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Our Alaska adventure started when we left Great
Falls, Montana on May 28. As we embarked on this journey we had no idea
what was ahead of us. Surely, it wasn't as scary as the early settlers
pioneers who made such journeys, but we still felt a sense of
excitement, and maybe even some dread, as we head off by ourselves for
a more than 2,000 miles drive through the Canadian wilderness to
Alaska. My plan was to write these travelogs as a daily journal and
hope they may be helpful for anyone who uses them as a guide for their
Alaska. It is, after all, the RVers greatest journey.
All mileages are approximations from
software and will not add up to the 1,422 miles of the Alaska Highway.
The road has changed over the years. Curves have been straightened and
hills have been leveled. In some cases, original mileposts have been
kept, but they are historical mile markers and don't reflect the actual
mileage. And I'm not one who
will always remember to log actual driving miles, so I won't even
attempt to start doing that. I did, however, reset one of the trip
odometers to zero when we got to Dawson Creek, so I'll post the mileage
when we get to the end of the highway in Delta Junction.
There are lots of things you can do to try and
protect your rig and toad. We had a rock guard installed a few years
ago to protect the fan. We also have a cover for the windshield on the
CR-V. For the journey to Alaska, we added a rubber mat under the
windshield cover to protect against any large rocks that may hit it.
Other than that, we'll roll the dice and do what most of the folks we
know who have made the trip - just go and don't worry. Most folks don't
do much and don't have any major problems. Others do a lot of
preparation and still have problems. Not that there aren't
stories about ruined radiators and broken windshields. Of course, if we
have some kind of major
problem that I could have prevented with some kind of guard, then so be
it, and I'll document it in the prologue at the end of our journey.
May 28 - Lethbridge, Alberta (182 miles)
Conditions: The road up to the border
was I-15 and it was in great shape. The road to Lethbridge was AB 4 and
it was also in great shape.
The weather turned cold and wet the last couple
of days we were in Great Falls with heavy snow predicted in the
mountains and some snow predicted down to 4,000 feet. We were sitting
somewhere around 3,500 to 3,800 feet. Although we and the Winckels and
Hirths were parting company for a while, we all planned to head to the
border together on Sunday, May 28. They were going as far as Lethbridge
were going on to Calgary. Luckily, we awoke to a cold, but dry, morning
and decided to hook up the cars and hit the road. The drive to the
border was about 122 miles and our Alaska odyssey began.
Excitement at the
We had agreed that we would go through the border
first given that we had the longer drive up to Calgary. Only one booth
was open, but the line was short, only about five cars in front of us.
I approached the booth and the border guard asked me four questions:
1). Where are you from?
2). How many in your party?
3). Do you have any alcohol on board?
4). Do you have any firearms or weapons?
Road conditions: The
road changed dramatically north of Fort Nelson. It started off with a
posted speed of 100 kph (about 62 mph), but changed when we started
climbing into the mountains. The road was paved with smooth and rough
spots, and little or no shoulders in many areas. It widened and
improved shortly before reaching Liard Hot Springs when the speed again
was posted as 100 kph. Speeds ranged from 50 kph (about 30 mph) to 100
Campground: The Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park has 53 no hookup sites for $17 per night. When we arrived, the lady told us we could drive around and pick out a site or, if we didn't want to unhook, we could drive to the day use parking lot and park there for the night. We told her we would opt for the day use lot.
the day started off on a bit of a downer when we noticed we had another
stress crack on the driver side windshield. It's in almost, if not
exactly, in the spot where we had a stress crack last summer. So now we
have two cracked windshields. We know folks who say they won't make the
drive to Alaska because they heard they'll be sure to get cracked
windshields. Well, both of ours are cracked and have nothing to do with
the Alaska Highway. At this point, it doesn't matter if a stone hits
the windshields the rest of the way.
is not possible to drive through mountains that are snow capped and
along mountain lakes and not be in awe of the beauty. Almost
immediately after turning out of the campground in Fort Nelson and onto
the highway we could see what was to come as we could see a range of
snow capped mountains in the distance. We eventually got to them and
had some long climbs. Along the way we got to drive along Summit Lake
and Muncho Lake. We finally started to see some wildlife, but only
stone sheep. There were many along the highway with opportunities to
get some photos as we slowed down, or stopped, to let them cross the
parking the motorhome, we got into our bathing suits and walked to the
hot springs. There are two springs, alpha and beta. The closer spring
is alpha and is the hotter of the two. We walked up to the beta spring
to check it out, but no one was there and the sign said it was up to
nine feet deep. So we opted for the alpha spring. Diane and I have
never been in a hot spring, so we had no idea what to expect. Well, it
was hot. However, once you get used to it, the water was fantastic. It
did have a slight sulfur smell, but not at all overpowering. There were
lots of other folks in the water, but it wasn't crowded. We had heard
you have to get there early to get a site, but I guess it's still early
in the season as it wasn't crowded at all when we got there. However,
we did see a stream of RVs coming in all evening, all the way up to
about 9 p.m. We soaked for almost an hour and then went back to the
Road conditions: Except
for a short stretch of loose gravel, the road was fine all the way to
Campground: We stayed at the Downtown RV Park. As documented in the Church's book, it's just a gravel lot. However, it is walking distance to just about anything you'd want to do in town. We didn't need any hookups, so we dry camped in the back part of the campground. The lady in the office told me they had WiFi available, but only around the building. However, I was able to access the network from the motorhome, although I don't know if it was the park's network or another one in the area.
was raining when we awoke at Liard Hot Springs which gave us a later
start than we had
planned, but we weren't in any hurry. We finally hit the road and
continued our trek to the north. About an hour into our drive, the rain
stopped and we only drove through some intermittent showers. By the
time we got to Watson Lake, it was dry, but very cool.
goal for Watson Lake was to leave our sign in the Signpost Forest. In
1942, a homesick GI who was working on the Alaska Highway erected a
sign pointing to his home in Damville, Illinois. Since then, it has
been estimated that more than 42,000 license plates, road and traffic
signs, and unique home-made signs have been left on posts in the
Signpost Forest. We had a new sign made up by Two Crazy Ladies this
past winter when we
were in Quartzsite, so we nailed our old wooden sign to one of the
posts in the forest for all to see.
Road conditions: Today
we ran into the first construction crews on the highway. First we drove
through a short distance of loose gravel on the road and a while later
we had to stop and follow a pilot car for a couple of miles where they
were fixing the road. It was dry, so there was no mud, but it was very
dusty. For the most part, the road was good all the way to Mukluk
Campground: Dry camped at Mukluk Annie's
stopped to put some fuel in the motorhome, but decided to not fill up
in case the prices may be less in Whitehorse, which is a bigger town.
posted price was 1.089 per liter, but we got a three cent discount, so
it came to 1.059 (about 3.65 per gallon).
turned out to be quite an adventure, and not one of our best days on
the road as fulltimers. After stopping for fuel in Teslin, we continued
another few miles to Mukluk Annie's, a place we have long wanted to
visit for their salmon bake. As we pulled into the lot, I noticed that
the Heidens, who were traveling with three other rigs, were in the lot.
It was a wide open gravel and dirt lot that looked like it had soft
dirt on top, but packed hard underneath. It appeared solid. It wasn't.
As I tried to turn the motorhome, it bogged down in loose dirt. For the
first time since we've been on the road, we were stuck. The wheels on
the car turned and ended up plowing into the dirt which, in turn, got
rocks inside the front wheels. So we unhooked the car to see if I could
move the motorhome. No
owner came over and asked
what he could do to help. I told him the first thing he
could do was to put up a sign warning people that the dirt was soft and
to not drive on it. He did put out eight barrels to block off the area
that was soft.
We needed shovels and that took a while to get from the owner of
the restaurant. He wanted to pull the motorhome out with a tractor, but
I said no way. Back in January at the Newmar Quartzsite rally, a Dutch
Star arrived late and in the dark and got stuck in the sand. A bunch of
us helped dig him out and he was able to pull out of the ditch. That's
what I wanted to do with our motorhome.
met Ron Anderson and Benny Thome who came over to
help. As Benny and I worked to remove both front wheels from the car to
clear out the rocks, Diane, Ron, and the daughter of the Mukluk Annie
owner worked on digging out the rear wheels on the motorhome.
With the car wheels cleared of rocks, we went over to help finish
digging out the motorhome. It
took about an hour and a
half to get it dug out. Diane and I were very appreciative of the help
from the other folks.
thought that the owner might offer something for the trouble
we had on his property, but no offer was forthcoming, so I asked him
about comping the meals. He said he couldn't do that. Then I asked
about comping one of the meals. He said he couldn't do that either.
Then I asked about comping the camping fee, and he said he also
couldn't do that. One of the folks we talked to said that the
restaurant had a hard time with the help in the 2005 season and almost
didn't open this year. That may be true given that The Milepost listed
the status of Mukluk Annie's as "unknown".
things have changed about the restaurant, as well, since some friends
of ours were there in 2000. There used to be no charge to dry camp in
the parking area. Now it costs $10. You used to be able to take a free
boat ride on the lake if you ate the salmon bake. Now it costs $5 for
the boat ride. Plus, the prices of the entrees has gone up, which is to
be expected. Personally, I don't understand why the place wouldn't be
one of the success stories along the highway. Word of mouth is what
made us want to go there and, in the past, it seemed like everyone we
spoke to mentioned Mukluk Annie's.
and I have long awaited enjoying the salmon bake at Mukluk Annies, so
after we got cleaned up, we went into the restaurant. We usually split
meals because we find that many meals are too much food for us. We told
the server that we wanted to split the large salmon plate. She said we
could do that, but we would have to also order a $10.95 salad plate. We
told her we didn't want to do that, so we left and went back into
Teslin and had a nice meal in the restaurant at the Yukon Motel and
Lakeshore RV Park. A
neat place to visit is the Wildlife Gallery (free) next to the motel
and rv park. The display of wildlife was fantastic.
We still planned to try the blueberry pancakes tomorrow morning at
we would not stop there again unless we were with friends who
wanted to stop.
Road conditions: The road was pretty good all the way to Whitehorse with just a few bumpy spots and one short delay due to construction on a bridge.
Campground: We chose to stay at the
Pioneer RV Park. I also
called High Country, but they charged $5 more
per night and both campgrounds had cable TV and offered WiFi. We got a
site where the signal was attainable from the motorhome.
at Mukluk Annie's was okay. We had the blueberry pancakes plus a buffet
of eggs, meat, and potatoes. The pancakes were very good, as were the
eggs, the meat was ok, but the potatoes were dry. While we were eating,
we got to chat with
a couple who were on their way home from Alaska. How they got to see
much by driving from Tennessee to Alaska and back in about six weeks is
beyond me. They warned of very bad roads from Haines Junction to Tok.
drive was more of driving through the woods with not much else, and we
didn't get to see any animals along the way. In the movie that we saw
in Dawson Creek about the building of the Alaska Highway someone was
quoted as saying the highway was "miles and miles of miles and miles".
For long stretches that is very true.
we arrived in Whitehorse, I drove the car over to the vehicle
wash in the campground that has a high pressure washer. A guy who was
washing his Dutch Star told me he thought it was the best campground
vehicle wash along the highway. He was also on the way south. He had
quit his job and was moving from Alaska to "some state" in the lower
48. We chatted about the roads and he also confirmed that the road
north of Haines Junction was very bad this year. I'm sure we'll be
doing lots of 10-15 mph driving, and that's fine by me. If the travel
turns out to be that slow, then we'll go half way to Tok and park it
for the night and finish the next day.
is the capital of the Yukon and is situated along the banks of the
Yukon River. It's name came from the rapids on the river which some
said resembled the flowing manes of charging white horses. In 1898,
lots of adventurous folks braved the elements to go down the river in
search of gold in the Klondike. Today there are more than 23,000 people
who live year round in Whitehorse.
first stop was the visitor center to get some information and to view
the short film suggested in the brochures, "As the Crow Flies". It was
a brief look at the Yukon and was well done. Downtown Whitehorse is not
very big, so we decided to walk up 2nd Avenue to the City Hall where
visitors can get a three day parking permit that allows parking in
permit or meter only areas. Nice touch by Whitehorse for its visitors.
continued up the avenue taking in the sites until we got to our goal
for lunch, a Pizza Hut. After lunch, we continued around the bend to
4th avenue and started back towards Main Street. Along the way there
were a couple of stores in which Diane picked up some beading supplies
and we did some window shopping. Finally, we got to Main Street and
went in some of the shops to browse around.
the way back to the campground we drove down to see Miles Canyon. The
Southern Tutchone called the area Kwanlin, "water running through a
narrow place". There was a suspension bridge over the Yukon River and
some trails in
the area. We walked across the bridge and down to the right to see more
of the river. Then we came back to the bridge and walked some of the
Yukon River Loop Trail. It was quiet and beautiful down in the canyon.
was a full day in Whitehorse and we started out the day with a
Starbucks fix. Yup, they had a stand alone Starbucks with four of the
nice sofa chairs. There was also a Wal-Mart next door. We saw it
yesterday when we drove into town and there were lots of rigs in the
parking lot. There were still a few on Friday morning. We'll park there
if our stop in
Whitehorse on the way back is for just one night.
plan was to now go to the dump. Well, actually, it was a landfill. Our
neighbors in the park told us they heard it was possible to see lots of
bald and golden eagles back in the landfill. Their directions were not
very clear as
they said it was up off the Klondike Highway. We drove for about five
miles and didn't see a dump sign, so we stopped at a gas station. I
went in to inquire about a landfill and a very nice guy said he was
going that way and would lead us there. The landfill was actually the
Whitehorse city landfill on the left side of the road as you head
north out of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, not the Klondike
Highway. We pulled up to the office and the guy said it would be fine
go see the eagles and directed us to the best spot to view them. There
were dozens of them up in the trees. One was sitting on a pile of junk,
but it wasn't possible to get a good photo. You really need a super
zoom for photos like that.
were other things to do in Whitehorse, but we decided we had seen what
we wanted to see for now. One of the things we may do on the way south
is to go watch the Frantic Follies show at the Westmark Hotel. We
thought there may be a chance we'll have hooked up with the Hirths and
Winckels by then and it would be fun to do that together. I alerted
them to those plans and hoped it would work out. As of the writing of
this travelog, I figure they are still about eight days behind us.
June 10 to June 11- Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory (138 miles)
Road conditions: Except
for a few spots, the road was pretty good up to Kluane Lake. We
encountered a work crew on a bridge that had only one very narrow lane
South of Haines Junction there was a 5.5 mile stretch of dirt and loose
gravel. The road was very rough with some washboard effect in spots.
The posted speed was 70 kph (about 40 mph), but I pretty much did that
stretch at 35 mph. Then we ran into a 3.5 mile stretch of road just as
were driving along Kluane Lake. However, the base of the road was
smooth, so it was just loose gravel. On both of those stretches, a sign
was posted about extreme dust conditions.
Campground: A campground that came
highly recommended in the area was the Cottonwood RV Park. Our RV
the Veachs and the Holders, stayed there in 2000. As they did, we also
opted for a
dry camping site right on the side of the lake. It was $15 US per
night, but she gave it to us for $12 when we said we wouldn't use her
showers since we had our own. She also said grizzlies had been known
to roam around in the dry camping area every now and then and that we
should be careful. Hmmm. You bet. However, we did not see any
of the interesting things about campgrounds this far north is that the
power is only 20 amps. That's because folks up here have to generate
their own power as the power company doesn't provide electricity this
far north. That wasn't a problem for us. We wanted to stay back in the
area where there was no power and right alongside the lake with
a great view of the mountains and the lake.
Road conditions: White
knuckles. Nail biting. Teeth chattering. Those are the words I've read
or heard about the highway north of Haines Junction. What follows is my
opinion of that part of the highway for our drive up THIS YEAR. And
that's all I can comment on. Up to this year, the worst roads we have
ever driven on were in Newfoundland where Norm and I thought our rigs
were going to go airborne as there were no warnings about bad roads or
frost heaves as there were in the Yukon and in Alaska.
addition to the heaves, there were areas under construction that were
dirt and gravel and washboard. These were teeth chattering because they
were very bad. It's not possible to slow down enough to not have the
entire motorhome shake while going over a road like that. We were down
to 10-15 mph and still the motorhome shook. Cabinet doors opened and
stuff fell out, and that never happened to us, not even in
Newfoundland. Diane's Beanie Babies across the front of the dash have
taken just about everything over the years, but they were scattered on
the dash. So, yes, some folks might refer to these sections as teeth
chattering. It was very rough. Once we got through the border (no
problem), the roads continued to improve with less frost heaves
(marked) and finally had a great stretch of road into Tok.
will finish driving the Alaska Highway later this week. There are folks
who have, unfortunately, suffered lots of damage to their cars and/or
RVs, and others who make the entire trip with no damage at all, not
even a chip in the windshields. Maybe it's just luck. There are folks
who say they would never travel to Alaska and that is clearly their
loss because the views are beautiful and sometimes breathtaking. There
are folks who say the Alaska Highway is just like many of the roads in
the lower 48. Well, that's not entirely true. What people should say is
that much of the highway is like many of the roads in the lower 48, and
I have said that earlier in this travelog. Or they can say the highway
was no problem in the year that they drove it. I think folks who make a
blanket statement and tell other folks that the Alaska Highway is not a
haven't driven the highway THIS YEAR;
have a very high threshold for what they consider a rough road;
are joking or lying because they don't want folks to know how rough the
road can be;
are not willing to accept other folks' opinion on the condition of the
opinion matches what I've read from most folks who have driven the road
this year, and heard from the three folks we have met who were
south and just came over the road and that was that the road was very
bad north of Haines
Junction. It is, without a doubt, the worst road we have driven on in
our six years on the road. That doesn't mean we haven't enjoyed the
drive up. It's just a statement about the road.
Campground: We again keyed off of
where the Newmar caravan has stopped in the past and chose the Tok RV
Village Campground. We paid for three nights with a fourth as an option
if our mail didn't arrive. The campground had a variety of sites from
no hookups to 50 amp full hookups. We chose a 30 amp full hookup to get
caught up on laundry. There was one DSL hookup in the laundry area.
However, it was an ether net connection and I don't carry an ether net
cable. I went to the office to ask if they had a loaner. The owner,
there and she said didn't have any because people "walk off with them".
I suggested she ask for a deposit and then have one available for folks
who don't carry that kind of cable. To her credit, she had one the next
day and took me up on the suggestion to ask for a deposit. The lady who
was in the office said she thought the owner's grandson made the cable
up for her. The DSL connection was not very reliable. It was down for
an entire day until the grandson got home from work and could reboot
the computer. Then it was okay for the rest of the evening. The
connection during the next two days was extremely slow.
Village also offered WiFi for a price. The provider of service was
and the price was $8.95 per day, which is totally outrageous. I would
never pay that kind of money for a WiFi connection. I still believe
campgrounds should offer it for free. Four of the six stops we had
along the way provided either WiFi or a DSL connection. The Sourdough
Campground in Tok offered free WiFi and that's where we plan to stay on
the way out of Alaska.
Village had a cable connection at the sites for the four stations they
MADE IT!!! At 12:02 pm AT (Alaska Time) we arrived at the "Welcome to
Alaska" sign for the obligatory photo. As I described above in the
"Road conditions" section, the last stretch of highway wasn't fun, but
got through it and now look forward to a summer in Alaska.
is just a small town, but the first place you get to in Alaska with
stores, campgrounds, and services. We got to the Tok RV Village
Campground and the first order of business was to wash the motorhome
and car. They had a two bay outdoor RV pressure wash on a big concrete
pad ($11 for the RV; $4.50 for the car). There were four rigs in front
of us, so we unhooked some stuff and chatted with some of the folks.
They had come in from Dawson City and across the Top of the World
Highway. I asked about the road and the guy just shook his head and
said it was absolutely horrible for some 50 miles. The four rigs were
traveling together and helped each other wash the rigs. They had them
done pretty quickly. We, however, took about one and a half hours to
get the rig and car washed. Finally, we got them as clean as we could
and drove to the site to set up. We were tired, but also hungry, so we
walked over to Fast Eddy's and had a nice meal. Then we crashed.
following morning we went over to checkout the Sourdough Campground and
get their all you can eat sourdough pancakes. It was very good and the
owner was a real character as he joked with folks while cooking the
pancakes. We'll stay here on the way out as our plan is to leave the
motorhome in Tok and drive the car to Dawson City for an overnight
stay. Sitting next to us was a couple who lived in St. Gallen,
Switzerland. We told them we had friends who lived in Wollerau and they
knew the town. We enjoyed chatting with them. I also had my laptop with
me to test out the WiFi at Sourdough. It was only accessible around the
main building, but it was a strong signal.
wasn't much to do in Tok other than the Visitor Center (very nice, big
log building), souvenir shops, and restaurants. I thought I probably
should have ordered our mail to go out a bit sooner so it would have
been in Tok before we arrived. In any case, we just relaxed for a
couple of days before heading to North Pole for the weekend where I was
hoping to be able to watch the U.S. Open Golf Championship. We wanted
to then go to Fairbanks for a week, but the campgrounds were full or
almost full. It's the week of the summer solstice and folks take that
very seriously up there with lots of activities, including a midnight
baseball game. It turns out we'll spend a week in North Pole and visit
Fairbanks from there.
Visitor Center in Tok was definitely worth a visit if only to see the
inside of the beautiful log building. We met a couple from Michigan who
really made time in getting to Tok given they left Michigan on June 1
and got to Tok yesterday. That was a lot of driving. We are going to
Michigan on the way out and I'm figuring it will be 21 4-hour driving
days. It turned out that the couple were fulltimers and also Escapees
who spend summers in Michigan and winters at a campground just down the
road from where we like to stay in the Orlando area. We had a great
chat about the drive up and the modifications they made to their
extended cab truck in which they plan to spend the summer in Alaska.
They did have a motorhome, but opted to not drive it to Alaska.
finally got to experience a salmon bake. The Gateway Motel and RV Park
in Tok served a salmon bake. We ordered a salmon, halibut, reindeer
sausage combo to share and it was delicious. It was also more than
enough food for two people. I'm sure I would have had trouble eating an
entire meal by myself. And unlike Mukluk Annie's, there was no extra
charge to share the meal.
Road conditions: Most of the road up to Delta Junction was very good. The posted speed was mostly 65 mph and one could drive much of the road at that speed if desired. However, there were some frost heaves that were marked; one stretch of highway under construction with a pilot car controlling traffic; and several spots with loose gravel, although the base was smooth and those spots were no problem at the posted 35 mph speed limit.Campground: Boondocked in the Rika's Roadhouse parking lot.