14th, 2010 4:12 pm 
What about Tricare that us retired Military have as our medical provider.. Do the doctors in the 49th take that?

▪.  Lynne schlumpf on July 14th, 2010 8:09 pm  
Yes, some providers take Tricare here, as this is a big military state. You can also go to the Elmendorf hospital, which is very good.

▪.  Jane on July 14th, 2010 10:12 pm  
WOW!! Is this blogsite starting to get politcal?….Lynne, I LOVE all of your info…you are certainly well informed! clkek is right on! As well as Kellie…Truman…u need to take a hike!!! Barry and Monique…We wait every day to hear your blog…we have actually signed up for next year for the June 9th 42-day caravan…..We appreciate your info on dog sitting while on an extended tour…Happy travels…

▪.  macsly on July 16th, 2010 5:14 pm  
My husband is on Medicare. We live in Alaska and have secondary insurance. We have had no difficulty getting emergency treatment and he is in emergency fairly often (COPD and bowel blockages) Perhaps Anchorage is that way, but Fairbanks doctors and hospital have treated us great. (So has Providence). I did have difficulty getting a friend on Medicare into a neurologist (4-month wait) and other friends have had difficulty getting into a dermatologist, but those are pretty specialized.

▪.  jim on July 20th, 2010 8:04 am  
on Medicare coverage in Canada, i suggest u go to the Medicare web site. There are rules and each case is evaluated on its own merit. It isn’t automatic.
I was told by one that had traveled in Canada that to be sure u needed to purchase their insurance. he was spending time in Canada so he wasn’t ” traveling the most direct route without delay.”

Our Alaska Trip Part XXV Time Is Precious

This entry is part 27 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

July 24, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · 6 Comments

This is the 25th in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to Alaska

Let’s start with a question:  “What is Wrangell-St. Elias?”  [answer below]

Our caravan is designed to give us a sampler of what Alaska has to offer.  It’s like trying to see all of Colorado or North Carolina in two days.  It makes us want to come back to spend more time here.  The biggest difference is the time factor.  We drive 180-300 miles between destinations, and there are numerous things to see along the way.

Thursday, we stopped for glaciers and waterfalls, sped by moose and looked at towering, snow-covered mountains.  When we arrived at our campground, our fellow caravaners asked if we stopped at the railroad tunnel, site of a shoot-out, and other notable places. Others said they had just gotten back from the other side of the bay, where Mama Bear was showing her three cubs how to catch fish.  The dozens of people salmon fishing had to scurry out of the way while they ate. Too much!

Our strong suggestion is that you try to spend as much time in Alaska as your resources allow.   Around every corner are more wonders to behold.

Whether you are into just passively enjoying the splendor of the scenery or are interested in more active pursuits – like fishing and hunting; photography and bird-watching; whitewater rafting and kayaking; native culture, homesteaders’ living conditions; mining history; geology and the northern lights (in the winter); hiking and biking, or the many more things that have filled us with excitement – you’ll need time to see it all.  And since Alaska is a long drive from the Lower 48, it’s not a trip most people will make more than once (I hope we will be back in a few years).

We have delved into most of those pursuits and know there is much more we haven’t seen or done that would we like to experience.  We know that can be said of everywhere in America and Canada, but in Alaska it’s all so immense.  Unfortunately, the distances between most spots are great, so what takes a few hours to get to elsewhere takes a day of driving here.

Our Catamaran, The Valdez Spirit, Plows Through Ice to Reach the Glacier

Our Catamaran, The Valdez Spirit, Plows Through Ice to Reach the Glacier

Another reason to have more time is the weather.  We have been extremely lucky on our tour.  The rain has passed and the sun has greeted us on just about every scenic and history tour we have taken.  But cruise boats don’t go out in heavy fog, Mt. McKinley hides from Denali visitors most days, and a walking tour of Dawson City with dirt streets could be miserable in the rain.

A Close-Up View of the Imposing Meares Glacier

A Close-Up View of the Imposing Meares Glacier

While our visit has been fantastic, the one thing we have missed the most is having the opportunity to get to know locals, which mostly means people who have been here 7 to 35 years.  By the very nature of wanting to live in Alaska, they are interesting, usually different, and probably fun to talk with.  Those we have met fall into those categories, so we wish we could spend more time getting to know them.

Rafts of Sea Otters Were Comic Relief on our 10-hour Cruise

Rafts of Sea Otters Were Comic Relief on our 10-hour Cruise

One of our caravan buddies, who has been the butt of many jokes about sleeping through lots of the best nature tours and cruises, startled me Thursday when he said he would love to move here.  Alaska is that kind of place … people come for a visit and then, like our boat skipper Friday, go back home, pack up what they need and make this their permanent home.  It happens all the time.  Think about it.

 

And now for the answer to the question at the beginning of tonight’s blog:  Wrangell-St. Elias is America’s largest National Park.  At 13.2 million acres, it’s six times the size of Yellowstone. The park contains the entire Wrangell Mountain Range and most or parts of three other ranges.  Nine of America’s 16 highest mountains are here. There are two roads going into it and 9.6 million acres is wilderness, which means no motorized vehicles equipment allowed.  So how is it that you never heard of Wrangell-St. Elias?  We have visited 39 of the 56 national parks plus lots of national memorials (like Mount Rushmore), etc., and we never heard of it either.  And, oh yeah, what we’ve seen – albeit a very small area – was an unexpected, spectacular treat as we drove along miles of its border.

 

Peaks Peek Through at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Peaks Peek Through at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

 

We considered taking one of those remote roads into the park from Valdez, where we are staying until we computed that it would be a 350-mile round trip, plus a hike and a $50 fee to tour a 14-story mill.

Maybe next time …

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

Comments

6 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XXV Time Is Precious”

▪.  Karla and George Gallagher on July 24th, 2010 8:40 pm  
Hi Barry and Monique,
My husband and I have been following your Alaska trip with a great deal of interest. We have lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for 40 years and just retired to become full-time RV’ers this fall. We are both retired as of July 1 of this year and are looking forward to adventures on the road.
Many visitors do not realize the vastness of our state and that you cannot see everything in one visit. We hope that if you are in Anchorage or the surrounding area that you would contact us and we would love to meet up with you and others in your caravan.
 I do not know if this message will give you my email because I a new at this forum. I am on Facebook – Karla Gallagher, Anchorage, Alaska.

▪.  Tim Millington on July 24th, 2010 10:32 pm  
Next time take the tour to see the copper processing building at McCarty. We did in 2007 and it was one of the best trips of our 10 weeks in Alaska. We got to meet the locals and had a wonderful experience in the park. I have enjoyed your blog and thank you for posting your travels.

▪.  Dick Tracy on July 25th, 2010 1:07 am  
My wife and I are here in Alaska on our 2nd RV trip to this wonderful land. First time was in ‘05 right after I retired and we made it a 125-day trip. Back again this year for nearly the same. 
I have enjoyed reading your blog but think you shorted yourself this time by not at least going into the Wrangell St. Elias visitors center just off the highway below Glennallen. [We did visit the center.]  We drove our Saturn SL toad into the park over the McCarthy Road on both trips. This year was far easier as the road in has been greatly improved to a good gravel route and only 59½ miles each way. We even took an unanticipated 90+ minute flightseeing this year from McCarthy out over the Bagley Icefield and the mountains. A trip that started at 7 PM and the light cast great shadows that allowed the contour of all the snow shapes to stand out brilliantly. You can tour the mine facilities on your own, too. It is well worth the trip so be sure to include it on any future opportunities.

▪.  Jim Mahan on July 26th, 2010 6:13 am  
What special equipment do you recommend for your RV, i.e. Arctic package, etc.?

▪.  Craig on July 26th, 2010 7:53 am  
How do I find this whole series ? We too are heading North next summer and would love to take advantage/ be aware of your adventure. Thanks, Craig

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 XXVIII-A Useful Definitions Part A

This entry is part 30 of 36 in the seriesNorth to Alaska Series

August 3, 2010 by Barry & Monique Zander · Comments Off (Hoping this gets repaired soon)

This is the first installment of the 28th article in a continuing series about our trip through Canada to AlaskaT

Another adventure.  On our first night in Canada June 10, the caravan stayed in Oliver, British Columbia.  A few days after departing, an avalanche closed the road for a brief time behind us.  Not long after that we wrestled with the Top of the World Highway and won.  Weeks later the roadway was washed out and closed briefly.  Sunday the caravan left the Northern Beaver Post, Yukon Territory, convoy-style for the first time.  We drove about a quarter-mile where we waited for over an hour until we got clearance to travel narrow Hwy. 37 through a forest fire.  The road closed behind us.

Avalanches and Washouts Behind Us; Bears and Moose Crossing in Front of Us; Construction and Frost Heaves Under Us … What else could we contend with? Oh, yes, a forest fire.

Avalanches and Washouts Behind Us; Bears and Moose Crossing in Front of Us; Construction and Frost Heaves Under Us … What else could we contend with? Oh, yes, a forest fire.

Saturday night it rained – on the forest fire; Sunday and Monday were beautiful, short-sleeve weather.

As we bound into the final two days of our trip, we think about the chance to just relax for a few days in a quiet, oceanside park in British Columbia.  At the same time, we think about ending what has been an exciting adventure of a lifetime with three dozen people who have become close friends over the past two months.

We have tried to use these articles to give you some guidance on what to expect on your trip to western Canada and Alaska.  Rest assured, what you may have learned in these articles is only a smattering of information, and none of this does justice to the incredible world we have toured over the past weeks and which hopefully lies ahead for you.

Now, we are going to try to add to your knowledge with some definitions:

Fact:  A “fact” is what the tour guide tells you.  Another fact is that every tour guide and every information sign has a different number or name for the same fact.  The more we learn about the returning herds of caribou (also called “reindeer” if they are domesticated), the more confused we get as to the thousand that are roaming around.

Alaska Time Zone:  One hour earlier than Pacific Time.  Confusing at first, but it works.

Arctic Haze:  The North’s version of smog, mostly from industrial pollution and forest fires imported from Russia by prevailing winds.

Athabaskan:   The collective name for the Indians of Interior Alaska and Northwestern Canada and their language.  Athabaskans are closely related to the Navajos.  Of the roughly 19 native people languages still spoken in Alaska today, 11 are Athabaskan, so you hear that term often, particularly in the Alaskan Interior.  In Arctic regions, the people are Inupiaq.  Along the lower coast are the Yupik people.  Then there are the Aleuts (pronounced “Al-e-oots) around the Aleutian Islands.  The natives refer to themselves as the “First Nation People.”

Languages - 0622

Bore Tide:  A huge tide.  The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia is the world leader at over 50 feet.  “Turnagain Bay” in Alaska is either the second or third highest bore tide in the world at 23 or 28 feet.  And Wikipedia and local books disagree on who named Turnagain Bay and why and when.

Bush:  Areas in the Interior accessible only by air or intrepid dogsledding.  We met an artist who said he lived in “the Bush,” but by his garb, we think he meant “a bush.”

Centre:  The Canadian spelling of “center,” and there are “metres” here, but they have no problem with “otter.”  They also misspell “labour” and “humour” by U.S. standards.

Chickaloon:  A small town, river and loop road.  You don’t really need to know that, but it is indicative of the unique names in Alaska.  Tok (pronounced Tōk), Chicken, etc.

Drunken Spruce:  Undernourished spruce trees that lean in sundry directions.  They are part of miles of undernourished spruce forests with trees hundreds of years old but looking like new plantings because they try to survive on “permafrost.”

$8-a-gallon diesel:  When an outpost 180 miles from everywhere pays $1,000 a day for electricity, they have to make it up some way.  We were just glad they were there.

Fireweed:  Vibrant magenta wildflowers that line the roads throughout Yukon and Alaska in the summer.  It is the provincial flower of the Yukon, and locals know it as the harbinger of autumn.  Blossoms move up the stem as the summer draws to an end.

Fireweed in Its Glory and As the Summer Fades – Not a Sure Sign of the Seasons Because the Beautiful and Spent Are Only a Few Miles Apart

Fireweed in Its Glory and As the Summer Fades – Not a Sure Sign of the Seasons Because the Beautiful and Spent Are Only a Few Miles Apart

Frost Heaves:  If you don’t know this by now, you haven’t been reading these articles closely enough.  Roads and towns are built on permafrost, which melts and refreezes, creating havoc for engineers and keeping lots of summer workers busy.  Frost heaves cause RVs traveling down highways at 55 mph to leave the pavement suddenly.  Beware of frost heaves.

Glacial Flour:  Silt carried by millions of waterfalls throughout the area cascades down mountains and into rivers, lakes and fjords.  All emerald and aqua green waters get their enchanting, picturesque coloring from glacial flour.  On the other hand, the Nenana River on which I whitewater rafted was an ugly grey but carried soft silt down to the Yukon River.  I know – I took a voluntary dip overboard.

Tune in tomorrow for 15 more definitions you should know if you’re RVing to Alaska … things like a “peduncle slap” and “muskeg.”

Oh, by the way, we missed a turn-off today, when another black bear ambled across the road in front of us.

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