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Alaska May-Aug 2014

We have always wanted to drive to Alaska, but work and children have until now prevented us from scheduling such a long trip.  Now that we are retired, have Vanessa, and have an empty nest, we are off on a 3-month trip.

We left home in West Lafayette on May 17 and need to be back around Aug 10. We are driving through Glacier National Park, Banff, Jasper, and Prince Rupert where we will take the Alaska inland ferry stopping for a few days each in several towns in south-east Alaska.  Then off to Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay,  Top-of-the-world Highway, Dempster Highway, Alaska Highway, Skagway, Jasper again, and back east on rt 16 through Canada.

See a gallery of the best images of the trip here.

Icefields Again

Fri, 1-Aug-2014

The weather started out a little hazy, but as we drove into the park, it improved until by afternoon we had sun and high clouds. Coming back to Jasper was a great idea except for the fact that it was so crowded. It was f...more

Jasper Again

Thu, 31-Jul-2014

There are basically three routes to Edmonton from Dawson Creek. The old northern-route (Route 2), the new central-route (Route 43) built in 1955, or the scenic southern-route (Route 40). We decided on “The Scenic R...more

Dawson Creek

Wed, 30-Jul-2014

Today we arrived in Dawson Creek. The end (or beginning) of the Alaska Highway (AlCan). We have driven the entire 1390 miles except for 97 miles between Haines Junction and the junction of the AlCan with the North Klondi...more

Fort Nelson

Tue, 29-Jul-2014

Today we left the Rockies behind. We are still at higher elevations, but no more high, rough peaks and snow on the northern exposures. We passed through the highest peak on the Alaska Highway (Summit Pass – 4250 fe...more

Muncho Hikes

Mon, 28-Jul-2014

We dove only about 4 miles today, but covered more miles on foot. We left Campbell Campground and drove a few miles on the Alaska Highway to the Stone Sheep Mountain trailhead. On the way we saw a flock of Stone Sheep mo...more

Muncho Lake

Sun, 27-Jul-2014

The rain was just clearing as we left our campground. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center in Watson Lake to see a slide show about the building of the Alaska Highway. It explained in depth the strategic importance t...more

Watson Lake

Sat, 26-Jul-2014

From Teslin Lake we drove the Alaska Highway to Watson Lake. In the beginning of the day, the Teslin Lake was to our east. It is so long it was with us for quite a while. Finally we came to Nitsutlin Bay, where the Nitsu...more

Skagway North

Fri, 25-Jul-2014

It did rain hard overnight and also we experienced an earthquake that really shook Vanessa. Of course, at the time we didn’t realize it was an earthquake, but when we went into town in the morning to pick up a few ...more

Skagway

Thu, 24-Jul-2014

We headed south in the sun, but with the forecast of rain for the evening. From Whitehorse we took the Alaska Highway to the South Klondike Highway heading to Skagway. The plan was to reach Skagway by 12:00 for a 12:45 t...more

Whitehorse

Wed, 23-Jul-2014

We started our day with a short hike (about 1 mile round trip) down to the Yukon at the Five Fingers Rapids. This was a point on the Yukon which created great difficulties for the stern wheelers as they traveled from Whi...more

Klondike Highway

Tue, 22-Jul-2014

I am embarrassed to say that I found today’s ride a bit boring. The trip along the Klondike Highway from Dawson City toward Whitehorse passes through spruce and birch forest and more spruce and birch forest. The on...more

Dempster Highway

Mon, 21-Jul-2014

Finally we had a beautiful sunny day – blue skies with white puffy clouds. We have had so few of these on this trip and none recently. We headed north on the Dempster Highway. The Dempster is a 457-mile gravel road ...more

Dawson City II

Sun, 20-Jul-2014

We allowed the weather to change our plans for today. It had rained overnight and continued on into the day, so we decided to hang around Dawson City rather than tackle gravel/dirt roads in the rain. We had a little more...more

Dawson City I

Sat, 19-Jul-2014

We started our morning with a mile or so hike up one of the tundra-covered hills nearby. The tundra was even softer and squishier than that we had walked on in Denali NP. After a scramble up a granite and quartz outcropp...more

Top of the World

Fri, 18-Jul-2014

Our route took us down the Richardson and Alaska Highways to Tok, up the Taylor Highway to Chicken, then we joined the Top of the World Highway at the Eagle turnoff. The road along the Richardson was an easy trip with a ...more

North Pole

Thu, 17-Jul-2014

After getting approval from Sprinter, the Trailercraft technician started to check every connection in the van. After three hours the service manager came out and said they had found one suspect connection and there were...more

Trailercraft II

Wed, 16-Jul-2014

Today we learned that Trailercraft cannot get to our vehicle because the computer they use for diagnosis was sent to Anchorage and will not be back until afternoon. So we read/edited pictures and then headed out to a co-...more

Trailercraft I

Tue, 15-Jul-2014

It’s still raining.  We did a bit of shopping and had a delightful conversation with Claude, a Sportsmobile forum enthusiast from Switzerland.  He has a Ford van that he outfitted himself and is spending ...more

Fairbanks III

Mon, 14-Jul-2014

Another day of heavy rain and the resulting mud. For a place that is supposed to be a near-desert, this one sure is getting a lot of rain. Again there was little to see and photograph. We left Five Mile Camp and headed ...more

Dalton Highway III

Sun, 13-Jul-2014

We headed south under light rain that turned often to heavy rain. At times we were lucky to see sun and even a rainbow, but mostly it was rain and more rain. The good news was that the clouds were generally higher than o...more

Dalton Highway II

Sat, 12-Jul-2014

After a long night of worrying, Janet decided that she and Vanessa were not going to make it to the Arctic Ocean. It was still pouring rain so there was nothing for her to see out the windows and Vanessa is not an off-ro...more

Dalton Highway I

Fri, 11-Jul-2014

In rain and mist we continued north on the Dalton Highway. The road surface varied from good gravel to potholed and rough gravel and good paved to broken and potholed paved. The advantage of the rain was that there was n...more

Fairbanks II

Thu, 10-Jul-2014

We started the day by visiting some art galleries in Fairbanks. We were interested in seeing the local art, but also wanted to see if we could see some of Ron Perkins’ work – an Alaskan photographer who has p...more

Fairbanks I

Wed, 9-Jul-2014

We drove the Parks Highway from Denali NP to Fairbanks. A pretty drive on a fairly decent road. In Fairbanks we stopped at the University of Alaska Museum of the North – an excellent collection of Alaskan artifact...more

Leaving Denali NP

Tue, 8-Jul-2014

We packed up at Teklanika CG and said good-bye to our old friends and newly met ones. The road back to the park entrance is just 29 miles, but it took over two hours because it is slightly rough gravel, and we had to sto...more

Denali Fog

Mon, 7-Jul-2014

Today David stayed at the van and worked on his pictures while Janet rode the bus one more time. The plan was to ride out to the Eielson Visitors’ Center and take the Alpine hike. It’s a hike up the mountain ...more

Denali Hike

Sun, 6-Jul-2014

We had another beautiful, sunny day so we took the bus and asked to be let off at the Sable Creek Bridge. From there we could easily climb the hills on the north side of the river. Easily might not be the right word as t...more

Teklanika II

Sat, 5-Jul-2014

Today we hung around the campground to give our old knees a rest. Janet wandered out into the stream bed for a bit of a walk and for some wood collecting for our dinner fire. David edited photos in Lightroom. Other Sport...more

Denali Mountain

Fri, 4-Jul-2014

Janet woke at midnight just in time to see the sun setting in a perfectly clear sky. It was all she could do to keep from waking David. But she resisted until 6:15. We had breakfast and packed up for another bus ride int...more

Denali Wildlife

Thu, 3-Jul-2014

Under somewhat sunny skies we boarded a bus to drive from Teklanika to Wonder Lake. Our driver and narrator was Barr Gray (wonderful). The goal was to see some of Denali NPs abundant flora and fauna as well as the mounta...more

Teklanika I

Wed, 2-Jul-2014

Private cars are permitted to access the interior of Denali for only the first 15 miles; after that one must use a shuttle or tour bus. The one exception to that is if you have reservations to stay at Teklanika Campgroun...more

Parks Highway

Tue, 1-Jul-2014

Yikes. How did it get to be July? I keep thinking the summer is just beginning, but the classic summer is 1/3 over. Maybe it is the 60 degree days and the fact that we have worn shorts only a few times. Today we left An...more

Anchorage II

Mon, 30-Jun-2014

Today was a housekeeping day. Our van needed its 30K oil change. We needed stops at the post office and the grocery. Once done, we headed to the zoo to see the animals we haven’t been seeing in the wild. The zoo is...more

Seward Highway

Sun, 29-Jun-2014

Paul had suggested a view and hike near his home. We headed to the trailhead for Flat Top. The views of Anchorage and the mountains on the Kenai Peninsula were unbelievable. The hike up to the top of Flat Top looked like...more

Anchorage I

Sat, 28-Jun-2014

Gorgeous ride from Matanuska Glacier through Palmer to Anchorage. Spectacular views of the river valley and mountains behind. For a while the road became quite narrow and winding, then widened into an interstate quality ...more

Glenn Highway

Fri, 27-Jun-2014

We finished driving west on the Tok Cut-Off, met the Richardson Highway for about 10 miles, then headed west on the Glenn Highway. At Glennallen we made a stop at the medical clinic there so David, whose chest was hurtin...more

Alaska Highway to Tok

Thu, 26-Jun-2014

Sun! We set off north on the Alaska Highway in glorious sun. There were still clouds on the highest peaks, but we could see the mountains. Today we would be pretty much paralleling the St Elias Mountain Range which has t...more

Kluane National Park

Wed, 25-Jun-2014

Under gray skies we headed north on the Haines Highway into British Columbia and then the Yukon Territory. The Tlingit name for Haines is Deishu which means “End of the Trail.” For us Haines is the beginning ...more

Haines

Tue, 24-Jun-2014

Raining in the morning so we skipped our planned walk through the woods to a beach. Instead we drove to the boat ramp and enjoyed the beautiful view before heading into town. There we drove through Fort Seward, a militar...more

Juneau to Haines

Mon, 23-Jun-2014

Ugh! What a terrible day. The rain continued all night and into the morning. We arrived at the ferry terminal at about 5:30 to find that the ferry was running “15 minutes” late. We were to leave at 7:15, but ...more

Mendenhall Campground

Sun, 22-Jun-2014

It was a rainy, dismal day that we spent reading, organizing supplies, and editing photos. It was such an uneventful day that we pretty much decided not to bother with a blog. However, after lunch we made a quick trip ou...more

Juneau Hikes

Sat, 21-Jun-2014

Given that it was a sunny day, we decided to hike. Originally we had planned to go over to Douglas Island (the island across the channel from Juneau) but instead decided to try the West Glacier trail which would take us ...more

Glacier Highway

Fri, 20-Jun-2014

Rain and more rain. Today it really poured. Rather than hiking we drove north from Juneau on the Glacier Highway stopping at any interesting turnouts and walking about when the rain wasn't too bad. We found a couple of i...more

Mendenhall Glacier

Thu, 19-Jun-2014

On this beautiful, sunny day we headed to Mendenhall Glacier. The views from the visitor center are outstanding and the 10-minute movie they show about glaciers and climate change in general is well-done. But the people ...more

Petersburg to Juneau

Wed, 18-Jun-2014

Our ferry ride ended up taking 9 hours as we had to circle near the ferry dock while another ferry finished loading cars for the southbound trip. Part of the trip was cool and sunny, part was cold and rainy. We saw quite...more

Petersburg rain

Tue, 17-Jun-2014

Another day of all-day, drenching rain, so we spent the day reading and editing pictures. The only wildlife sighting of the day was a mama deer and her tiny baby walking up the Mitkof Highway. The baby couldn't have been...more

Petersburg III

Mon, 16-Jun-2014

We awoke this morning to dense fog out on the bay – couldn't see the barge and tug boats moored just a ¼ mile off shore. When it began to clear around 10, we headed into town. There it was a beautiful, blue-...more

South Mitkof Island

Sun, 15-Jun-2014

The adage “Rain before seven, clear by eleven” was appropriate for today. We ended up with a beautiful day in which we scouted out a new beachside campsite (Wilson Creek Area Campground), hiked a 1.5 mile pla...more

Petersburg II

Sat, 14-Jun-2014

A very rainy day so we went into town to do our two weeks of wash, see the museum, and use the Wi-Fi at the library.  We also visited the two hardware stores in town to see if they had replacement chairs for the one...more

LeConte Glacier

Fri, 13-Jun-2014

In the morning we took a short walk at Blind River Rapids followed by a nice lunch at Coastal Cold Storage, but the big event of the day was a trip by boat to the LeConte Glacier Fjord. We had contacted Scott of Tongass ...more

Mitkof Island

Thu, 12-Jun-2014

The sun in our eyes woke us at 4:45. Nice to have sun, but it seemed a little early. At low tide we walked out to the little island across from our camp. All the rocks and shells left at low tide are covered with barnacl...more

Petersburg I

Wed, 11-Jun-2014

Another sunny day. We drove a bit further south to the Greens Camp to check out the camping there. It turned out to be a very large area with 30 or so large sites, many of which are right on the water. We selected a shor...more

Wrangell to Petersburg

Tue, 10-Jun-2014

We got our wish: A sunny day for our trip to Petersburg. Before loading time we took a hike on the Rainbow Falls trail. Another hike through a beautiful rain forest, but this one had 500 feet of elevation gain over .6 m...more

Nemo Point

Mon, 9-Jun-2014

Again we woke in Wrangell to rain and misty low clouds. But as the day wore on, we began to notice a pattern of more time between the rain showers and less rain with each shower. We headed to a beach on the north side...more

Wrangell

Sun, 8-Jun-2014

As promised, it was really rainy and cold. We managed a walk on the town dock during one clear moment and met an interesting gentleman who lives on his boat there all year round. He likes Alaska best after living in Mont...more

Ketchikan to Wrangell

Sat, 7-Jun-2014

Today was one of Ketchikan’s rainy days – a heavy fine rain all day. The locals were hoping for more. The beautiful days we had been experiencing meant that many of those living outside the city were running ...more

Ketchikan Hiking

Fri, 6-Jun-2014

Today was another sunny day so we decided it was a hiking day. We considered all of the options and decided to hike the Perseverance Lake Trail. It had the advantages that it had only 500 feet of elevation change and was...more

Misty Fjords

Thu, 5-Jun-2014

We awoke today to a beautiful sunny day; the high ended up in the mid-60s. It was an easy decision to go to the office of Allen Marine Tours to see if we could get a ticket for one of their catamaran tours to Misty Fjord...more

Ketchikan

Wed, 4-Jun-2014

A very grey day with occasional spits of rain, but that didn’t stop us from wandering around Ketchikan. In the morning we walked the trail around Ward Lake. Saw a mother Merganser with 9 tiny babies. The babes look...more

Prince Rupert to Ketchikan

Tue, 3-Jun-2014

Today we were headed back to the USA. Check-out time at Prince Rupert RV Park was 11:00 but our ferry check-in (about 2 miles down the road) wasn’t until 1:00. We went into town for some drinking water (the water a...more

Prince Rupert

Mon, 2-Jun-2014

We spent today being tourists in Prince Rupert. First we went down to the container ship loading facility and watched them moving around the containers -- loading and unloading from trains and trucks and putting them in...more

Smithers to Prince Rupert

Sun, 1-Jun-2014

Today we followed the Skeena River through the Coast Mountains with a few stops on the way.  The weather was perfect – nary a cloud in the sky. At Mauricetown Canyon, the river is restricted by high black roc...more

Smithers

Sat, 31-May-2014

Most of today was a completely grey day with a flat, steely sky. We drove through completely green mountains – a lovely combination of the bright green of the aspens just leafing out and the black spruce. The drive...more

Jasper to Cobb Lake

Fri, 30-May-2014

We started west with more clouds and rain spritzes. Although there were mountain peaks to the left and right, they were mostly in the clouds. We just have to believe that Mt. Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Roc...more

Jasper

Thu, 29-May-2014

It rained overnight and we awoke to very low clouds. For the rest of the Icefields Parkway, the mountains were seldom visible. However, we made a stop at Athabasca Falls which was well-worth the 30 or so minutes there. T...more

Ice Fields Parkway

Wed, 28-May-2014

Since we had an overcast and rainy morning, we stopped in Banff next to the library to take advantage of their wifi.  It turned out to be a little frustrating as David hassled with software and their slow, quirky in...more

Banff National Park

Tue, 27-May-2014

We didn’t travel far today – just 50 or so kilometers up to Banff. On a gorgeous day we were wowed by the stunning beauty of the lakes nestled among the snowcapped mountains. We drove the Lake Minnewanka Loop...more

Red Rock Canyon to Bow Valley

Mon, 26-May-2014

Another blustery day.  Lots of grey clouds spitting rain most of the day, although it cleared up around 4:00, about the time we were camping for the night. We left Crandell in the morning and headed further in to th...more

Waterton Lakes National Park

Sun, 25-May-2014

After a short drive, all functions on the van started to work again. Then at lunch David used the Ultra-Gauge to read the error codes on the van computer, and found that all error codes could be cleared. We are really pu...more

Cardston

Sat, 24-May-2014

Our sunny weather turned to cloudy, but we headed to Many Glacier anyway.  We planned to spend the night there but found that the campground had not been able to open on schedule.  We drove up through the valle...more

Glacier National Park

Fri, 23-May-2014

It’s a long drive across Montana. We had a stop for the night at Walmart in Havre (and WiFi from the K-mart next door), and arrived at Glacier soon after noon. The St Mary campground was open so we decided to spend...more

6 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your blog. My husband and I are considering a trip to Alaska next summer in our 2011 Sprinter Sportsmobile – we have the shorter one with a pop top – no as many amenities as you have.

    It sounds like the weather was challenging! Was it still worth the effort?

    What would you change about the trip if you were to do it again?

    We will be starting in Oregon and would probably drive through Vancouver.

    We don’t have an awning on our van – did you appreciate the awning with all the rain?

    I hope you don’t mind all the questions. I’m still not sure about doing it with the rain, mosquitos and rough roads. However, there is no place else we could go with wilderness like that.

    Thanks for your time,
    Wendy

    • Hi Wendy,

      We did have a lot of rain, but that was expected in SE Alaska along the coast. North of Anchorage we did get a lot more rain than usual. Fortunately we scheduled a lot of time for the trip and we did get a lot of nice days, so yes, the trip was definitely worth it. We did have enough room in our van to comfortably read and I worked on photos on my laptop. So we kept busy in bad weather. The good thing about the weather is that it was not too hot like it can get in the interior in July.

      The only thing we would change is to visit the places we did not have time for such as Kenai Peninsula and Valdez. We will be back.

      We did use the awning in some of the rain, but mostly we stayed inside. The awnings are not really meant for rain since they can puddle water and be destroyed by wind.

      The roads are not so much of a bother if you are not in a hurry. The trip up the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay was very long (400 miles) and Janet especially got very tired of the potholes and the mud. But it was not particularly dangerous or bad for the van.

      The mosquitoes were bad in the interior mostly because of the extra rain. Also I hear they are not so bad in June so you might want to go to the interior earlier than we did. In the cool weather we usually wore long pants and long-sleeve shirts and when the bugs were bad we wore head nets. Overall we got very few bites and the ones we got did not bother us.

      So you definitely need to make the trip to Alaska. Let me know if you have more questions.

      David

  2. Hi Dave,

    I am looking forward to doing an Alaska Trip with my Sportsmobile, probably in 2016. Need to get more experience with the Van though first. I like your images. I have a couple pre-Alaska questions for you: What’s the name of the company which produces the retractable screen door assembly you got at Lowe’s? I checked the forum and your website, but couldn’t find it anywhere…not that it isn’t there of course. Second, how did your tires perform on the Alaska trip…what brand do you run? Any flats or puncture issues?

    Thanks much.

    Tim

    • Hi Tim,

      The screen we got from Lowes was made by Phantom and cost under $400 that included installation but not framing. It was not available without installation. When I search the Lowes site now I don’t see this brand. I don’t have a model number but it has a magnetic latch.

      The stock tires that came from MBz are Continental Vanco Four Season. The four rear tires already need replacement at 36000 miles. We had no tire problems in Alaska. Guide books are out of date when they say to bring extra spares. We did a lot of dirt road driving (Dalton, Top of the world, and part of Dempster). The dirt/rock on the roads was small diameter and not angular.

      We damaged one tire in a pothole in Indiana before we left and got what was in stock, Bridgestone M779, on the front two tires. They seem to be fine, but I am thinking of getting four Michelin LTX M/S2 for the back before our December trip to the Southwest. We have very little experience with this van in snow.

      David

      • Thanks David

        I found the Phantom screens. Good to hear about the Alaska roads. I recently upgraded to Michelin LTX M/S2 after 7,500 with OEM Kumho’s which I then sold. Was not an easy decision…I was initially motivated by snow which the Kumho’s perform poorly on, and the knowledge that I’m prone to look for images in less than ideal weather and out of the way places, so wanted a more rugged tire without going A/T and I’m not currently carrying a spare. Glad I made the change…besides performance on snow, ride and handling are noticeably better and noise reduced a bit…it’s a different sound.

        Tim

      • Thanks David

        I found the Phantom screens. Good to hear about the Alaska roads. I recently upgraded to Michelin LTX M/S2 after 7,500 with OEM Kumho’s which I then sold. Was not an easy decision…I was initially motivated by snow which the Kumho’s perform poorly on, and the knowledge that I’m prone to look for images in less than ideal weather and out of the way places, so wanted a more rugged tire without going A/T and I’m not currently carrying a spare. Glad I made the change…besides performance on snow, ride and handling are noticeably better and noise reduced a bit…it’s a different sound.

        Tim

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