May -June 2014
The beauty of Alaska cannot be overstated. For 17 days, we explored the culture, the landscape, the wildlife, and untouched frontier that makes Alaska one of the best destinations on earth. Planning an Alaskan expedition presents its own challenges - even more so when your point of departure is on the east coast of the US. While we would have loved to journey across the country and up through Canada into Alaska, that kind of trip would have taken months and blown our travel budget before we even started. Saddened that we'd miss the opportunity to take the FSO rigs into the Alaskan frontier, we needed to let practicality take control and opted to rent an RV to travel about the state. While it wasn't the off road rig we were used to, it would serve as our roaming hotel with a few luxuries of home on the road. We'd soon come to realize that we were but one of several thousand RVers doing the same thing.
Upon arriving in Anchorage, we taxied from the airport to the RV rental location at about 1am. We had arranged to sleep in our RV in the rental lot that night, and then proceed with the paperwork the next morning. I knew we had the right RV when the license plate read "GPS" as if it also new we were explorers. After some safety and instructional videos, we were on our way. First stop was a local grocery store to stock up on supplies for the next 17 days, then turning north towards Denali National Park.
The Road to Denali National Park
From Anchorage to Denali National Park was about a 4 hour drive, so we decided to split up the time by stopping at the Iditarod Trail Race Headquarters and the town of Talkeetna. In Talkeetna, we hit up some local shops and craft brews at the Denali Brewing Company.
For more detailed information about Denali National Park, please click the trip report page dedicated to the park itself as it truly deserves its own write up. This trip report will continue on about the rest of the Alaskan experience.
The Call of the 4x4
While based at a Denali campsite, we decided that we'd be remiss if we didn't at least rent a Jeep 4x4 and explore some of those places where the RV couldn't go - well at least if we didn't want to call a tow truck. We scheduled a Denali Highway Jeep Excursion with the company of the same name. It was great to be able to drive your own Jeep, and instantly brought back the overlanding sensations again. A CB radio, a Jeep, a guide and the open back country. It was a great opportunity to see some breathtaking views and nearly reach out and touch some wildlife. Oh, and snacks. They had snacks.
Click below to scroll through the carousel of images from the highway.
In typical Alaskan fashion, some wildlife decided to wander out in front of our RV on the way down the highway.
Whittier, where it's always... Raining
There's a saying by the locals in Whittier. "It's always shittier, in Whittier." And true to form, we waited our turn in line to squeeze the plump RV through the Whittier tunnel, a one lane bore through the mountain for 2.6 miles. Check out this video of the experience from someone on YouTube. It's quite intimidating in an RV that you've only had a day to get used to.
Whittier is quite a peculiar place. All 220 people of Whittier live in the same building, which houses condos, the police station, grocery stores, clinic, school, church, etc... The residents of Whittier enjoy pure isolation - something an overlander can respect. From Whittier, we scheduled a glacial cruise an a fairly impressive catamaran but as luck would have it, the weather wasn't really cooperating with our views.
Click through the images from Whittier area below.
Westward to Russian River
With the isolation of Whittier in our rear view mirror, we set course for Homer, but we planned for a short stopover at the Russian River campground. Once we cleared the Whittier tunnel heading northbound, we found ourselves seeking food that didn't come from an RV kitchen. As we cleared the rain, we stumbled upon the small community of Hope. No stop lights. Nothing more than a pub, a restaurant, and a small RV camp lot situation along the water. As we parked and exited the RV, the sky cleared up and a rainbow formed over the valley. It was surely a sign that Hope, AK had been the right place for us to stop.
Click through below to experience Hope and Russian River.
Rolling into Homer, AK was a treat onto itself. The road into town brings you up and over the mountain which as a great overlook for all of Homer, including the famous spit. The town itself is small, but the spit is home to port of calls to many a fishing fleets, including some of the Deadliest Catch fleet ships. There are merchants and one of the best campgrounds in the world at the end of the spit where one can witness dozens of bald eagles within just a few feet from your campsite. It was without a doubt, one of the most beautiful views in the world.
Click through and have a look.
Onward to Seward!
Our final destination before spending some time in Anchorage was Seward. Of all of the places on this trip, Seward would likely be the second most popular as it's a major stop on many Alaskan cruises. We had scheduled a cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park for the two days we spent there. This was, by far, the best cruise of the trip and the photos alone do not do this region of the world justice. Absolutely breathtaking glaciers, sea life, landscapes, and ... well, just click through for yourself.
Click through to see photos from Seward and the Kenai Fjords National Park cruise.
As a state, Alaska is gigantic. The fact that we spent 17 days there and were only able to visit such a small portion speaks great volumes about the natural treasures it holds. As trips go, this is definitely one place I'd love to return to some day. Even more so in an FSO overlanding rig. As well as this trip went, I can't help but think that there's so much more out there. And the explorer in me wants to push further into the heart of northern Alaska. Perhaps another time. But for now, just know that we'll be back. Mark our words.