The long road to Alaska

Well, so much for trying to keep up with this blog while traveling through Alaska. I’ve been subjected to an overwhelming amount of ‘eye-candy’ since my last post. There is so much to see and do in Alaska! I’ll try to make this post as brief as possible. Although I think that will be tough!

To begin, we met up with Fantasy Tours in Ferndale, WA on June 24th. It is our first group tour, and our first time to Alaska with the motorhome. There are 25 RVs in our group. It is a “Your Way” tour so nearly all of the activities we choose to do are on our own, although Fantasy Tours has suggested a few group tours which we signed up for. We decided that it would be advantageous for our first motorhome trip to Alaska to be arranged by a third party and to be with other RVers just in case something happened.

Charlie and I spent a week in Anacortes, WA prior to meeting with the group in Ferndale. We were both pretty exhausted from our whirlwind trip home and our whirlwind tour through Vancouver and Vancouver Island, so we took it easy. Additionally, I was still trying to get over my cold and sinus infection. We did take a short ferry ride from Anacortes over to Friday Island one day, which is one of the San Juan Islands. We enjoyed a nice walk around the town there. The only other notable activity that we did was take a drive from Anacortes down to Deception Pass, which we really enjoyed seeing.

We stayed at the Fidalgo Bay RV Resort. Our spot was on the waterfront, facing Fidalgo Bay. Not far from the resort I found a fantastic fish market. It’s called Skagit’s Own Fish Market (https://www.skagitfish.com/). OMG!!! I visited this market a few times during our stay. Their King Salmon was out of this world fresh and for lunch we enjoyed overflowing lobster rolls. Aside from fish, I’ll note that the local Lopez Island Ice Cream is also out of this world. It is very creamy and delicious!

After Anacortes we hooked up with the Fantasy Tour group and began our long journey to Alaska, and I mean LONG.

Our first day of driving took us to Hat Creek Ranch RV Park in Cache Creek, British Columbia. We drove alongside the Thompson River for much of the day. It is a very pretty landscape, although nothing like I expected. It reminded me of the Southwest terrain, as it is very desert like.

When we got to Cache Creek we noticed that we were missing one couple from our group. Turns out they attempted to cross the border into Canada with a handgun. That did not work out so well for them. The gun owner, Gary, was hand-cuffed and interrogated for 5 hrs. On the positive side, he and Wendy were allowed to enter Canada after just a 24 hr period and a $2,000 fine. They met up with us in Prince George. However, they have been flagged as ‘gun-runners’ and will now be subjected to a full search every time they enter Canada. On this RV trip we go in and out of Canada frequently.

Our next day of driving took us from Cache Creek to Prince George. We got out of the dry area and into some rain. The landscape turned lush. In Williams Lake we stopped at the visitor center which has a fabulous historical museum. We unhooked the Jeep and drove into town where we found Margetts Meat Market. I picked up some Filet Mignon for dinner, which was fabulous! Before re-hooking up the Jeep we grabbed lunch at The Laughing Loon. Highly recommend it. Charlie got the burger and it was by far the best either of us had ever tasted. Turns out the owner of the restaurant also owns a ranch nearby and that is where he gets his beef. After lunch we mated up with the RV and continued down the road to Sintich RV Park in Prince George.

We woke the following morning to more rain. It remained overcast most of the day as we worked our way from Prince George to Dawson Creek. On the way we spotted a black bear grazing along the side of the road.

We spent a couple of nights at the Mile 0 Campground in Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway (originally called the AlCan Hwy) begins. The 1,390 mile long road was built by the American military during WWII to connect the contiguous United States to Alaska across Canada. It begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska.

We visited the Mile 0 Museum. We enjoyed learning all about the development of the road. The soldiers accomplished quite a feat building it in an enormously challenging environment.

In town I stumbled upon ‘The Butcher Block’. This has to be the best butcher shop I’ve ever been in. I bought quite a bit of meat and all of it turned out to be excellent. I wish we were going back through Dawson Creek on our return so that I could restock.

Just down the road from Dawson Creek is the Kiskatinaw Bridge. This curved timber bridge is one of the last standing original bridges of the AlCan Highway, although it is no longer used for major traffic.

From Dawson Creek we made our way to the Triple G Hideaway Campground in Ft. Nelson, BC. Nothing too exciting along this part of the drive. Although at the campground we discovered what Bannock is, and fell in love with it. It is a native fry bread. I think it is similar to an Elephant Ear. Yummy!! They predicted a severe wind and rain storm, but it did not materialize. At one point the sky turned dark and the winds whipped ferociously, but that was it.

After a one night stay in Ft. Nelson we continued onward to Liard Hot Springs in Northern Rockies, British Columbia. Fortunately, we had beautiful weather for this drive as the scenery was spectacular. We stopped a few times so that Charlie could put up the drone and snap a few photos.

We spotted more black bear along the road. It is funny in that I never thought I’d see a day when I’d see a bear and say, “it’s just another black bear.”

We saw bison walking along the road.

and Sheep

We stuffed ourselves with a huge breakfast, including a cinnamon roll, at the Tetsa River Services. It is a great little rest stop. Considering our breakfast indulgence we decided that we should take a hike. We stopped along the road at Tetsa Trail#1. It was a nice 1.5 mile up hill walk to get to a remote lake.

We made a quick stop at the Toad River Lodge, where we spotted a bull moose taking a swim in the lake out back. He was pretty far away though, so no great picture.

For the most part, the road conditions were good. However, we did run into areas of gravel which led to a high risk of getting a cracked windshield on both the motorhome and the Jeep. We faired well, but others in our group got cracks from minor to baseball size.

The landscape was beautiful along our drive. I was thrilled that we were blessed with clear skies.

When we arrived at our campground at Liard Hot Springs Lodge we learned that the leader of our group had an issue with his RV. When Lorrin and Nyla stopped at the Tetsa River Services for a cinnamon roll earlier in the day they discovered, upon restarting their motorhome, that Lorrin had accidentally filled it with gasoline, as opposed to Diesel fuel. He could no longer drive it and would have to wait a couple days for a tow truck to haul it back to Fort Nelson. The tail gunners, Charlie and Lorna, stepped in as the interim leaders.

The following day, while we were still at Liard Hot Springs, Nyla decided to drive the 120 miles from the Tetsa River Services to deliver some items to Charlie and Lorna, since it was unknown as to how long it would take to repair their motorhome. When Nyla got about 45 miles into the drive she blacked out and flipped her Jeep. She’s not sure what caused the blackout, but fortunately she was OK. The Jeep on the other hand was totaled. Amazingly, Lorrin and Nyla were able to rejoin us just a few days later, after having their motorhome engine flushed.

The Liard Hot Springs was enjoyed by a good number of people in our group. I’m not a fan of hot springs, or hot jacuzzis for that matter, so I declined to try it out. Those that went in loved it though. The boardwalk to the springs cuts across very pretty wetlands.

We had one full day to explore the area around Liard so Charlie and I back tracked in the Jeep to Muncho Lake.

We saw porcupines, bear and sheep along our short drive to the lake. We stopped for breakfast at the Northern Rocky Lodge, located right on the lake. We then took a hike along the Mineral Licks Trail. Remember when I mentioned that we were supposed to get a bad wind/rain storm while in Ft Nelson, but it never came? Well, it hit here. We saw the full impact of the storm along our hiking trail. You can see in the last picture how the tree was twisted.

When we got to the overlook we could see where a micro-burst or small tornado must have gone through. The trees are completely leveled in one section. Zoom into the tree area and see the big patch of downed trees.

Here is one final picture from this beautiful area.

From Liard Hot Springs we drove to the Downtown RV park in Watson Lake., Yukon Territory (YT). The notable event along this route was stopping for bison in the road. I felt like we were back in Yellowstone.

In Watson Lake we visited the Northern Lights Space and Science Center and watched their ‘Northern Lights’ panoramic video. It was OK. We spent a bit of time at the local library too, as we have found that the library is the best place to get good WiFi while traveling. We took a drive out to the Watson Lake airport and checked out their photo exhibit dating back to the 1940s when the airport was built. We really enjoyed the photos and the stories behind them.

We joined the group and put up a sign in the ‘Sign Post Forest.’ It is an amazing collection of signs dating back many many years.

One couple in our group, Tom and Judy, discovered that they had 4 tires on their motorhome that were just about ready to explode. He had a wheel alignment done on his motorhome back in Wisconsin, just before heading out on this trip. Either something was done incorrectly or he has a chassis issue. Either way, he had a serious issue. He could not drive on his tires any longer. Amazingly, there was a tire shop in Watson Lake, and I mean amazing as this town is a one stop-sign town, had 4 tires to fit his rig. They could not complete a new alignment though. He got the tires replaced and scheduled an alignment at a place in one of our future destinations.

We left Watson Lake and headed for the Pioneer RV Park in Whitehorse, YT.

We stopped for a short walk to Rancheria Falls.

We spotted a moose and 2 babies in Swan Lake along the way.

We spotted a coyote along the road.

And an eagle in Whitehorse.

And we almost hit a deer, as captured on our dashcam. We were cruising near 60mph. A little too close for comfort.

The road conditions got a little bad again and we ran into some construction delays, but no damage to the rig or the Jeep.

The RV park in Whitehorse was the least desirable. We were crammed in with shoehorns. The town of Whitehorse was nice though. It was the largest so far. We toured the S.S. Klondike, an old sternwheeler previously used to run freight between Whitehorse and Dawson City along the wild Yukon River. We visited the McBride Museum and found it to be very interesting. We got a good hike in along Miles Canyon before the smoke got too bad from a forest fire raging up the road in Dawson City.

With the group we toured the Muktuk Adventures Dog Sled company and enjoyed a nice home cooked meal of various wild meats.

The most humorous thing that happened in Whitehorse was that one of the couples in our group, Joedy and Rita, believed their car had been stolen from the Walmart parking lot. They called the police and truly believed it had been stolen for much of the afternoon, until it was found in another store parking lot, where they had actually parked it. All ended well and we all had a good laugh.

Our next destination was Skagway, Alaska! This was on day 15 of our tour. See, it was a LONG drive to Alaska :-). I’m going to cover Skagway in a separate post. Keep an eye out for that one.

After Skagway we headed back into Canada, towards Fairbanks, Alaska. Our first stop along the way was at the Destruction Bay Lodge & RV Park in Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory. It was a beautiful drive, especially along Hwy 2, after Haines Junction. In Haines Junction we stopped and went to the Village Bakery for lunch. Their lasagna was excellent. The bakery is off the beaten path, but very popular. I had hoped to spend some time around Haines Junction visiting the Kluane National Park. However, it was very hazy from the fires so we continued onward.

The Destruction Bay is in a fairly remote area with a population of 55 (2016 census). There is nothing to do in the area, but it is scenic along the bay. The owner of the campground cooked up a burger dinner for the group. He also sells hand made lightweight wood folding tables on behalf of a local citizen. They are really nice. Many of us bought one. I bought two since a friend, Jane, had wished she purchased one on her Alaska trip a few years ago, but neglected to do so. She asked if I’d pick her up one. It was a good find.

One of the couples in the group pulled into the park late. This was the same couple that got tagged as ‘gun-runners’ at the border. Well, on their way from Skagway to Destruction Bay they had an incident. Somebody was passing them on the road and when Gary looked at his passenger side mirror he happened to see his Jeep Cherokee. The tow bar had broken off and the car was now attached only by the chains and riding alongside his Newel motorhome. He did not have a braking system in the car but was lucky because the tow bar bent under the car and acted as a braking mechanism. Little damage occurred to the car and no damage to the motorhome. They were quite lucky. They were able to rig up the tow bar and get back on the road with the group by mid-morning. Gary noted that the Cherokee does not have the ‘Death-Wobble’ fix which was identified back in 2017, as he was unaware of it. He noted though that his Cherokee is constantly swaying rhythmically side to side behind the Motorhome, with significant intensity (the death-wobble). That probably contributed to the tow bar failure.

In the morning we moved onto Tok, Alaska. We were heading towards the fire, but it had rained steadily all night. We passed the fire area. Some spots were still smoldering.

Along the way we pulled over to let cars go by and I jumped out to take a photograph of the landscape. As I was getting back into the RV I noticed that the steps were not retracting. Fortunately within a few minutes Joe and Stephanie, from our group, drove up and saw that we had an issue so they pulled over to help. Joe had recently had a similar problem and he’s an RV mechanic. He helped Charlie get the steps tied up so we could at least get to the RV park and then deal with the issue. In Tok we had input from a lot of the guys in the group and came up with a good solution. Joe worked really hard and finally got the steps re-installed and in working order. Thank goodness!! Having all this help really made traveling in a group feel a lot better.

The last leg of our journey to reach the main land of Alaska was Tok to Fairbanks. This was on Day 21 of our trip. We stopped in Delta Junction to get a picture of the end of the Alaska Hwy marker. I’m not sure why it says mile 1422 when they say the highway is 1,390 miles long. Anyway……it was a LONG drive!

We found the roads to be horrible immediately after crossing into the United States. There were so many frost heaves, none of which were identified as they had been in Canada. There were pot holes, which we had seen none of in Canada. It was very disappointing. See how the white paint in this picture waves? Well, imagine rolling a 40′ motorhome over these constant waves. Not pleasant at all.

We spent a couple of nights in Fairbanks before breaking off from the Fantasy group and heading to Denali for a few extra nights. In Fairbanks we did a quick tour of the city, had lunch with a friend of Charlie’s, got educated on MuskOxen at the Large Animal Research Center and enjoyed a theater and salmon bake with the group.

Well, that sums up our long road to Alaska. I’ll try to post Skagway, Denali, Seward and Homer soon. Each deserves some emphasis.

8 Comments

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8 Responses to The long road to Alaska

  1. Wow, this is awesome. For some reason, I didn’t get email notifications about your new posts until today, so I am catching up on all this Alaska goodness. It certainly seems wise to travel with a group or at least another person while heading up there. There’s certainly plenty that can go wrong and not a lot of services along the way. It’s great that you had so much good weather – at least on the drive up, and avoided that terrifying storm. Alaska is certainly never dull. I look forward to reading more!

    • Kelly

      Thanks for the note Laura. I’ve been kicking out numerous posts just over the last week, trying to catch up on our travels so I don’t think you missed the emails. They simply didn’t exist :-). Working hard to kick the last few posts out, as we are wrapping up our Alaska trip. We hit Haines, AK in a couple of days and then we begin working our way to Jasper and Lake Louise/Banff.

  2. Jon

    It looks like traveling in a group is a good way to go, we might need to give it a try at some point. Great information and I did chuckle a few times…

    • Kelly

      Thanks for the comment Jon. Charlie sent you info on SMARTRVING.org, a veteran rv travel group. I think you might find it interesting.

  3. Frank Quattrochi

    Kelly,
    You and Charlie have inspired Melinda and I to visit Alaska.
    We depart on 8/18 from Seattle on Oceania Cruise line for a week up the coast and inner passage through Alaska. We look forward to experiencing some of the bewilderment and majestic scenery you guys witnessed!
    thanks again for sharing your journey.
    Frank & Melinda

  4. Karen Migliaccio

    I really enjoyed this post and travelogue! You’re having quite the adventure, and the scenery is spectacular! Looking forward to the next ones…

    • Kelly

      Thanks for the comment Karen. We are having a great adventure and yes, the scenery is spectacular. The highlight for me was the Bear Sightseeing trip, but I won’t cover that excursion until my Kenai Peninsula post :-). Looking forward to seeing you in October, at the the Balloon Fiesta.

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