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Old 01-03-2009, 11:51 PM   #1
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North to Alaska, from a Texan

Hello All,

My wife, two labs, and I are preparing to embark on a 2-3 month trip to Alaska this summer. We have talked with a few RV'ers who have made the trip. All say "Go now!!". We have an F250 TV, 34' AS Classic, Honda generator and lots of stuff we cart around( bikes, telescopes, flyfishing gear, etc.). I have found a few posts of AS forums but not that many. Am I missing them or am I not doing proper search. Surely, many of you adventurous RV'ers have made this trip. We are palnning to do it solo. We have Mileposts and Church's Guide to Alaskan Camping.
I have received so many helpful comments from the members of this forum that I felt it imperative to consult this group and invite you suggestions on whatever - places to visit, palces to stay and of course places to fish.

Thanking you in advance for your considering and reading this post,

Dennis & Debbie Sneed, Cassie and Gus( the labs)
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:50 AM   #2
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Alaska is a camper paradise, you can camp anywhere. While there is just too much to describe to do within the state I can mention some things to do going and coming. There are NO Problems with water or fuel and frequent free dump sites.

You should plan to go into Alaska via the Top of the World Highway. That way you will be sure to stop at Dawson City and Chicken.

It does not matter which way you do it but you should include the Cassiar Highway and a stop at Hyder Alaska.

There are only 3 roads in Alaska, Tok to Fairbanks, Fairbanks to Anchorage and Anchorage to Tok. It is the side roads that will hold you interest. If you see one take it. The state highway system only goes to number 10

Try and plan a flight out to the Katmai National Park to watch the bears feed. Best if you can do that before the end of June. However if you have any quams about being in the woods with live bear consider this before you go as you have a 1/2 mile walk each way. The Park will make you take a bear courtesy class before you head out and give you a graduation pin.

If I go again I would skip Danali N P. I found it extremely beautiful but completely bureaucratic. There is more than enough to see and do without putting up with the reason I left New Jersey to go there. If you do intend to stop there make a reservation as I was told they were full when I stop in at noon. When I left at 7 both campgrounds were less than 1/2 full.
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Old 01-04-2009, 09:12 AM   #3
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Fun!

Oh, you're gonna' have fun! And the gear (bikes, telescopes (you'll find polar alignment a little different up there!), fly fishing gear) sounds like what I tote around.

The Milepost will be extremely useful to you. Last time I drove around Alaska (which was a few years back), all Tesoro gas stations I came to had dump stations and potable water, as well as fuel, food, replacement dump hoses, RV fuses, etc. Stop regularly to take a break, admire the scenery (one of my sons maintains that the whole state oughta' be a National Park!), and fuel up. There are some places where it's a good distance between fuel stops.

Also, if I recall correctly, throughout the state, it's legal to camp anywhere that's not specifically posted against it - and I don't remember seeing any place posted against it. For example, we camped right on the beach looking at the ocean on Homer Spit (a place not to miss). So you don't have to worry too much about making advance reservations, except in or near Denali or maybe Talkeetna.

In Denali Park, there are quite a few guided walking tours with rangers, a half day bus tour on the road to Kantishna, which used to be closed to private vehicles, etc. See more here: Denali National Park Alaska Tour All worthwhile and would to me make it worth the trouble of getting a Denali campground reservation as well.

In summer, there's a LOT of daylight, so if you have trouble sleeping, consider a sleep mask to keep the light out, unless your AS has blackout shades.

Fishing: there are fish everywhere ... but be sure to read the fishing regs. very carefully, because MANY streams are closed to all fishing (including catch and release fly fishing) during salmon spawning times. Lots of Alaska streams are big, brawling affairs and not well suited to dry flies ... so take a bunch of weighted flies such as bead head nymphs (especially flash back type) and some big, ugly weighted flies such as Bitch Creek, weighted Wooly Buggers, etc. so you can get down near the bottom where the big guys skulk. The fish are mostly naive, so leaders up to 1x or so (!!!!) can be used. I'd not likely use anything finer than 3x and not that if I didn't mind getting broken off a lot. If you tie your own, look for patterns by Chris Goll, who for years ran a lodge where I liked to fish - he designed a lot of flies that work up there. I'm an inveterate fly fisherman, but I might take along a small spin reel that'll fit a flyrod reel seat and a small collection of Mepps spinners or equivalent. There may be a single hook limitation (no treble hooks), either there or in Canada or both, I can't recall. No problem for flies, but perhaps for Mepps.

A big issue for me is bear protection ... the "experts" - esp. at Denali will assure you that bears are not a major problem, and that all you need are bear bells and bear spray. But last year or the year before, a ranger at Denali was stalked and killed and partially eaten by a bear ... and the guides where I fish (granted, in real remote areas) ALL carry either pump shotguns full of slugs or rifles - minimum .30-06 with heavy, penetrating bullets. The big difficulty is getting all the paperwork correct to transport such a weapon through Canada should you choose to do so. There's a Canadian government organization, "Firearms Canada" or some such you can find with Google that'll lay out the rules.

Plan on being more self-reliant than is required in the "lower 48" - I'd take something like a Stop-N-Go tire plugger and a small air compressor, an extra serpentine belt, an extra fuel filter or two ... things that can be show stoppers a long way from the nearest repair facility.

Oh, you're gonna' have fun! Did I mention that?
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Old 01-04-2009, 11:26 AM   #4
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Hi Oxblood,

Replying to your PM

You're planning a great trip.

We camped in the National Park Camground at Denali, I think for your trailer size you will need a reservation. During our entire trip we never made a reservation in advance and did not have a problem, however that is not recommended it was just how we rolled.

On the Kenai we camped on the spit in Homer, a municipal(I think) campground right on the water in Seward and a couple pull overs on the highways. Homer and Seward are really good base camps for exploring the Kenai.

Since you are taking bikes consider this Denali tip (the best tip I received on our trip). To get very far into Denali you must ride a park bus. Ride the last camper bus (the camper bus takes bikes) of the day out as far as you want to ride back. Take the last bus so that there is minimal traffic on the roads. We went 60ish miles out, got dropped at 6:30 pm and with a leisurely ride got back to camp a little after midnight (gotta love long days). After the first couple hours it was only an occasional vehicle that passed. Pull over when the buses are passing and let them get by. This was a great way to enjoy the park without crowds and without a hike, there is plenty to see from the road, all the wildlife you can imagine. Denali does catch a lot of weather so plan to be in the area several days to get a sunny day to enjoy the park, play the weather to your advantage.

Good recommendation in the previous post about a tire plugger. Mine was used and saved us a lengthy delay.

Nelson, BC is great we stayed at a little campground right in town (the only one in town).

Have a great trip.
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Old 01-05-2009, 06:37 AM   #5
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When we went summer before last , we were gone for almost 3 mos. and that's from Port O'Connor. I would say take 3 mos. or more if you can. Alaska is too pretty to rush through. The main thing is , Take your time and ENJOY the ride. It's beautiful.
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Old 01-05-2009, 07:59 AM   #6
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Spent two weeks in August in a rental. Did the all day tour of Denali and saw 16 Grizzly bears along with moose and caribou. Even had a full cloud free view of the mountain the next day. Tour guide said only 7% see the mountain because of weather. Worked our way down to the Kenai with stops in Whittier, Sterling (for Silver Salmon fishing) and Homer. Wrapped up with Seward and a tour to the glaciers. I'm pretty sure you will have an awesome time! We are anxious to go back! FYI the Feb issue of Trailer Life has a list of 50 must do's in Alaska!
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Old 01-05-2009, 08:44 AM   #7
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I'll be real interested in how that 34 does. We have to trip in the planner with the 26 overlander. I've been watching for a 34 but I have some reluctance about right hand turns on normal roads and getting into campsites. Would be nice to have a trailer with that much space.
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Old 01-05-2009, 10:37 AM   #8
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I'll be real interested in how that 34 does. We have to trip in the planner with the 26 overlander. I've been watching for a 34 but I have some reluctance about right hand turns on normal roads and getting into campsites. Would be nice to have a trailer with that much space.
I've got over 130,000 miles in mine and the only problem I ever had was one campsite in Pacific Rim BC that had a right angle in the site. The site was for a 25 ft trailer but I wanted it so I spent about 20 mins. working my way in.

As for Alaska the front of my trailer and tongue were sandblaster clean because the mud skirts I had made were TOO long and acted as a vacuum pulling smaller pieces of gravel up and hitting the front of the trailer. Airstream rock guards would not have been enough as they do not cover the effected area. 8 years later I can still find Alaskan dirt in the trailer. Most recently under the banana strip vinyl. Brings back great memories.
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Old 01-05-2009, 11:14 AM   #9
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I am also looking forward to Airstreaming in Alaska!!

Traveling in Alaska means the locals you meet may be waiting for YOU working some angle since the best and brightest who CAN are busy working thus rarely seen by we the tourist. The State is really so big even if you have not spoken aloud for several days choose whom you befriend carefully. Several times I got the feeling my boots, belt and jacket might be staying behind if and when I moved on.

Firearms can be shipped via your local Gun Shop to be picked up when you arrive (en route?) and then dropped off for reshipment back home, just has to be through the auspices of a licensed dealer.

My first trip to Alaska included an accidental extra week - and my first up close visit with a real Brownie---> http://www.airforums.com/forums/show...4&postcount=10


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Old 01-10-2009, 06:32 PM   #10
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Wow! Great responses! We appreciate the info. Church's Guide to .... book suggests taking the ferry when we get to the inside passage ( but not all the way back to Seattle)! Has anyone ever done that? Would it not be expensive for a 34' AS?
Cap't Red from POC -- I fish POC a lot!! Building a house there as we speak.

Better go read some more about Alaska.
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Old 01-10-2009, 06:59 PM   #11
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We went last year, and plan to go again this year if everything works out right. We took the Alaska Hwy, and plan to take the Cassier this year.

You've been given some good advice already, but I would add don't miss Valdez and the road down to it, and also take one of the sight seeing wildlife day cruises. We took one out of Seward and thought it was the highlight of our trip.

We are very close being you are in Austin and we are in San Antonio, so maybe we might get a chance to meet up and discuss the trips in the near future....maybe the Vintage AS Rally here in SA?
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Old 01-10-2009, 11:21 PM   #12
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My husband, our dog Georgia, and I are planning the Alaska trip this summer and reading your post got me all fired up -- what a great trip this is going to be! We can't wait to get on the road -- I've also been using Mileposts and the Church's guide for research.

We're going to leave our home in Nashville, TN around the middle of May. We're open ended on our return -- most likely back home sometime around the first of September. We need to acquire a little more "stuff" before heading out -- most specifically a generator and a GPS.

I'll be following this thread for more news and tips. Maybe we'll see you on there!!!

Debbie (and Pat and Georgia)
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Old 01-12-2009, 10:08 AM   #13
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\book suggests taking the ferry when we get to the inside passage ( but not all the way back to Seattle)! Has anyone ever done that? Would it not be expensive for a 34' AS?
Cap't Red from POC
We took the Ferry system from Haines to Prince Rupert. Well worth the expense, when comparing look at the cost of gas as well as wear and tear on your rig. There was a 34' Airstream with us for a couple of the hops on the ferry. We saw numerous whales from the Ferry, more and closer than on our paid whale watching excursion.

If you go do the Wrangel Narrows in the day light. Seems like the Jueneau to Sitka leg was where we saw the most whales.

You can get on and off at each stop or pick a few to stay at a few days.

Once on the Ferry you can get a state room or avoid. We never got a room, stayed on the back deck on lounge chairs, was great because when Whales or other wildlife emerged someone always let all on the back deck know. There is a large viewing room in the front of the ferries with several other assorted rooms to hang out in.

Note you can't access your rig while underway except for a few minutes every several hours for the pet breaks.

Food on the ferry was ok, not great not bad, priced well considering you are on a Ferry in Alaska.

Smithers, BC was a neat town between Prince Rupert and Prince George.
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Old 01-12-2009, 12:14 PM   #14
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Ahhh, one of my favorite subjects. We've been to Alaska twice, but not with a trailer. Our first trip was in '02 and in 6 weeks from Colorado we drove 11,222 miles. It was exhausting. Our second trip, in '06 was around 8,800 miles, but we covered more miles via the state ferry. The 2nd trip was only to SE Alaska (often called the Inside Passage), but we also went to NWT and Yukon for several weeks.

I could go on for a long time, but will try to not to (this time).

First of all, Alaska is an amazing place to visit. Not only is it beautiful and largely unspoiled, but you meet a lot of unusual people. Take the time to talk to them and learn what makes Alaska different in attitude. I hope to go back with the trailer, maybe in '10 (though Newfoundland and Labrador call), and will have to take 2 months—travel is slower in a trailer plus our stamina drops as our ages increase.

I understand what HowieE meant by there only being 3 roads in Alaska, but if you haven't been there, you may not understand him. There are few roads in Alaska, especially considering how big it is. The 3 Howie mentions are main roads, but there are other paved roads, such as to Valdez, Steward, Homer. There are some important roads to remote places that are gravel or dirt. Some are notorious for flat tires because of shale in the road (Chicken to Eagle, for ex.), but new 10 ply tires will go a long way to solving that problem.

The Top of the World Hwy from Dawson City to Chicken is deteriorating last I heard, but is certainly spectacular on the Yukon part of the road. In the summer there is often a very long wait at Dawson City for the ferry; we were there in June, so it wasn't too bad.

The Milepost has a lot of information about the condition of roads. Get a bunch of other books on Alaska and study them—it will help you make the gazillion decisions you have to make about exploring this enormous place. The Haul Rd., now Dalton Hwy., is a great and long, long drive to the North Slope. If you take it, when you see someone coming, move over as far to the right as possible and slow down to 10 or 20 mph; if you do so, the oil and gas trucks will probably do the same. If you don't, they don't. This may save you a windshield and a lot of dings. There's a good BLM campground a few miles past Coldfoot at the foot of the Brooks Range.

If you go in June (or the months near it), be prepared to act crazy about sleep. Even if a motel had blackout shades, we felt the perpetual light. Even where there was only twilight, it lasted all night in many places—from about the level of Haines to the north. North of the Arctic Circle the sun stays up all night. We'd stay up late and then we'd wake up at 4 and want to get going! Now! After several days of this, we'd collapse for a while, and then "Let's get going!" It happens to everyone who isn't used to it. If you go in September, you may see the Aurora Borealis, though Yellowknife, NWT, and northern Yukon Terr. are better for that at that time of year.

If you want to take the ferry, you can see all the towns along the way, getting on and off the ferry. But, you'd better be really good at backing the trailer. Unlike a lot of car ferries where you enter at either the bow or the stern, and then drive straight on and then straight off, in Alaska, you enter or leave on one side or the other. This means that you'll have to either back in or out, possibly up the ramp (while everyone watches your every mistake). The lanes inside are narrow and you may have to back between giant RV's, 18 wheelers, etc. Sometimes two ferry workers will be giving you directions that disagree with each other. If this is your idea of fun, go for it. I didn't see many trailers on the ferry except with boats or for commercial uses. If you decide on the ferry, check now for when to make reservations—it might be now for late spring or summer.

The Milepost—the new one comes out around March—check their website—will have the ferry schedule and other info. The state ferry system has the same info. on their website and sooner than the Milepost for the spring and summer. The schedule is hard to understand and takes some study before it makes some sense. Our goal was to do most of the ferry trip in the daylight so as to see everything, such as the Narrows, and to visit as many towns as we could. It is very difficult to piece this together. We couldn't make Sitka fit, so another time. We really liked Juneau and spent too much time in Petersburg because the ferry that was supposed to come had a fire and we had to wait for another. Ketchikan was good, Haines too. You can take the "Fast Ferry" from Haines to Juneau and spend a few days there. I'm not sure where you can leave your rig in Haines, but I'm sure there's somewhere. We may come back to Haines and take the ferry with just our truck to Sitka someday. Oh, there's another place you can drive to from the Alaska Hwy (near Haines), Skagway. Very touristy. Hardly worth it, but some people love it.

You can also drive to Hyder at the south end of SE Alaska. You have to go to Stewart, BC, first. Hyder is an "end of the road town"—small and pretty run down. At certain times of year you can see bears and there's a nice drive out of town to see glaciers (do not take trailer on that road!). Stewart is a very different place–typically clean and neat like most Canadian towns. It has a toaster museum, but it was closed when we were there.

The Alaska Hwy has a mystique of its own. It's all paved except for construction zones. As you get near permafrost, there will be frost heaves, almost always marked by red flags, and slow down—it's bumpy. They fix them pretty fast, but the weather is brutal on roads. Roads in Canada are better maintained. A side trip to Dawson City is worth it and the drive north to there is spectacular when the aspen changes in September. I think it was around the 10th or 15th when entire vast valleys were gold.

We came back via the Cassier in '02. It was mostly gravel then, but I think it's all paved now. It was very remote and very little traffic in '02, but it's getting much better known.

There are lots of threads on Alaska—read all you can find. We really want to go again, but this doesn't seem to be the year for it.

Gene
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