Many of you probably thought we disappeared into space with no blogs for almost three months. For most of that time our motor coach has been like a time machine as we made our way from Coeur de Alene, Idaho through Calgary, Alberta, Canada into Baniff and British Columbia – then north through the Yukon Territory and finally into Alaska – the last Frontier. The lack of consistent cell service and internet reception meant we would need to postpone blog posts until the trip was over
Once we left Calgary we frequently had just 30 Amps at campgrounds – sometimes barely 20 Amps and rarely had strong cell or internet service and never Any satellite reception for television. Often we were off the grid entirely during these travel periods as we were driving on the same paths gold prospectors took in an earlier time. We experienced Gold Rush days in Dawson City, prehistoric periods near Whitehorse, highways that barely met 1950’s standards like the Alaskan Highway, the Top of the World Highway and the “road to Chicken and Tok, Alaska”. For miles and miles we saw no human habitation but rather acres of prairie, tundra and alpine forest landscapes – home to moose, elk, caribou, mountain goats and Dall sheep, as well as bears of all shades, and the ubiquitous ravens and bald eagles.
We traveled through many First Nations lands in Canada as well as lands of the Alaskan Native people – those that originated on these elegant northwest territories from prehistory prior to the European invasion retain strong cultural and familial heritage. We enjoyed our exposure to their history, we appreciated their valuable stewardship of the land and learned much about the strong traditions that survive today. Their heritage and interpretive centers were remarkable places of learning – offering us a good foundation for traveling this unique land. We will share more in later blog posts about these experiences.
Ah the landscapes, the animals and the weather!
This land was beyond comparison for us. Words fail me when trying to portray this experience – what we saw, learned or just witnessed. We came to respect and appreciate this land beyond our expectations. The flora and fauna, – the land and sea life, birds and animals who call these places home are glorious and you never tire of watching them in their natural habitats.
Finally the people we met in these treasured lands – they were fascinating, tough, resilient and so proud to share their home land and its stories with us. We hope our photos will help transport you along with us on this great adventure but honestly even some the best photographs may fall short in conveying the remarkable nature of our months of traveling.
It was love at first sight in so many places we began to feel like we were being unfaithful to the previous day’s places as we witnessed each new landscape or habitat. Every time we thought this was an experience of awe – the next turn or on the next day would show us even more beauty and delight.
This was a long trip – hard on the coach, hard on the car as well as on the travelers – don’t embark on this journey underestimating the impact of long difficult driving days, terrible road conditions, unpredictable weather and a weariness that can overcome you if you let it. We got our first windshield crack early heading towards the Alaskan Highway followed by a huge stress crack several days later. Our car’s windshield got a rock crack on the return trip.
But we anticipated these instances – friends had warned us. Everyone in Alaska has a cracked windshield – it’s like a badge of belonging. However the joy experienced by traveling through these unique places becomes a singular emotion. This is not a trip for the faint of heart – it’s not a cruise or luxury vacation – it’s a trip into the last North American frontier and amenities are few and far between. We were very glad we had anticipated many conditions and were prepared with extra parts etc.
We drove over 2500 miles to get to Alaska – 1500 miles along the famous Alaskan Highway and then some 1000 plus to various points in Alaska on the only roads that exist – which were often being repaired as this time of year that can be done. The roads were frequently barely passable with steep inclines, grades and hairpin twists through giant mountain ranges. Hopefully our photos will illustrate the traveling and driving experiences.
Following those long days of driving including crossing the Yukon River on a tiny one motor coach per trip ferry – we made the return trip to Washington State in seven or eight days with Rick driving the Taj and me following in the Grand Cherokee. A catastrophic failure of our tow gear near Teslin, Alaska just before the US/Canada border meant our trip south would be 2000 miles of separate vehicle driving.
The bolts to the tow gear sheared off and the car came loose on one side pulling the main tow gear out of the coach. But we made it into a roadside pullout in time – thanks to a eighteen wheeler honking and waving to us and our own vigilance at checking rearview mirrors and cameras. Believe me you never want to see your tow vehicle in one of your rear view mirrors. But no one was hurt and with the help of our fellow tour travelers we were able to get back on the road that day. Driving through border checkpoints proved interesting- we had to explain our status each time and most border personnel were understanding.
We quickly determined the tow gear was not salvageable and made plans to replace it in Seattle after the tour. We made the driving accommodation because finishing this trip was important to us. It was worth it. While we would love to return to Alaska – we would not retrace our steps. This was a once in a lifetime trip for so many reasons – the driving being a key one. What follows will be posts about the places we experienced and the habitats we witnessed all of which made it the biggest bucket list item we had.
Thanks for following us on this amazing journey.