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 > DrewE's Alaska Trip Travelogue

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DrewE

Vermont

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Posted: 09/23/17 06:42pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I returned about a week ago from a marvelous ten-week trip to and through Alaska (and back) with my dear mother. I went in a 32' class C, actually about 35' overall with a bicycle rack on the back, with no toad. Over the next several days or maybe weeks, I'll try to sort through and post a travelogue here. I'll try to do a little each day, but that may not always be possible due to work and other commitments.

Anyhow, to kick things off, here's a somewhat non-travelogue blurb about some books and items that we found particularly worthwhile on the trip and that I would generally recommend.

Books
Most of these are "standards" well-known in this forum.

The Milepost is useful, even if it's mostly advertising and text lifted from road signs. In some ways it's perhaps more useful for planning than as a travel companion. My copy did get thoroughly thumbed through.

Church's Traveler's Guide to Alaskan Camping is excellent, at lest in its most recent edition. It is thorough, accurate, and so far as I could tell very complete, and is nowhere near as dry reading as a campground directory by rights ought to be. I recommend it highly.

The TourSaver did save us enough money to make it worth purchasing. It would be wise to look over the offers before ordering as many of them are for organized, rather adventurous tours and such which may not appeal to everyone. It would be pretty much useless for a single traveler.

I ordered both a DeLorme and Benchmark Alaska atlas. Much as I wanted to like the DeLorme atlas (and like having actual topographical maps with elevations), the benchmark atlas was far more useful and readable and is the better of the two for RV use. Particularly annoying in the DeLorme atlas is the very close similarity between minor roads and major contour lines, which are practically the same color and width and very easily mistaken for each other.

The AAA tourbooks were kind of handy, too.

Gizmos
The provincial parks in the Yukon, and some of the Alaska state parks, provide free campfire wood. Other campgrounds have campfire wood for sale. Usually, this comes in rather too large chunks for a small campfire. While it's possible to split it (eventually) with a normal hatchet, the Fiskars X11 Splitting Axe works a lot better at this task and is a nice portable 17 inch size. I bought mine at Canadian Tire, and consider it money well spent.

A window squeegee is essential (along with a bucket that it fits into). I have about the cheapest one that Wal-Mart sells, around $3 if I recall, and it served very well. An oblong bucket works a lot more efficiently for it than a round bucket. For stubborn bugs, a little bit of dish soap or Pine-Sol in the water helps.

For camp sites that slope inconveniently near the entry door, we were occasionally glad to have this handy Harbor Freight step stool platform.

I rather appreciated having a set of pull-apart detachable keychains much like these for deploying and retrieving leveling ramps, so I could unlock the outside compartment without having to shut down the engine. I suppose it would be less frequently useful if one has automatic levelers or a trailer where the leveling procedure is somewhat different.





Lwiddis

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Posted: 09/23/17 06:48pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I look forward to reading your travelogue postings. Pictures too?


2015 Winnebago 2101DS TT & Tahoe LTZ, 300 watts WindyNation solar-parallel & MPPT, Trojan T-125s. TALL flagpole for US flag. Prefer USFS, COE, BLM, NPS, TVA, USF&WS, state & county camps. Bicyclist! 14 year Army vet - 11B40 then 11A - old MOS 1542 & 1560.


DrewE

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Posted: 09/25/17 11:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Yes, there will be pictures! [emoticon]

We left the afternoon of July 5th. The first week was spent mostly on the Trans-Canada Highway heading towards Banff National Park.

July 5th -- We camped at Robert Moses State Park in Massena, NY. We arrived late and didn't stay too long in the morning, so I can't say much about this park. It did look nice and well-kept, as has been my experience at every New York state park I've camped at. There is a view of one of the locks on the St. Lawrence Seaway from the access road to the campground.

July 6th -- We crossed over into Ontario, Canada at Ogdensburg. We were subjected to a (quick and professional) vehicle search at the border, but had no problems nor a long delay. We camped at the very pretty Driftwood Provincial Park in Stonecliffe, ON.

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(This picture was taken with a fisheye lens; the trees were not actually that bendy!)

Ontario is a very long province. Driving the Trans-Canada Highway across it seemed a bit like it would never end.

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DrewE driving somewhere in Ontario

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DrewE's dear mother driving, elsewhere in Ontario. As it turned out, I did the vast majority of the driving, but that's not at all a reflection on my mother's competence in driving.


July 7th -- Stayed at Chutes Provincial Park, Massey, ON

July 8th -- Stopped (I think for lunch) at a neat rest area on the Chippewa River that marks the approximate midpoint of the Trans-Canada Highway. There's a nice little waterfall, too.

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Stayed at Neys Provincial Park, Marathon, ON

July 9th -- Stopped briefly at the Terry Fox roadside, outside of Thuder Bay. Besides the commemorative statue, there's a nice view of the sleeping giant, a rock formation out in the bay that's of cultural and religious importance to the first nation people in the area. To be honest, I couldn't really make out the outline of the giant very well.

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This is Terry Fox, of course, not the sleeping giant.

Stayed at Blue Lake Provincial Park, Vermillion Bay, ON; saw a very pretty sunset over the bay.

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July 10th -- Stopped at a little town park near a dam (I forget where) where there was a flock of pelicans. I hadn't previously been aware that they wander that far north.

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Stayed at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Glenboro, MB. Provincial route 5 between the Trans-Canada and the park was very, very rough; going around and approaching the park from the south (as we did, in reverse, when leaving) is strongly recommended. The mosquitoes were fairly bad on July 10th.

July 11th - 12th -- Stayed in the Lion's Club Campground, Broadview SK, and visited some family friends. Many of the small towns in the area have a campground run either by the municipality or by some fraternal or service organization. This particular one was very well maintained, with full hookups and absolutely immaculate bathroom/shower facilities.

July 13th -- Drove through Medicine Hat, and saw the giant tepee from the road. It's hard to miss.

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There were a few bugs on the windshield at this point in time. A class C motorhome makes a passably good flyswatter!

After awhile on the plains, mountains come into view. The scenery along the Trans-Canada is varied, some a bit more interesting than others, but generally lovely. I preferred the hills and rocks of Ontario and the mountains towards the west to the prairies.

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Stayed at Kinnebrook Island Provincial Park, Brooks, AB. As I recall, it was a bit of a maze through town to get to the park. While I don't have a picture of it, I saw here the only firewood vending machine I've ever run across. It looked vaguely like a dumpster with a bill acceptor attached to the side.

This was a pleasant leg of the trip, with good roads and overall quite good weather.

DrewE

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Posted: 09/26/17 09:57pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

July 14th and 15th we travelled through Banff and Jasper national parks in Alberta, CA. This was some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere on the trip, and beautiful weather to boot. For July 14th we were fortunate enough to have a reservation for a campsite at Lake Louise, obtained a couple days previously. (It evidently had been a cancellation, as it was the only site anywhere for at least a few days.) July 15th we were in the overflow camping area at Jasper, a few big fields with a few porta-potties and several largish rocks and people plonked down wherever. It actually worked out just fine; the numerous other campers around were generally courteous.

We were also very fortunate to avoid having to deal with smoke or fire through the parks. It would have been a completely different story if we wanted to see them on the way home!

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Bow lake, east of Banff (and outside the park); the industrial plant that looks something like a moon base is a cement plant, I believe.

The resort city of Banff has a magnificent setting among the mountains and not a lot of parking. We ended up taking the (free) shuttle from the Minnewanka park and ride lot/overflow camping area, but not after spending some time navigating the streets in hopeful search of an RV parking slot, which was a rather time-consuming ordeal.

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From Banff, we took the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise (rather than the main highway). This is a very pleasant drive, with several stops with informational panels along the way. The mountain views are not nearly so constant and expansive as along the Ice Fields Parkway, but they are far from lacking.

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Pilot Mountain

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Castle Mountain

It was evening when we arrived at the campground, so exploring the village of Lake Louise waited until the following morning. We were entirely content to use the shuttle service to get from the town proper (such as it is) to the Chateau and the actual lake. As in Banff and Jasper, this was definitely the high season for tourists.

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Lake Louise (the postcard sort of view)

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Lake Louise (what it actually looks like when you're there)

The rest of the day was spent very pleasantly, driving along the Ice Fields Parkway to Jasper. We did have to ration our time stopping somewhat; this whole area is really deserving of more than a couple days. Of course, even a couple of days is far, far better than missing it entirely!

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Peyto Lake (from Bow Summit--fisheye view)

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Peyto Glacie, which feeds Peyto Lake. The blue and green colors of the rivers and lakes are a result of very fine rock dust (rock flour) ground off by the glacier; this is something that informational panels in various places mentioned numerous times. The other "standard" information we saw repeatedly on various panels dealt with the importance of forest fires to the forest ecosystems.

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A typical view along the Ice Fields Parkway. The mountains, if anything, are closer and larger and more magnificent than they look in the photograph.

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Athabasca Falls, I think (another wide-angle fisheye shot).

We had a tasty dinner at a restaurant in the town of Jasper before heading in to the campground.

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Jasper overflow camping; some smokey haze is visible. We did see a minor bit of smoke towards the end of the day.

* This post was edited 09/26/17 10:17pm by DrewE *

tony lee

Dallas TX to AK via Niagara Falls and Dempster Hwy

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Posted: 09/26/17 11:17pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Quote:

Lake Louise (what it actually looks like when you're there)

Can barely see the lake for all the tourists. I think this is why we are dedicated off-season and/or boondocking travellers. Might be a bit of snow around and dumps and water hard to find, but at least we get a lot of places to ourselves and no reservations needed


Tony
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DrewE

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Posted: 09/29/17 01:40am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

July 16th -- We traveled from Jasper, up the Big Horn Highway (Route 40) to Grand Prairie, and then along Route 43 towards Dawson Creek. The night was spent at Swan Lake Provincial Park, a little before Dawson Creek.

(It's sometimes easy to mix up Dawson Creek and Dawson City, at least in writing and speaking. The creek is the southern terminus of the Alaska Highway. The city is the northern terminus of the Klondike Highway, and many many miles separate them....)

The Big Horn highway was probably one of the most solitary highways we traveled in terms of the number of other vehicles and the general lack of evidence of civilization. It's mostly wooded and rolling hills, as I recall. There was an informational pullout along the road with a very well done booklet about Caribou available for the taking.

July 17th -- Dawson creek is the start of the Alaska Highway, and a place to get gas, groceries, and other such things. There are the two "mile zero" mileposts for the Alaska Highway, a couple of blocks apart. I gather that this portion of the road was realigned at some point. (Many other portions have been, over the years, as well.)

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A little further up the road is the curved Kiskatinaw bridge, the only original wooden trestle bridge remaining from the original highway. It's now bypassed by the main road.

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Yes, it really is curved.

We spent the night at the former provincial park at the Prophet Airstrip, just outside of Fort Nelson. Church's book probably paid for itself in that one night; I would have had no other way of knowing of the existence of this spot. There were maybe a half a dozen or so other camping groups there, too.

July 18 -- We continued along the Alaska Highway. This was a good day for seeing wildlife.

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Caribou, location undisclosed (i.e. we forgot to write it down).

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Stone Sheep near Summit Lake.

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Moose near Munch Lake Provincial Park.

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Black Bear in Munch Lake Provincial Park -- I didn't get to see this, as I was hiking along a short trail to the mineral lick where animals are supposed to congregate frequently, though there were none there at the time.

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Wood Bison north of the Trout River Valley.

We spent the night at the Liard Hot Springs, in the overflow camping area across the highway. The springs are very, very nice feeling for a soak.

(Edited to correct formatting)

DrewE

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Posted: 09/29/17 10:56pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

July 19th -- A day of driving, continuing along the Alaska Highway. We crossed into Yukon officially, and made a requisite stop at the Watson Lake Signpost Forest and the Yukon vistor's center. The visitor's center has some very nicely done exhibits in their little museum, dealing with the construction of the Alaska highway and life in general in the north. They also loaded us up with plenty of tourist guide information, some more useful than others. Among the better bits are a series of booklets on identifying various plants and animals (and fungi) in the Yukon. My mom, who studied and taught Biology, particularly enjoyed having and using them.

The signpost forest is rather more extensive than I was imagining. I'm afraid we were not proper tourists and did not nail up a sign.

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We stretched our legs a bit at the Rancheria Falls recreation site, which has a very pleasant little trail leading to an overlook of the falls. These are not massive cascades and walls of water, but it's a pretty spot regardless. The river actually splits around a small island at the falls, making a bifurcated waterfall.

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A bit later on we crossed the continental divide (between the Arctic and Pacific oceans; there is of course also a divide between the Pacific and Atlantic, and one for the Arctic and Atlantic, and they all meet at the triple divide peak in Glacier National Park).

We stayed at Teslin Lake Territorial Campground. As is typical of Yukon Territorial campgrounds, they had free camp firewood.

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The Teslin river bridge, if memory serves, under a rather dramatic sky

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Teslin lake at evening time

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Teslin lake in the morning

July 20th -- Onward for a comparatively short day of driving to Whitehorse. We did stop for lunch at Marsh Lake provincial park, a understandably popular spot for Whitehorse area residents to enjoy the summer weather. From there to the Pioneer RV park on the outskirts of Whitehorse.

This is one of the very very few places where Church's book proved to be a bit inaccurate, in as much as the city bus system no longer served the campground. We accordingly called to enquire about a cab, since driving into (and finding parking in) a comparatively large city didn't seem like a whole lot of fun, but the cab company quoted a price entirely out of all reason. We did end up driving the motorhome downtown, parking in the RV lot at the visitors center which is free and not at all difficult to get to, and walking around from there.

At the visitor's center, we enquired about the sights we were particularly interested in. It went something like this:
"What's the scoop with the Frantic Follies?"
"Unfortunately, they've stopped this year. The manager retired, and nobody was interested in taking over."
"Oh. In that case, can you tell us how to get the waterfront trolley?"
"It isn't running; it broke down earlier this year, and they won't be able to fix it before the end of the season."
"Okay...the SS Klondike is open, I hope?"

Fortunately, it was, and we toured it and took a (fairly lengthy) walk to see the fish ladder at the hydroelectric dam. It was unfortunately a wee bit too early to see any salmon; the first few would be somewhere between a couple hours and a few days away.

We had been debating whether to spend one or two nights at Whtehorse, but it became rather an easier decision given that many of the things we were interested in doing were unavailable. As it turned out, we had to spend a longer time in the city on the return trip. Whitehorse is a pretty city and they appreciate the tourists that come through. The Robert Service park has a very fine looking tent campground and is very convenient to downtown.

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The SS Klondike, the largest of the sternwheelers (and open to the public)

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Half of the fish ladder; each little segment is a sort of box, designed to make a little eddy and provide a route for the salmon to work their way upstream. The churning white water of the river is due to a low dam that helps direct the fish towards the ladder. (Some of the churn is also probably from the main dam, I suppose.)

Pioneer RV park is a pleasant hillside park, with decent separation between the sites and what seemed to be well-kept facilities.

Pops

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Posted: 10/01/17 12:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Taking notes & enjoying your comments with pictures. Planning Canada/Alaska trip in 2018. Thanks so much.


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sljohnson1938

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Posted: 10/01/17 03:07pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

the Frantic Follies is closed? For the entire season?
Dang. we were there on our 2 trips and that was the best show on our 2 trips.
Loved it.
I sure hopes it opens up for 2018.

We stayed at Pioneer RV park the first time, but the 2nd trip their laundry facilities were not open, so we went elsewhere. Pioneer was a nice place. We stayed at the Mile High rv park, it also was nice.

********************

just did a google on Frantic follies and it looks like they are closed for good. Maybe not, I hope.


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DrewE

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Posted: 10/01/17 04:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

sljohnson1938 wrote:

the Frantic Follies is closed? For the entire season?
Dang. we were there on our 2 trips and that was the best show on our 2 trips.
Loved it.
I sure hopes it opens up for 2018.

We stayed at Pioneer RV park the first time, but the 2nd trip their laundry facilities were not open, so we went elsewhere. Pioneer was a nice place. We stayed at the Mile High rv park, it also was nice.

just did a google on Frantic follies and it looks like they are closed for good. Maybe not, I hope.


I got the impression it was closed for good, or at least for the the foreseeable future. The manager/owner/producer, whatever the title was, retired and nobody was stepping in to continue the managing/ownership/production.

On the way back through we stayed at Hi Country, which was also quite nice and, more to the point at that time, had city bus service to the entrance. Among other niceties, the wi-fi at Hi Country was the best I've seen at a campground anywhere.

Pops wrote:

Taking notes & enjoying your comments with pictures. Planning Canada/Alaska trip in 2018. Thanks so much.


I'm glad it's enjoyable and hope they're helpful notes. If it's anything like it was for me, you'll have a fantastic time next year.

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