Saturday, October 11, 2008

You Have To Go To Get There

Once again, Judy and I have found that to see the world you sometimes have to leave it behind.

                                                 So it was with this trip.

It isn't the mountains, sparkling lakes or glaciers that draw travelers to Alaska every year but the magic in the land, an irresistible force that tugs on those who dream about the North Country.

It's mythical title, the Final Frontier, is as strong a lure today as it was in the past, when Alaska's promise of adventure and quick wealth brought the first invasion of miners to the state.

There are mountains, glaciers and rivers in other parts of North America, but few are in the same scale or as overpowering as those in Alaska.

If nature's handiwork doesn't affect you, then the state's overwhelming size will.

With over 580,000 square miles, one fifth the size of the U.S.A., the state is so broad, so unspoiled, and so roadless that small planes are more common than cabs in other states.

There are more private pilots than truck drivers and cabbies combined. Almost one half the state's 650,000 population lives in Anchorage.

Nearly the entire state is raw, wonderous wilderness. Minnesota is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Alaska has three million lakes.

Along with a handfull of modern high-rise buildings, there are countless one-room log cabins.

In Alaska, one is surrounded with natural bounty-- eagles and ravens soar above, perch in treetops and swoop to the water below.

                               Whales, otters and sea lions inhabit the bays and inlets.

Bears, deer and wolves live in forests of tall cedar, spruce and hemlock. Berries and greens cover the forest floor, while salmon, halibut and trout swim in the waters.

We have come away with an appreciation of it's fierce and wild majesty, it's huge untamed spaces and it's wonderfully independent people.

Despite Alaska's reputation for high prices, we were able to keep our costs down by planing carefully, using discounts often, and camping very economically.

Part of this affordability is because the greatest things it has to offer--its prime wilderness, abundant wildlife, clear water and miles of hiking trails, are either free or cost little to experience.

We have used the same travel plan for the last seven years across the U.S., over 20,000 miles throughout Mexico, and now for this Alaska trip. We would happily do this trip again without changing a thing.

We are Escapees and have learned how to travel via RV through this group. We thank our friends, Harry and Carole Melander and Mike and Terri Church for their pre-trip planning advice that was very helpful and added so much to our enjoyment of this trip.

We also treasure the friendship of our other Escapee friends that we kept in touch with as they too traveled in Alaska this summer.

Our timing was perfect. We entered Canada the third week in May and left Sept. 30. We would take the same route again. For the most part, we saw very few other tourists on the whole trip. A few things were closed at the start and end but we didn't miss anything but a few tourist shops that don't interest us.

We liked ending the trip with the Alaska Marine Ferry. The "See Alaska Ferry Pass" was a great deal, allowing us to get on and off with the camper at different ports of our choice, staying as long as we wished.

The camper was easy to load and travel in and the fuel we saved paid for the ride.

Each ferry ride was relaxing and exciting in itself. Ending in Prince Rupert took us through British Columbia in late September and the scenery was beautiful. We really like traveling in our truck camper.

It is just so easy and economical and allows us to explore many places other large RV's cannot get to. It added immensely to this trip. We are flexible in our travels so we make no advance reservations.

We checked on Denali and the Ferry a few days in advance and had no trouble at all. We used the Milepost and "Traveler's Guide to Alaskan Camping", by Mike and Terri Church for route and campsite information. We use a Verizon air card in our computer for internet access and this worked fairly well.

Our Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS is also very helpful for finding anything anywhere and saves a lot of miles and time looking for things. We are members of Moose, Elks and Passport America and used their campgrounds as well as our Golden Age Pass in Government Campgrounds very often.

We highly recommend joining all these groups. They have many fine campsites and are very economical. We found many nice, free campsites on this trip, some with tables, water, free wood and sometimes free electric. Often these have the best scenery and wildlife.

We saw very few mosquitoes and flies, and only used spray two or three times. The roads were very good with only occasional construction and no real delays.

Bears are everywhere but are no problem if you leave them alone.

We bought the "Tour Saver" Book and used it to save a lot of money. The Stan Steven's Glacier Tour to Columbia and Mears Glaciers, Gold Dredge #8, the Discovery Boat trip, a number of museums, fishing trips and others are all discounted.

The trip to Cordova and Child's Glacier was one highlight of the trip.

                          Another was camping at Tetlanika in Denali National Park.

Two things we missed are a flight over Denali(poor weather) and the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

Was the 1,000 mile trip to Prudhoe Bay worth it? Depends on what you want to see.

                                    It's a long, desolate ride and can be very treacherous.

          I have always wanted to experience the Brooks Range and the North Slope.

                                          There is some interesting geology there.

When is the last time you saw a herd of Musk Ox in the wild right next to your truck?
 Finally, I'm the kind of person that thinks it's neat to bring the kids a bottle of water from the Arctic Ocean to go along with the bucket of glacial silt from one of the glaciers.

Where do we go from here? We have already spent a few days in Yellowstone National Park watching the first snowfall of the season-- just beautiful! It's mating time and the sights and sounds of Elk are everywhere. After seeing friends and relatives in the Midwest, we will slowly head to Hondo, Texas where this blog began. For the winter it's the desert Southwest, where one can camp very economically on desert land or, more likely, down the West coast of Mexico to some of those small, remote, fishing villages on the palm-lined beaches of the Pacific Ocean.

                                       We paid $14 a day to stay here.

                     This is one of our favorite spots in a little fishing town. It's $6 a day.

Last winter Diesel in Mexico was $2.16 a gallon. Need I say any more?
Feliz Viaje! Hasta luego, Amigos!
Happy journey! See you later, Friends!


Mark said...

Those are some incredible pictures, the animal shots look very nice.

Unknown said...

We are planning the trip next summer and your blog was extremely helpful in addition to having some great photos. Did the Verizon card work well in most of AK, Is Church's book updated each yr like milepost,how did you get mail in Canada,cell phone in Canada?