Alaska - 2005
In 2005 we took our second trip to Alaska and our third trip on the Dempster Highway in Yukon and Northwest Territories. On previous trips up the Dempster Highway we only traveled part way, but on this trip we traveled the entire length from Dawson City, YT, to Inuvik, NWT.
Itinerary: The trip consisted of about 17,000 miles and lasted 42 days. We left Austin, TX on June 3rd.
The first leg of the trip was a bit of a side trip to Camp Sherman, WA. One wouldn't ordinarily take this route on a trip from Austin to the Canadian northwest, but Camp Sherman is one of the best places to spot a White-headed Woodpecker. Since it was "sort of" on the way so we took the opportunity. We chose to bypass the Seattle area and on the advice from a few fellow RV-ers on various forums, we opted to cross the border at Osoyoos, BC and head up through the Okanagan area before heading for the Cassiar highway. This was a good choice, as the Okanagan area is quite beautiful. This appears to be the "Napa Valley" of BC.
We went up the Cassiar and stopped in the Stewart/Hyder area. There is a great salmon spawning and bear viewing area in Hyder. Unfortunately we were a bit early for both. We are planning a trip back here soon, but it will be in the month of August when the salmon are spawning and the bears are plentiful.
Next, we headed for the Kenai peninsula of Alaska. Our major goals in the Kenai were to visit Fjords National Park and Homer Spit. In both places we took sightseeing trips via boat. The weather was perfect on both trips. The wildlife viewing in Fjords is truly awesome, especially for birdwatchers. If you are ever in this area, I recommend the Stone Creek campground. We had about a dozen bald eagles on the creek bank right outside our back door. The highlights of the Homer cruise was sighting Red-faced Cormorants and the gourmet lunch at the lodge we stopped at across the bay. This was also the best place to spot sea otters. Many were mamas floating on their backs with babies napping on their stomachs.
After Homer we headed to Denali National Park. This was our second trip to Denali and it was also the best. We almost bypassed it this trip, but are sure glad we didn't. Great weather and great wildlife viewing, including a great look at nesting Gyrfalcons.
After Denali we headed to Fairbanks. While in Fairbanks we made a side trip up the Steese highway and back. Great scenery. Then we headed back to Delta Junction to pick up the McKenzie highway which would take us to Chicken, AK, the Top of the World highway (very aptly named), across the Yukon river to Dawson City and on to the Dempster highway, the biggest highlight of the trip.
This was our 3rd time on the Dempster in 11 years. This time the weather wasn't great. Before we started out from Dawson City, we were warned that the highway might be closed near Eagle Plains because of a forest fire. Luckily, there had been rain in the area and the fire was out except for a few hotspots, so the road was open. We did pass through some smoke and the second morning we had to drive through fog mixed with smoke for several hours. The rain (mostly drizzle) stayed with us for the whole trip up to Inuvik and back. The road wasn't too muddy except for some spots between the NWT border and Inuvik. At least we had no dust. In the really muddy spots, the rig was slipping and sliding and I put it in 4wd a few times going up hills. I pitied the guys pulling 5th wheels with 2wd trucks. There are 2 river crossings by ferry along the way. The approaches to both were quite muddy and the exit angles were pretty bad on one (my rear jack feet actually dug up some soft mud getting on the ferry). Great wildlife viewing of course, with lots of short-eared owls and even a black bear running down the middle of the road ahead of us. Inuvik was pretty neat, but it was about 35 F and drizzling both days we were there. We wanted to take a boat tour up to the Arctic Ocean, but the weather was too bad.
After the Dempster, we decided to take the route through Jasper and Bannf on the way back to the states. This has to be about the most beautiful area on earth. The weather was perfect again. Great scenery and great wildlife viewing. We got our first glimpse of a Pine Marten.
We swung a bit further east than normal to go back to Texas through the Dakotas and Nebraska and pick up a few National Wildlife Refuges we enjoyed on previous trips.
We really enjoyed the trip in our truck and slide-in. It's the only way to go.