Alaska - Seward, AK - Washington State
At this point in our journey, I am tired; even Mark gets worn out on the long travel days, especially on the rough road sections where you are always looking out for bad potholes, frost heaves, and other fun road conditions. We have put a lot of miles on the RV. We have not done a lot of resting, but we can say we have seen so much. Mark kept reminding me that being on the road is expected if you travel 6000 miles in 60 days. I sucked it up and maintained the pace.
I am a “stop and smell the roses” type of traveler. I don’t have to spend a considerable amount of time in any one place, but I don’t like being on the road every day to every other day. Just so you are aware, a few other couples traveling in our group felt the same way I do when talking to them at stops for the night. My point isn’t to complain, and it’s more to help you understand that if you choose to take this trip someday, you have options, especially if traveling on your own. You can take it much slower, see less, or go fast and take it all in. Just know it can be exhausting, so you need to plan.
August 18th, we arrived in Seward. This drive took us about 4.5 hours, which was about 170 miles. Living in Western Washington all my life, I must say the rain we experienced here was drenching. Seward is an adorable small town with some sights that are breathtaking but unfortunately, we were unable to see much due to the weather. As you know, when it rains a lot, there comes fog. When the fog is thick and heavy, it’s hard to see anything.
We did a side excursion, a boat tour to Fox Island, and had lunch. After the boat excursion we did in Valdez, this was just a bit redundant. I felt it could have been better if the weather had been more cooperative and we had been able to see more. We did our best to enjoy ourselves and took the time to take in the sights and cherish the memories.
|Fox Island, Alaska|
|The boat we rode over on from Seward to Fox Island|
Also, while in Seward, we took in an exhibit/demonstration about Puffins (Alaska SeaLife Center) and had a young lady talk to us about this bird and had two live birds that were part of the experience that she brought out to discuss the differences between types of Puffins and give us a close-up view of these birds. She did a great job educating us, and I felt it was worth it overall.
|The Puffin Exhibit|
While in Seward, we stayed at the Seward KOA campground. Overall, the sites were nice and big; we had full hookups and a convenient location. Another highlight in Seward was their Thai restaurant (Woody’s Thai Kitchen.) The ambiance was terrific, and the food was very good. I promise you will not be disappointed if you happen to drop in when in Seward.
We arrived in Anchorage on August 21st. This trip was about 126 miles, and we spent around 4 hours on the road.
The day we arrived, the sun was out, and the temperatures were slightly warmer. As you can tell, this was a big bonus for me because I continue highlighting it when the sun shows up.
Mark and I went downtown Anchorage the next day and did their one-hour Trolley (Anchorage Trolley Tours) through the city, and our narrator, Chris, born and raised in Anchorage, did an outstanding job educating us on this city and all it has to offer. The parts that stood out to me were the damage from the 1964 earthquake that lasted over 4 minutes.
After our tour, we had lunch at the 49th State Brewing, which was quite tasty. A wonderful place to enjoy a brew and a bite to eat.
The leaders of our group treated us again to a camp cookout at our campground Golden Nugget RV Park, which consisted of hamburgers and buns, chips, and some other treats that filled our bellies.
Denali was a massive highlight for us. We enjoyed our time here and made some memories that we will never forget.
We arrived on August 23rd after driving 237 miles and spending 6 hours on the road. We pulled into Denali Rainbow Village RVPark. That evening we were treated to a dinner show and live fun entertainment. We had a chartered bus take us round trip, which is always nice after driving all day.
The next day we woke up and did an all-day guided bus tour fully narrated through Denali National Park. I can’t stress enough how wonderful this excursion was, and I highly recommend it if you are in the area. The Bus tour is the only option to see most of the park. They do not allow regular traffic to drive through the park, like Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks. Additionally, the park has only a few roads overall, so most of it is still wilderness and accessible by hiking. While exploring this park, we saw a grizzly bear, caribou, moose, ptarmigans, bald eagles, and so much more.
|Bear - Denali National Park|
|Bear-Denali National Park|
Phil was our tour guide. He provided a very educational and informative experience. I give this five stars for sure. Another highlight was the “Big” Denali poking its head from the clouds. We were told that only 33% of people visiting this park would see this mountain, and we were lucky enough to be in that bonus club.
|Denali in full view|
We were here in Denali for four nights. We got to take in many sights and experience what this fantastic area offers. On our third day, we did a scenic rafting tour down the Nenana River. It wasn’t as fast-paced as I was hoping, but overall, it was a blast (we could not get into the second part of the raft trip, which had class 2-4 rapids as it was booked up already). We were on a raft with good friends, which made it much more fun, and our guide Marcus was exceptional.
|Our group and dear friends|
|Mark and I setting sail|
The campground was centrally located, and you could walk to a few restaurants and shops in the area. That was the one positive thing about the place. It did not have full hookups at all sites and overall was a tight fit for larger rigs – in fact, we all disconnected our TOADs before going in to park.
We arrived on August 27th. This was the 41st day of our 60-day tour. When we woke up, we knew we had a shorter drive, 127 miles which we did in about 3 hours.
Pulling into Fairbanks was delightful. The campground we stayed in was beautiful “RiverviewRV Park.” The sites were huge, with full hookups and a big meeting room. The temperatures in Fairbanks were excellent, and we had some “happy hours” while we enjoyed the sights.
One of the first events was a big Salmon Bake and a show that educated us more on the Fairbanks area. The food at the salmon bake was good.
The next day we did a Sternwheeler Riverboat Cruise on the Chena River. This was incredibly fun and relaxing. This fully narrated event allows you to learn more about the Athabasca Village/Indian Tribe. It takes you by a Sled Dog kennel, and you also experience a Float Plane takeoff/landing as the narrator converses with the pilot. As you can imagine, Float Planes are a big deal in this area.
|Float Plane taking off|
The North Pole (yes, it is a real little town) is just a jaunt away from Fairbanks, and we visited Santa’s store and saw all the decorations, which put me in the holiday spirit.
|North Pole, Ak|
|North Pole, Ak|
|North Pole, Ak|
|North Pole, Ak|
Another side trip we took was to the University of AlaskaMuseum. I was pretty much “toured” out. The museum was huge, and there was a lot to see. We did sit in on a video about the Northern Lights; after that, I bought a cup of coffee and just chilled. Mark took in some sights, but overall, I was unenthusiastic and just enjoyed some quiet time.
On the night of the 30th, Mark stayed up late and caught the Northern Lights that came out about midnight and lasted til 1 a.m.
Fairbanks was the northernmost city in Alaska we visited. I knew that once our time was up, we would be making our way back to the lower 48. As sad as that sounded, I had prepared myself for it. We saw so much, made many memories, and met many wonderful people. It was indeed an adventure of a lifetime.
On August 31st, the 45th day of the 60-day tour, we left Fairbanks and headed back to Tok, Ak. It was a driving day of about 200 miles, and knowing that we liked Tok, it wasn’t too bad.
We were treated to a Tour group sponsored Pizza dinner at Fast Eddy’s, sipping some wine and interacting with friends.
Destruction Bay, YT
The next day we woke up and headed into Destruction Bay; YT stayed at the Destruction Bay Lodge. If you choose to stay here, don’t get your hopes up. The rumors have it that the owner was taken advantage of due to having some water problems, and the person that was supposed to fix the problem ended up taking about 10-15K marked to fix the problem and disappeared. It was a good place for a one-night stopover but not a place where you want to spend any time.
As we headed south to the lower 48, we made a quick stop (3 days) here in Haines. We stayed at the Hitch Up RV Park. We had a wonderful time while here and took two side excursions to Juneau, the capital. We boarded a private catamaran that shuttled us across the North Passage into the city.
On our way into Juneau, our captain Glenn allowed us to do some whale watching. He lowered a hydrophone into the water, and as we viewed these beautiful creatures, we could hear them talking too. It was a monumental moment that genuinely sent chills down my spine. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I had never gone whale watching; this was my first time.
|Whale watching - North Passage, Ak|
|North Passage - On our way to Juneau|
While in Juneau, we had lunch on the water and boarded a bus that took us to Mendenhall Glacier. What a beautiful site that was. We saw so many glaciers on this trip. However, each one is unique and beautiful in its own way.
The night of the 3rd, Mark got me up and out of the MH to see the Northern Lights about 11:30 pm that night – so I got that check-in the box knocked out on this trip.
We got up early on the 4th and took the fast ferry into Skagway. This is a definite stop on the cruise ship itinerary. It was a small fishing town that was fun to walk around.
|View of a cruise ship - Skagway|
We boarded the White Pass Yukon Railroad Excursion for a fully narrated excursion as we passed through two tunnels over sky-high trestles and cascading waterfalls.
When we returned that night, I went with friends to the Chilkoot River to do some bear watching. It’s a fantastic sight to experience. The bears hit the rivers near dusk when the temperatures are cooler and fewer people are around. This time out, we saw a momma bear and her two cubs. She was teaching them to fish. Super fun to watch.
On day 50, September 5th, we made a 248-mile drive from Haines into Whitehorse, camping at the Baby Nugget RV Park. This was a great place to stay. The sites were huge, and we had a friendly campfire and social hour to help alleviate any stress we all had been experiencing as we made long drives and pit stops for the night.
While here, there was a restaurant on site, and they made us a spaghetti dinner, and we could relax again.
Dease Lake, BC
Day 52, as we are nearing the end. All these days on the road were sleep, get up, and start all over again (like “ground hog day)” is wearing on everyone. While here, we had a campground cookout, and they fed us sloppy joes.
We did stay at Dease Lake RV park, which was not too bad. At this point, we were all sad that the trip was ending but, at the same time, very anxious to get back home. (This RV Park has permanently closed)
Stewart, BC/Hyder, AK
Amid all the chaos, we could find a diamond in the rough. This stop was spectacular. Part of this was because the weather was getting nicer and much warmer. We stayed in the campground in Stewart, BC, Bear River Campground. A genuinely nice campground and nicely located in downtown Stewart.
While in Stewart, we ate at a cute little restaurant called Toastworks. Their menu is focused on a Mexican food flare. However, I had smoked salmon on bread, and it was delicious.
We also visited Hyder, AK, an adorable little town with a population of around 90, so you can tell it’s not a bustling metropolis and no US border crossing is going into Hyder. This is where we did some more bear-watching. They have this beautiful overlook where you can sit by the water and wait until these beautiful creatures appear.
|Entering Hyder, Ak|
When we made it up to the site, Mark and I had been waiting for 2.5 hours that evening. I had taken the keys because I was going back to the car. Something made me turn around because how often do you get to view a grizzly in action?
|Overlook for bear watching|
About 30 minutes later, a friend of ours, a fantastic spotter of bears, pointed upstream, and guess what? There he was!
It was amazing how everyone just became silent and watched in AWE! He slowly made his way downstream. He moseyed up slowly, methodically scoping for just the right salmon.
It was so cute; he spotted one and then pounced. He ate a few bites and then was on to the next fish. Finished for the evening, he moseyed back upstream. All of this happened in about 30-45 minutes.
This was also another “Big” highlight for the memory book.
The rest of the trip was just night stops until we returned to Washington State.
Fort Telkwa, BC
After driving 212 miles, we stayed at Fort Telkwa RV Park, a lovely park overlooking the river.
Prince George, BC
On day 56 of our 60-day tour, we drove 230 miles and spent the night at MamaYeh RV Park. This was a 5-star for sure. Excellent Wi-Fi, the RV sites are huge and private. You will not be disappointed.
Cache Creek, BC
We drove 254 miles today, and it’s the 57th day of our 60-day tour; if you want to say exhausted, go ahead. We stayed at HatCreek Ranch -this campground was great. However, we did not have any hookups. We boondocked out in a big field with our friends. We got a walking tour of the ranch and had a boxed dinner (Hamburgers and chips).
This was the night the Seahawks played the Broncos, and one of our camping buddies was able to get the game for me on his Satellite dish; we all sat around outside, sipped some alcohol, and cheered on the Hawks. That was a great game, indeed.
|Watching the Seahawks|
We crossed the border on the 13th just outside Vancouver, B.C. to stay at Cedars RV resort for a few nights. This campground was beautiful, and this is where we said goodbye to all our travel buddies. It was bittersweet, for sure. We met so many wonderful people and experienced so many beautiful sights and adventures, it was hard leaving. But we knew we had a new adventure ahead of us and were glad to return to the good ole US of A.
It indeed was an adventure I will never forget. I did things I would never have thought of doing if Mark and I were traveling alone. For that, I am so thankful. It’s also a trip that I want to do again, but this time I want to go up sooner and spend more time in certain areas.
If you are thinking about doing this, don’t put it off. Understand this is not a trip for the weak and weary, and educate yourself on how to be safe.
Pro Tip #7- Banff National Park – This was one of the most picturesque places on the continent. Even if you are in a hurry, you should take three days to visit this area. Explore Banff, Jasper, and the Icefields Parkway. Also, the Jasper Tram is a fantastic hike for those that love a strenuous hike and beautiful views.
Pro Tip #8 - Canada restricts most weapons from being brought into the country, including carrying bear spray, which can be a gray area. Handguns and military-like assault weapons are at the top of the restricted weapons list.
Pro Tip #9 - The weather is unpredictable in Alaska, so bring clothes for all seasons and dress in layers. Be ready for frigid, warm, rainy, and overcast days with a mixture of all the above. Don't assume because it's a summer month in your state, it will be a summer month in Alaska.