Carol's Trip Summary

Now it is my turn to share my perception of our summer trip. If looking at the whole log I would say it was an awesome incredible journey! If asked to describe just our Alaska trip I would say that it was grueling, tiring, bone and nerve jarring, and a little disappointing. But it was still an adventure of a lifetime considering where we were and all that we did.

The wonderful things I will take home with me from Alaska:

  • The rare view of majestic Mt. McKinley
  • Viewing a real glacier, seeing it calve, and listening to it crack and thunder
  • Seeing humpback whales in the ocean
  • Seeing a grizzly bear wild and free in Denali National Park
  • Coming face to face with a male grizzly bear
  • Going home with Alaska gold I panned myself
The scenery:

I have seen better countryside views in the lower forty-eight states, such as Glacier National Park, the Olympic Mountains and rain forest, Yosemite Valley, beautiful rock formations in Arches National Park in Utah, the Grand Teton mountains, the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and the Canadian Rockies.

Southeast Alaska near the Glaciers and the Alaska Range offer more pleasing views. The Black Spruce trees that are so prevalent in Alaska’s forests remain standing for a long time after they die and there is a great deal of evidence of forest fires over the years that just makes the overall scenery unattractive. Alaska is so big that driving through the same scenery for hundreds of miles can be monotonous. I liked being closer to the mountain ranges because I love snow capped mountains. The snow capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and all the glaciers were among the more beautiful views we have seen on this trip.

There are hundreds of miles sometimes between settled areas. Of course, to us, this is sometimes a plus and the purpose of getting away from it all. Alaska really is rough and rugged.

The weather:

It definitely affected my view of Alaska. I tired of wet, rainy, foggy, overcast days. It is true that there are only about 3 to 4 days of sun a month. The fog and rain obstructed views 2/3 of the time. I missed out on lots of pretty views described in the Milepost Guide. It was very frustrating to travel all the miles we did to get to Alaska, along with the cost, and then not be able to see all we anticipated. The weather is just unpredictable from day to day or even hour to hour.

The roads:

Ah, yes, the roads. I thought the Top of the World Highway, the Alaska Highway, and the Cassiar Highway were highly overrated as "must" drives. The really rough gravel roads, the frost heaves, wet and/or mud, potholes, and bone jarring rides for many hours, just were not worth the wear and tear on our RV, the truck, or especially our nerves. But we have earned our medals just like most visitors to Alaska. Had we known what these roads were really like we would not have driven them. We would have taken the better of the roads then backtracked to continue to other places. We could have spent more time in some of the prettier areas and done other things. Although, we did have decent days to drive through the mountains to Valdez and Haines. Our "Second Home" now has a few more dents and moans and groans. All the driving through the vast state of Alaska really does take something out of you by the end of the trip just leaving you exhausted. This seems to be common among other people I have talked to who share the same feelings I listed above.

Conclusion:

Am I glad I came to Alaska? Yes! It was indeed an adventure into the last frontier and I know why that is the state motto. We can say we did it. Would I take the trip again? No. We had planned this trip for so long, and were so excited about it all, that I think we set our expectations way too high.

If I were to tell someone how to see Alaska I would suggest a cruise to see the glaciers or see them by air if you could afford it. Or fly into Anchorage and rent a small Class C motor home so you could drive to Denali and around the west and southwest part of the state, going into areas maybe big rigs don‘t. Unless you are a fisherman, I would skip Seward, Homer, and Valdez.

Talk to as many people as you can who have been to Alaska and read as much information as you can as well. You will meet some that would return in a heartbeat. Be prepared for the conditions I mentioned above. Then decide for yourself how you want to take your trip. Plan to spend plenty of time in Alaska, be very flexible, be patient, and just live in the moment that each day brings.