ALASKA
 

    Alaska brings up images of snow, dog sleds, ice, and glaciers; but Alaska is more than that. It might be described as a frame of mind. No matter what your visions are when you hear the name of our 49th state, Alaska is wonderful.

    Even before we started full timing, we had a goal to take the "Ultimate RV trip" and visit Alaska. In 2002, the first full summer of our retirement, we made the ultimate RV trip. We drove our 35 foot Winnebago Adventurer to Alaska and back. We spent about 4 1/2 months away from the "lower 48," and enjoyed every minute of it.

    We drove from Bellingham Washington, up the Fraser River Canyon to Dawson Creek, then the Alaska Highway (ALCAN) into Alaska. We drove every paved highway in Alaska except for two. We very seldom made reservations and really had no problem. The great thing about visiting Alaska by RV by yourself is that you have no schedule. If you like a place, you can stay longer, if you don't you can leave when you want. You are on your own to explore what you want and you are not restricted to a schedule.

    By far the best resource for driving to Alaska is the "Milepost" an annual publication that describes the Alaska Highway, the various routes through Canada to Dawson Creek, and the highways in Alaska. When people tell us they want to drive to Alaska, we always highly recommend the "Milepost." Just make sure you have the most recent edition.

    People also ask us about the roads driving to Alaska and particularily the Alaska Highway itself. Well, the roads are fine. The Alaska highway is a two lane, paved highway. In general, it is a very good road. There are places where there will be road construction. At those places it will probably be either muddy or dusty. The road construction could be 10 miles or more. However, you will be escorted through those places. In the Yukon and in parts of Alaska, you will find frost heaves. These are areas where the ground has frozen and melted, actually lifting the road way. The only way to drive the frost heaves is to go slow, maybe 30 miles an hour. But then you shouldn't be in a hurry anyway.

    Fuel is readily available along the Alaska Highway. Of course the further North you go, there are fewer places to stop and fewer gas stations. However, you will generally not have to drive more than 50 miles between gas stations.

    That's another piece of advice. When driving to Alaska, take you time. Enjoy the wonderful scenery, enjoy the towns along the way, enjoy the people you meet, We took about two weeks to drive the approximately 2200 miles from Bellingham, Washington to Delta Junction, Alaska. We seldom drove more than 200 miles in a day, and we often spent more than one night in a particular campground. If you are in a hurry, we would recommend you stay at home.

    In Alaska we visited Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Seward, Homer, Glenn Allen, Valdez, Delta Junction, Tok, Chicken, Skagway, and several other spots. We fished and caught halibut and two types of salmon and we dug for razor clams. We watched the locals fish in ways we've never seen before. We saw moose, carribou, bears, eagles, goats, sheep, and other wildlife. We saw beautiful wild flowers. We visited local museums, wildlife centers, glaciers, and historical sites.

    Did we enjoy our trip, you bet we did. Would we go back, you bet we would but right now there are too many other places we want to visit.

    We recently met a gentleman who lived in Whitehorse in the Yukon. He asked about our trip to Canada and Alaska and we told him how much we enjoyed it. He asked if we had visited Skagway and we assured him we did and we really liked it. He told us about a couple he met in Whitehorse and he suggested they visit Skagway. Well, this couple left Whitehorse about 10:00 AM and were back by late afternoon (Skagway is about 100 miles from Whitehorse). Our new friends were astonished that they had returned so soon. Well, we spent about a week in Skagway. We visited Dyea, wandered around the downtown area, attended a show about Soapy Smith one of the more colorful past residents of Skagway, and did a number of other things. The moral of this part of the story is, take your time, do some research on the area your visiting (the Milepost will be a good start), and enjoy everything and everyplace you go.

When we returned from Alaska, we drove back down the Alaska Highway to Dawson Creek (there was no road construction this time). From Dawson Creek we drove into Grand Prairie and down the East Side of the Canadian Rockies. We visited three Canadian National Parks (Jasper, Banff, and Watertown), and enjoyed all three. We finally re-entered the lower 48 in late October.

Our advice to people who are thinking about driving to Alaska is "JUST DO IT." BUT, take your time, don't be on a schedule, relax and enjoy the drive, the scenery, the people, and the culture.

Let us finish this paper with a poem. This poem was written by a man we met at the Manchester Beach KOA, by the name of Bill Brown. He was traveling the lower 48 trying to sell his children's books about Alaska. We don't know what happened after he left Manchester but we certainly hope he and his wonderful family are well on his way to fame and fortune.


Alaska
By Bill Brown, F/V Orca copyright 2001

Let me tell you about the place I live, and others that live here too.
In many ways we’re just like you. In many ways we’re not.
We’re still what you once were, when your land too, was young.

People are few and far between. Hot water is a luxury.
When someone says, “Will you be home tonight?”
well, where else would we be?

Our salmon doesn’t come in a can.
They swim right up our streams.
The only sounds we hear at night, we hear in our dreams.

Mountain peaks and valleys low, glaciers with rivers wide.
These are the things we see when we look outside.

Moose get in our gardens. They’re hard to shoo away.
It’s hard to shoo something seven feet tall and send it on its way.

How about bears? We have them too. Largest in the world.
Alaska brown or Kodiak, they’ll give you a scare.
One thousand pounds of claw and teeth, wrap it all in fur.
Shoo that out of your garden. Believe me, you wouldn’t dare.


What’s that up in the sky? And in those trees right there?
Oh, they’re just eagles. They’re all across our land.


Our skies are blue our air is clean.
We take for granted, things you’ve never seen.


Swans that raise their little ones just around that bend. Geese in v’s are up above.
Beavers made that pound. Caribou still roam our plains in herds that thunder by.


We know our neighbors and their kids, because they’re friends of ours.

We’re independent and stubborn. We’ll tell you what we think.
But we’ll stand right beside you is you start to sink.


Helly Hanson and rubber boots are the fashions that we wear.
Wool on wool with cotton inside. We all dress they same.
When it’s thirty-five below outside, thinking of fashion would be insane.


If you ever think you would like to see this place that I call home.
Start heading north and watch the sky. The auroras will show the way.


Bring your kids, even your dog, and bring your camera too.
Every day you’re here, you’ll see things, back home you’ll have to prove.


This is Alaska. A land that’s new. A land that’s still wild and free.
A land that we Alaskans think, is the way it’s supposed to be.



RETURN