Reflections on Alaska

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Betty Brewer

Moderator Emeritus
Mar 10, 2005
Terry and I have just returned from our 110 day adventure  in Canada and Alaska this 06 summer.  I know many of you have been to Alaska before us and  I would like to start a thread  to share your memories.  I'd like to see the responses in 4 categories.

Trip Highlight
Favorite Place

I'll go first.

1.  Trip Highlight...Our  951 mile side trip to Arctic Ocean.  Drove Dempster Highway to Inuvik and took plane to  Tuktoyaktuk, the northern most inhabited community in North America.  Yeah I know it isn't Alaska but it was my highlight.
2. Favorite Place  Beach at Ninilchik  tied with Homer
3.  Surprises  Roads much better than expected and how much I would enjoy Canada on the way up.
4. Disappointments  Lack of any July 4 Celebrations, festivities or decorations in Denali when we were there.

Comments to  future visitors:  Take your time and take rubber shoes!
4. Disappointments  Lack of any July 4 Celebrations, festivities or decorations in Denali when we were there.

What I saw of Denali in 2003, it was entirely a tourist trap with largely seasonal employees.  The NPS folks and not many of those would be wintering over.  In short there is no community there and it is usually communities that celebrate the Fourth, not businesses.
OMG - it isn't easy to tie things down to just 4 things is it ?

Here goes :-

1. Trip Highlight - seeing the rear end of our very first wild black bear as it darted into bushes as we approached Whistler - and then seeing 13 bears over the next 2 days. Oh, and the Fjord Express boat tour from Skagway to Juneau - expensive but excellent (photo attached).

2. Favorite Place - this was a difficult one, but we really enjoyed the MacDonald Provincial CG (photo attached) at Muncho Lake. With around 15 unserviced campsites, each facing the lake with small sloping beach in front of each. $10cdn a night and $3cdn for firewood, with free scenery and sunshine. Now, before anyone points out that the CG isn't in Alaska and therefore doesn't count? ;D, we also really liked Valdez (photo attached of a piece from the Columbia Glacier, bobbing in the water).

3. Surprises - the weather !! We had read a few reports on a cruise forum ( each year, that people were reporting favourable weather earlier in the season. Our decision to go in May was by far our most successful decision of the trip.

4. Disappointments - We didn't get any good bear photos. WE know how many we saw and just how close we got to see them, but it doesn't come thru in the photos (our best photo attached). I just re-read this bit and could hardly blame our lack of a good photo on Alaska, so I will add the condition of the Cassier and Top of the World Highways as big dissappointments (I even had to wash the RV after the Cassier !!).

As you can see - it's impossible to narrow things down to just 4? ;D

We look forward to reading everyone elses views.

Paul and Ann-Marie


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The highlight of our trip for me was the plane ride over Mt. McKinley.  The day was clear and we got to see not only the mountain peaks but all the glaciers at the lower levels.

Favorite place was probably Chena Marina RV Park, where we watched float planes taking off and landing the entire week we stayed there.

My most pleasant surprise was the lack of bugs, particularly mosquitos.  I think I had only 3 or 4 bites the entire 3 months.  Second would be the overall good condition of the roads.

The only disappointing things were the weather sometimes obscuring the beautiful views of the mountains.  However, we did get more than enough good views to make up for it.

Anyone making this journey should remain flexible.  Don't take a caravan, the rigid schedules will often make you miss some really good opportunities.  If you get somewhere and the weather is bad, stick around a few days and it may clear.  With a caravan, you leave when then say you leave, and you will miss some things.

The many photos we have all taken don't do justice to the landscape, of course.  The images we have in our heads will always be better.
This is tough! ;)  We made the trip in 2000 and it's difficult to sort the memories and choose the "winners".  It surely was the trip of a lifetime.

Trip Highlight:  Tie between the drive from Banff to Jasper and the sheer rugged beauty and isolation of the Cassiar Highway. 

Favorite Place:  Ninilchick.  Tom fished for halibut and we had the good fortune to be in Ninilchick razor clamming on a minus 5 tide.  We had so many clams and so much halibut that we bought a small freezer in Soldotna to carry it all home.  We removed the dinette table to accommodate the new freezer.

Surprises:  This is easy.  We were on the Top of the World Highway when suddenly a moose came flying off a bluff and landed on the road right in front of us!  I'll never know how Tom managed to stop in time.  Luckily, she then headed down the road  and disappeared into the bush.

Disappointments:  Denali.  The weather was terrible and predicted to remain so for several days.  The visitor center reminded me of a bus depot with schedules on the wall.  A tour bus disgorged it's passengers and the place was very crowded.  We were coming down with bad colds and decided not to take the bus tour.  II now wish we had felt better and just waited out the weather.  We did catch a glimpse of the mountain when we were about half way between Fairbanks and Denali.


Where does one begin?

I can't believe we went the same summer as the Brewers as our experience with the weather was just the opposite of theirs.? We did our tour of Alaska in the reverse (clockwise) direction and were always just ahead of, or just behind, the rain.? ? We had awesome weather except for a short stretch of rain on each of the Klondike, Top of the World and Cassiar highways.? Had to power wash the coach and toad three times.

Highlights?? Far too many to pick just one.? Maybe seeing Denali and getting some fantastic pictures of the "Great One".

Favorite Place(s) Ice fields Highway in Banff/Jasper,? the view from atop Thompson Pass and the East end road in Homer and.... and.... and....

Pleasant Surprises 15K miles of scenic travel with no mechanical breakdowns.? Lack of bugs...

Disappointments Not making prior arrangements for a flight to Barrow. (couldn't get a booking in my time frame) Next time I'll know.

Don't make a tight schedule, Don't caravan, DO take your time and unhook that toad and investigate the back roads.

It's hard to believe it was only 3 years ago.

Highlight: The TCH-16 between Prince Rupert and St. George. Starting from the Cassier junction going west and finding a fascinating RV stop on the island in Terrace, then on to Prince Rupert where we met the Nathans. We caught our limit of halibut very quickly and had some great meals together. On toward St. George stopping in towns with magnificent totem displays and watching the First Nation natives catching salmon with hoops and spears.

Biggest Disappointmemt: Denali. The mountain was pretty when you can see it, but we never saw the whole thing at one time. Seen a lot of other mountains that impresse more.

Major Frustration: Not being able to catch a ferry from Stewart/Hyder to Katchican when we were so close.

While we did caravan, it was with a dozen other neighbors led by one of our own who was Police Chief of Anchorage for 5 years. He knew all the places to stop and see. Yeah, it was somewhat confining to hew to the schedule, but we saw just about everything. When we go back it will be on our own or with only 1-2 other couple.
Major revelation: Condition of roads reports are valid only for the current season. The roads deteriorate so fast! Roads that were being refreshed 4 yrs ago already need a redo!

Trip Highlight Traveling with friends, slowly.

Favorite Place The seacoast. I loved oceanfront sites in Homer, Ninilchick, Seward, Valdez, and Haines.
Surprises Good close up photo opertunities of eagles in Homer. Discovering the artist Andrew Goldsworthy and viewing people making his type of transient artwork on the beach.
Disappointments Weather. So much rain! But on the bright side, few mosquitos.
I better do this before the memory totally fades!

Highlight: The trip on the Alaska Marine Highway from Skagway to Juneau, Juneau to Ketchikan, Ketchikan to Hyder/Stewart.
                        and the float plane trip to Misty Fjord National Monument from Ketchikan

Favorite Place: This is hard. But I'll pick Denali - yes it was clear, but heck I loved them all.

Surprise:  Canadian Independence day in Dawson City (July 1st) and Fourth of July in Tok (after we were towed in from Chicken).

Disappointment: Because we had our cats we could not take any overnight trips: All the way into Denali or the trip to Prudhoe Bay.

We had great weather and almost no bugs. The roads weren't bad except for the Tok cutoff.

1.?Trip Highlight...The Fly/Drive trip in a small plane to Coldfoot, Ak and the Arctic Circle.? ?It was sunny and clear with just a small amount of turbulence on the flight.? What views we had flying over remote villages, rivers and wildlife.? We had dinner in Coldfoot and then boarded a van for the drive back with stops along the way at The Arctic Circle and one souvenir shop that just happened to be open about 11PM.? We barely noticed the time since it was light out and we were wide awake.

Just the awesome views of all the mountains with and without glaciers was also a highlight.

2. Favorite Place...Denali National Park and the bus trip to the Kantishna Road House. Weather was good and we saw, Caribou, Dall sheep, Moose, Grizzly bear with cub, and the Arctic ground squirrel. Best of all we had a beautiful sighting of Mt. McKinley and were able to get a couple of good pictures.

Homer and Haines, favorite towns.

3.?Surprises...We expected to cross paths with Bernie and Marlene Dobrin in Valdez and we did.? The surprise part came when Marlene came over with tickets she had picked up at the visitor center for an evening with Patricia Neal.? Seems like the locals have a Theatre Conference here that draws folks from all around.? It was a very enjoyable program.

We didn't expect to meet Dan and Jeannine Wainwright and Chet and Laurie Parks in Alaska, but we did and all had a good time swapping stories and visiting.

While at a campground in Anchorage we were surprised by the USAF Thunderbirds Air show happening overhead, that was a nice surprise, you gotta love that precision flying.

While in Kenai during the 4th of July, we were surprised to find that they had a great old fashioned parade which included fire equipment from a couple of other nearby towns.

While visiting Exit Glacier, in Seward, we talked to another couple who were admiring the glacier. Eventually the conversation got around to RVing and then onto the Compuserve RV Forum, turns out they were members Herm and Linda Jantzen, from Colorado.

4. Disappointments...We were the cause of the only disappointment worth mentioning. For whatever reason, we decided NOT to take the small plane ride over Mt. McKinley and above some of the glaciers. Maybe someday we'll return and have that on the top of our list.

Alaska remains at the top of our list of favorite places and it wasn't easy to pare down our list of choices for this thread.? Anyone thinking about the trip....figure a way to do it! You won't be disappointed.? ?

Tim & Jan
1. Trip Highlight(s). Our river raft trip on the Russian River, starting at Cooper LandingCooper. Our whale watch cruse on the LuLuBelle in Valdez.  Took it on the only good day out of 5. The weather was great and we saw otter, whales, dolphins, sea lions, eagles and went into the glacier's icefield.

2. Favorite Place(s). Staying on the beach at Ninilchik.  Chena Marina RV Park, where we watched float planes taking off and landing out of the front window of the motorhome. zRV park on the beach in Haines where we watched whales and cruse ships go by out the front window.

3. Surprises.  Bernie & Marlene Dobrin knocking on our door in Palmer.  Getting a 50 amp hookup on the beach in Seward for the big 4th of July celebration. Getting great photos of Denali (6:30AM) before the clouds arrived..

4. Disappointments. Sooooo much rain.  Didn't spend more time in AK, going at a slower pace--(Can we go with you next time, Betty?)

Chet18013 said:
4. Disappointments. ? Didn't spend more time in AK, going at a slower pace--(Can we go with you next time, Betty?)

Yep,  We have a tentative plan to return to our favorite places in 4 or 5 years.  I loved the Kenai Peninsula. I am thrilled to hear others highlights and favorites.  Just shows  every experience in Alaska's wilderness is different. A tour bus driver told me that and it is so true!  But we all seemed to have loved Alaska!

So, despite the rain and not so great weather, you'd do it again? That says a lot.
I had to think about this for a few days???

Trip Highlightt- I think it was the ice calving.  What a magnificent sight.  And the wildlife.

Favorite Place-Valdez without a doubt. 

Surprises-The weather.  We were very fortunate with the weather.  We had about 10 yuckey days out of 85.  The roads we not as bad as we thought they would be.  And the bugs?.we had none.

Disappointments- We knew we would have to buy tires.  We hope they would last until we got home.  But had to replace all four while we were in Oregon.  They dad 55,000 miles on them.  Unexpected expense.  Oh well, should expect the unexpected.

Alaska is a fantastic experience.  I feel if should be on everyone?s to do list.  It was great traveling with framily,  Ned & Lorna.  I would like to go back someday.

Barb said:
I had to think about this for a few days???

Favorite Place-Valdez without a doubt.?


It just goes to show how much weather can color your perception of an area.  We had 7 inches of rain in Valdez and I hated the city.  I did like seeing the bears and the dead salmon.
Five of those ten days of rain we had was while we were with you in Steward.  You didn't seem to have great luck with the rain.  We wish you better weather next time you go. 

Did you guys have a final weigh in?  What was the results?

Barb said:
Did you guys have a final weigh in?? What was the results?


For the benefit of those who didn't know , Russ and I were being supportive of one another in our weight loss program for the summer. We weighed every Sunday.  I think the net results were a tie, some weeks up and a few weeks down. Russ proably did better overall than I did.  I loved the bakeries and the bread and Cinnamon rolls.  Russ and I both  agreed we would get more serious about our program upon return to "home."  We did sneak a few "meatless meals"  in on Terry.


We planned on spending a day or two in Valdez. Stayed four nightss and delayed the last day for a late departure because we hadn't been the the Museum (the one with the restored fire wagon). Our only regret was that we parked "inland" instead of on the water. It is also were we took a mild water water raft trip that was really fun.

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