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Old 07-05-2015, 09:58 PM   #1
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Default alaska etc.

as some of you may know i have a cat with auto immune issues and diabetes. the vet won't give this cat any more vaccinations of any kind. so we were stumped about ever going to alaska.

However since my second cat can't seem to take traveling we have decided to board them when traveling. this solves several issues including worrying about leaving them in the van. we would not have considered this(ok the wife wouldn't) but now with these additional issues she has come around.

So Alaska-here we come-next year hopefully. anyone taken the ferry to anchorage.

we think we would take it from washington to alaska-and drive back thru canada. whats the best time of the summer season to do this?
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Old 07-05-2015, 11:04 PM   #2
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July and August. June is still road repair for frost heaves and bug bites. September tails off fast to winter by mid September. We drove up and back in 2012. First order of business is buy the Milepost book. It covers every mile up and back through Canada and it covers just about every highway in Alaska. Buy used or check out at a library to familiarize yourself with it and to do some preliminary planning. For the trip get a new copy (published yearly) after about April as things change. We may go again next year.

BTW, driving up the Alaska Highway is much more exciting than driving back. It was a camaraderie adventure with a few other Class Bers we meant at the Mile 0 Campground in Dawson Creek. We all went our separate ways and different routes and 5 days later we showed within the hour with two other Bs at the end of the highway visitor center. Some we would see if we stopped at the same campground. Nothing was planned.
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Old 07-05-2015, 11:15 PM   #3
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thanks David. have you ever taken the alaskan ferry from or to washington?

are campgrounds in alaska always booked. although i plan to boondock some we actually like campgrounds and use them at least 1/2 the time. do you need reservations?
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Old 07-06-2015, 03:38 AM   #4
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Davydd:
Were you comfortable driving a Sprinter up to Alaska? Seems like if one of the dreaded "10 starts" messages were to appear, you'd be in for a real problem!
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Old 07-06-2015, 03:55 AM   #5
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We took a ferry from Skagway to Haines, Alaska but that was just a short leg of a trip. Keep in mind you cannot stay in your van on the ferries. It is not all that pleasant. If you book ahead you can get a sleeping room otherwise you'll be resting on the floor or in chairs. It is no cruise ship. We did take a Holland America cruise once from Seward, AK to Vancouver over a week's time before our B days. That was enjoyable.

There is so much to see up and down. Going up we hit the cities of Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Calgary. We also went through Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper which is part of the Rocky Mountains. Then we got to the Alaska Highway, deviated to Skagway, ferry to Haines and back up to the Alaska Highway to Fairbanks. Then down to Denali, Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula. We spent about a month on all the paved roads. On the way back we went to Chicken, AK and over the On Top of the World Highway to Dawson City, Yukon. We rejoined the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse but then got off again at the Cassiar Highway that goes straight down through British Columbia. We backtracked over to Hyder, AK you can only get to through BC. There we saw the brown bears and spent 3 days observing them. It was actually more remote than the Alaska Highway. We came back through the USA in Idaho and spent a week in and around Glacier NP before heading home via Yellowstone and the Black Hills. Our trip was about 11 weeks and 10,500 miles.

We made no reservation other than about a week ahead for Denali NP once we knew when we could arrive for sure. We lucked out otherwise and had no problems. I would recommend trying to make reservations at Banff and Lake Louise. Jasper was no problem. The Alaska Highway was no problem. Alaska itself was no problem finding camping. Boondocking at turnouts and rest stops is acceptable. In Canada you could have some problems getting into campgrounds in and around July 1 Canada Day. We had to leave a campground after staying two days because it was booked for Canada Day.

Most campgrounds in Alaska are glorified parking lots in Anchorage, Seward, Whittier, Homer and Valdez. Fairbanks and Tok has some good private campgrounds. Denali NP was the best as far as wilderness feel goes. My favorite town was Talkeetna. Great food and it was the model for the TV series Northern Exposure though the TV show was shot in Roslyn, WA (been there too.) If you have boondocking capabilities you have many more options.
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Old 07-06-2015, 04:09 AM   #6
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Davydd:
Were you comfortable driving a Sprinter up to Alaska? Seems like if one of the dreaded "10 starts" messages were to appear, you'd be in for a real problem!
Not really a problem. We had to add DEF in Jasper. They had a NAPA store that sold it. Other than that I never had to check. If you top off starting out and top off at opportune times you should have no problems. Diesel integrated with the car pumps is a lot more common on the way up in Canada. They recommend always driving on the top half of your fuel tank just in case but we found service stations readily on the Alaska Highway and in Alaska. The toughest area was the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia. It was the least developed. We definitely stayed topped off there. BTW, the Milepost is worth every cent you pay for it and more.
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Old 07-06-2015, 05:48 AM   #7
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Hey Davydd... I didn't know that Saskatchewan is a city. This board is so educational!! LOL
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Old 07-06-2015, 11:50 AM   #8
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David. Are the mosquitoes as bad as reported? If so ; What was your approach ?
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Old 07-06-2015, 01:26 PM   #9
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Hey Davydd... I didn't know that Saskatchewan is a city. This board is so educational!! LOL
Saskatoon. I type as fast as I talk. I see this software doesn't allow you to go back and edit after a period of time.
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Old 07-06-2015, 01:31 PM   #10
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David. Are the mosquitoes as bad as reported? If so ; What was your approach ?
It depends on your perspective.



Actually in mid-July through August they were not as bad as they were made out to be. It may have been a drier year. We were prepared with our mosquito clothes and netting but never used them.
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Old 07-06-2015, 02:06 PM   #11
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Gerry, what are you interested in seeing or doing in AK? There are things that are better served early in the spring/summer and things that are better in the late summer or early fall. Use this summer and fall camping trips to test your new van and yourself to Boondocking skills, practice battery conservation and water limits before you head up. You will most likely have many questions before next spring, start reading all you can.
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Old 07-06-2015, 03:00 PM   #12
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Gerry,

Here is the blog of someone who is currently traveling in Alaska in a custom Promaster B. May have some useful information for you.

They certainly have driven more gravel roads than I would have expected.

http://www.takethelongway.us/
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Old 07-06-2015, 03:32 PM   #13
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Most all the main roads are paved. The Alaska Highway had about 40 miles of gravel road under repair that would have been repaved by the end of the season when we went. To get into the Kennecott Mine and the heart of Wrangel-Elias NP you would have to drive gravel. To go to Prudhoe Bay you would have to drive gravel. The On Top of the World Highway to Dawson City, Yukon was gravel. Side wilderness roads are pretty much gravel. The rest are paved main roads to get about everywhere else you can drive. At Denali NP you can only drive in about 14 miles. If you want to go further into the park you have to take their buses the full 90 plus miles and it is worth doing so for the wildlife you will see.

Locked horns battle deep in Denali NP.

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Old 07-06-2015, 03:54 PM   #14
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AK49er,

Being in Alaska you probably have a different perspective than lower 48ers. Spring is always beautiful. Fall is too. One of the problems is going and coming. If you drive you have to go through Canada and it can be brutal both spring and fall as well as pretty much closed up campground and road wise. Anchorage is actually warmer and milder than the Twin Cities but north where you have to come in by RV is not. Also, not saying it can't be done, but I would not recommend it for first timers.

If you take a ferry you most certainly want to take it when the climate is the driest and warmest, otherwise it can be a cold, foggy, miserable experience. Cruises and ferries are hit and miss as it is. In a week's time your timing can be perfect or miserable anytime of the season. I'd say our cruise was average but we've had friends who totally hated it.

One way to extend your period of time in Alaska is to not drive but fly and rent an RV. When you are up there it seems rentals are a much higher percentage of RVs than in the lower 48. 4x4 truck campers were very popular rentals.
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Old 07-06-2015, 05:03 PM   #15
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Most all the main roads are paved. The Alaska Highway had about 40 miles of gravel road under repair that would have been repaved by the end of the season when we went. To get into the Kennecott Mine and the heart of Wrangel-Elias NP you would have to drive gravel. To go to Prudhoe Bay you would have to drive gravel. The On Top of the World Highway to Dawson City, Yukon was gravel. Side wilderness roads are pretty much gravel. The rest are paved main roads to get about everywhere else you can drive.
Davydd,

What I meant was I was surprised that they drove their stock front wheel drive Promaster on roads like the Kennecott Mine road.

We drove to Alaska in 1994 and I agree with your assessment of the roads, although I remember more than 40 miles of gravel on the Alaskan Highway. We drove most of the roads you mentioned including the road to Prudhoe Bay when at that time technically the public wasn't allowed without a permit.

We were in a 4wd expedition camper and on the 4 day trip to Prudhoe Bay and back we didn't see anything but big semis, exceptional scenery and wildlife including part of the Porcupine Caribou herd and musk ox just outside of Prudhoe Bay.


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Old 07-06-2015, 05:49 PM   #16
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i'm looking at rv caravans. anyone know a class b one
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Old 07-06-2015, 06:10 PM   #17
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My understanding is the Alaska Highway is greatly improved since 1994. It is totally paved now. The Cassiar Highway I mentioned has only been paved in just the past 6 years. We decided not to drive all the way into Wrangell-Elias not because it wasn't paved but because they claimed a lot of nails were still on the road. Gravel roads for the most part were well maintained and drivable and I doubt a front wheel drive Promaster would have any problems. We are not talking about off-roading in those. However, the worst stretch of the Alaska Highway was in the Yukon past Whitehorse. The frost heaving and potholes were terrible and you had to slow down to about 30 mph. That is one reason for not traveling early before they can get to all the repairs. 2012 was the year they had two major washouts trapping Alaska Highway travelers on the highway in June for a few days. By the time we got there it had been repaired gravel wise but not repaved yet.

We also opted out on the Prudhoe Bay drive. The pay out at the end didn't seem worth it. It would be easier to fly.

We have taken two fixed wing flights and one helicopter flight to land on glaciers. That was exciting. The best part of cruising was taking excursions like that. We also took airboat rides, river rafted and kayaked to fill up our shore time. You have to book those ahead because the best excursions fill up fast. There was not a lot exciting about the towns you couldn't take in easily. The best part of the cruise was going into Glacier Bay NP. I'm not sure ferries go into Glacier Bay since there is no stopping place and they are ferries and not cruise ships. Also, there is now a lottery system to get in the bay. We had to cancel a 30 passenger small cruise ship with kayak launching because they didn't get picked in the lottery.
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Old 07-06-2015, 06:24 PM   #18
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i'm looking at rv caravans. anyone know a class b one
There have been some but I don't recall Class B. We never encountered any caravans on the way up or down but there was a Class A motorhome group meeting in a Fairbanks campground we stayed. They were caravanning I think. On the way home there was a caravan on the way up the Alaska Highway of WWII veterans celebrating the 70th anniversary of the building of the Alaska Highway. That was exciting to see as they passed. It was a mixture of old WWII trucks, jeeps and such and RVs that stretched for miles.

I don't mind, in fact like, meeting up with people at a destination but care little for caravanning. I am much to free wheeling with spur of the moment decision making. Too many unanticipated surprises to have a set agenda and stick with it for me. Our ferry ride from Skagway to Haines was not planned. Our trip back on the Going to the Sun Road and Dawson City came about after discussing with other campers. Going back down the Cassiar Highway was a last minute decision and thankful we did it to get the opportunity to see the bears up close in Hyder, AK.

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Old 07-06-2015, 06:34 PM   #19
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hyder ak is on the tour i'm looking at
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Old 07-07-2015, 04:25 AM   #20
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The View-Navion Yahoo Group has an Alaska branch that seems to organize informal groups to Alaska every year. Lots of their members drive other Sprinter based RVs (because they have lots of people who know Sprinters inside and out) and many have various B's and small Class Cs that are not Sprinters. That is one of the biggest RV groups around and very informative. I pondered joining one of the informal groups this year, but the timing was wrong for me. They meet up here and there along the way... but mainly go at their own pace and stop if they feel like it.
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