Another Born To Run Extravaganza had concluded and I’d somehow survived. My body needed a detox, and after a week of festivities with my wild dirtbag hippie friends I was looking forward to the peace and quiet of heading north and driving the Alaska Highway in my truck camper. Luckily it wouldn’t be too quiet though, I’d met Lisa at the ranch and we were virtually inseparable all week, so much so that I talked her into joining me for the summer road trip to Alaska. After 4 years of solo travel, I was ready to share my home on wheels with a cute co-pilot!
We left Santa Barbara County in two vehicles, stopped in Sacramento, moved her stuff into the camper, and parked her Subaru at a friend’s house for the summer. After a fun night with great friends and cold beers carrying on the Born To Run celebration we climbed into the Tacoma and drove north.
We made a quick stop at snowy Crater Lake, Oregon, cut west across Washington to Palouse Falls State Park, and then onto Coeur d’Alene, Idaho before turning north to cross the border into Canada. When I drove the Trans-Canada Highway in 2016 one of the highlights was the the Icefields Parkway, so this year we spent a few days in Banff, trail running and beer tasting, before rambling north through the Canadian Rockies, past massive glaciers and stunning lakes, to Jasper National Park.
From Jasper we pushed through remote Canadian forests to Dawson Creek and the start of the iconic Alaska Highway. We stayed a few days, working from coffee shops while the truck got an oil change and the camper went into an RV shop to fix the water pump and furnace. I also attended a Rotary Club meeting and enjoyed learning about the region’s culture and economy. Once the truck and camper were ready to roll we snapped a photo and started our Alaska Highway adventure!
We used the Milepost guidebook to track our progress and plan our stops along the way. Some of the highlights included driving across an original curved wooden bridge, crossing into the Yukon Territory for the first time, spotting black and grizzly bears along the roadside, camping and relaxing at the Laird Hot Springs, and exploring the Signpost Forest at Watson Lake, which is a man made forest with more than 80,000 signs, license plates, and other mementos left by travelers over the past 80 years. We continued to Whitehorse where we camped for a few days and worked from the library and coffee shops before moving on.
From Whitehorse we veered off the Alaska Highway and drove the North Klondike Highway to the old frontier town of Dawson City where we enjoyed a real shower at the RV park and cold drinks and live music in an old saloon. The next morning we took the ferry across the Yukon River, drove the Top Of The World Highway to Poker Creek, Alaska, the northernmost land border crossing into the United States, and on to the small town of Chicken, Alaska, where the annual Chickenstock Music festival was in full swing. We didn’t have tickets to the show, but we sat at the small bar in Chicken, one of only 3 buildings in town, and watched as an Alaskan bush pilot buzzed the crowd several times, each pass opening his side door and dumping a trash bag full of bright yellow candy peeps onto the Chickenstock festival goers below!
The next day we rejoined the Alaska Highway, stopped at the North Pole to see Santa, and made our way back to civilization in Fairbanks. We tried to camp outside of town, but there wasn’t much public land. After a lot of research with the iOverlander app and Google Maps I picked a spot that looked promising, but that changed as soon as we arrived. First, we passed an old broken down truck riddled with bullet holes. I was okay with that, but I wasn’t so chill about the animal carcass laying next to the vehicle. The body looked to be in a partial state of decay and might have been a moose, but I couldn’t tell since it was decapitated and missing its appendages. With an eerie feeling we pushed ahead and not far down the path we saw one hoof, then another, and another, until we counted 5, which was weird because we only saw one body, so we turned around. On the way back I took one more look at the scene and spotted the moose head laying next to the truck. Done!!! We b-lined back to Walmart, bought some cold beer, rented a romcom from Redbox, locked the camper door, and didn’t come out until morning. Needless to say, living in the Walmart parking lot in Fairbanks wasn’t ideal, but it seemed better than the alternative, whatever that was!
In Fairbanks we enjoyed visiting HooDoo Brewing, checked out the Midnight Sun Festival, and attended the Midnight Sun Baseball Game. Since 1960 the game has been played on the summer solstice, starting at 10:00 PM and going without stadium lights because the sun just barley dips below the horizon. The game this year went into extra innings and didn’t end until nearly 2:00 AM, with plenty of sunlight still to illuminate the field. In addition to the solstice festivities, we purchased an inflatable kayak from Walmart and dropped in on one side of town, paddled down the Chena River, and caught an Uber back to our parking lot home.
While in Fairbanks I made an appointment with another RV service center to get the camper fixed once and for all. The water pump had gone in and out during our Alaska Highway drive, making showers a sporadic treat. The furnace still wasn’t working, and before we drove to the Arctic Circle I wanted to have heat. A visit to H & H Service Center got everything buttoned up and the staff spent some time with me, offering tips and advice for our next adventure, driving the Dalton Highway.
But, before heading up the Dalton I was catching a flight back to the Lower 48 to document my brother’s experience running the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. I departed from the Fairbanks airport with my camera gear, backpack, and running clothes. I would miss Alaska, but I was stoked to see friends and family in California!
Alaska Road Trip 2019
Driving the Dalton Highway – Read Here
Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula – Read Here
Valdez, Haines, The Yukon & BC – Read Here