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Old 02-24-2010, 12:47 PM   #1
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TACsters: Meet in Alaska?

I have noticed rallies, meet-ups, etc., are being spread through the various TAC threads making it hard to find them. I thought I'd start a new thread about being in Alaska and western Canada this year.

It's not a rally, not a caravan. Just about informal almost chance gatherings.

We plan (plans can change) on leaving for Alaska on May 24 and coming back in 8 weeks. We'll be renting underfed Rotweillers to guard the house, so don't get any ideas. We've been to Alaska twice BA (before Airsteam) and have been to Fairbanks, Anchorage, a lot of the southeast including Haines, Skagway, Juneau, Petersburg, and Ketchikan, Valdez, Manley Hot Springs, Tok, Chicken, Top of the World Highway, Dalton Hwy most but not all the way, Seward and Homer. We've been to just about anywhere you can drive in NWT, Yukon and BC. We're interested in seeing Denali, McCarthy and the Kennicott mine, Chena HS, maybe Circle HS, Dalton again, Sitka, Telegraph Creek, and maybe more.

So, is anyone going to Alaska around the same time and know where you'll be and when?

Our plans are vague—going north to Calgary, up the Icefields Pkwy to Jasper, then take the Yellowhead west to the Cassiar Hwy, go north and then take the Alaska Hwy. I figure it'll take about 2 weeks to cross the border into Alaska and another day to Fairbanks. A side trip to Skagway and trying to figure out how to get to Sitka will lengthen that. That's the present state of planning. I just got the 2010 Milepost (much cheaper through Amazon) and a new guide to Alaska plus the new Woodall's—when I get to go through them is unknown. I have to stock up on current AAA maps, tour guides and campground books.

We are, in Alaska parlance, independent travellers. We make a schedule and sort of keep to it, but there are always changes and being in the same place at the same time with others is hard to predict. Exhaustion can set in and slow us down.

Some places we want to get to are hard to drive to. McCarthy is down an undesirable road for towing, so we are thinking we have to park our rig in Chitina in a safe place. There used to be a van that would take you to McCarthy. I don't know if the van still runs and whether that idea is doable.

Sitka doesn't get frequent state ferry visits and maybe we will have to fly there. Again, we have to find a safe place to park the rig in either Skagway or Haines. There may be a tour with a rental car in Sitka.

Circle HS seems to be in a rough state and the main appeal of a trip is to go through unexplored (for us) territory.

Denali—we tried flightseeing 8 years ago and though no one barfed, that was a memorable flight. I don't want to do that again. So maybe there's a place in Glitter Gulch to park the trailer and then drive to the park and take the bus. Or, stay at the CG in the park and take the bus.

I see the Dalton is now paved about half the way to Coldspot, and we've tent camped at the BLM CG just north of there. You can do a one day trip to the North Slope, but there is time pressure. We did that in 2002 and were so tired by the time we got there, it was a blur. The North Slope and the views of the Brooks Range are amazing even when half asleep. I don't know if I want to go to Deadhorse and see oil wells. We been to the Arctic Ocean already in Canada. And towing on the Dalton has it's own issues not the least of which is gasoline availability and slow travelling (we bring 2 5 gallon cans of gas which gives us a total range of about 370 miles figuring conservatively 10 m/g).

On our last trips to the north country, our damage was limited to windshields and more paint chips on the front of the vehicles than normal. I am not too concerned about damage to the trailer as the TV hopefully protects it. We always have very good tires, so flats have never happened. My experience is that flats happen when tread is low, but, of course, a sharp piece of shale in the road can change that. Mud from dirt roads is the biggest hassle—it packs behind and in the wheels and undercarriage and takes a long time to wash out. It makes a truck seem like it needs an alignment. I spent a lot of money at car washes and a lot of time with a screw driver trying to clean the backs of wheels. Clay mud dries like cement and when hit with a high pressure washer, can coat you with wet mud (don't ask how I know but I looked like Mudman in Inuvik, NWT; mud does not taste good).

So I'm curious if anyone is going to these areas in early summer, where you'll be going, any suggestions from experience. Contacting each other once up there can be difficult, but it's probably getting better. We have found Verizon phones don't work in a lot of Canada because Roger's Communications won't let any other company use it's towers. Cell service is spotty up north anyway because towns are so far apart. In the lower 48, you can usually get cell service along interstates, but I doubt that happens up north where there or no interstates or interprovincials. I don't know how many CG's have wifi.

This will be our longest trip with the trailer. Our 2002 trip was 11,222 miles and our 2006 trip almost 9,000 (another thousand or so was being carried on the ferry). I have some concerns about the Safari having problems on such a long trip and delaying us, but we are going for it, taking about a ton of tools, and hoping for the best.

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Old 02-24-2010, 12:58 PM   #2
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Wow, what a great idea, and a great trip. If I win the lottery tonight, count me in.
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Old 02-24-2010, 06:31 PM   #3
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Wow, what a great idea, and a great trip. If I win the lottery tonight, count me in.
I think going would be better than winning the lottery. Most lottery winners are bankrupt in a very short time.
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Old 02-24-2010, 07:17 PM   #4
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Most lottery winners are bankrupt in a very short time.
But at least I might be able to get a new set of tires and slinky if I won!
Have fun,
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Old 02-24-2010, 08:02 PM   #5
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Alaska or bust!!!

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Originally Posted by CrawfordGene View Post
<BIG SNIPPY>
I see the Dalton is now paved about half the way to Coldspot, and we've tent camped at the BLM CG just north of there. You can do a one day trip to the North Slope, but there is time pressure. We did that in 2002 and were so tired by the time we got there, it was a blur. The North Slope and the views of the Brooks Range are amazing even when half asleep. I don't know if I want to go to Deadhorse and see oil wells. We been to the Arctic Ocean already in Canada. And towing on the Dalton has it's own issues not the least of which is gasoline availability and slow travelling (we bring 2 5 gallon cans of gas which gives us a total range of about 370 miles figuring conservatively 10 m/g).
Having ridden the road from Fairbanks to Deadhorse last summer on our enduro motorcycle (we left the truck and AS at the campground in Fairbanks) I would never take my truck or trailer on this here particular road.

"Why not?", You might ask.

Calcium Chloride.

Once you are north of the very first portion of the road where the dirt starts all of the remaining dirt is laced with calcium chloride.

They put this stuff in the water that is used to wet the road down; the objective is to cause the dirt to form into a hard pack thereby eliminating dust.

So far so good. Until, that is, the rain starts; and in this here part of the world rain is a way of life.

We were very lucky on our trip up and down the highway. We only encountered rain just north of Coldfoot for about 10 miles going north. On the way back we had no rain. Very different from most folks accounts of this trip.

I am still trying to remove all the dirt that is adhering to the motorcycle. Considering that this stuff is corrosive this is not a good thing.

And, right you are about this being an arduous journey. We spent a night at a "motel" just north of Coldfoot on the way up and on the way back. $90.00 a night for two. We also spent a night in one of the three "hotels" in Deadhorse. We were lucky and got a room for two; most of the rooms are set up for single guests. A mere $270.00 a night for the two of us. The good news is that this included 3 meals for each of us.

Would we do it again?

In a heart beat. The grizzly we encountered was particularly rewarding. As was the sign on the hotel door the morning we were leaving announcing the bear that was "in the area" as of 6:00 AM.

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<YABS>
This will be our longest trip with the trailer. Our 2002 trip was 11,222 miles and our 2006 trip almost 9,000 (another thousand or so was being carried on the ferry). I have some concerns about the Safari having problems on such a long trip and delaying us, but we are going for it, taking about a ton of tools, and hoping for the best.

Gene


As for the tools, all you will need is the stuff to get the spare tire on, if needed. Anything more than that is just extra weight to carry.

Now, having said that, because we are full time travelers, I do carry a fair amount of tools. But nothing that will do much good in the event of some sort of cataclysmic event on the road. Auto parts are not going to be available until such time that you are towed into a town of sufficient size that such things are available. And, if your vehicle is in good condition driving the Alcan or the Casier is no big deal these days.

The frost heaves start north of Fort Nelson. Our strategy was to travel no more than 45 MPH once at this point. This way we could slow down and not do what the idiots who were passing us doing 60+ were doing. I was able to watch lots of 5th wheel trailers that passed us at such speed go into the air - yes, all of the wheels on these beasts were off the ground simultaneously.

Had a guy in a $500+K motor home parked behind us in the campground in Tok on our way out. He had just spent 10 days sitting in Fairbanks waiting for new front end parts to arrive. But, he swore that he was not going to slow down. Go figure.

Came back on the Cassier. Great road now that all but one portion is paved and the dirt part was in very good condition. We stayed at a Provincial campground just south of the cut off for Haynes that is one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. Pulled in with plans to spend the night. We left four days later. No electricity, no water to fill the trailer (hand pump available), no dump station. But they had WiFi; solar panels to power the batteries that ran the router and other equipment. Oh yes, a pay phone too.

Wonderful trip. Hope you have a very good time. We were among the fortunate - we actually got to see Denali.

Jim

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Old 02-24-2010, 08:58 PM   #6
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We may have been lucky on the Dalton. It never rained, though pretty far north of Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range the road was wet for about 10 miles. I think they had just applied Calcium Chloride. When we got back to somewhere, I washed down the truck as best I could and never saw any corrosion. So long as we slowed way down when the trucks came the other way, the gravel shower was minor. When we slowed down, the trucks slowed down. We understand if you don't slow down, they don't. We also got as far to the right as possible, something to be careful about for the edge of the road is soft.

We remember the frost heaves well. Usually they are marked with red flags by the side of the road—see them and slow down. Some people do, some don't. We did. There are usually some portions of the paved highway under construction—20 or 30 miles worth. That's a drag, but inevitable. They use chip seal on the roads because it's cheap in the short run and easy to repair. The permafrost is hell on roads. Slowing down for frost heaves over and over is tiring, but necessary. Many are just a few feet of gravel and not much of a problem, but sometimes, it's bad. Best to anticipate bad.

The Canadians take better care of their roads, whether paved or gravel/dirt. Our most difficult trip was in the rain on the Dempster Hwy in Yukon and NWT to Inuvik. The road was greasy and sometimes the mud was 6" deep, but not often. We were driving the 4Runner with skid control and new tires, so we just kept going. Lots of tension, but the truck did fine. The 4Runner was covered in mud and it took quite a while and $C 10 in Inuvik to wash a lot of it off, then scrape out mud with a screwdriver. That's where I became Mudman.

Everything is expensive the further north you go. $90/night near Coldfoot is about what things cost back in 2002. A shower at Coldfoot was $10 and I was afraid to touch the walls for fear of catching a loathsome disease. The BLM CG (Marion Creek) just north is the bargain, but I don't think there are any services there. There's another BLM CG (Galbraith Lake) somewhat north of the Brooks Range, but we couldn't find it. We left our tent back at the Coldfoot CG anyway. Jim, you were brave taking a motorcycle up the Dalton. Perhaps immersing the bike in a mild solution of sulphuric acid would get the mud off.

Like Jim, once you travel up north, no matter what you hear about the roads, you want to do it again (I hope I haven't misconstrued your meaning Jim).

The tundra on the North Slope is unlike the high altitude tundra I've seen in Colorado. It's unique. But most spectacular is being 100 miles north of the Brooks Range and seeing it to the south stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. It looks black because it's mostly rock—nothing much grow on it. Like everything in Alaska it's really BIG.

Marion Creek CG had a host who seemed to have some sort of e-mail connection, but I think they had to go to Coldfoot to use it. There were only a couple of other people there. Since it was June, it was always light. In the middle of the night the sun went behind a mountain peak for an hour or so—got slightly dimmer. It was hard to sleep because of the light. And that leads to exhaustion because our bodies had trouble adapting to that. Even in a dark room with blackout shades as some motels have, we could feel the light and would only sleep 3 or 4 hours until we collapsed after several days of that.

The Milepost shows no pavement on the Dalton north of Coldfoot, but there was some when we were there in 2002. The road is well kept, though some parts are narrow through the mountains north of Fairbanks to the Yukon. The bridge over the Yukon has a wood deck and I've wondered what that's like when it's wet. The deck slopes down to the north at a fairly substantial grade.

I can write about the north country for far too long. Will you be at Marion Creek in June? I just looked it up and it has treated water and bathrooms (probably just toilets, but I'm unsure). I don't know where there's a dump station, but there are moose there. We saw footprints and they were bigger than my head, even when swelled.

Gene
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Old 02-24-2010, 09:01 PM   #7
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I think going would be better than winning the lottery. Most lottery winners are bankrupt in a very short time.
I have a plan: never touch the principal
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Old 02-24-2010, 09:03 PM   #8
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I have a plan: never touch the principal
Rodney, would you like me to manage the principal? I will be entitled to "reasonable" expenses such as going to Alaska. I'm here to help.

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Old 02-24-2010, 09:10 PM   #9
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Rodney, would you like me to manage the principal? I will be entitled to "reasonable" expenses such as going to Alaska. I'm here to help.

Gene
Gene, if I win one of the big games this week, I will send you a card for all your expenses for the trip. Hows that?
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Old 02-25-2010, 08:36 AM   #10
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I am in. We are leaving for Skagway (third season) on March the 20th and will be there for the summer. We will be loose for two weeks in mid summer to travel and do some more sight seeing. We are also thinking Denali and would love to seriously consider Sitka.
As we are also independent travelers, I will keep watch on this thread and see if we can make something happen during the summer! Go TAC!!
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Old 02-25-2010, 09:22 AM   #11
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Did Alaska in a Class C rental in late 2008. Went to Denali and it was obviously one of the highlights. We stayed at Grizzly Bear RV which was okay (not much selection). Water and Electricity but no sewer at the sight, clean and warm showers.

We did the all day bus trip that goes all the way to the end of the road in Denali. Bears, Caribou, Moose galore. Would do it again in a second! Reservations for the buses fill quickly so if that's your intention try to reserve soon.

We booked our RV, believe it or not a full year in advance, and chose the late "shoulder season" that starts August 16th. ABC rental in Anchorage had a deal for 50% off normal rate for this time period if you booked and pre-paid. We had a 24ft with one slideout for $95.00 a day with no mileage restriction. Very cheap by Alaska standards I'm told. Downside was the feeling in your gut when you filled up with gas at $5.00 a gallon!

As you already know, Alaska is awesome and I will jump a the next opportunity to go there again!

PS: If you're lucky the clouds will part and you will see Denali as we did!
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Old 02-25-2010, 09:35 AM   #12
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We are planning another Alaska trip this summer also. We have plans to be at our son's graduation from Weapons School (USAF) in Las Vegas mid June. From there we plan to go to the Left Coast and see some attractions we've never seen, and up thru Vancouver.

Then we will go up to and take the Cassiar with a stop at Hyder. After reaching the Alaska Hwy, our plans get a little vague. If the weather is good and the road conditions are good, plan to go from Whitehorse up to Dalton, and then the top of the world hwy over to Chicken, with possibly a side trip up to Eagle.

From there, we plan to go to Fairbanks (we missed it our first trip), and then down to Denali and hopefully the weather will be good enough for a view of "the big one". Again, because of the weather we missed it last trip in '08. We parked the AS that trip in Cantwell at an RV park, and drove part of the way into the park, but because the weather was not good, didn't take the entire tour.

Anyway, then thru Anchorage for another visit with our son, and then on down to the Kenai for a visit with friends from here who have a cabin on the Kenai river. We will probably be gone a couple of months or so. And also, the house alarm will be set and the pet rattle snakes let our of their cages, so I'd advise not messing with anything here.

We'll be in a red GMC crew cab with camper cover, and of course pulling our 'stream. From our first trip, I learned the trailer will take quite a beating from the gravel roads, so I plan to protect the front of it with really big flaps on the truck, and some padding taped to the front of the trailer. Tent sleeping pads work well and are cheap.
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:45 PM   #13
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So far Deauxrite will be in Skagway, might get to Sitka, and wants to take 2 weeks for a drive; SteveH will probably get to Alaska around the beginning of July, and Rodney has to win the lottery.

Deaux', are you hosting a CG, working for the Park Service or some such thing in Skagway? Are CG reservations necessary there or are there plenty of places to camp?

Barb wants to take the Skagway highway over White Pass because we've never done it and maybe take the train trip (White Pass & Yukon RR). It might be easier to get a plane from Haines to Sitka, but I haven't done the research. The Fast Ferry gets you to and from Haines pretty fast.

I think we'll be a couple of weeks ahead of Steve and will have to think about starting back in mid July. We've been to Hyder and it's pretty down and out. There is a bear viewing area, but you have to be there in season, probably when the salmon are running later in the summer. There's also a road up in to the mountains from there (you cross the border a couple of times) to see a glacier. Stewart, BC, is next to Hyder and is a typical, neat Canadian town and much bigger than Hyder. It has a toaster museum, but it was, alas, closed when we were there.

Fairbanks is the only large city (35,000) in a very large area and has lots of stores for supplies, many along a typical suburban style strip. I think it's on the Richardson Hwy. Downtown is unimpressive and we only found one decent restaurant downtown in '02. Having read a book about Fairbanks in 1900, I had created a myth about it in my head, but it just looked like any other place. There is a popular restaurant/bar along the Chena R. Can't remember anything about the food. There's a riverboat tour along the river and you can watch it go by while relaxing on the large patio. The U. of Alaska Fairbanks campus has a very good, but not too big, museum about north country stuff. It's a highway junction—south to Denali and Anchorage; east to Delta, Tok and Yukon; north to Chena, Circle, Manley and the Dalton Hwy.

I think Fairbanks is the place (maybe it's Dawson City, Yukon) where they play an all night baseball game on the summer solstice. Once you get far north in June and July it doesn't really get very dark at night—more like twilight. And north of the Arctic Circle it is just plain weird to watch the sun go around in a circle. I've put Reflectix on all the bedroom windows so that'll keep some of the light out and hopefully we'll get some sleep.

I'm sure there are others going north and we'll see how this develops. I've got a kitchen to remodel, so I don't know that I'll have a lot of time to plan for a while, but I'm getting excited about this trip just thinking about it.

How's that lottery working for you Rodney?

Gene
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Old 02-26-2010, 10:05 PM   #14
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How's that lottery working for you Rodney?

Gene
I will know in the morning I figure the odds are about as good as most of my renovation plans working out like I plan.....
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