A round trip of 3200 km, the purpose of this trip at this particular time of the year was to avoid the tourist crowds which we did! However, it limited some of our activities and we missed one leg of the trip due to everything being closed down after the Summer season. But this trip was all about the scenery and the wildlife as we were told that there is wildlife at every bend.
Arrival date – 24th September. Our guests arrived on the afternoon of the 24th and we put on the weather for them a balmy 11 degrees with a little cloud, they definitely had to find their cold weather gear. After a quick dinner and a discussion regarding the route we all settled into the accommodation for the evening excited for the adventure ahead.
Day 1 – Whitehorse to Haines Junction
The morning was spent doing some sightseeing prior to picking up their vehicles. Sue and Harland got a long-based van which has its own shower/toilet and cooking facility from Canadream. Monique and Oki got a big Ford 350 pick-up truck with a camping module attached, apparently it is all about the power, fully loaded with all the bells and whistles, ie: heating.
We did some last-minute shopping before heading off to Haines Junction, as it was only a 2-hour trip it gave the guys a chance to try out their vehicles. A complete change of scenery from our trip to Whitehorse because it gets colder here the Autumn leaves had pretty much dropped so a lot of bare trees.
We were a little ahead of schedule so we drove another 80 km onto a provincial campsite Congdon Creek which was known to have bears frequent, it was on the lake and a nice quite spot. After I was assigned cooking duties, we all settled in around the fire for a quick recap of the day, as it was 2 degrees most were happy to hop into bed early.
Day 2 – Haines Junction to Tok
Beautiful morning zero degrees and snow – Oki has never seen snow so it was a bit of a treat for him especially as we drove in the snow for a couple of hours. We stopped off for a coffee and muffin, the great thing about Sue and Harland’s van was that it can seat 6 so we all bundled in to get out of the rain. Only wildlife we saw was a Hawk but we are happy if we can get a wildlife shot each day.
We had just missed the bushfires outside of Beaver Creek but it is a bizarre sight to see an area covered in snow still smouldering. We arrived at the Beaver Creek border crossing from Canada to USA Alaska, we had a great chat to the control officer and was able to get him to give the rest of the crew a hard time, I asked if he could give them the full treatment and he said with handcuffs and all. We got the official Alaskan stamp in our passports so we were happy, completed the obligatory photo.
The state of the roads and RV Parks in the US differ greatly from those in Canada; however, it is the end of season so didn’t really have the pick of the crop for RV parks. The RV Park we stayed in in Tok was a bit on the rough side, the toilets and showers were not cleaned and the hot shower was actually a warm to cold shower. Sue’s turn to cook and she did a great Chicken Korma with baked apple and pear and ice cream for dessert, it is great to have a chef on the trip and I would highly recommend you find one if you’re going to do this trip.
It was sitting on zero degrees when Oki decided to have his shower, he decided to do a nudie run and we though he was crazy, but we must admit he did have 8 vodka’s first. Harland on the other hand had chilly ears so decided to use Sue’s slippers as ear warmers, so another early night to bed.
Day 3 – Tok to Fairbanks
Minus 9 degrees, yes that is minus 9 this morning, I had stated earlier to Monique that if she wanted blue sunny skies than the price to pay was chilly mornings but this was ridiculous. Oki and Monique were pretty right as they had purchased an electric heater and had that going all night, the bonus with having all the bells and whistles is that you can get pretty comfortable. The problem is that when they got to the fuel station that’s when they paid for comfort nearly double the amount of fuel we used in the car.
It got a bit cold in the car and I had to put another layer of clothes on, what was surprising was the amount of ice on the rubber seals inside the car, had to do a quick wipe down before heading off, but all were happy to get in their cars and crank up the heater.
Long drive with some great scenery however there is not a lot of places to pull up to take a shot.
One stop which is a must is the North Pole, we popped into the Christmas shop for that all-important Christmas gift from the North Pole.
Into Fairbanks for a hot shower we again missed the main RV parks so settled for one that offered showers, wi-fi (very limited) and power. Oki was on dinner duty so cooked up some pizza’s and apple pie and ice cream. We looked at our options for things to do in Fairbanks and the possibility of doing a quick trip to the Arctic Circle (another 200 miles north) but it would have been another whole day of driving so will try and do that another time.
Digby and Harland stayed up to shoot the Aurora they had a little bit of success but it clouded over so not as bright as they would have liked. I went with the boys but I was asleep in the back of the car so didn’t see anything.
Day 4 – Fairbanks
Fairbanks is a surprisingly large town, with a military base and large university, there are several different activities to do but you need to be here during the tourist season. It has a great history on the gold rush. The Trans-Alaskan Pipeline System is pretty amazing and the pipe runs for 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. It is all built above ground and has some amazing technology which keeps it stable.
We attended the Ice Museum which was interesting especially once they opened up the sculptures and the temperature dropped to -20 degrees to stop them from melting. It is a quirky museum but a little bit of fun. Did some local driving around the town and then went to a college ice hockey game, not as much biffo in this match as it was their A team against their B team so no injuries for the first match of the season.
Day 5 – Fairbanks to Anchorage
Weather app predicted 80% chance of rain at 8 am and it was right, so we hit the road early and pretty much had rain all the way to Anchorage which was a shame as there was some great scenery shots but couldn’t get the full effect. We did get to see a black bear cross the road in front of us but it hightailed it out of their pretty quick.
Colours in the trees starting to come back as it is still pretty warm (8 degrees) in Anchorage so some different landscape shots again. Got into an RV Park which was only open for the two days we were there so again we started to see things shutting down.
As it is both Monique and Sue’s birthdays on this trip, I shouted them out for tea, we went for Japanese Teppanyaki which was a great night for both food and entertainment. Walked the streets of Anchorage but not much open at 9 pm on a Sunday night so off to bed.
Day 6 – Anchorage
The task for everyday is to find some Alaskan wildlife which definitely wasn’t stacking up to the brochures, but we were told that there usually is wildlife everywhere but it was also hunting season so were a little scarce. The other reason we didn’t see any wildlife was the sign on the highway which stated “moose collison zone – 37 moose killed since 1 July 19” pretty sad really. The morning started off pretty miserably with heavy fog but as we drove along the Seward Highway it cleared and was quite a nice day.
Great scenery and wildlife galore but you needed to know where to go – trade secret. All left to do their own exploring for the rest of the day. We looked to capture some sea planes and do a bit of shopping.
Day 7 – Anchorage to Tok
Got up early for an 8.30 am start as this was one of the longest legs of the trip. We hit a bit of roadworks which slowed us down initially but once we got moving were able to get some more photography in especially of the ice glacier.
An hour on and we came across a lady on the side of the road in the rain, so Digby the good Samaritan turned around to see if she was ok. Her car was bogged! Digby said we couldn’t help but Oki and Monique had a 4-wheel drive and they should be able to help out. So flagged them down, however whilst Digby was assessing the best way to get the car out, Monique directed Oki to drive forward but she didn’t want to get her car dirty so got him to drive along the grass edge and yes you guessed it, down they went with a ton of camper on the back, so now we have two cars bogged. Luckily, we had AAA road service and you can claim it on whatever car you are in at the time, so we called in a recovery vehicle. 2 hours later a recovery truck with a smashed-up ute on the back arrives, backs in and yes you guessed it again he gets bogged. His first words to Digby was “were gonna need a bigger truck”. Meanwhile Monique is pissed and checking out the insurance agreement, the lady with the bogged car is worried as this is all her fault, Digby thinking he is going to have to crawl in the mud and I’m just stating this will be good for my blog.
We initially told Sue and Harland that we wouldn’t be long so got them to go forward and that we would meet them in Tok. Well by the time they got to Tok we were pretty right to go so told them to move forward to the town of Chicken. Next problem we hit road works which took an hour to get through, tried to ring Sue and Harland but no comms available.
We finally got into Tok at 8 pm and it was dark but because we couldn’t get hold of Sue and Harland, we decided to move forward to Chicken and meet up with them there. What we didn’t know was that when they arrived at Chicken everything was closed, boarded up and it was a ghost town and that the border crossing at Dawson city was closed. They headed back to Tok in the dark with 7,8- and 9-degree hill descents in rain, sleet and snow. In the meantime we had decided that we would stay in Tok and head off early in the morning to catch up, but as we were about to pull up I heard Sue on our walkie talkies and they had made it back to Tok so we pulled up stakes, cooked tea, traded adventure stories and headed to bed. I think everyone was mentally and physically tired.
Day 8 – Tok to Haines Junction
In the morning we decided to have a stress-free day, headed off in fog and only had 30 metres visibility at times, but once the fog cleared it was a beautiful sunny day, it was so nice that Monique actually took her jumper off.
We decided to stay at the same campground as the first night, but it was closed so found a spot down on the lake, it was our curry cook off night so Digby cooked his Thai green curry and Oki cooked his Tongan curry. I think Oki was graceful in defeat but stated that he didn’t have all his ingredients.
A few beers by the lake and off to bed, Digby got up about 1 am to check out the skyline, it was a clear night with heaps of stars and a bit of the aurora so he got Harland out of bed to go do some photography.
Day 9 – Haines Junction to Whitehorse
Monique’s birthday today so we knocked on her door and advised her that she had a flat tyre, not the news she wanted to hear so again looking in her paperwork to see if she would be charged for roadside service. Luckily Digby had a little car air compressor and was able to help her out, but a slow trip to the garage to check it out.
Back to Whitehorse for some shopping and tyre changing before heading to our last RV stop. Best thing we realised with car camping is that we didn’t have to dump any black or grey water, but I must admit I was a little grateful for the inside shower on the 4 degree evening. Digby was just happy to have a shower that he used the outside camper trailer shower in zero degrees, (photo’s not attached as it is not pretty).
Last night of cook up – left overs, some more beers and some final stories.
Departure Day – 4th October
Today our guests departed, Monique and Oki on a 6 am flight and Sue and Harland on an evening flight. We departed mid-morning to start our next leg home via Jasper and Banff.
We would like to thank the guys for going on this journey with us, it was not the normal tourist route or experience but we hope that they enjoyed the trip.