ANYONE SEEN ANY GEOLOGY?
We "Roll Call Alaska 2013" RVers are now, or soon will be, driving through some of the most interesting, visible, and photogenic geology in North America. We will see some of earth’s oldest sedimentary rock around Banff and Jasper and some of the youngest igneous rock in the active volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula, visible across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, Kenai, and Homer. And in between those two bookends is just about every other age and type of geology that exists.
If you are interested in the mountain ranges, river valleys, glaciers, fiords, and volcanoes along your route and wondered why they are there, you are asking questions about geology. So, I am putting together a blog on "Mllepost Alaska Highway Geology" where the geology we are seeing will be tied to the road mileages/mileposts shown in the Milepost. I am a retired geological engineer and have worked in Alaska on and off since 1972. If you want to ask questions or post photos of interesting geology, click on my blog link below and I'll do my best to find answers and post interesting photos:
Milepost Alaska Highway Geology
PS: the blog's cover photo of a perfectly clear Mt. McKinley was taken from Talkeetna by my wife in June 2000.
Are there days (or nights) that we would need AC on the highway or in Alaska?
Where you may need AC are the plains of eastern Montana and southeastern Alberta. But you will most likely be in private RV parks with electrical hookups in that area, so you probably would not need a generator. You may not have hookups in Banff and Jasper Natl. Parks, but you should have cooler temps due to altitude and shade in the campgrounds from trees and mountains.
We may need our trailer's AC in the often-warm Grand Coulee, WA-Okanagan Valley, BC area on our way north, but we are not leaving Colorado until mid-June. We are coming back through Jasper and Banff in September. The last time we were on the Ice Fields Parkway in mid-September, we brought home a lot of photographs of snow-covered conifers and mountains from an early-season winter storm. But Lake Louise is beautiful in the snow!
Thanks for the update, Sue!
We have 8 inches of new snow on the ground today here in Denver and considerably more in southern Wyoming. We only needed 5 inches to break the spring 1983 record of 80 inches for the season, so I guess we have a new record. Only a little slush on the roads, however, as it was an extremely wet spring snow and melted quickly on pavement due to residual warmth from our 80 degree day on Monday.
So, if you are already headed this way, driving conditions should be ok in our area by Friday. Northern Wyoming and Montana apparently didn't get any snow from this storm, so I-15 or I-90 travelers shouldn't have any problems.
It is a strange spring . . . Even I-10 can have weird snowstorms and the wind can be awful.
Ahh, spring in the Rockies! We are going to have 80 degreees today and snow on Wednesday. And we seem to be getting a snowstorm every week on Monday or Tuesday night. So, if you're leaving on your Alaska trip right now and planning to travel I-70, I-80, I-90, or I-25 through Colorado or Wyoming, be prepared to spend a few days in some tiny town waiting for the weather to clear and roads to reopen.
Several years ago, I was working in Gallup, NM in April. For 3 days, I-40 was closed at the Arizona state line due to high winds. And, while driving from Denver to Gallup on I-25, we had to detour off the interstate through the streets of Las Vegas, NM due to a semi that had blocked both interstate lanes in town after being overturned by wind. Not exactly ideal trailer towing conditions!
Here's a pic of the camper rig:
Forget the motorhome--great toad! We have a blue and white 2012 MINI Cooper hardtop. But, since we tow a travel trailer, the MINI won't get to go to Alaska with us.
Actually, that Winnebago is really nice too. Is that the diesel Sprinter Class C?
I like dark beers too, Sue. But, Alaskan Amber was always a favorite when I was working in Alaska on a regular basis.
This summer, we are going to Alaska on the Cassiar via the Okanagan. The Penticton-Kelowna area has more than 50 wineries. So, we won't drink and drive, but, in the evenings, we will likely consume considerably more than 2-750 ml bottles of BC wine before we reach the Alaska border!
If you have any favorite wineries in that area, let us know.
Sure, lots of Alaska families camp in tents--for a long weekend, a week during a salmon run, or a two-week vacation to "see the sights" in Alaska or visit Grandma in the Lower 48--while driving their own crew-cab truck or SUV. Forget bears, how many Alaska families with 3 young children have spent every night for 2 MONTHS in a tent--in the "occasional" rain, cold, and hoards of mosquitoes, plus daylight pouring through the tent walls at midnight? Especially after having to carry onto the AMH ferry in Bellingham every bit of warm clothing, rain gear, hiking boots, etc. needed for camping in Alaska plus the cameras/binoculars/laptops and iPads/iPhones/chargers, etc., that any family of 5, especially with a young teen, will take on any vacation these days. And that is assuming they will get off the ferry in Skagway, rent a van or SUV, drive to Walmart in Whitehorse to buy all the needed camping gear, camp for 6 weeks, and then sell the camping gear on craigslist in Anchorage before they fly home.
I tent-camped in Colorado for decades and I have traveled to Alaska for work or play many times since my first visit in 1972, but I wouldn't wish that scenario on any family.
If you do decide to go to Alaska this summer, be sure to look at the "Roll Call Alaska 2013" thread. You will find lists of "Not to Miss" sights, items that you should or may want to take with you, and other RV.Net members who will be on the road with you. You will also find discussion about trip planning and advice from experienced Alaska travelers. It may save you a lot of time in on-line research.
Option 2 would be driving up in our RV in early July and returning in late August. We would probably come up through Montana (we have friends there) and then try to hit Jasper/Banff on the way and then come down along the coast to Vancouver/Seattle. This is obviously a ton of driving and a ton of gas. However, when we get up there we have complete freedom to go where we like and camp where we like. Has anyone done this with young kids? My kids are pretty seasoned and they enjoy travel, I'm just afraid of those $2k+ miles up and $2k miles down.
Does anyone have any other advice on considerations for a family of 5 trying to make Alaska happen? Thanks.
I have traveled in Alaska by car, train, plane, helicopter, and ferry. Each mode of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages. However, this summer will be my first trip up there by RV and I am really looking forward to it.
For kids who are seasoned travelers, either of the alternatives you have suggested is doable. But I agree with others that tent camping would be the least enjoyable way to visit the region. It might even turn them, especially a teen, off traveling. As unique as tent camping on the ferry and listening to guitar music may sound, it is not something that affords a family of five much privacy or comfort. But, since you can't stay in an RV on the ferry, it is cheaper than a ferry family cabin. We have used the ferries with and without a cabin and would highly recommend getting one for any overnight leg.
We have also flown to Anchorage, Juneau, and Kodiak, rented cars, and stayed in motels and B&Bs. Just remember, the Alaska tourist industry has to make a year's income in four months, so motel/B&B prices reflect that reality. But, it certainly allows you to see much more of the state in a short time than driving up the Alaska Highway. However, as you have indicated, the journey is at least half the experience.
With your trailer currently in Utah, the shortest travel-time option might be to tow it to Prince Rupert via Kamloops and Prince George and put the RV on the ferry to Haines, Then you can drive to Fairbanks, Denali, Seward, Homer, and back to Whitehorse via Glennallen (and, possibly, Valdez and/or Skagway, if you have time). Then you drive home via the Alaska Highway to Dawson Creek, Jasper, Banff, and either the Trans-Canada Highway or the higher speed I-90/I-80 route.
This route gives you the Inside Passage experience, lets you use your own RV for the rest of the trip, and keeps the kids dry, warm, and in a familiar place. It also cuts the onboard ferry time by half (27.5 hours running time PR-Haines vs. 60 hours Bellingham-Haines) and the cost per person by more than half. Of course, the route might not work as well if you are planning to return the trailer to Utah.
We had friends who drove their motorhome from Denver to Alaska last summer via Banff and Jasper and home on the Cassiar highway. They were gone 8 weeks, which included 10 days to Fairbanks and 14 days back from Anchorage, So you probably could do it in 6-7 weeks from Utah and back to New Jersey in your RV.
A couple of sites with road conditions road cams and closure reports.
If you can get the internet access you can look up where the sun is shining.
Thanks, Dennis. I looked at both sites, then bookmarked them on my laptop for use on the trip. Do you know if there are similar sites for BC and Alberta?
Hope no one minds, but I re-worked "what not to miss" list in hopes of making it easier to digest.
Sights here are listed by location/area, so it might be easier to plan your visits.
Also started an annual events list at the end that are good-to-see.
And added some good sites/sights to visit in Yukon.
. . .
108th Annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game (Summer Solstice) – Fairbanks
. . .
Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival – June 7-9, Whitehorse YT
Chickenstock Music Festival – June 14-15, Chicken AK
Atlin Arts & Music Festival – July 12-14, Atlin BC
Dawson City Music Festival – July 19-21, Dawson City YT
Alaska State Fair – Aug 22 – Sept 2, Palmer AK
Great reorganization of the increasingly long list, Sue! However, you might want to move the 108th Annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game to "Events" and put in the date as June 21, 2013. More info on the game can be found at:
I just looked at your last posting of the "Not to Miss" list. For those who may not know and don't want to search all 46 pages to find it, you may want to add that the Double Musky is in Girdwood.
Just a few suggestions for your trip-planning consideration. If you haven't already purchased an Alaskan cruise, take a look at putting your RV on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry from Seward, Haines, or Skagway and traveling the Inside Pasaage by ferry to Prince Rupert, BC, or Bellingham, WA. We have used the ferry to travel to Skagway, Juneau, and Sitka (probably our favorite town in Alaska) in the past. We plan to use it again this year, but only from Skagway to Haines. The ferry will take you places, like Peril Strait between Juneau and Sitka, that no cruise ship can navigate. It is also great fun for meeting a wide variety of travelers, including native Alaskans for whom the ferry is their only connection to the Lower 48. You can't stay in your RV on the ferry, but they do have cabins and you can get off and stay in a place you want to explore for as long as you like. And, best of all, they offer senior discounts on some of their fares.
A second suggestion is for the trip south from Alaska. The most beautiful time of year in the southern Rocky Mountains (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico) is the last half of September when temperatures are still warm, the skies are bright blue, and the aspen trees are turning the mountainsides bright yellow and orange. If you haven't been in our region during that time of year, Yellowstone NP to Rocky Mountain NP to Mesa Verde NP to Santa Fe would make a great autumn route to tour on your way to the South.
Finally, during the month or so before you head home next spring, think about spending a little time at the largest gathering of RVers in North America. Every winter thousands of RVers gather in the desert around Quartzite, Arizona. Most of the camping is boondocking/dry camping on Federal government land, but there are RV parks with hookups available in the region as well. There are so many RVers that some RV manufacturers now introduce new RV models during January and February at Quartzite. It's one of those grassroots gatherings that happen because it is a cheap way for full-timers to live during the coldest time of the year in most other parts of the States and Canada.
One way to quickly get a feel for what types of 5th wheel trailers are available in the U.S. is to take a look at the rvwholesalers.com website before you leave Australia. They list many manufacturers and models of new fivers, so you can easily compare floorplans and specifications like length, holding tank capacities, and GVWR. Although you may not be in the market for a new trailer, you can quickly identify several manufacturers and models you like. Then shop online at sites like the Los Angeles and San Diego craigslist.com sites, GoodSamClub.com, and Trailer Life magazine for the same or similar older models. And Good Sam Club can also provide you with RV insurance and roadside assistance during your travels. You can also use craigslist to find a truck with the ability to tow the trailer you have decided you want. And, you will have a better feel for whether the fiver and truck meet the budget you have set before you even leave home.
And, if you are going to visit Colorado any time except during the coming summer (we will be in Alaska), send me a private message. We will be happy to show you some of our favorite Colorado places.
Just remember, whatever RV you decide to buy, you are about to begin a year-long adventure in America that most Americans and Canadians can only dream about experiencing. How lucky you two are!
Welcome, Mark and Nat! I also subscribe to the "trailer first" philosphy. For full-timing for a year, you want to make sure that Nat is happy with: 1) the kitchen, 2) the shower, and 3) the wardrobe space.
Once Nat finds a floorplan she is comfortable with, then look at the GVWR for the fiver she likes and find a truck with a "tow rating" at least 25-30% greater than that GVWR. That might mean a diesel V8 engine (Chevy Duramax or Dodge Cummins) or gas V10 engine (Ford) is required in the tow vehicle. Those are the same engines that are used in most American Class A and Class C motorhomes under 38 feet.
Another suggestion in choosing a fifth wheel trailer is that most American campgrounds have back-in RV spaces. That is particularly true of the nationl park and forest campgrounds that most foreign visitors want to stay in while traveling through the Western U.S. and Canada. So, you might want to consider a trailer with a rear picture window with a sofa or two swivel chairs in front of the window. That way, when you are backed into a space, you have a view of something other than your tow vehicle and the campground road.
If the two of you can live in a relatively tight space (~25 ft.), an alternative would be be a Mercedes Sprinter-based Class A or C motorhome with the 3.0-liter turbodiesel. Best fuel mileage on the American motorhome market and still has the power to tow a small car. Winnebago makes both a Class A (Via) and a Class C (View) built on the Sprinter chassis. One drawback is that diesel fuel currently sells at about a 25% premium over regular gasoline in the U.S.
Just a few ideas to consider. And, if you are going to visit Alaska this summer, take a look at the "Roll Call Alaska" thread on this forum. Have a great time on your trip!
I second the meal at the Crow's Nest. While I think the food at Simon & Seafort's is generally better, the Crow's Nest had a great Sunday brunch. On a clear day, you won't find a better view in Anchorage.
I also agree that the drive on the Seward Highway to Girdwood is incredible, especially when the bore tide is running into Turnagain Arm (the second highest tide in North America after the Bay of Fundy). We've stopped to watch pods of white beluga whales chasing fish (salmon?) up the Arm during incoming tides. Of course, if you are headed to the Kenai or Whittier, you are on the same road, so you don't have to go to Girdwood to have that experience. There are several pull-outs and parking lots along the road that are large enough to accommodate a long RV.
Just a thought--check the tide tables before leaving Anchorage and time the drive to the incoming tide. I haven't done that, just been lucky to be on that road enough times (mainly when going to Girdwood for dinner or on the way to Seward) that I managed to hit it perfectly on two or three occasions.
PS: My wife said my deleted paragraph was inappropriate. So, I apologize to anyone I may have offended with my "bear story."
After my last post, I thought of a couple of short-term events for the "Not to Miss" list:
If you are going to be in the Fairbanks area during the summer solstice, don't miss the 108th Annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game. You might see some players who will be MLB All-Stars in a few years.
If you are going to be on the Kenai Peninsula during early August, try your luck in the Seward Silver Salmon Derby August 10 – August 18, 2013. In the early '70s, a friend caught a silver the weekend after the Derby ended that would have won a week earlier. The winner that year got a new boat, motor, and trailer.
The winner in 2012 got $50,000 for catching a tagged salmon! And the person who caught the biggest silver (a little over 16 pounds) got $10,000. Of course, both men were from Seward and 10 of the 11 winners were from Alaska, but the last cash prize went to someone from Idaho, so you never know. In 2013, daily tickets will be $10 and weekly tickets $50, but they don't go on sale until the Friday before the tournament starts. You will also need an Alaska fishing license.
There is a military resort in Seward. So, if you are active or retired military, you can not only stay in the campground there, but also charter a boat during the Derby (better reserve early--it may already be too late for 2013!).
We are planning to leave Denver in mid-June, travel through Banff & Jasper on the way to Alaska and return late August-early September via the Cassier Hwy, Kamloops, Coeur d'Alene ,and Jackson, WY.
On the "Not to Miss" list, I would have added the Double Musky Inn in Girdwood, but haven't been there in awhile and have heard that it is not as good as it once was. Maybe those who have been there in the last couple of years could weigh in on that one.
However, I would add definitely add Simon & Seafort's Saloon & Grill in Anchorage. Great bar, delicious fresh seafood, and, if you can get a window table, great views of Cook Inlet and the mountains on the Alaska Peninsula.
Due to the retreat of many of the Alaskan glaciers (Portage, College Fjord, etc.) around the state, I would highly recommend the all-day Kenai Fjords boat tours from Seward. The wildlife viewing is spectacular--sea lions, harbor seals, dall's porpoise (like miniature killer whales), sea otters, puffins by the thousands, bald eagles, and, if you are lucky, breaching humpback whales.
And we really enjoyed a single-engine plane flight from Talkeetna around Mt. McKinley/Denali (being unpressurized, we couldn't fly over it) that lands on the glacier at the base camp for the mountain climbers. But that is one of those "only do it when the mountain is clear" flights, so I wouldn't make a reservation in advance since the mountain is only cloud-free a few days a month, if that frequently.
Finally, the all-day bus trip from the NPS visitor's center to the Eielson Visitor's Center in Denali National Park never gets old. The last time we took it, a grizzly was walking toward the road, the bus stopped, and the bear walked right up to the bus, turned and walked down the driver's side (while we were all snappping photos as fast as we could), crossed the road, and disappeared into the brush behind the bus. I could almost have scratched its ears if I had been stupid enough to put my arm out the window! I'll likely never be that close to a grizzly again, even in a zoo with glass between us.
Enjoy your trip and maybe we'll see you on the road.