Amazing. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Adventurous. These are just a few of the adjectives I am sure I will use over and over again in this post. First, let me apologize for being so behind on posting. There really was no way to post while on the road for over two months on this grand adventure. We went through some seriously back country areas but in general there wasn’t much service and what we did have wasn’t reliable. In addition, it was very difficult to keep up with the amount of pictures I took and our schedule. Secondly, fair warning…this will be a long post. I have muddled over how to do this one, should I break it up or all in one. It will have a part 2….
This is the route of our whole trip, we had two detours in the beginning due to a washed out road and a camp decided not to open this year but it’s all part of the adventure! Our Wagonmasters did a great job re-routing us and as a result we got to see some extra great places!
Our adventure was with Fantasy RV Tours and we did the “62 Day Alaska Your Way” trip. This worked for us as most of it was “our way” meaning we chose what we wanted to see and do. Everyday wasn’t scheduled and we weren’t living schedule to schedule other than the driving. We had a wonderful group of people, some will be friends for life and I’m sure we will see many of them again. Our Wagonmasters and Tailgunners were great and did an amazing job keeping us informed and on track. We were given a trip log and we always had a meeting the evening before a driving day to go over the trip log and any known road hazards. It was an “open” caravan style and often saw people on the road or at various stops. Open caravan means we didn’t drive “convoy” style – people ask this all the time. Taking a trip with Fantasy RV Tours means they do all the hard work, we just got to sit back and have a great time!
Mark and I have had many conversations about what we enjoyed the most…it is difficult, truly so much was amazing! We definitely loved the coastal towns more than the interior. Seeing glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife nearly everyday really stands out for both of us. We never tired of the scenery while driving.
It seemed to take us forever to get to Alaska, 17 days in actuality. On the map above, we hugged the right side and went north to start. We entered Alaska at Tok and Fairbanks was our first “real” stop…meaning it was more than just a driving stop. Starting north and then meandering south meant the salmon were running in the south and we were able to see lots of salmon and bears eating salmon! Eagles also, hundreds of eagles (seeing them doesn’t get old either!).
Anacortes, Wa – we started our adventure in Fidalgo Bay RV Resort, a great park! We camped right on the water and watched bald eagles and herons from our front window! Peaceful and beautiful area. We had a wonderful catered welcome dinner, very good food! We met our fellow travelers and already knew we were going to have a great time!
Kamloops, BC – our re-route due to a washed out road led us to Kamloops…turned out to be a good one! There is a wildlife park next door to the campground so we literally parked and went next door before they closed.
From Kamloops we drove to Valemount, BC. We had a great driving day full of wildlife and landed in a beautiful park surrounded by gorgeous mountains. The pictures really don’t do it justice…I’ll probably say that a lot in this post!
On to Hinton-Jasper and although it rained a little Jasper NP is beautiful!!! The water is this amazing clear and turquoise. We had lunch in the Jasper Lodge and of course I loved the resident lab, Stanley. He was pretty darn cute and friendly.
Dawson Creek, BC – known as Mile Zero of the Alaska Canadian Hwy or AlCan. We learned all the history of the AlCan and I have to say it is pretty interesting.
We drove out to a bridge that was part of the Old Alaska Hwy, pretty cool wood bridge.
Fort Nelson, BC – turned out to be the most buggy place we visited. When we arrived it was pouring down rain. The minute we stepped out of the motorhome we were covered in mosquitos! We were crazy enough to attempt a hike in the nearby “demonstration forest” I emphasize the crazy part. We did not last long. The mosquitos, flies, and gnats were horrible. We all agreed to get out of there and fast!
There was a museum next door to our park and Mark was excited to crank up an old car. That evening we had a nice campfire to ward off the mosquitos and get to know some of our fellow travelers.
Liard Hot Springs, BC – this was our only “dry camping” night which isn’t that big a deal for us normally but this park had very restrictive generator hours…which didn’t jive with our morning time frame so we may have cheated… The hot springs were very pretty and nice water as well (once you get past the sulphur smell). One side wasn’t so bad but the other side, closer to the spring, was wicked hot! I mean melt your skin off hot!
This is a good time to add some of the “views from the road” which were just about always stunning. We saw lots of wildlife from the road so excuse the not so great photography as we zoom by! The snow capped mountains of course are gorgeous, along with the blue glacial rivers and lakes. The Canadian Canola fields are also beautiful with their golden rush of color.
Watson Lake, YT – welcome to the Yukon! Watson Lake is known for the Sign Post Forest. There are literally thousands and thousands of signs. Our Wagonmaster made a sign for our group which we all signed. After putting it up we wandered around. Some signs are quite nice and clearly well made, others are hastily thrown together. Really, anything goes here.
Teslin, YT – should have been an uneventful, one night stop. However, a couple kids stole a truck with boat/trailer and pulled out in front of our campground after going over a spike strip…it was interesting. They closed the road down and the locals were all stuck at the campground restaurant. It was a beautiful evening for gawking at police activity… They had these fake elk and moose in front of the campground. Gracie was pretty funny and stalked up to them, and then her mean mommy (yes, me) scared the pee out of her!! Pretty funny.
On our way to Teslin we stopped at Rancheria Falls, it was rainy but rarely do I miss an opportunity to see waterfalls. It is a pretty walk to the falls, much of the ground cover in bloom.
Leaving the falls we saw this little black bear hightailing it across the road. He seemed to be in that awkward teenage stage where he didn’t quite have coordination with his whole body.
Whitehorse, YT – we were here for 4 nights which was plenty to see all there was to see in Whitehorse. Whitehorse is the biggest town we had seen in a while, they even had a Walmart. Being good visitors, we headed out with some folks from the trip to celebrate Canada Day (and nobody wanted to cook). We were in a cute little pub when I saw this fella…his friend caught me taking a picture and proceeded to send his very inebriated buddy over to me. No, sorry, I can’t and won’t marry you Mr. Canada.
Mark and I had a great day checking out Whitehorse. We first visited Miles Canyon – a beautiful spot! The color of the water and the rocks was just gorgeous. We hiked a little, Gracie even made it over the bridge (not her favorite) and we hoped to return for more hiking but didn’t make it. We were also treated to a bald eagle following us most of the time.
Next up, we went into town and found some interesting sights. A multi-story log home which appears to not have been planned from the start but each level added on later. Good use of space! The “old” log cabin church, pretty little place and great flowers! A few other sites from around town.
We toured the SS Klondike, both of us a little fascinated with the sternwheeler. It ran freight along the Yukon River in the 30’s and 40’s and was the largest of their line. It has been nicely restored and sits right next to the river and now a part of Parks Canada.
The Whitehorse Wooden Fish Ladder is the longest wooden fish ladder in the world. It was built after the Whitehorse Dam went in, by using the fish ladder the salmon can avoid the often treacherous dam and at the same time allow the researchers to count how many are returning (they also make note if they are natural or hatchery fish). There is a glass viewing area which allow the researchers to take note and others to see the chinook salmon return. These salmon have traveled roughly 2,000 miles from the Bering Sea to return to their natal stream, spawn, and die. The map below shows their route. Salmon are truly remarkable creatures…we will talk more about them later!
Our whole group went to Mukluk Adventures to learn about and meet the sled dogs and have a wild game dinner. The dogs were great and they loved all the attention from us. I learned a lot about the Yukon Quest race, made it very interesting. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and the “house” which is really a converted log cabin is available for overnight stays. Many of the retired sled dogs run free so you have to like dogs to be around here! A few thought they were helping during the presentation, mostly they slept and looked cute. Mark made dog howling sounds and got the whole group howling, boy was that loud. Kara wanted to take a few home.
We also got to watch the resident bald eagle. Apparently, he is known for stealing the dogs food (generally salmon) and now they just throw him a piece and distract him. He watched us the entire time we were there!
On our last evening most of our group went to show in town but Mark and I drove out to Emerald Lake, Carcross Desert (dubbed the world’s smallest desert), and Carcross. We really enjoyed our quiet, beautiful evening.
Destruction Bay, YT – this was a quick overnight stop but the drive in was gorgeous. We stopped to see this bridge which was part of the original AlCan highway. You can see why they built a newer, better bridge around it! Very fun to explore though, pretty impressive construction for the time and tools they had.
We saw a grizzly while driving, and what a beautiful drive it was! We went through Kluane NP. The sheep were on the other side of the mountain so we didn’t get to see them. As I remember this drive and look at my notes in our trip log I can say these pictures do not do justice to these beautiful mountains!
The following morning as we left a storm was moving in. Kind of eerie and beautiful at the same time. We saw many rainbows, only got a picture of one. Rainbows don’t photograph well.
Tok, Ak – we finally made it to Alaska! If you look super closely at the obelisk picture you will see the international line is clear cut as far as the eye can see. Wonder who does that??
Also a great driving day with these critters…the mama and baby bears were just a few feet from the motorhome. They could have cared less that we were sitting on the side of the road watching them. We saw a couple of moose but this guy cracked me up with the “what are you looking at” look.
Tetlin Wildlife Refuge – I was so excited for this stop on a driving day, a chance to see birds of all varieties. I was online reading about what we could see. And what did we see…nothing. Not a single bird at the refuge! Pretty place though and still beautiful.
Not much to do in Tok, but we did have a nice dinner with some of the folks on our trip. There may have been some drinking as well.
Faribanks, Ak – on our way to Fairbanks we stopped in Delta Junction which is the end of the Alaska Canada Hwy. The giant mosquito was sort of funny, we only had one stop that had awful mosquitos but at this point of the trip we were still braced for the worst! I am a huge fan of the show Alaska State Troopers, mostly because I’ve been to some of the villages they go out to and it is fun to see them again.
Rika Roadhouse – located at the historically important crossing of the Tanana River. It was a hub of activity before the construction of the AlCan, it was on the path into Alaska’s interior during the gold rush days. After the construction of the AlCan and a bridge was put in patronage at the roadhouse declined greatly. It has been well preserved.
first view of the pipeline
I have avoided putting too many flower pictures in…I know most don’t love them as much as me. But, Rika Roadhouse had an impressive amount of columbines which I happen to love!
We camped at the North Pole, seriously…but its just North Pole, Alaska which is really Fairbanks. We did visit the “North Pole” and even Santa but I have to say it is really just a tourist trap. Some of our group did the Jingle Bell 5K.
A pleasant surprise was the Riverboat Discovery Cruise we did. We weren’t sure what to really expect but after arriving and seeing the mass quantities of tourist souvenirs we thought it might be a bit of a let down but it was really quite the opposite. The actual boat ride was full of surprises. First, we visited 40 below…I have been in about 30 below in real life (in Alaskan villages during humanitarian missions) but Mark hadn’t so we jumped in. Boy was that cold, glad it only lasted a few minutes.
After boarding the boat the first item on our agenda was a demonstration by a float plane. The pilot landed right next to us and sat in his plane while he chatted with us and answered questions through his intercom system.
Next up, we stopped in front of the Susan Butcher sled dog kennels. Most beautiful kennels I have ever seen!!!!! First, they showed us this years puppies and how they train them to get on the little boats for transporting. Then they hooked up a team to an ATV (engine removed). They use in this in the summer for training and sent the dogs off. Man they were so excited and fast! When they came in and were unhooked each dog ran straight to the river for a swim. She also spoke to us via her intercom.
We cruised up the river a bit further and then back down and stopped at Chena Indian Village. This is a re-created athabascan village, it is beautiful and well done. We docked and got off the boat. We broke up into groups and at each stop there was a young native doing a presentation about the various areas. It really warmed my heart to see and hear these young people embrace their cultures. Years ago when I was villages in Alaska the young people couldn’t leave fast enough. They had just had their first exposure to TV and left in droves to live a different life. One of the funniest moments came when they demonstrated how they used a piece of birch bark to call for animals…she then yelled “here moosey, moose, moose” and it became the call of our trip! The sled dog team had come over on the boats and we had a chance to meet the dogs and get books signed about the famed Granite – great kids book!
The following day was my birthday and Mark and I drove out to Chena Hot Springs. All I asked for was a moose for my birthday and we saw a beauty and she posed for lots of pictures! Then we continued on to the hot springs. We toured the Ice House, very cool sculptures. All these are made as practice for competitions. They made me an appletini at the entirely made of ice bar. I got to keep the glass as a souvenir. I donated to it to the plants.
Our friends son was recently stationed in Fairbanks and we were thrilled to be able to meet him for lunch. We had a great time catching up with Billy and so happy that his wife Emily has now joined them. Have a great time exploring Alaska!
Our group had dinner at the Salmon Bake in Fairbanks. It was pretty good, it mass produced food so it can only be so good in my book. We did have fun kibitzing with our fellow travelers.
We had a potluck with our group and celebrated Jack’s and my birthday. Fun fact, we have the same birthday and we were the youngest and oldest on the trip. Our campground had several of these re-purposed machines, they looked nice full of flowers. About this time Gracie realized she was in love…with Tango, a toy poodle. Tango is a good boy and he didn’t take any crap from Gracie, he bossed her around!
On the way to Denali we stopped in Nenana, cute town with an railroad museum. We also placed our bets on next years “ice break” we will be winning!! I’m pretty confident! The black and white structure is part of a former, official “ice break” device.
Denali, Ak – turns out we were some of the super, uber lucky ones! They say Denali Mtn is visible about 30% of the time. We saw Denali Mtn four days, three days in a row! She is a gorgeous mountain! Multiple views of Denali, we were seriously so fortunate!
look closely, at the end of the road (not literally) you’ll see Denali
Our group did the bus tour through Denali NP. I didn’t know much about the NP, just that I wanted to visit. You can’t just drive around the park as you can many national parks. The goal of Denali NP is to keep it wild, so they limit the vehicles and movement through the park. We were fortunate to see the mountain all day during the bus ride as well as lots of wildlife. Multiple eagles, bears, moose, and caribou. Also many snowshoe hares and arctic squirrels. Most of the bears we saw were in the bushes eating berries but two walked across the road in front of us.
looking for sheep and goats, we saw some but too far for pictures
I wanted to do an ATV ride I read about, Midnight Sun which left at 9pm and went through midnight. I talked two other couples from our group into going and we all had a fantastic time! It was a beautiful ride but also just plain fun! The ride took place in this small section that would be part of the park but the owners received an exemption for their mine. We went through lots of water and single track which made it all the more fun. Yes, it was bright as day at midnight!!
The 49th State Brewery wasn’t far from our campground and it had the best food so off we went. We were treated to this sweet moose, seemed like she turned and smiled right at me! The brewery also has a “sister” bus to the one in the movie “Into the Wild.”
Road signs you’ll only see in Alaska…
Mark and I went out to the Denali NP sled dog kennels, we liked it so much we returned with friends for the demonstration. During the winter months these sled dog teams are the only way around the park. These are canine rangers and they work hard! Don’t you just love their mini-log cabins?!
On the road to Anchorage we stopped at the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial. Very nice memorial, I spent some time here. I love the “Eskimo Watch” if you look past it you’ll see Denali. We also saw a Tundra Swan – very beautiful, graceful creatures. And a bonus of Gracie girl in the fireweed.
Anchorage, Ak -our friend Brian was flying in to spend the weekend with us so we didn’t spend much time on side trips. He landed just after we did in Anchorage. We had a very busy but very fun time in Anchorage with Brian.
First up, we drove the absolutely gorgeous Seward Hwy to Whittier. We saw some goats on our way, just love them! In order to get to Whittier you have to go through a one-way tunnel that is shared between cars, motorhomes, and trains! Obviously, very controlled.
Once through the tunnel, we were set to hike up to see Portage Glacier. My friend said, “it’s just a mile or so” and it is, one mile, straight up hill to just to see the glacier. Then it is another mile to the lake at the base of the glacier. Well, of course we did it. No way were we stopping after we made that first crazy mile straight up hill! It was well worth it, so beautiful. One side is Portage Glacier and the other side the small town of Whittier. This was our first up close and personal with a glacier and it was pretty cool…we had no idea of the glaciers to come!
On the way back we saw a few more goats. We stopped so that I could take pictures, from across the road. A little PSA…or soapbox, whatever you want to call it. While we were in Anchorage at this same spot where we stopped to take pictures some tourists did the same thing. Only the goat was close to the road and people approached it and spooked it. As a result the goat tried to get away but the people just kept approaching and the goat ended up running across the street. The only place to go there is in the water and the tide was out which meant the poor goat landed in the mud which is really more like quicksand. As this poor goat was slowly swallowed up by the mud and died while the tourists just kept clicking away on their cameras. This is despicable to me, I love wildlife as much as the next person but we are in THEIR home and need to respect the distance they need and not EVER put them in danger.
Hands down, one of the coolest things we did was out of Anchorage. We took a flight tour to Denali, yes, we go back to Denali and see the glorious mountain again! Even more awesome, our plane was equipped with skis and we landed on a glacier, in Denali! Pretty awesome! We landed not far from “base camp” which is largely vacant this time of year. The plane was a small four seater, we had a nice pilot and he pointed out tons of stuff to us. Needless to say, the three of us LOVED this and highly recommend it!
the red is actually a fungus not blood.
there were campers up there hiking/rock climbing
moose from the air, we saw many
We drove back out the Seward Hwy to Girdwood and Alyeska. We took the tram to the top of Alyeska and walked around a bit. Great views in July I can only imagine how lovely it must be during the height of ski season. The resort had beautiful flowers too 🙂
On our way back out Seward Hwy we saw the “small” fire we saw earlier had grown and was now considered an out of control wildfire. We waited quite a long time to get through and had the opportunity to watch the fire fighting effort. It took them quite awhile to get a handle on this fire. It was unusually hot and dry time and the fire had lots of fuel.
A few more fun things in Anchorage. My friend’s mom lives there and it was so fun catching up with Helen!! Great lady! She also helped us prioritize what to see and do…she was right on in all her recommendations. Gracie’s love affair continued as she and Tango played and shared a stick (big doings if you know Gracie!). Our Texans, Dave and Deanne, put together a very fun get together for our group, Hobo Stew. They made the base and then everybody brought something to add to the stew. It was great fun and delicious! We visited the Ulu factory, very fun to see how they’re made. This is one of the two things I wish I had bought when I had been in Alaska before (the other if you are curious was beadwork). I got my Ulu and love it!
Whew, if you are still reading you deserve a reward! Wow, long post and this is only part one! I will be working on part two!
Thanks for traveling along with us! Please leave a comment below, we love to hear from you!
Mark, Kara, and Gracie