Lynda and I have never been to Alaska, so when our friends and travel companions Henry and Allyson expressed an interest in an Alaska tour during a happy hour social last spring we jumped at the chance to travel with them. Ralph and Lois were also delighted with the idea and so began the planning of our tour to Alaska.
Allyson took on the task of plotting our route. My job was to make RV park reservations, I was hoping with a sales pitch about being an RV travel writer we may receive a camping discount. Unfortunately, only one RV park took the bait, I guess it's better than nothing.
A departure date of August 23 was decided. There were several reasons for the late summer tour. We all agreed it would be great to spend the summer at home, southern BC is blessed with beautiful summers, plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Also, we were hoping traveling late summer may help us avoid the worst of the northern insect scourge.
There are several routes north to Alaska from our southern British Columbia location. The most scenic and probably the most expensive begins in Vancouver or north of Seattle with a ferry ride to Vancouver Island. From here the route heads north for 5.5 hours to Port Hardy where you drive aboard a BC government vehicle ferry (early morning boarding).
The ferry trip takes 16 hrs winding through the inside passage to Prince Rupert halfway up the rugged coastline of BC, north from the US border. An amazingly beautiful trip with spectacular scenery. Check Port Hardy – Prince Rupert BC Ferry website for fares and schedules.
From Prince Rupert, your route heads east to Hwy 16 and then north on Hwy 37 from Kitwanga. The trip to Fairbanks or Anchorage, Alaska is about 30 hrs from Prince Rupert, BC. If you choose to take the Alaska Hwy 97 it is 5 1/2 hrs further east. The drive through British Columbia, Canada is one of the most scenic and diverse landscapes in the world.
An Excerpt From The BC Governments Tourist Website
We have ten mountain ranges that push west from The Rockies in a crowded parade until they fall into the Pacific. Thousand-year-old trees that deftly divide the light falling on an impossibly green forest floor. Glacier-fed streams that pour through steep valleys to join swollen rivers.
Higher up, mountain passes link whole ecosystems and watersheds. It’s a wild place where Mother Nature creates the boundaries. Not man. And while she demands respect, her handiwork offers massive rewards for those wild at heart.
This abundant, nurturing landscape has sustained our ancient societies for 10,000 years. And today, some of those settlements have grown into cities that cling to the edge of the wilderness, and won’t let go. Because the people here, are here for a reason: to live within arm’s reach of nature’s richness. To ski world-renowned resorts, surf Pacific swells, swim in shockingly clear mountain lakes, hike to a glacier and back in a day. And all that activity breathes energy into our culture of hospitality.
Which is why we say, it’s in our nature.
Even though the ferry route along the coast was tempting we decided against it. All three couples of our group live in the southwest corner of BC, so it makes sense to take the most direct route north. Hwy 97C to Prince George, west on Hwy 16 and then north from Kitwanga on Hwy 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, also known as the Dease Lake Highway and the Stikine Highway, is the northwestern most highway in the province of BC. A scenic route through some of the province's most isolated areas.
Our plan takes us on hwy 37 north to Watson Lake where we connect with hwy 1 just over the Yukon border. Then hwy 1 north to Whitehorse and continuing north on hwy 2 to Dawson City, Yukon. From here we hope to take the "Top of the World Highway" hwy 9 into Alaska, depending on the weather conditions.
Once we cross the Yukon border into Alaska a stop in Chicken and then onto Tetlin Junction on "The Alaska Highway, hwy 2. This is our northernmost planned route only 3 hrs from the North Pole. The North Pole is not in our plans but we will see, maybe drop by, have a visit with Santa, and drop off our Christmas wish list.
After Tetlin Junction, Alaska or the North Pole, we begin our trek home along hwy. 1 back to the Yukon and hwy 2 to White Horse. We continue southeast to Watson Lake where we cross back into BC and continue on the world famous Alaska Hwy.
The Alaska Highway
Also known as the Alaskan Highway, Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN Highway was constructed during World War Two for the purpose of connecting the contiguous United States through Canada. It begins at the junction with several Canadian highways in Dawson Creek, BC and runs to Delta Junction Alaska, via Whitehorse, Yukon.
Completed in 1942 at a length of approximately 1,700 miles (2,700 km), as of 2012 it is 1,387 mi (2,232 km) long. The difference in distance is due to constant reconstruction of the highway, which has rerouted and straightened out numerous sections. The highway was opened to the public in 1948. Legendary over many decades for being a rough, challenging drive, the highway is now paved over its entire length.
An informal system of historic mileposts developed over the years to denote major stopping points; Delta Junction, at the end of the highway, makes reference to its location at "Historic Milepost 1422." At this point, the Alaska Highway meets the Richardson Highway, which continues 96 mi (155 km) to the city of Fairbanks. This is often regarded as the northern portion of the Alaska Highway, with Fairbanks at Historic Milepost 1520.
After Dawson Creek, near the Alberta border, we head south to Prince George and then retrace our route home.
The six of us have traveled together for a couple of years. Most of our traveling has been during our snowbird adventures to the western US. For these extended trips Henry, Allyson, Lynda and I take our larger rig. Henry and Allyson take their 5th wheel, Lynda and I our travel trailer.
Ralph and Lois will be traveling with their 5th wheel. They did own a large camper but sold it several years back. I'm not sure if they wish they had it now for our Alaska trip or not. Their rig is the largest on this tour, so if the weather is bad happy hour will be in their rig, I hope?
For this trip, however, the four of us, Henry, Allyson, Lynda and I are taking our truck campers. Henry and Allyson's camper is large, 11 ft. weighing in at over 4000 lbs while ours is a 9 1/2 ft. weighing about 2000 lbs less. Truck campers are cramped regardless of size. The larger ones are just less cramped than the smaller versions. I'm not sure if the extra weight, a ton more, of Henry and Allyson's camper justifies the foot and a half of slightly extra space.
Taking our truck campers seemed a good idea when we were planning the trip, Henry can haul his boat behind his truck camper and I can haul a small trailer containing items we would not otherwise have room for such as firewood, extra fuel, small 4 horse outboard motor, portable picnic table, for those out of the way camping areas, a small generator, a 5 gallon water jug with extra drinking water, and several other items.
The four of us are hoping living in our truck campers will not prove to be too cramped during our six-week Alaskan tour. Although Henry and Allyson did spend more than a month in their truck camper a few years back on their first snowbird trip south after retiring.
My thought is if the weather is decent living in the camper should not be too much of an inconvenience but if it turns nasty for any length of time there may be some unhappy campers.
Lynda and I have traveled with and without our RV for more than 40 years so we have extensive knowledge of what we need to pack for each type of trip. Lucky for me Lynda is very organized with extensive lists for each type of trip. Lists for camping in the trailer, the camper, list for hotel vacations and list for our RV snowbird trips. We rarely forget something important and if something is forgotten it can be bought on our route.
This trip is slightly different from others. The plan is to do the sight seeing tourist thing as well as camping and fishing along the route.
Above is the small trailer I will tow behind my truck camper. As you can see there are many items that I listed previously. Some of you may think it's strange to bring firewood, after all, BC is 90 percent forests so there should be plenty of wood available on our trip. The firewood is for those late arrivals when happy hour is looming and we do not want to take the time to forage for wood.
Above, pictures of our camper's interior, notice the terra cotta pot on the stove, this is for heating the camper. There is a forced air propane furnace but if we just need to take the chill off and the camper battery is low the terra cotta pot radiates heat sitting upside down on a stove burner.
A woman once commented that you should never do this or take the risk of asphyxiation. I am not sure what the difference is between heating the terra cotta pot and cooking?
Notice our queen bed with memory foam and the assortment of beverages to the right of the table. One needs to be prepared.
We leave in 9 days.
Check back often for my day by day accounting of our trip to Alaska.
Thanks for visiting