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Old 10-25-2009, 10:47 AM   #1
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ed kempisty
Planning an Alaska trip.

Plannining an Alaska trip from Michigan. Will the Sunline trailer make it?
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Old 10-25-2009, 11:27 AM   #2
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Alaska

Alaska is a relatively easy trip if you don't plan to cover ground like most RVers do in the lower 48. We made the trip with our gas powered motorhome with ease. With the motorhome we stayed away from the long dirt roads.

We did take our Sunline to Labrador without a single issue and that was 1000 miles of dirt roads.

One key to a successful trip to Alaska is to purchase the Milepost, absolutely the best guide book ever and an absolute must.

If you plan to go to Denali, try to make reservations early and try to make them for the campground at mile 30. It is dry camping but it puts you 30 miles into the park versus camping outside the park or in the parks campground near the entrance. It means when you take the bus around the park you're starting at mile 30. Also many people are surprised to find that when you take the bus thru the park that their is no food to buy at the visitors center at mile 62, not even a stick of gum or bottle of water. You must always carry your food with you. Obviously we loved Denali, worth the trip alone.

If you camp at mile 30 you want to have a full load of water and empty grey/black tanks.

Mt. Mckinley is only observable 1 in 3 days but it is one of the greatest MT views in the world. It is the most MT you can see any where.

In Anchorage you want to find Ships Creek. The creek is lined with people pulling in King Salmon, truly a wonderful site.

There is so much to do in Alaska and on the way, you'll have a great trip.

As to preparing, first is tires. We didn't have any problems but we do regular check inflation and carry a pump to maintain them. We did get 3 window hits on the motorhome from approaching traffic. Some people put clear plastic tape over their headlights and the lower portion of their tow vehicles front window. We also cemented 3/4 inch foam to the bottom of our gas tank to protect from stone hits. We also protect the front edge of our gray tank that's above our axle with foam. After our trip to Labrador inspection of the blue foam showed it had been hit numerous times.

We also had the front of our trailer peppered with stones on the Labrador highway. Next time I would improve our tow vehicles mud flaps to reduce hits.

We did not go in a caravan or travel with others, we like a self defined schedule. I will also say the trip to Alaska is just as good as traveling in to Alaska.
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Old 10-25-2009, 06:52 PM   #3
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Driving the Alaska Hwy

History books tell us the Alaska Hwy was finished in 1942--not true. The problem with the AK Hwy is that outside the "big" cities it's all tar and chip and that takes a beating in winter with frost heaves and heavy truck traffic. So, yes, the hwy is paved all the way, but any time you're apt to come onto a 20 mi. stretch of gravel, or worse, fresh tar and chip, with a lot of tourists speeding by. Give the 1-800-RVforRent types a wide berth--they don't own what they're driving. I grew up in the country and a younger uncle, who was much more invincible than my father, taught me how to drive on gravel before I was 16. The AK Hwy is better than any gravel road I drove on as a kid. The problem is our memories have been reset. In the south, a detour is a 60 mph lane shift on the Interstate. In the north, there are no detours, you drive through the construction zone. We drove solo up the Dempster Hwy--900 mi round trip of real gravel--so were somewhat better equipped than most tourists. I did what all the websites recommended--mud flaps all around, clear plastic headlight covers, grill guard, extra spare and plug kit, and a full width rear mudflap. You have to be there to appreciate how really isolated it is. Cell phones are useless and US ones generally don't work in Canada anyway, as mine doesn't work in the US. We had no problems, not even a flat tire. The truck came through pretty much unscathed. The grill guard had a big rock dent--it did its job--and the windshield about 5 little bulls' eyes which the insurance replaced. I repainted the trailer tongue and it was fine, but there were some extra dents in the aluminum front despite the big mud flap. We had a 5 yr old truck with almost new tires and brakes and otherwise was in excellent condition. That's what you want. Fussy people, like me, should not drive the AK Hwy with fairly new equipment--it's going to get some dings.

The Dempster Hwy at the Arctic Circle


The Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean) at Tuktoyaktuk on June 8, 2006


Pretty typical AK Hwy. Patches upon patches, but the scenery is worth it.


More typical AK Hwy with frost heaves. Did I mention the scenery is spectacular?


We were there in May and June which is a good time to avoid the heavy tourist season as well as the black flies. We did get the first mosquitoes by the second week of June, and they are huge. Even at that time we needed reservations at Dawson Creek, Liard Hotsprings PP, Whitehorse, Dawson City, Anchorage, Denali (campsite and bus tour) and Fairbanks. We also reserved the halfway motel at Eagle Plains on the Dempster, a B&B in Inuvik and the plane ride to Tuktoyaktuk. Don't let the almost endless daylight deceive you--without reservations you need to stop just as early as the south--there are no plan B's up there.

We were gone 8 weeks, but also visited relatives in AB. However, we had previously been to Banff and Jasper NP and did not use any extra time there, and we didn't go south of Anchorage except on a day trip. I think you need 6 weeks to do it justice and from MI you'll travel about as far as we did. It's 2500 mi to Dawson Creek where the AK Hwy officially starts and another 2500 to Anchorage. Round trip, with some extra visiting in AB we covered almost 12,000 mi.

All in all an absolute peak experience. I'd do it again in a minute, but maybe in late Aug. next time.

Henry

PS. Unlike Norm, you couldn't pay me enough to drive into Denali NP. We stayed at the main cpg. and took an all day bus into the interior--let somebody else who knows the road drive while you enjoy the scenery.
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Old 10-25-2009, 07:37 PM   #4
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Re: Driving the Alaska Hwy

Quote:
Originally Posted by henryj

Snip

So, yes, the hwy is paved all the way, but any time you're apt to come onto a 20 mi. stretch of gravel, or worse, fresh tar and chip, with a lot of tourists speeding by. Give the 1-800-RVforRent types a wide berth--they don't own what they're driving.

Snip 2
More typical AK Hwy with frost heaves. Did I mention the scenery is spectacular?


Henry

You do have a way with words! I'm still laughing... Thanks for the chuckle. DW is sitting at her desk next to me and I still keep chuckling each time I reread that. She says, OK you done now???

And the pics of your camping experiances are always super. WoW! Seeing everyones adventures is really neat.

Hopefully some day we will get to AK.

Thanks

John
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Old 10-26-2009, 07:37 AM   #5
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Pilot cars

The construction issue in Alaska is real, you often come upon long stretches of construction. One of the primary jobs in ALaska is pilot car driver. Pilot cars lead you throught the construction that can be very 'washboard like', we had our computer leap off the dash in one section and die on the floor.

We had two grandchildren with us who deperately wanted to see Denali so staying at mile 30 gave us a head start every day. We loved Denali.

We were gone 3 months and it wasn't too long, June thru September.

As to mosquitos, we only encoutered mosquitos in two places on our trip, at Wonder Lake at mile 92 in Denali and in the Northwest Territories.

As to reservations we only made them once and that was in Denali though we did not stay at the Laird Hot Springs we did swim there, a very worthwhile stop. Part of our no reservatios approach is because we stop early, rarely driving after 1 PM. Every little place seems to have so much to see and do. I think reservations are always needed at NP, other than that we never had a problem.

Another out of the way place is Esker out side of Fairbanks, the smallest of towns with the best Northern Lights show ever, well worth the trip. As well don't forget to bring a sign for the signpost forest in Watson Lake, see the Milepost.

Part of the reason for a slow pace is the numerous wonderful vistas, it seems we were forever stopping.

As to traffic, there is little, mostly RVs and locals. 18 Wheelers are rare, it's just to far to drive a big truck.

I must admit to feeling jealous; love to go again.
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