Epic Road Trip to Alaska – Week 7!

  This will be the 7th and last week of the series “Epic Road Trip to Alaska”. It was difficult for me to find a stopping point on this series because our life is a road trip, we travel most of the year, and there are always new things to discover and talk about. But, this week we left Alaska, so it seemed a good point to end this road trip series. Honestly, I was a little sad about leaving. Alaska is such a beautiful place, and I have enjoyed documenting this adventure. I did find comfort in the fact that we are going home the long way, going down the Pacific Northwest, an area we have never seen before. I won’t be documenting these travels week by week, but I will probably give some highlights once it is all said and done. If you are just joining us on this epic road trip, be sure to check out Weeks 1-6!

Wednesday, June 12th – Chickaloon to Tok 

     Today before checking out of our RV site at Pinnacle Mountain RV Park near Chickaloon Alaska, I bought some homemade fudge from the RV park cafe and then Matt filled up at their propane station. After talking to the owner, Matt grabs a couple of the kids and walks over with the owner to where she is keeping some baby ducklings that she rescued. There were also a few alpacas on the property, the owner weaves with alpaca wool in the winter season – she was quite the industrious lady!

pinnacle mountain rv park

     We stopped in a little IGA on our route north and discovered why people say groceries are expensive up here in Alaska. I don’t blame the grocery store, I’m sure it is expensive for them to get supplies shipped this far out.

     After our quick grocery stop we drive for a while along yet another beautiful scenic highway. I can’t think of one time on this road trip where I would have been bored with the scenery. I am not exaggerating when I say that around every turn, there was something new and amazing to see!

Rainy mountain view

     We stopped at a rest stop so that I could cook dinner in the RV.  While we were parked, we noticed a man with his two boys, changing a tire on his trailer. It seemed to be taking him some time, so Matt went out to see if he needed any tools we might have on board. Come to find out, the man was removing one of the axles on his trailer.  He was coming from the opposite direction and he warned us that the road up ahead was really bad – it bent his axle.  Matt was able to find some extra-long bolts to help the man attach his leaf-springs back onto his trailer.  

     As we got back onto the highway, we were able to see, first-hand, how that man’s trailer was damaged. There were parts of the highway under construction where the gravel had completely washed out and only mud was left. Thankfully, Matt is an excellent driver and we did not get stuck or damage our RV. It was by far the worst road conditions we had seen on this road trip! 

     After we made it through the road construction, we found a spot just south of Tok, Alaska to park and sleep for the night.  

Thursday, June 13th – Tok, Alaska to Destruction Bay, Yukon Canada

     We have made the loop around Alaska! I remember planning out this voyage and thinking that the triangular-shaped route from Tok, to Fairbanks, to Anchorage, and back seemed so small in comparison to the large state of Alaska. That is only because the state of Alaska is Huge!  As one man at a church we visited told us when we were asking what we should try to see, “If you want to see all Alaska has to offer, it will only take you about 50 years.”  He’s right, there is so much to see and explore, we will have to come back.

     Tok is a small town, but has some great souvenier shops, we stop back in at one of them and pick up some small gifts for family back home. There is also a large gas station with a dump station and RV wash facilities that we make good use of.

      Before crossing the border, we stop at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge visitor center. We had stopped here on the way in, but it was evening and they close at 4:30. It is open this time, and the kids enjoyed exploring the various educational displays inside the center and chatting with the friendly volunteers who work there. We also went out back and took in the views from the deck.

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge

     We make the trek back across the border and say goodbye to the USA for now. The drive back through that stretch of road that had made us all feel a bit sea sick on the way in doesn’t seem so bad now. We have either gotten used to the wavy roads, or they have done a good job repairing this portion of highway in the last month.  

     As we were driving through this beautiful scenery, I was reflecting on our time in Alaska and the wonderful ministry opportunities we had while there. Up ahead, in the sky is this most unusual and beautiful cloud streaking down across the sky.  It seemed like we watched it for the longest time, creeping closer to it, and then under it. As we passed under it, we noticed a full rainbow arching over us, it was like we drove through it. It was such a beautiful moment.

clouds and rainbows

     We spent the night in the Destruction Bay area. The name sounds like it would be an unpleasant area, but it is a really beautiful area, with the large Kluane lake and huge mountains all around. 

kluane

Friday, June 14th – Destruction Bay to Whitehorse, Yukon Canada

     We have arrived in Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory, Canada. It is a nice city in the midst of the wilderness. Matt will be preaching here at Bethany Church on Sunday. 

     We get settled in and then make a run to the Canadian Superstore to pick up some groceries. This store reminded me of a mix between Aldi and Sam’s Club back home. I have missed those two stores, so I really liked this one – I will talk about it more at the end of this post.

     We went back to the RV hungry and looking forward to homemade pizzas and family movie night. I was busy cooking with our convection microwave and I forgot to turn off the air conditioning when the power went out. Some things about being in an RV full time are inconvient, one of those things is having to think about what sort of power source we have. Matt had just made a comment about not being able to run both things at the same time or we would pop a breaker…

     We were able to use the generator as a backup source of power to finish cooking, but we didn’t want to run it for hours to watch movies. We changed family movie night to family game night. We had a blast, and our son Caleb discovered a new love for the game of Yahtzee. 

     I forgot to mention – today was also our last day of school for the summer!  We homeschool/roadschool so I guess you could say we are learning year-round. But today, we finished up our curriculum for the year(for the most part) so we are looking forward to some relaxing, less-structured days.

Saturday, June 15th – Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

     Today we decided to explore the city of Whitehorse. It is the hub of activity for the Yukon Territory, and people drive in from all over the Yukon to stock up on supplies. There are plenty of things to occupy your time in this city. Our first stop of the day was the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site. This old stern-wheeler was built in 1929 and used to carry silver lead ore and other cargo as well as passengers up and down the Yukon River. There has been an excellent restoration on this boat and it is now open to tours. It was fun and free.

S.S. Klondike

     We picked up some drinks at Tim Horton’s and then prepared for a scenic drive to Miles Canyon. We saw some great little planes docked in the water and enjoyed our drive. Miles Canyon is such a cool spot. As we got closer to the spot where you can get out and walk to the awesome bridge that crosses the canyon, we kept seeing teenagers in prom outfits. Apparently this is a popular photo opp. 

     I am glad they were there as we are all a bit scared of being eaten by a bear. The more people, the less likely we will startle some wild animal. We crossed the bridge and walked the trail a little bit. It is such a beautiful area, the water is a vibrant blue and it looks like the perfect setting for a fairy tale.

Miles Canyon

Sunday, June 16th – Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

    Today Matt preached at Bethany Church in Whitehorse. This church is very diverse and we enjoyed ministering to all the different people here. The people were all very friendly and made our family feel very welcome.  

bethany church

     After church, the pastor and his family took us to BP’s(Boston Pizza). It was super yummy.  We had a great time visiting, laughing, and talking about Canadian and American culture and politics.  

     After lunch we went back to the RV to have a little nap time. I am not sure why the kids don’t enjoy Sunday afternoon naps, I always think it is a great idea.

     After our nap we decide to go to A&W’s for a little Father’s Day treat. A&W’s are surprisingly common in Canada, almost like Burger King in America. We had some excellent onion rings and Root Beer floats. Don’t ask me about how the Keto diet is going…

Monday, June 17th – Whitehorse to Junction 37

     Today Matt and Caleb took the laundry to the laundromat and apparently I need to be worried because some older lady offered to marry him if he ever got a divorce! She was very impressed with his awesome clothes-folding-skills. Back off ladies, he’s mine.

     Before we leave Whitehorse we decide to stock up on groceries for the week at the Canadian Superstore. We all decide that it would be best if I go in by myself and shop while everyone hangs out in the RV in the parking lot. It is rare that I get to go grocery shopping by myself, so I had a lovely time.  

     The Canadian Superstore was super indeed! I told you already that it reminded me of a mix of Aldi and Sam’s Club, my go-to grocery stores back home. Feeding 7 people is expensive, I am all about saving money, and coupon clipping just doesn’t work for me on the road. 

     I bought so much food, and other stuff we needed, and maybe some other stuff we didn’t need. The only thing I couldn’t find were paper plates. But don’t worry, as a bonus for buying sooo much stuff at this store, the cashier told me at the checkout that I qualified for a free gift – a cute paper plate party set! What!?!?! So cool. I was apparently having too much fun at the Canadian Superstore to stop and get a picture of it, but here is a picture of my deluxe paper plate gift set.

paper plates

     Even though we left quite a bit later than planned because someone spent too much time in the epic grocery store, we were still able to drive for about 260 miles. We found a spot to stay just before Junction 37 for the Cassiar Highway.

Tuesday, June 18th – Junction 37 to Iskut, British Columbia, Canada

     Today we are excited to drive on new uncharted territory for us – we had been backtracking from Tok to this point.  The Cassiar Highway is a much smaller highway than the Alaska Highway and is a bit more narrow, with most of it feeling more like an Indiana County Road than a highway. It is a beautiful drive none-the-less and we spot several more black bear along the highway today. 

     In my limited experience, I would say that British Columbia is the place to see bear. We saw 18 in British Columbia on our way up to Alaska and we saw 5 more today!  

black bears

     We stop at Jade City (it isn’t really a city, but it is the center of the Jade industry for this region). According to the Milepost, about 1 million pounds of Jade is produced each year from the Cassiar Mountains, and about half of that is exported. Jade City was a fun stop to stretch and look at all the large pieces of jade in rock form. We also enjoyed the gift shop and bought some little jade pieces.  

jade city

    Tonight we stay at Mountain Shadow RV park.  If you are going through this area, I would rate this RV park as a must stay! I picked it because they advertised wifi in the Milepost magazine and we hadn’t had any signal since we had left Whitehorse. We were pleasantly surprised that they had fantastic views and our site had nothing between us and those fantastic views! We had a very pleasant overnight stay, enjoying the majestic surroundings.

     I feel like this picture is a great conclusion to this road trip series. It represents what this trip has been for us: an amazing, majestic, and wonderful adventure from the comfort of our motorhome. 

window mountain view

Thanks for reading along with us!

If you would like to find out more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org.

Epic Road Trip to Alaska – Week 2

Canada, Oh Canada, you are large and beautiful! As a location-independent family, we always enjoy the experience of traveling to the unknown and unfamiliar. It is so exciting to say, “We’ve never seen this before!” and we have been saying that alot this week! This leg of the journey started in Miles City, Montana and ended in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.  What a fantastic journey it has been, I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Wednesday, May 8th – Miles City, Montana to Conrad, Montana

    We left our Walmart “campsite” in Miles City Montana and continued northwest across this massive state. It is massive, but not boring. I found the views today peaceful and beautiful. I love that we are traveling in the spring and among all the cows are adorable calves running around.

Montana sky

     We stopped in the town of Roundup, Montana where there was a nice park and wide side street for us to park the RV. We had lunch and then ran around and played an impromtu game of tree tag. It was just the bit of exercise and fun we needed, we got back in the RV refreshed and ready to drive some more.

     We stopped at the Great Falls Walmart and I made dinner in the RV while Matt picked up a couple of things. We kept on the road and drove to Conrad, Montana to a small campground. Whenever we are stopped for the night and have internet service, Matt likes to look up what wildlife are in the area. He discovered that in 2018, there had been a grizzly bear that wandered into the farm just behind the campground (yikes!). We decided that the laundry could wait until morning.

Thursday, May 9th – Conrad Montana to Balzac, Alberta, Canada

     The other campers and camphosts at this RV park were very friendly. One lady told me some cool stories about her grandfather, he was a circuit-riding preacher in that area. We did a bit of laundry at the campsite, and I took the two younger girls to play on the playground (don’t worry, we didn’t see any bear, and there was a large group from a daycare out there as well).  We packed up our rig and headed north to Canada!

     We stopped at a small town along the way to eat the rest of our produce and dairy products before we crossed the border. We weren’t sure what to expect, we had crossed the border before when we went to Niagara Falls, but never in the RV. 

     Border Crossing at Sweetgrass: Our passports and the kids’ birth certificates were ready, and we had left our plants, eggs, milk, and guns behind… The border police asked us a few questions, made sure we had the children we said we had, and politely welcomed us into Canada. It was pretty smooth and painless. It didn’t take long at all. 

Canada

      Some first impressions of Canada:

     1. Canada is living up to their politeness reputation by offering “litter bins” along the highway on the frequent “turn outs”. As a mom of 5 kids, I can appreciate a well-placed trashcan.

     2. Awkard and small gas stations. I have found that since we have been RVers, I am always checking out gas stations, even when I’m in the Honda and I see a nice spacious gas station, I notice. So far the gas stations here are a bit small, and that is weird to me considering the wide open spaces we are seeing, and the large amount of pickup trucks.

     3. Fantastic Mall! (continued later)

     4. Less Restaurants (at least by American standards, which might be an overkill of choices if I’m honest)

     We continued driving north through Calgary where our windshield was unfortunately chipped by a passing car. The campground we stayed at was just north of Calgary in Balzac, Alberta. We were all pretty famished by the time we arrived because we had emptied our fridge earlier in fear of the border police. No worries, just 5 minutes from the campground was a shopping area and we were sure to find a restaurant for dinner tonight. There were not a lot of restaurants surrounding the mall like you normally see in American shopping areas. But, as we drove close to the mall, we noticed the name “Food Hall”.  We figured it was the same as a food court, so in we went. 

     Excuse me while I gush about this mall “food hall”. AH – MAZ – ING!

“How fantastic can a foodcourt be?” You might ask.

Pretty fantastic.

We all ate, it was wonderful, and even though I looked a mess from traveling all day, we decided that we must walk the mall a bit. I was a happy lady.

     After the mall we took the car and drove through a car wash. Then we picked up some groceries from a very lovely and clean grocery store. Back to the RV park for the night. Balzac RV park wins for convenience, but was a bit loud next to the highway.  Shew, that was a long day, I’m getting worn out writing about it.  

Friday, May 10th – Balzac, Alberta to Rochford, Alberta, Canada

     There were some adorable prairie dogs scurrying around the RV this morning as well as some ginormous rabbits. We left the RV park and drove to Red Deer to have our windshield repaired. The repair guys were friendly and quick, and even said “Have a good trip eh” when we left, which totally added to the Canadian experience. 

     We drove all the way to The Ranch RV park near Rochford, Alberta. This RV park had actually been the owners’ cattle ranch for years, but they have since converted it to an RV park. It was situated in the country on a lake, and was home to many migrating birds. We really enjoyed relaxing there, I would definetly go back. We met the owners and they were very friendly and welcoming. 

The Ranch RV park

Saturday, May 11th – Rochford, Alberta to  Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada

     Today we slept in and left for Grand Prairie around 12:00. We only had about 3 hours or so to drive. We arrived in Grand Prairie and met the pastor of the Oasis Group Ministries, where Matt is going to preach on Sunday. The pastor gave us a tour of their facilities, which are quite unique. They have 21 apartment units, a daycare, a grocery store, and office spaces connected to their church building.  They are truly reaching out to their city by creating housing to help prevent homelessness and create a place of community in their area. 

     I have to admit that I was pretty niave, I just didn’t think of homelessness as being a problem in an area that experiences such a long and harsh winter. But it is. It was inspiring to see the work that they are doing. 

     After meeting with the pastor, we decided to take a break from our Keto diet  for Mother’s Day weeked and go out for pizza. Yum!

Sunday, May 12th – Grand Prairie, Alberta to Pink Mountain, British Columbia, Canada

     Matt preached this morning at The Oasis Group of Ministries. It was a refreshing service, we enjoyed ministering and meeting with all of the friendly congregation.  After church, several of the people gave us tips and advice for our trip farther north. This was the first time we talked with people who had actually done the trip. (Other than my Grandpa, who toughed it out in the 1950s like a true explorer, but that is another story for another day) 

     After lunch and some more visiting, we were back on the road about 4:30 in the afternoon. We drove through the iconic Dawson Creek, and took a photo of the 0 mile marker of the Alaska Highway. As we drove into British Columbia, we noticed the roads becoming more steep as the landscape became more mountainous. I am glad that Matt is driving, he’s a pro. 

     We were within 5 miles from the Pink Mountain RV park when we looked over and saw a beautiful gray wolf sitting up straight and tall along the highway! So cool. When Matt went to register at the RV park, and tell the guy at the desk about the wolf, this guy knew all about it, and he had pictures to go with his wonderful hunting stories. Apparently the wolves had been quite the hunting prize in that area.

pink mountain

Monday, May 13th – Pink Mountain, British Columbia to Muncho Lake, BC

     This day has been our most spectacular driving day so far.  We saw 12 black bear, 1 lynx, 1 moose, and lots of elk and caribou! We did not make great time, the road was winding and sometimes scary, but the views were breathtaking – all day! So many pictures, but I will just share my favorites.

mountain scene
Mountain view
black bear

     After all those winding roads, we were able to stay the night at a pull over spot right next to the beautiful Muncho Lake. It was a great day. 

Here is a video view of our awesome boondocking spot:

Tuesday, May 14th – Muncho Lake, BC to Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

      We left our most beautiful boondocking spot and drove west towards Whitehorse. Today we were blessed to see wild wood bison. I lost count, there were herds of them! I think they look a bit taller and skinnier than the buffalo we had seen in South Dakota.

Bison Crossing

     We drove past Laird hot springs and decided against the idea of walking the mile and a half board walk to the hot springs after reading about a black bear that killed two people in 1997 and about the more recent “predator bears” that are known to frequent the area as recently as 2013 or so.

     We were making good time today and we made it to the iconic Watson Lake for lunch. Watson Lake is home to the “sign forest”, a man-made forest where people have been hanging all sorts of signs with their hometown/family name on them. There is also a visitor information center behind the sign forest. One very sweet worker there loaded us up with free travel workbooks/info books for the kids.  

Watson Lake
sign forest in Watson Lake

     From Watson Lake we drove further northwest to the town of Teslin, it was our fallback destination if we didn’t make it all the way to Whitehorse. Teslin is home to beautiful Teslin Lake and a large population of Tlingit (Klink-it) First Nations’ people. There were a few museums and heritage centers in this small community, but they did not open until June. 

     We made it all the way to Whitehorse tonight and stayed at the Caribou RV Park. This RV park was very nice and clean and had a quaint “woodsy” feel.  It finally got dark around 11:30, we are so glad we bought those blackout curtains! 

 **A helpful resource for us on this leg of the journey has been The Milepost! You could do this trip without it, there is basically one main road the whole time, but it is nice to have the Milepost. It is a very detailed map/guide book that gives descriptions about the area.  It is very updated and accurate, a new addition comes out every year. There is little to no phone signal  so I cannot rely on the navigation apps on my phone. I am enjoying pretending I’m back in the 1990s, before my phone told me what to do, when to turn, etc. 

That is the end of this leg of our Epic Road Trip to Alaska! Thank you for reading along!

If you would like to find out more about our ministry, Kingdom Pursuit Ministries, go to www.kpministry.org