Since this part of our trip was a distinct and different phase in our wanderings, we thought it might be a good idea to explain a few things for anyone who didnít read the first part of our 2008 journal.
Jim and I had planned to do another long hike this year, on the Idaho Centennial Trail, but problems with Jimís bad left knee and a newly diagnosed Mortonís Neuroma in his right foot made walking very painful. We needed an alternative, and Alaska was a fairly obvious first choice. We had been there before (in 2004) ) and really enjoyed the incredible beauty of the landscape. We knew that it was a good place to see wildlife, which has become a priority for us. We also knew that the prices were going to be high and that that would affect our options. Still, we wanted to go back and this seemed like a good time to do so. Iíve heard about driving the Alaska Highway ( the Alcan) for years, so it sounded like a fun idea to take our time driving across western Canada up to Alaska, wander around the state for several weeks, then leisurely drive back again. Finding the time to do that is usually a problem, but this year we had plenty of time, so we decided to go for it.
We bought a new copy of the Milepost, the main guidebook for people driving to and inside Alaska. It describes each of the main highways and what highlights, businesses, trails, etc. can be found along each road, mile by mile. Because there are stretches where gas stations and other services are few and far apart, The Milepost is a really good idea for Alaska travelers. We found some errors and changes since the book was published, but on the whole it was very helpful and we used it frequently. Besides, I love guidebooks, so I enjoyed learning about the history of the places we passed through and about the natural history, too. We also picked up a book on hiking in Alaska that had several options for short hikes around the state. We wanted to see as much country as possible, so we planned to do different routes and go to places we hadnít seen previously in Alaska and Canada. The books and a couple of online forums were very helpful in getting ideas about where to go.
We considered taking the Alaska Marine Highway (the Ferry) but shipping the truck is expensive and it would mean being on a schedule, since reservations are recommended when shipping a vehicle. We wanted the freedom of playing it by ear, with no set plans or reservations. Instead we headed west on a southern route (the Yellowhead Highway) and returned east on the more northerly route (the Alaska Highway). If we were to do it again, weíd skip the Alcan, take the ferry north from Vancouver or Bellingham, despite the cost, then drive the Cassiar and Yellowhead Highways back in the fall. But thatís hindsight. We enjoyed our trip enormously.
Since money was tight, we agreed to camp as much as possible. We have a Ford long-bed pickup with a cap, so we can sleep in the back quite comfortably. It means we donít have to set up a tent every night (and pack a wet tent in the morning) and it's more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. Thereís plenty of room to sit in the back and read and when the bugs are bad, we can close the tailgate and open the screened windows. Not as fancy as an RV, but we can go anywhere and the gas mileage was reasonable (about 19 mpg.) A butane camp stove made cooking simple and a cooler in the jump seat of the truck meant we had milk, cheese, soda etc. on hand when we wanted them. Weíd done a lot of car camping in the desert this year, but Alaska was likely to be a bit different. We were excited to be starting a new adventure.