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Alaska By RV
Old 12-22-2012, 11:23 AM   #1
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Alaska By RV

NW Bound-"I need to get her to go with me to Alaska first, and that leg could be a month or two. It could very well be that at the end of the trip, I have the wilderness out of my ears, and want to be back home too.

I know full-well that I am susceptible to fantasies that once realized may not be up to expectation. But when a guy's sitting at home and cannot travel because his wife has family obligation, he thinks the grass is greener "up north"."


A month or two to Alaska would be a fantastic trip. I worked the last four years of my career in Alaska with time in the Fairbanks, Northway, Palmer, Talkeetna and Kotzebue. I got to see and work in lot of different areas(cities, villages on road network and bush villages) of the state. On the trip to Alaska I had a broken ankle and couldn't drive (at least that far)so we made it a vacation on the way, flew to Vancouver, cruise ship to Seward and then Alaska RR to Fairbanks. After retiring we wanted to drive out, I have a diesel HD GMC so we bought a travel trailer in Anchorage and took the month of May 2011 to drive down the Alcan, down the west coast through the southwest and south till we eventually ended up back in West Virginia. We have since exchange the travel trailer for a used diesel pusher to do a short version of snow birding.

It took us about a week from Palmer to the US border taking our time, the road system is very good through Canada and Alaska. You do have to pay attention to frost heaves in the early spring/summer but you can generally spot flags on stacks along the side of the road that mark known frost heaves. Our slowest day was 200 mile day due to frost heaves but Alaska and Canada both do very good jobs in road maintenance. In the month long trip we only unhooked from the trailer once and that was to drive into Yosemite. I believe you said you have toad, don't know if I would drag it to Alaska as it seems easy enough to get around with a RV although if I had a toad for our MH I may rethink it.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:43 AM   #2
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I too look forward to such a trip and my wife has agreed. We flew to Alaska a few years ago and saw a little of Seward, Anchorage and Denali. I look forward to going back by RV and spending more time and seeing more of the state. I'm thinking of starting in Calgary so that I can incorporate a return to the Icefields Parkway area. Anyway, I look forward to reading about your plans.
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Old 12-23-2012, 08:56 PM   #3
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I was not here much yesterday, and almost miss this thread.

Yes, long-time members here know I have been talking about this travel plan of mine ever since I got my class C which was 3 summers ago. Yet, I have not been able to go that far, and for that long, mainly because my wife must find someone else to look after my infirm father-in-law, who is in a nursing home but still needs a family member to come in daily. Her siblings also take turns, but she would feel not doing her part if absent for several months.

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I believe you said you have toad, don't know if I would drag it to Alaska as it seems easy enough to get around with a RV although if I had a toad for our MH I may rethink it.
I have been thinking the same. We really enjoy the toad as the means to explore the surrounding, using the MH as the base. However, that does not seem to apply in Alaska, and the toad might just be a cumber.

There are many RV'ers here who have made the trip or planned to. I am anxiously awaiting my turn. Been thinking about putting the RV on a ferry one way, in order to see the inside passage. So many different things to do, and it looks like I have plenty of time to plan, as the next summer may not work out either.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:45 AM   #4
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A month or two to Alaska would be a fantastic trip.
I forgot to mention that when the time comes, I want to spend 2 to 3 months. We have been on 4 long RV trips, with each of duration from 3 to 6 weeks. And quite often, I felt rushed. Only once, I felt missing home at the end of the trip. But then it could be because I had to get home, and as we had no time for a leisurely drive back, the return drive was rushed and tiresome.

I also like to spend time for a long trip to the NE corner of North America. I want to be able to go for as long as we want, until we really miss home.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:34 PM   #5
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Go for it. You'll be in good company as there are thousands of RVs doing the same thing every year.

Two pieces of advice.

If you want to see Southeast Alaska (Juneau, Sitka, Glacier Bay, etc.) then park your trailer or RV in Haines and continue onwards by ferry with just your tow vehicle or on foot. The towns and streets in most small SE Alaska towns are too small for RVs and it will cost more to bring it on the ferry than the cost of hotel rooms. I lived in Juneau for 10 years and would see folks show up with RVs and no real place to put them or even turn them around in downtown Juneau. The RV parks in Juneau were pretty booked up year round by permanent residents.

Check local conditions before doing so but if the road is good, consider taking the Cassiar Highway on the return trip. The scenery is much more rugged and spectacular. Basically when they made the Alaska Highway during WW-II they put it WAY WAY inland to keep it out of range of possible Japanese bombers and to make the connection shorter to the industrial heartland (Chicago, Detroit etc.). Since then the Canadians have built the Cassiar Highway that parallels the Alaska Highway but much closer to the Pacific Coast. It goes through more spectacular British Columbia scenery and is a more interesting drive. Normally it is a chipseal surface that is in decent condition by mid-summer (at least it was last time I drove it) and no problem for a typical RV but you'll want to check to make sure. It is what the Alaska Highway was 40 years ago.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:57 PM   #6
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texasdiver, thanks for the tip on the Cassiar. Do you think it would be driveable in late winter? Ideally we'd like to ferry our bus from the west coast (Seattle or Vancouver) up to Anchorage then drive back down through Canada and cross country back home in early 2014, but would need to either do it in Feb/March or May/June. Although I've got itchy feet to do it earlier, am thinking that it might be more worthwhile to wait until May. The bus is a 23 footer about 21,000 lbs. 6 wheels and diesel.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:17 PM   #7
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We drove out to the lower 48 in May 2011 and had just a little snow around Denali during the first couple of days. But in 2007/2008 when I worked in Fairbanks and also in Northway, which is on the ALCAN at the Canadian border, I hit significant snow a couple of times in early May. Your plan of a May/June would be a much better(and safer) trip with a lot more daylight to enjoy the scenery. Also to take into consideration is that in Feb/March the seasonal businesses won't be open, not a big factor with a bus but once or twice I mis-managed fuel and was glad that a few more of the stations were open.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:20 PM   #8
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Good point, bill. We'll have jerry cans left over from Siberia, but still not awesome to be driving in darkness wondering if we'll run out of diesel. And I do hate cold weather camping!
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:23 PM   #9
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Here is a link to information about the Cassiar Highway:

Highway 37 North

You can check out current road conditions, webcams, etc, at (DriveBC).

I would definitely NOT try this in February.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:30 PM   #10
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There are some benefits to winter/cold weather camping, Laird Hot Springs in Canada was a nice stop during a cold day in May. Access to the springs was free with a nice campground(no facilities) within a very short walking distance to the hot springs. May is still early in the season for the campgrounds so they were generally close to empty.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:42 PM   #11
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texasdiver, thanks for the tip on the Cassiar. Do you think it would be driveable in late winter? Ideally we'd like to ferry our bus from the west coast (Seattle or Vancouver) up to Anchorage then drive back down through Canada and cross country back home in early 2014, but would need to either do it in Feb/March or May/June. Although I've got itchy feet to do it earlier, am thinking that it might be more worthwhile to wait until May. The bus is a 23 footer about 21,000 lbs. 6 wheels and diesel.
I would wait until May. Feb/March is WINTER and it will be bitter cold anywhere away from the coast (and almost every bit of highway is away from the coast). Daylight hours won't be that bad. Winter Solstice is Dec 21 and Spring Equinox is March 21 when day and night are equal lengths. The really dark months are Nov-Jan. After March 21 days get dramatically longer fast.

There are towns along the way so the highway is kept open year-round unless there is a blizzard or something that closes it temporarily. But everything will be frozen and snow covered. Every hiking trail will be snowed in and every lake will be frozen over (even through May in the northern end). So there won't be much to do except look at the passing scenery and keep warm.

Having lived in Alaska for 10 years my honest advice is don't visit during winter unless you have a specific winter-related reason to be there such as winter sports (dog sledding, skiing, snow machining) or unless you are on a quest to see the Northern Lights or something.

My favorite time to drive through Alaska would be very early September right after labor day. Fall comes quickly to the north country and that time of year can be spectacular with the fall colors on the mountains. The highways are generally good as they've had all summer to fix them and the salmon are running. May can be pretty as all the mountains are still white with snow but you'll mostly be frozen out of the backcountry.

alaska fall foliage - Google Search
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:54 PM   #12
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After spending January in Hawaii we'll slowly start making our way up the California coast; through Oregon and Washington in the spring; British Columbia in June in time for an Alaskan summer. That is about the extent of our planning so far, although I'd like to see if we can put the RV on a ferry for the return trip.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:10 PM   #13
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After spending January in Hawaii we'll slowly start making our way up the California coast; through Oregon and Washington in the spring; British Columbia in June in time for an Alaskan summer. That is about the extent of our planning so far, although I'd like to see if we can put the RV on a ferry for the return trip.
You can put the RV on a ferry if you reserve the space far enough in advance but it may be cheaper and more convenient to put it on a barge. There are two barge lines that haul cargo between Seattle and SE Alaska: Alaska Marine Lines (AML) and Northland Services. 98% of the stuff brought to and sold in Juneau arrives by barge. And local residents generally use the barge line to ship cargo and vehicles between SE Alaska and Seattle because it is generally cheaper and you can just drop off and pick up and need not accompany the cargo as you must do on the ferry. So you could fly home or poke your way down via ferry taking some stopovers along the way:

Barge Service to Alaska, Southeast Alaska, Central Alaska | Alaska Marine Lines
Northland Services
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:32 PM   #14
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You can put the RV on a ferry if you reserve the space far enough in advance but it may be cheaper and more convenient to put it on a barge. There are two barge lines that haul cargo between Seattle and SE Alaska: Alaska Marine Lines (AML) and Northland Services. 98% of the stuff brought to and sold in Juneau arrives by barge. And local residents generally use the barge line to ship cargo and vehicles between SE Alaska and Seattle because it is generally cheaper and you can just drop off and pick up and need not accompany the cargo as you must do on the ferry. So you could fly home or poke your way down via ferry taking some stopovers along the way:

Barge Service to Alaska, Southeast Alaska, Central Alaska | Alaska Marine Lines
Northland Services
Good tip. Thanks for the link!
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Old 12-27-2012, 06:11 PM   #15
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Good tip. Thanks for the link!
Ferries are a pain because you have to meet the ferry at often bizarre hours like 2:40 a.m. and then stay on the same ferry as the vehicle which prevents stopovers along the way.

Advantage of using the barge line is that you just drive up to the barge office whenever you want, do the paperwork, and turn over the keys. They will load it on the next barge and then pull it off and park it in their secure lot at the other end where it will await your arrival. So you can travel at your own pace and have the vehicle waiting for you when you arrive back in Seattle. For vehicles the cost is generally comparable or cheaper than dealing with the ferry.
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