San Diego to Whistler, BC Canada – Leg One
This year’s big RV road trip is Alaska, and we’re timing it perfectly for the record diesel fuel prices averaging around $6.80 a gallon right now. We’ll see where they end up by the time we hit Canada and Alaska.
If you want to follow along, we’ll be posting regularly. Add your email to the bottom of this page to get notifications of new posts. Each stop will have a heading and photo. Simply click on the heading or photo to see the Google album from that location. Cheers!
We’re meeting Ron and Stacey in Whistler. From Brandon and Dayna’s house in Poway we’ll head up the 395 along the Eastern Sierra until we get to Susanville. From there we’ll start heading West until we hit the coast and go North to Coos Bay, Oregon. After that, we’ll head East to Bend, drink some beer, visit some friends, then head up to Hood River, then Portland for more beer and friends, and finally cross the border to Vancouver and Whistler, BC. That is, if the border guards let us in.
From Whistler “Leg Two” starts and ends in Tok, Alaska. We’re taking the Western access route connecting to the 97 on the way up with no reservations to stay anywhere. Yes, we’re winging it, but then we have homes on wheels, we can sleep out there with the bears. Once we hit Prince George, we’ll split West on the 16 through a lesser traveled highway until we meet up again with the Alaska highway at Watson Lake. From Watson Lake we glide past more bears and moose and roll into Tok. This is our chosen end to Leg One and the start to “Leg Three”.
Leg 3 leaves Tok Alaska on July 1. We’ll stop in Glacier View to walk the Matanuska Glacier, then down to Anchorage where we’ll take a train to Whittier for a boat ride to see some whales and puffins. Homer is after that for Halibut, then back up to Hope on the way to Talkeetna. Salmon on the way??? We’ll see. The kings are catch and release this year, so we won’t be keeping any of that flesh. We have great reservations in Denali, 3 days at Riley and 3 days at Teklanika campground. After that it’s a few days in Fairbanks to finish the Alaska Leg Three.
On the way back, Leg 4, we travel the Alaska highway down through Dawson Creek, then down to Jasper. Again, no reservations until we get to Jasper. We’re taking the Icefield Highway again through Banff, because it’s the most beautiful drive we’ve ever done, and finishing Canada at the Roosville border crossing.
We cross into Montana near Glacier National Park on the 93. Checking out Kalispell and Flathead a bit before we cut over to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and turn South to Moscow to visit our niece and nephew. In Boise we’ll catch up with friends and then drop down through Nevada and Vegas on our way back to San Diego.
The Journey Begins…
Click to see Google Photos of each stop
Mammoth Lakes CA – Stop #1
Our first stop after leaving Poway was Mammoth, CA. It took 6.5 hours to get there and we had smooth sailing that Sunday, all the way up the 395. The weather was perfect, there were snow capped mountains all around, crisp air, and a celebratory beer waiting.
This was Cheryl’s first real bike ride on her new e bike. While I stuck to my old school Trek, mainly to prove myself “fit”, I struggled to keep up. They don’t call it Mammoth Mountain for nothing. The uphill rides were killer around the Lake Mary bike path.
It was a great time of year to visit. Just before Memorial Day there were few visitors. We had the bike paths to ourselves and the brew pub was equally quiet. What a great start!
Virginia City Nevada, Stop #2
What a blast from the past this place is. Back in the day, this mining town was hopping and people were making their fortunes digging in the dirt. The town prospered and was quite the place to hang out.
There’s only one place to camp in town, and that’s the RV park within walking distance of the bars, restaurants, and shops. It was a bit tight, but hey, what do you expect being the only game in town? We enjoyed the stop, got some work done, and were able to explore and get our fill.
Susanville, CA – Overnight Stop #3
You know, this wasn’t what we expected, but it was cool anyway. The campsites at the fairgrounds in Susanville are not really maintained or even working well this time of year. The water was still off due to the Winter freeze and the power at each pedestal was hit or miss.
There are probably 50 or so spots, and 49 were empty the night we stayed. We filled the tanks with water and our onboard pump took care of the pressure. Solar and batteries rounded out the power needs, so we had what we needed.
We explored the town, shopped and made dinner at “home”. Next day, we had our meetings and hit the road for Lake Almanor.
Lake Almanor, CA – Stop #4 to Alaska
We had been to this area before, during the 2020 Social Distancing Tour. We visited Lassen National Park, which is just North of Lake Almanor and Chester, CA. We stayed at North Shore Campground which is a rustic spot in the woods. Great for kicking back, as you can see.
We did some hiking and site seeing but we also toured the burn from last year’s Dixie Fire. Devastation was what we saw. Crazy views of the burn. Some homes and buildings escaped the fire, some didn’t but evidence of the fire was everywhere.
If you get a chance to visit this area, stop in to Waganupa Brewery. Small but unique in brewing style, so different than the typical West Coast IPA’s you find everywhere. We didn’t get to eat at IL Lago across the street, too busy, but the owner at the brewery said it was fantastic. It’s a tight little vacation/retirement community that’s worth the visit.
Red Bluff – Sycamore Grove Campground – Stop #5
Red Bluff was a stop over. Just needed to so some shopping before we headed up to the Trinity area for the week. We stayed overnight at Sycamore Grove Campground.
This was a regional campground that catered to either roadkill like us, or those who aimed to spend the max time allowed. It’s not a destination campground, but it does have power and water with some access to the Sacramento River.
Old Lewiston Bridge RV Resort – Stop #6 to Alaska
Joan and Nancy are friends since 6th grade, fellow RV’ers, and were our neighbors for the week we spent at the Old Lewiston Bridge RV Resort on the Trinity River. One of the benefits to RV travel is getting to meet cool people like these two lifelong friends who still do annual trips together and have traveled all over the Western states in their travel trailer. They seemed to like the whiskey sours and margaritas.
Old Lewiston Bridge RV Resort was just purchased by Ryan in January, ’22 and was full for Memorial Day weekend. It’s fantastic property. There are a number of full timer’s in the park who were all fantastic people. Craig shared a bottle of wine, and Mary made us Gumbo. What a friendly community Lewiston is. We wish them all the best and will return next time we’re in the area.
Lewiston Lake is just below the Trinity Lake dam and is full year round. It’s part of the Central Valley Water Project. If you’re from California, it’s a subject you learn about in high school and read about daily in the news. Water is at the root of all things financial and political in California, not well understood by states that have abundant supplies.
We put in at Old Lewiston Bridge, in Lewiston on the Trinity, and took out at Bucktail Hole about 5 miles down the river. That was a nice paddle made even nicer by Cheryl’s e Bike I used to drop the truck and get back to Lewiston. We did a paddle on Lewiston Lake as well, a fantastically beautiful place.
Sue-Meg State Park – Stop #7 to Alaska
The drive from Trinity to the West coast was nice and better than expected in terms of road conditions. The truck hauled the 15,000 lbs. nicely through the mountain curves and grades along the Trinity river.
We had reservations at Azalea Glen RV Park, just across the street from what used to be Patrick’s Point, because the sites at Sue-Meg were full. It’s a cool spot with some history and beautiful views.
We learned that Patrick Beegan laid claim to the land and called it Patrick’s Ranch, built a cabin on the point, hence Patrick’s Point. Apparently he killed a young Yurok boy in the 1850’s and rather than go to trial he simply walked out of the hearing and hid out until he was killed some years later. Not a cool dude, so they recently renamed it after the Sue-Meg village where the Yurok lived.
Bullards Beach State Park – Bandon, Oregon – Stop #8 on the way to Alaska
Bullard’s Beach State Park in Bandon Oregon is a really nice park. But if it’s so nice, why didn’t we take a single photo of our campsite or the park itself? Hmmm…. I guess we just forgot. We simply didn’t hang at the park much.
For this stop we were busy exploring the dunes North of us, some of the cool towns like Coos Bay, Bandon, and North Bend. We also stopped by Bandon Dunes Golf Resort to check out the course. It’s a lot like Pebble Beach, gorgeous.
The lighthouse is actually inside of the state park and at the mouth of the Coquille River. We toured that point, then went North to Coos Bay for a stop at 7 Devils Alehouse and North Bend dunes. Lot’s of OHV on the dunes out there.
Armitage Park Campground – Eugene Oregon – Stop #9 to Alaska
We only spent one night in Eugene to do some shopping and a few repairs. It was a great campsite and nice location right on the Williamette River. This would have been a great spot to spend a few days fishing and boating. Alas, only so much time to explore.
Expo RV Park – Bend, Oregon – Stop #10 to Alaska
It was really great to spend a few hours with Bob and Chris. We worked with Bob back in the Call America days in the 1990’s where it was one big family. Lot’s of parties, BBQ’s, and other socializing. Lifelong friends made. Their daughter Amy used to baby sit our kids when we first moved to San Luis Obispo.
They moved to a beautiful place. I’d put Bend in the top 10 of best places to live. The Deschutes River runs right through this old logging town, now turned top tourist destination. Mt. Bachelor is just 45 minutes away and you could hike every day for 5 years and never do the same trail. It’s a very vibrant and active outdoor community.
We visited the Tumalo Falls and Lava River Caves the first day of our visit. The next day we biked miles all over that city. We were able to bike up and down the river, stop for coffee, a beer, and ultimately a bite to eat at Valentine’s Deli; really good sando’s. A must stop is the Water Park on the river where you can do a float, kayak, or just hang and watch the show.
We actually stayed at Expo RV Park on the fairgrounds in Redmond, about 15 miles North of Bend. It was a super clean and updated campground with huge and awesome facilities. It was also the only place in the area with available sites! It was a great stay all around. Now we’re off to Mt. Hood, then Portland and Camas Washington.
Mt. Hood RV Village Resort – Oregon – Stop #11 to Alaska
After leaving Bend, we traveled North on Hwy 97, then the 26 to Mt. Hood Village. It’s just South of Mt. Hood which is rich with vacation homes and ski resorts. It’s where those from Portlandia go on weekends.
The rain kept our hiking and biking to a minimum, but we did get to visit Hood River and do the laundry. The RV park is huge and boasts just about every amenity you would want. For the full timers, you can rent by the day, week, month, or year; cabins, trailers, RV sites, or park model rentals. It’s part of Thousand Trails network of RV resorts across the country.
Portland Oregon – Stop #12
As we zigged and zagged the West Coast on our way North to the second leg of our Alaska trip, we listed all the things we wanted to see and do, as well as friends we wanted to catch up with. We had a number of stops to make in Portland so we stayed at the Columbia River RV park. We weren’t too impressed. The place seems to have gone downhill since we last visited in 2014.
Still, we got to visit friends who just bought a house in Camas, WA. Lisa couldn’t make it, but we did get to hang with Bill and his two kids, Lauren and Mason. What a great time we had in downtown Camas. It’s a hidden gem, much like SLO circa 1990’s. In addition to seeing Bill and Lisa’s new home, we also got to visit the Benson downtown for a cocktail and Voodoo for a baker’s dozen.
Next stop is Tsawwassen RV Resort, just South of Vancouver, BC where we meet up with Ron and Stace (bro and sis) for the road North to Alaska.
Whistler to Tok, Alaska – Leg 2 of Alaska Trip
Tsawwassen, BC Canada – Victoria/Vancouver BC – Stop #13
So, we thought we’d be meeting up with Ron and Stacey in Whistler, BC, but they decided to join us in Tsawwassen, which is just South of Vancouver BC. They spent a couple days in Gig Harbor, then crossed the border about an hour ahead of us. It was great to meet up and begin the second leg of our trip to Alaska. We hadn’t done an RV trip with them since Canada Road Trip 2017.
We spent the first day taking the ferry over to Victoria. It was about a 1.5 hour trip from Tsawwassen Terminal to Swartz Bay. The ride over had us passing the San Juan islands where we could witness a “different kind of living”. Upon arrival, we immediately stopped at the Stonehouse Pub and had lunch and a brew; fantastic.
The next day we ventured into Vancouver where we stopped at Craft Beer Market for lunch, then checked out the shoreline of Stanley Park. We had been there for Brandon’s 30th, so it was cool to revisit the sites. Vancouver is a very fun city.
Whistler, BC – Stop #14
We got so lucky with the weather after getting to Whistler, BC. While the entire USA was going through a major heat wave, the Pacific Northwest and BC was getting drenched. But, on this particular Monday the skies opened up and allowed a day on the slopes for some downhill mountain biking; a great day it was, and no major wipeouts either.
Our campground had amazing views, great internet access, and a 18 hole disc golf course through the pines. I got my ass kicked by my brother who was 5 under while I clocked in at 4 over par. Ugh. We were off on our journey North, continuing on highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway.
Quesnel, BC – Ten Mile Lake – Stop #15
The route I chose to reach the Alaska Hwy went through Whistler. We had visited about 6 years prior to mountain bike for the day. We were in Vancouver for Brandon’s 30th and got to experience the downhill tracks since it was only a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Vancouver. It was a good idea on paper.
In practice, this was a huge mistake. I didn’t know about the 13% grade North of Whistler. It was very hard on the truck. Our rig is 12,500 lbs. dry and we have it loaded at around 15,000 lbs., almost 8 tons. Our tow capacity is 17,000 lbs. so it can handle the weight, but 13% for 7 kilometers was unexpected and a white knuckler.
The photo in the album shows the spot where we stopped and checked our brakes. I had replaced all 4 of the trailer brakes earlier in the year and we had a warning light come on before the ascending, so it was definitely nerve-racking.
All was well until about 200 yards down the grade when our trailer brakes gave out. It wasn’t panic time because I had it in first gear, full exhaust brake, and heading down around 15 mph. My truck brakes were struggling and my speed started to increase. As I was searching for “an out”, trying to stay calm our trailer brakes engaged and locked. Whew! My brother saw the smoke indicating they resumed assisting my truck slow the roll.
We made it down to the valley safely and spent the night at 10 mile lake just North of Quesnel, BC. The next day, I stopped by the auto parts store, picked up some 14 gauge and re-wired the rear axle. Six hundred miles later as I write this in Watson Lake, all is well.
Sikanni River Campground – Stop # 17 to Alaska
Sikanni River Campground wasn’t the choice we would have made normally, but it was a long drive and we just wanted to chill. The campground was 50’s/60’s era and the family who owned it was trying to get it back in shape. It had been closed since 2018.
The river was really high and moving fast. It was raining off and on about the entire time we were there, a whole 18 hours. It was nice to be not driving though. I’m a 3-4 hour drive day kind of guy. We had just finished two nerve racking 6-8 hour days… ugh.
Fort Nelson BC – Stop #18 to Alaska
After an overnighter at Sikanni River, we traveled just a couple hours North to stay overnight at Triple G RV park in Fort Nelson. We stayed right next to “this guy” and his awesome wife. Close quarters, but then they had the “Dome of Tranquility”, aka. DOT. Had to be nice so we could hang outside without bug spray.
We only spent one night but we did get there early enough to bike all over that town. The Fort Nelson Heritage Museum was right next to our campground, so that was a must see. It’s an amazing thing to be in the presence of so much stuff that witnessed so much history. We got to tour the house where the Hudson Bay’s general manager’s family lived. They had an inside toilet! Bucket with a seat that the kids were in charge of.
I got to talk with the RV park’s owner a bit. He spends Winter’s in Arizona with his wife. It seemed like those who could afford to travel South for the Winter did so. Those who couldn’t seemed to be much tougher and had much better stories.
Liard Hot Springs – Stop #19 to Alaska
What an awesome drive to stop number 19! It was really starting to get remote and very scenic. We stopped at Summit Lake and Muncho Lake along the way. As you can see by the photos, the water was amazing.
Muncho Lake was so fantastic that we decided that we had to stop and spend time there on the way back. Cheryl and Stacey took a walk down to the lake while we filled up the tanks with expensive fuel. There was so much rain just prior to our passing through that all the lakes and rivers were at the high mark or flooding.
As we made our way to Liard Hot Springs, we got to experience some road construction which the locals didn’t pay much attention to. Detours and road closures are a common scene and fact of life up there. Roads just weren’t meant to live a real long life up there.
Fortunately, we got there early enough to get a campsite. They have a provincial park there, walk up only, so we got to stay inside the Hot Springs at the campground. It didn’t have power or water, but we didn’t need that anyway.
Watson Lake, YT – Stop #20
After a big breakfast and an easy 3 hour drive from Liard Hot Springs, we arrived at the Downtown RV Park. It was just a lot with hook ups, but it was just across from Wye Lake, which we thought was Watson Lake. We had time to buzz the town on bikes before dinner.
The Sign Post Forest was cool. Ron and Stace chatted up a gal who had driven up from California with her dog. She was on her way to Valdez, AK, never to return to CA. We sensed a troubled split between her and the Cali life given she was pretty happy about posting her CA license plate up in the forest. Thousands of signs, thousands of stories.
Whitehorse, YT – Stop #21 to Alaska
The beauty continued on our way from Watson Lake up to Whitehorse. We had crossed into the Yukon the day before, but Whitehorse is really the town that screams, “You’re in Yukon Territory!”
We drank beer at the brewery, ate pizza at The Miner’s Daughter with the locals, tripped around downtown and had way too much fun here. Not sure too much is a thing, but it was a lot of fun exploring the city. It is the quintessential Yukon town.
At this point in the journey, we had two options for our route up to Alaska. We could continue Northwest through Destruction Bay and on into Tok, AK. Or, we could split North into Dawson City, YT and cross the river by ferry, then continue to the small border crossing. We chose Destruction Bay.
Destruction Bay, YT – Stop #22 on the way to Alaska
Okay, now we’re out there. After Whitehorse, it’s the last of civilization and good roads. We had great roads for about 200 miles taking in the glaciers and views of Kluane National Park. It was a stunning drive. The road wasn’t bad either, spotty in places, but not bad to Destruction Bay, YT.
We stayed at the provincial park where they have free firewood. They like to clean up the surrounding area of fallen trees and what would otherwise be fuel to a forest fire. They leave enough wood at various stations to supply guests, so we took advantage and kept a big fire going. It helped keep the bugs down.
Tok, AK – Border Crossing – Final Stop #23 – We made it!
What we found out is that the dirt and gravel roads aren’t the problem with “The Highway”. It’s the teasing and tricking of the “paved” sections that will take you down.
The road from Destruction Bay to Tok is approximately 380km, or say 5 hours. The teasing is the section of pavement that appears to say, “yeah, sure. You can crank it up to 45 mph…” The tricking is the ice heaves, ruts, and potholes that pop up out of nowhere.
The road between Destruction Bay and Tok, AK is where you have to stay alert and be on your game. If not, it will take you down. We heard numerous stories of RV’ers going too fast, hitting a heave and losing their towable, or twisting their frame so bad it ended their trip. Well, we made it through the tundra and traveling over the gauntlet of creative tricks with our rigs in tact.
Leg#3 – Three Weeks Touring Alaska in our RV
Matanuska Glacier – Glacier View, AK
After leaving Tok we had about a 4 hour drive to Glacier View where we stayed for the night. We were able to get a spot at the Grand View RV Park. It was super convenient and actually had a pretty awesome hike to take in the glacier views.
We were able to check in and set up early enough to catch the last glacier tour. It was a fantastic experience learning about how the glaciers work. Ron and Stace had visited this same glacier about 15 years prior. In that time, Matanuska has receded about 100 yards from where they camped at glacier’s edge.
The next day we did a mile hike, then packed up and drive 2 hours into Anchorage. It was a beautiful drive. Alaskans say that Anchorage is only 30 minutes from Alaska. They’re absolutely correct and anyone who’s visited knows exactly what they mean.
Glacier Cruise – Prince William Sound, AK
We scored reservations at Centennial Campground in Anchorage, arguably the best place to camp in Anchorage, (click to see photos). How might you ask? Well, booking early 8 months in advance.
Even booking early we barely got the last 2 remaining sites. Important, because in the Alaskan “RV Season”, Centennial is the only non-military campground in Anchorage that you would want stay in. The others are simply a space in a motel parking lot where most of the RV renters pay $50 to $60 per night to park overnight.
Well, it turned out that the homeless situation in Anchorage is really out of hand. Since the pandemic, Sullivan Arena was tagged to take on the homeless in Anchorage. Then in June, just before we arrived, they booted everyone out and opened up Centennial for outdoor camping. By September, 2022 it was too cold, so they closed Centennial and re-opened Sullivan for the Winter. It seems to be a permanent state of emergency in Anchorage.
Looking back, losing the campground seems a bit petty given the crisis they face in Anchorage. But, I wanted it because we had two nights there. We got a call about 3 weeks prior that our booking was cancelled. So, we settled for a motel parking lot and were happy to get it.
The next day after check in at the motel lot, we took the train to Whittier, AK and boarded a Phillips day cruise. The train ride was great. The guides pointed out the Dall Sheep clinging to the side of mountains, as well as all the history and notable sites along the way.
On the cruise we got to see a few glaciers calving, not this big, but the sound is fantastic… like thunder. So cool. Lots of wildlife and beautiful unspoiled nature. It really was a magical once in a lifetime experience. Next day, we did some shopping, then off to Homer for some Halibut!
Anchor Point – Homer, AK – Halibut Fishing
Just to clarify, the location of the blow out on the way to Anchor Point, was about here. Also, we did notice the inside rear tire was a bit out of shape and that’s the one that blew. Ron’s rig sure is heavy. That 3 ton jack barely lifted it enough to change the tire.
Even with the blow out, we made it to Kyllonen’s RV Park in Anchor Point, AK. We went into Homer around 5am the next day to catch the charter. The girls went with us and explored the town while we fished. It was a great time and we each took home plenty of fresh Alaskan Halibut.
Cooper Landing, Kenai, AK
We just stayed two nights in Cooper Landing, but it’s definitely a place you could spend more time in. The Kenai area is beautiful. We stayed at Cooper Creek South Campground, just Southwest of the Kenai Lake.
The following day after setting up camp we took the kayaks out on the lake. Didn’t have much luck until a local came up to the shore to clean his King Salmon. Apparently being native, he was able to take Kings while we were catch and release.
He cleaned the massive fish in the lake, under the watchful eye of a bald eagle. His wife fillets and wrapped. After they finished, he offered us the egg pouch to use for bait. Immediately we started catching sizeable lake trout. Ron cooked it up on the grill that night. Yum.
I’m pretty sure my second bout of Covid was in Talkeetna and I picked it up on the charter boat in Homer 2 days prior. The good news is that the second time around is more like Déjà vu; very familiar but not as strong. The bad news is I gave it to Cheryl in Talkeetna, and she got to experience at Teklanika, Denali National Park.
We managed to hit the salmon season right between runs. Didn’t catch a thing, not even a rainbow. But, we did catch sight of Denali from the Talkeetna side and it was spectacular. Talkeetna is a quaint little town with lots of stuff to see. I stayed back at camp most of the time, but I did manage to choke down a beer at Denali Brew Pub.
Denali – Riley Creek – Teklanika AK
We stayed a total of 6 nights in Denali, 3 at Riley Creek campground and 3 at Teklanika. This photo is just 1/2 mile East of Teklanika RV campground. Both locations allow RV’s of our size, 35′ to 40′, but there are no hook ups. So, you need to have all your power, water, and sewer self-contained.
Riley Creek is located right at the entrance to the park, so busier, but Teklanika is 30 miles in, about a 50 minute drive into the park on a dirt road. The cool thing about Teklanika is that only people with reservations at one of the RV or backpacking campgrounds are allowed past the gate at Savage River.
Away from the main road, Denali is absolutely unspoiled. Even the popular spots are relatively raw and if you hike just a few hundred feet off the main road, you’re in it. Yes, there are bears but they don’t like people so we only encountered one, and that was a grizzly sighted just off the road, from the bus.
Tanana Valley Campground – Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks was only a couple hours from the entrance to Denali. So from Teklanika camp, it was roughly 3 hours to our next stop. The plan was to check out the town and make plans from there. Ron and Stacey had to be back by July 29 and they wanted spend a couple days with their kids in Moscow, ID. We on the other hand had until end of August before we had to be back in San Diego.
It was July 16th when they did the math and did some driving calculations. They had just 13 days to make it back to Santa Maria California from our camp in Fairbanks, AK; about 3,300 miles. Luckily, Ron is an animal driver. “Ten hour drives aren’t an issue, I got this.” He carved out 2 days in Moscow and got Stacey home in time for her mom’s 80th birthday party.
Fairbanks isn’t a big town, much smaller than Anchorage. The downtown has some cool restaurants, and the history is rich. It has all the conveniences of Anchorage, but it’s just steps away from Alaska. It’s paradise for the outdoorsperson.
We said our goodbyes to our bro and sis on July 17th. But before they deserted us in Alaska, we had dinner at a great Russian restaurant downtown, we visited their farmer’s market, and we got to do some gold panning at Gold Daughters, a place owned by friends of friends. It was a blast.
We managed to get an extra night at Tanana Campground so we could plan our trip back. To this point, we hadn’t made any hard decisions on the route back, just that we had to be in Coeur d’Alene, ID on August 13 to meet our kids and grandkids who were flying up from San Diego to meet us.
Leg 4: Fairbanks to San Diego
The cool thing about RV’ing and being able to work from the road is the freedom to choose your path. You put a stake in the virtual ground, such as Coeur d’Alene by August 13, then build your route around the knowns.
The road between Destruction Bay and Tok is horrible. Paved in parts, but in my opinion it’s by far the worst section due to the buckling and ice heaves, wash outs, etc. So, we took the advice of Chauncey, a miner I met at the truck wash in Tok, to take the Chicken route.
The Top of the World Highway 187 miles from Tok to Dawson City, but worth the journey. The link to the Bell Alaska website has a great article about this section of highway that includes the sometimes open remote border crossing. Here are the details…
We left Fairbanks and spent the night in Tok at the Tundra RV Park and Bar. A crazy coincidence, the guy I met at the spray wash 3 weeks earlier who told me about Chicken was there again, at the same spray wash and at the same time I was! Chauncey had just retired and bought a travel trailer, then traveled from Oregon to work a claim that his uncle had left him. He was there at the spray wash the day we arrived in Tok, and the day we left.
With Chauncey’s advice in mind, we drove up to Chicken the following morning by turning North off the Alcan, up Hwy 5. A combination of dirt and paved, the road wasn’t bad. I think having to take it slow meant no surprises, and being dirt most of the way meant no buckling.
We stayed at Walker Fork Campground, a BLM campground just past the township of Chicken. It was near empty and in great shape. We had plenty of time to unhook, set camp, and drive back to explore what the “town” had to offer.
If you click into the photo above, you’ll see more photos Chicken, AK, which isn’t really a town, just a place where the miners and tourists can aggregate for the day or night. It’s all built on a slope and nothing is level. I wish I had taken a photo of the gift shop. I’m pretty sure the floor was dropping at least 10 degrees.
We parked in front of the saloon and joined a diverse group of travelers and locals. At first, it was one biker who was covered head to toe in mud. He was from Fresno making the bucket list trek via his KTM dual sport. Then there was the couple from Florida in their class C with endless stories, and the quiet guy who lived full time in his motorhome on his way to Homer to fish. As we swapped stories, 3 miners rolled up after a full day working their claims. It was great insight into the real Alaska.
All in all, we’re very glad we took Chauncey’s advice. Chicken was an experience, the road was great, the town exceeded expectations, and the campground was perfect. The next day we would finish exploring Top of the World highway, cross the border, and take the ferry across the Yukon river to Dawson City.
Dawson City, Yukon, Canada
We’re super glad we took this route through Dawson City. Experiencing the Top of the World highway, remote Canadian entry, river ferry crossing, and the town itself was worth the ticket price. The side benefit was taking it slow and avoiding the potential damage on that stretch of AlCan highway between Whitehorse, Yukon and Tok, Alaska.
It’s odd to round a corner on a dirt road and come immediately to the ferry line. I guess there is just so few travelers that building a bridge wouldn’t be cost effective. The river crossing on the ferry was a bit sketch, but we made it.
We took the rest of the day to tour the town, see some history, get some dinner, and wash off the road mud from the truck and trailer. We stayed at the Bonanza Motel and RV Park. Not much to write home about, but we could dump and take on water. Next up was Whitehorse, Yukon Canada.
Pelly Crossing, Yukon Canada
Pelly Crossing is on the Yukon River, an includes a remote provincial campground. While it’s not maintained and doesn’t have water or power, it was perfect for our overnighter. We took on fuel, explored a bit, and retired to the dome of tranquility after dinner to escape the mosquitos. We took off for Whitehorse the next morning.
Whitehorse, Yukon Canada
Ron and Stacey had visited the Klondike Rib and Salmon Restaurant on their way back. We didn’t get to go on our way up to Alaska, so we made it a point to stop for their buffalo rib eye. It didn’t disappoint, but given the fat content it was for sure an artery blocker meal.
We stayed at the Hi Country RV Park that night and scoped out our route for the rest of the trip back down. We knew we were going to visit Jasper and Banff, but the route back on the Alaska Highway wasn’t set and we had time. So, the next day we set out for Skagway Alaska on a side trip. It was just a couple hours away and the views were incredible.
Skagway Alaska side trip
Skagway is just North of Juneau, near Glacier Bay. It’s a popular stop for the cruise ships which were coming and going. The town is a popular tourist spot and we took advantage of the opportunity to visit Skagway Brewing.
We also took a drive out to Dyea Campground which used to host a full service town that catered to all the new gold rush miners. We were going to try and get our rig out there but alas, the roads too small and our rig too big.
The Chilkoot trail was the main port for miners looking to strike it rich. It turns out that the shallow port caused some issues and so they moved it all to Skagway. But, the old town site remains and the park created a walking path among the thick forest with signs showing all the old buildings that used to be the town. It’s all been reclaimed by the forest, but it’s really cool to read about livery, hotel, general store, and other buildings that made up the town over a hundred years ago.
Teslin Lake, YT – From Skagway AK back to Alaska Highway
The Klondike highway provides spectacular scenery. It’s a steep grade in and out of Skagway, 10% at times, but the Cummins pulled it no problem. It was definitely worth the stress because the views are indescribable. The photos don’t do it justice.
We stopped a number of times to hike the lichen covered rocks and bounce along the crystal clear pools that dotted the granite mountains. The two detours from the Alaska highway, Top of the World and Klondike Highways, turned out to be well worth the time we gave them.
We camped near Teslin at the Government Campground. It was just off the road and only had one other overnighter. We had time to visit the George Johnson museum, which we highly recommend if you can swing the time. That dude was incredible.
Blowout on the Alaskan Highway – Unscheduled overnighter at Watson Lake
After leaving Teslin, we passed the town of Watson Lake on our way to Liard. We carved out a few days at Muncho Lake and wanted to arrive early enough to get a good spot do some kayaking. It was not to be. This is what a blow out looks like.
We drove about a mile on this thing before we pulled over. I thought I ran over a stick, nothing more. You really couldn’t tell the front passenger tire had blown. We changed the tire and headed back to Watson Lake to replace the blow out. We found the tread a mile back. Wow. Lucky we didn’t have more damage.
We stayed the night at the Downtown RV Park, again. It wasn’t in the plans, but we were able to find a tire shop to replace the spare. After dropping the trailer, I simply raised the hydraulic jacks on the passenger side, removed the spare, and took the wheel in to get a new tire. He had it ready early the next morning, so it was an easy swap and we were back on the road to Muncho Lake.
Muncho Lake, BC Canadian Rockies – Almost paradise
We stopped at Muncho Lake with Ron and Stace to get fuel on the way up to Alaska four weeks earlier. The colors of the lake were hypnotic. After that quick stop at Northern Rockies Lodge, we vowed to come back for a visit and experience more of the lake.
The lodge has cabins, hotel rooms, and RV sites… some with full hook ups. It’s one of the top hunting destinations in the area. They fly out out to remote lake side cabins and drop you and your party off for 2-3 weeks to hunt and fish. You’re on your own miles away from any roads or people.
The RV campsite we had was right on the water and an easy launch for our kayak. We were able to explore the lake, fish, and relax in one spot for a few days. It was awesome. We highly recommend this stop over for all road trips to Alaska.
Buckinghorse River Provincial Park Campground
You never know on the Alcan. The photo above is the typical kind of road work you find on the highway. There was a lot of flooding in various spots along the highway. We barely missed a major wash out on the way up that would have cost us 18 plus hours.
Buckinghorse was a stop over as we made our way down the highway and back to civilization. We decided to visit Jasper National Park and Banff on our way to Montana. We had traveled the Icefield Parkway in 2017 and it blew our minds. Had to get another look.
In order to get to Jasper, NP we had to go Southeast through Grand Prairie and Grand Cache to Hinton, the gateway to Jasper. So, next up is Grand Prairie, Alberta Canada.
Grand Prarie, Alberta Canada
Our big adventure in Grand Prairie was a day trip out to Wembley to tour the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. We also did a pretty cool bike ride in Muskoseepi Park, got some ice cream and watched the kids skate and play in pool. Next up, Grand Cache.
Grand Cache, BC – Really Cool Town
Not sure why we enjoyed Grand Cache so much, but it was probably the combination of cool hikes, great people, awesome views, nice campground, and perfect weather. It’s an amazing location (North of Jasper, NP) and only a stop over but we did get a lot in at this stop.
Hinton, BC – Miete Hot Springs – Jasper, NP
A few things about this stop. We wanted to visit the Miette Hot Springs but we were having trouble with logistics. We decided to leave Grand Cache in the morning and hit up the hot springs on the way to Jasper. You can see in the photo; no room for big rigs in the lot so we took 5 spots. Oops.
The road to Miette Hot Springs is only about 8-10 miles from the highway, but it’s very narrow, very steep, with some very sharp turns in places. It wasn’t to much of an issue on the way up, but on the way down we encountered a lot of traffic going very fast. Needless to say, it was instant brakes when they saw us coming. On the sharp corners they pulled off or stopped. Not sure we should have taken our monster up the canyon. Oh well, it was a nice day in the pool.
Wabasso Campground – Jasper National Park
There was an amazing amount of rain in the weeks prior to our arrival in Jasper National Park. The water flow at Athabasca Falls was incredible. It’s a great example of the force that water can exert.
We stayed in Wabasso Campground, as we did in 2017 with Ron and Stacey for our “Canada Trip“. It’s interesting to see the photos from 2017 and compare to 2022. Apparently they removed a number of trees last year due to the bark beetle infestation in the area. After we left a lightening strike fire tore through in September. Wow, they can’t catch a break.
Jasper and the entire Northern Rockies are absolutely breathtaking. It’s one of those must visit bucket list places for all campers and people who love the outdoors. Next up, Icefield Parkway to Banff.
Icefields Parkway – Banff, AB Canada
We really didn’t get to explore Banff all that much last time we visited in 2017. This time we spent three days exploring the town, hiking, and biking. What a show off city Banff is. We always joke about every town having an “underbelly”. Banff is near 100% all show. You can’t find an ugly street, building, or neighborhood.
We stayed at the Tunnel Mountain Village I campground which is just across from the viewpoint to see the hoodoos. It’s out of town a bit, but not so far you can’t get their via bike. We spent some time in town shopping and gawking. Had great drinks at the Park Distillery and good pizza at Three Bears.
Ran across a big fat bear on our bike ride to town. We left from Bow Valley and took the Legacy Trail past Vermillion Lakes. Cheryl was behind me by 20 feet or so when I grabbed all the brake I could. A big brown bear, or grizzly, walked right in front of me to cross the road. That will get your heart going.
In 2017 we hiked to the Lake Agnes Teahouse at Lake Louise with Ron and Stacey. It was a blast. This time we decided to hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Whew, what a hike! But we got to see and hear glaciers calving while sipping hot tea. Pretty cool. Check out the photos!
Canyon RV Resort – Radium Hot Springs, BC
After reaching Radium Hot Springs, our trip not only started to feel like we were leaving wilderness, but also that we were going home. We stayed at Canyon RV Resort, which was very nice. It was a great way to ease back into civilization.
You can tell that Radium is on the up and coming. There is a ton of new construction in preparation for the baby boomer’s retirement. Lot’s of golf, new restaurants, and Windermere Lake has it all. Fishing, boating, skiing, etc. The whole area has a lot to offer.
We did some exploring, golfing, and relaxing at this stop. I shot an 81 at the Radium Course. Not bad for 8 months of no golf prior. We also took a drive out to Horsethief Hideout which is out in the mountains past the Columbia River. We thought it was a restaurant, but it’s actually private property that hosts events at times. Great drive, but that was a bust.
USA Border Crossing – Kalispell – Whitefish, MT
For some reason, we didn’t take too many photos of our trip from Radium Hot Springs across the border into Montana. I guess we were getting our heads back into the reality of home and family.
The drive was awesome. We took a different route than we have in the past and crossed into USA via Roseville, MT. It was quiet and easy, with zero traffic. Took me a bit to switch from Km to miles. We stayed at Spruce Park on the River that night and went into Whitefish for dinner at the Great Northern in Whitefish. The next day we had a short drive to Flathead Lake.
Rollins RV Park & Restaurant – Flathead Lake, MT
Rollins Restaurant and RV Park was a great find. We took an extra day here so we could enjoy the private beach and boat docks. Flathead Lake is as big as it is beautiful. The crystal clear water gets into the 70’s during the summer and has great fishing and boating.
This was our last stop before meeting up with the kids in Coeur d’Alene. They wanted to check it out so they flew from San Diego to Spokane with the kids. We picked them up at the airport and drove back to our campsite at CDA Riverfront Campground.
Coeur d’Alene Idaho – Blackwell Island & CDA Riverfront Campground
It was really cool to be back with family. Chelsea and Alex drove up from their home in Moscow, ID and Brandon and Dayna flew in from San Diego with their two boys. We all got to meet up for a nice homecoming and epic family get together.
As nice as CDA Riverfront Campground was, Blackwell Island RV Park in Coeur d’Alene was the real gem. CDA is in Cataldo, about 30 minutes East of Coeur d’Alene.
Cheryl had us at CDA for Friday through Tuesday, then Tuesday through Saturday at Blackwell Island RV Park, which is within walking distance to downtown. She called on Saturday and got us into Blackwell early. This was a score because we were right on the water in the best site of the entire RV park!
We had a blast kicking around downtown Coeur d’Alene, biking, and hanging at the beach. We rented a pontoon boat one day and cruised the lake checking out the amazing wealth contained in the shoreline homes. Brandon’s birthday dinner was at Cedars Floating Restaurant and it did not disappoint.
Moscow, Idaho – Chels/Alex Visit
Moscow doesn’t have a ton of options when it comes to RV parks or campgrounds. We called the fairgrounds knowing they usually host RV’s during events. Yes, they allow camping. I think it was $20/night for a space with power. It was just 2 nights, and we planned to hang with Alex and Chelsea, so perfect.
We met at Tapped for a late lunch and a quick tour of town. Later we met up at their house for a cocktail from a true mixologist. Their place is just a couple blocks from the fairgrounds and downtown Moscow is just a few more. It’s a lot like downtown SLO, a college town with a lot of character. Alex took us to a local coffee shop that night to hear Spotswood Abbey, which is one of his buddy’s funk bands. It was fun.
McCall Idaho, Ponderosa State Park
The cool thing about Ponderosa State Park for camping is it’s proximity to McCall and all the amenities. You have modern campsites with full hook ups. The campground is on the water yet connected to trails for hiking and biking into town or out into the wilderness.
We biked all over, then walked the town which appeared to have some left over Covid effects; closed shops, attractions, and fewer visitors. Even so, we could still get a beer at the local pub and people watch at the docks. It was a good 2 day stop.
McCall to Boise, then Ely, Vegas, Long Beach and Poway – The Home Stretch
We traveled 1,100 miles in 5 days for this final leg. We had to be back in Long Beach for Mel’s wedding shower on August 27, and Poway by the 29th. So we left McCall on the 23rd and did a one night visit with the Hudak’s in Boise. The next day we drove down to Ely, Nevada and spent the night. The day after we arrived in Vegas, and made it to the Golden Shore RV Resort in Long Beach, CA.
The amazing thing was the non-blow out on the drive through the Nevada desert. After we set up at the Oasis RV Resort, Cheryl noticed the front left tire on the trailer was all chewed up. It wasn’t flat, it was just showing it’s steel. Great catch by Cheryl.
We were able to hook back up and take it down to Discount Tire, less than a mile away from Oasis RV Park in Vegas, and put on 4 new Goodyear Endurance tires that they luckily had in stock. At this point we were on 3 old tires with 25k on them, and one new replacement from the blowout in Watson Lake, Yukon Canada. Lucky we caught it and lucky we could get in before closing at 5:30pm because we had to be in Long Beach for the shower next day.
Alaska Trip Summary
2022 was an epic year. We were out of our SLO house from September 2021 to September 2022, a full year in 350 square feet. Every year there is a destination, and Alaska was that goal for 2022. We did it and loved every minute of the journey their and back. Having our brother and sister with us was the icing on the cake.
In total, we traveled almost 12,000 miles in 4 months for this trip and we got to see a lot of this country, as well as Canada. Not sure what is next, but since this year included the Spencer and Melissa wedding in Arizona, Christmas in the SLO house with all our kids, their wives, and our two grandkids who are about to turn one and four.
What a fun year. We have high hopes for 2023 and hoping it will include a lot of travel time. Stay tuned for the next chapter!
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