Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trip to Alaska 2016

Another One off the Bucket List!

We had a great time visiting with my siblings, our kids and grandkids in Indiana. A good time was had by all even though the weather was cool and rainy. Some were in the RV campground, some were in cabins, some were in a motel and some were at home but we all ate together.

Monday 5/2 we headed to MN to see Rollie's sisters and take the dogs to our hometown vet for their health certificates. Interesting that Canada only requires proof of current rabies vaccination but AK requires a health certificate stating that all immunizations are up-to-date and the animals are healthy, within 30 days of entering the state.

Tuesday we made it to Wall, SD, even though there were strong headwinds that really cut the gas mileage. Had breakfast at Wall Drug on Wednesday morning before hitting the road, just for fun. They still have free water and 10 cent coffee!

Arrived in Sheridan, WY, and found the KOA RV Park where we met our fellow traveler, Bob. He has made the trip several times and prefers not to travel alone. We have not done this trip before so it was nice to have company. We met online at which I describe as FaceBook for RVers. Saw pronghorn antelope and our first peek at the Rockies.

We all wanted to see Glacier National Park so traveled to Shelby, MT, near the Canadian border and an hour east of Glacier, for 2 nights. The next day we went to Glacier and although the road was not open all the way through the park, it was worth the visit.

The next morning we crossed into Canada without incident and found a really nice RV park in Cochrane, AB. just west of Calgary. it was right on the Bow River (thus it's name of Bow Riverside RV Campground) and there was a dog park and hiking trails all along the river bank. Rollie and I also discovered the community center next door included 3 sheets of ice where we learned the game of Ringette. But the best was that this location was about an hour from Banff National Park and Lake Louise which we visited the next day. There was still some ice on Lake Louise but it was a beautiful blue, and quite the tourist destination. On the way we saw 3 elk, clouds, rain, a little snow and beautiful mountain scenery.

Mother's Day at Lake Louise

Next stop was a little RV park outside Valleyview, AB, after a long day on the road and then off again in the morning. We crossed into British Columbia and stopped in Dawson Creek for pictures of the beginning of the Alaska Highway (formerly the AlCan). So far the highway had been like any state highway in the US. We started climbing and seeing mountains again in the distance.

Stopped that night in Fort Nelson, BC, at a fun little park with a bar/restaurant on site so we ate out for only the second time since entering Canada. Most days we packed our lunch in the morning and ate on the road, then I usually cooked supper. There was a burning ban for all of western Canada so campfires were not allowed. We did cross a small area that had burned a few days earlier and we could smell the smoke. We were not near the big fire that ravaged Fort McMurray.

We saw signs warning us of wildlife on the highway but did not see many animals. We saw 2 foxes, 3 black bears, 1 brown bear (grizzly), 1 moose in the distance, stone sheep (similar to bighorn sheep), elk, caribou and bison. There were also "wild" horses in one area and we saw a small herd. I was disappointed we didn't see more moose and that I didn't get more pictures but...

We did see Lake Muncho the next day which was even more beautiful blue than Lake Louise and smooth as glass. We were climbing into the mountains but the roads were good and the going was not difficult.

On to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, that day where we visited the famous Signpost Forest which is part of the history of the Alaska Highway. It was started by a homesick GI working on the highway in 1942 and he put up a sign pointing toward his hometown with the mileage and others followed suit. It has snowballed to over 100,000 signs and license plates from around the world.

The road and weather continued to be good and we were ahead of schedule. We decided to spend 2 nights in Whitehorse, the next stop, and take a daytrip to Skagway, AK. That meant going from YT through a bit of BC into the US to get to Skagway which was the reverse order the gold crazed folks traveled in the Klondike Goldrush of 1896. Skagway was where they disembarked from ships to climb up over this pass to get to the Yukon River and the goldfields.

Skagway was not open for business yet because the cruise ships have not yet arrived. We understood this very well from living in Ketchikan. We did find a restaurant open and had a nice lunch before driving back through the mountains to our RV park near Whitehorse.

The next day we had by far the worse road conditions. From Whitehorse we passed through Haines Junction then through a stretch of lakes mountains and gravel highway. Construction had begun but the very dry conditions made it very dusty and the road had many washboard patches. There were beautiful lakes and we made frequent stops but we were determined to get to the AK border. We did, after all, have about 18 hours of light. There weren't any towns in this section and this was the only time we came close to running out of gas. There was a "station" made of two shipping containers and self-service gas and diesel pumps just in time for us to fill up the last time in Canada. Crossed the border with no problem then discovered that RV parks were not open yet in AK. We had no problem all across Canada! Spring had come early but AK was not ready for travelers yet. We drove much farther than we had planned to find a place with electric hookup. It was in the parking lot of a small motel/restaurant in Glenallen, AK.

But that meant it was an easy drive to our final destination in Seward, AK, after stopping for gas and groceries in Anchorage where we had been told everything would be cheaper. We arrived Saturday early afternoon and parked at the city operated RV park right on Resurrection Bay as we had not heard back from the park ranger who would show us where our RV hookups were. But it is a beautiful place to spend a few days and explore our summer home!


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