Our November/December 2017 issue was all about Alaska. We had several Workampers send in their stories and Jane White did just that. Here is her story –
“Adventure 19 to Adventure 2, Odometer set to Zero, Lights On, we are leaving the park.” Thus, started our 63-day, 5,510-mile caravan trip from Great Falls, Montana through Alaska to end in Prince George, British Columbia.
Taking the summer off from our Workamping jobs, Bob and I loaded our 2017 36’ Pace Arrow Motorhome and car dolly and joined 10 motorhomes, seven 5th wheels, two class Cs, and one travel trailer in Great Falls. Our caravan consisted of 41 adults, nine dogs, and five cats.
We rolled across the Alberta prairie with a stop at the Calgary Stampede, climbed the Canadian Rockies to walk on a glacier and ride a gondola 6,850 feet up Whitehorn Mountain, and drove the AlCan or Alaskan Highway to reach the famous Dawson City, home of the Gold rush, in the Yukon Territory.
Ferrying across the Yukon River, our first taste of Alaska was traveling the 100-mile “Top of The World Highway” with hairpin curves, switchbacks, and steep uphill and downhill grades. With a stop in Chicken, Alaska, we continued through construction and dirt roads. After 1 flat tire on the dolly and 2 stone chips in the windshield, we arrived in Tok – coated in dust inside and out. Two caravans lined up at the RV Wash (40 RVs) and we group washed all the vehicles including the tows.
Averaging 200-300 miles per day, moving every day through Canada, we slowed our pace to spend 3-4 days in Fairbanks, Denali, Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Palmer, Valdez, and Skagway. We visited “The Santa Clause House”, the Ice Museum, Pioneer Village, the SeaLife Center, the Mendenhall Glacier, a Musk Ox Farm, and rode the White Pass and Yukon Train. Our trip included a 93-mile bus ride into Denali National Park spying grizzlies, caribou, eagles, moose, and dole sheep. Late in the afternoon, the clouds cleared briefly so we were blessed with a peek of the top of Denali. Only 30% of all visitors get to see the mountain top due to the cloud cover.
In Homer and Valdez, optional fishing trips landed halibut and salmon for some of our group. Other boat trips took us by the Mears Glacier, whales, sea otters, sea lions, and puffins. Others in our group took the plane ride to the Arctic Circle, or went White Water Rafting and Ziplining in Denali.
We learned about the building of the Alaskan Highway, raising musk ox, the First Nation Indian Tribes, panning for gold, the Colony House Experiment, and Soapy Smith. We were entertained by songs and stories about the Prospectors, the Indian Nations, and the creation of Chicken and Skagway. We were introduced to puffins and musk ox.
Since Jane has a passion for fabric, every city stop included a quilt shop featuring northern wildlife and batiks and the Row by Row Quilt Challenge. And, yes, one of our motorhome storage cabinets contained her sewing machine for those “down” times.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Most of our campgrounds were 30 amp with a few limited 50 amp service. Every other campground was full service while the others had electric and water only. In a couple of remote areas, we had to dry camp for a couple of days. WiFi, TV, and cellphone service was very limited in these remote areas. We never had a problem with locating fuel stops for gasoline or diesel. Almost every small town had a fantastic bakery featuring cinnamon rolls or other specialty goods. No one lost any weight or went on a diet on this trip!
Like a wagon train, every night we gathered around to share our experiences and discuss the next day’s journey. It became a friendly contest to spot the wildlife, with bears being the number one priority. Often, we would have an impromptu meal featuring bring a can of soup, spaghetti, or some other food. The Wagon Masters (leaders of our trip) also served several meals including a fish fry, and a steak dinner usually at those remote stops where there were limited resources. Of course, the favorite still was the s’mores around a bonfire late at night.
Every morning, the Tail-gunner (the other leader of our trip) checked the tires and conditions of the RVs to make sure all were ready and prepared for that day of travel. We usually traveled in groups of 2 to 4 RVs using the pull outs to let other vehicles pass and guided each other over the ice heaves.
We met and talked to several Workampers who were loving their jobs in Alaska. Most were repeat workers coming back year after year as Camp Hosts or Sales Clerks in the tourist stores.
1700 pictures later, we have memories of gorgeous mountain views, waterfalls, glaciers, and wildlife ranging from grizzlies to whales. Our family now includes 39 other people that tackled the Great Alaskan Wilderness and traveled the highways sharing this awesome experience.
Bob and I would like to thank the leaders of group, Curt and Jenine Overby and Ron and Judy Pollock for this experience. Also, plans are in the works for meeting our extended family again starting with Tampa in January.
Thanks so much for sharing this awesome journey! What a once in a lifetime experience!