Adventure along the Great Alaska Highway

For decades, the Alaska Highway has represented a road to adventure. But what was once a wild, treacherous drive has been tamed considerably over the years.

The legendary highway still offers the unexpected: spectacular scenery, glimpses of wildlife, crazy curves, entire sections of missing asphalt, and roadways that have been known to buckle under seasonal frost heaves.

Gary and Sandra Sprau decided they were ready to take on the Alaska Highway, tackling the 1,523-mile trek from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to near Fairbanks, Alaska, in their 31-foot motorhome.

They hated the mosquitoes, but loved the scenery, the people, the affordable RV parks, and the sheer fun of exploration.

Along the way, they found the adventures of a lifetime – stopping for treks into Denali National Park, a Skagway train trip, whale-watching excursions, and a freewheeling Jeep ride all the way to the Arctic Circle.

GARY SPRAU: “You know, we never thought we’d like RVing. But when my wife ended up with emphysema, we had to carry an oxygen generator with us. Flying became a real hassle. With RVs, there’s plenty of extra storage.

“Now, every time we get in the RV we look at each other and say, ‘Where are we going?’ It’s like you just get that urge you want to go somewhere. We’ve been in just about every state. Eventually we decided to tackle the Alaska Highway.

“We took a month and went up through Minnesota and North Dakota, up through Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and took the Trans-Canada Highway west. Along the way we went to Lake Louise – just a fabulous spot. In fact, we’re thinking of going back there next spring.

“The Alaska Highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and runs about 1,500 miles to the other end. The trip took us three or four days. Along the way, the scenery is incredible. What’s amazing is every scene is more spectacular than the last. Every turn is better than the last. You want to stop and look at everything.

“It’s quite a road. There are stretches where you don’t see people for a long time, but when you do, chances are they’re other RVers. Someone told me Alaskans have the highest number of RVs per capita in the nation, more than any other state. I believe it.

“Along the highway, the road condition is marginally OK. You know, we complain here about rough roads, but up there they don’t warn you the road is going to get rough. You’ll see a little triangular sign or maybe a flag and then the road just drops off. Going 50 mph, you actually feel airborne for a minute!

“And there’s always construction, they’re always fixing it. They would stop traffic one way and escort you down a one-way road, then take you off the road to places where they don’t always clear the trees completely.  Some were actually growing back up! It was like going over a railroad track. Surprisingly the RV made it, the jeep too. You just have to take it in the spirit of adventure.

“We didn’t have any bad experiences on the whole trip. I can remember just about every campground we stayed in – they almost always had room, and they were very affordable. Gas is whatever it is – always more expensive in Canada. The most expensive was right near the Arctic Circle.

“One of the highlights was being at Denali Park – just fascinating with all the wildlife. We’d spot bears as we were just driving down the highway. You’d see all these vehicles pulled over and you think, ‘It’s an accident.’ But no, it’s somebody running across the road to photograph two bears. People do strange things.

“About a mile or two north of (the Denali) entrance there was an RV park. We stayed there. Took a bus ride into the park, which was great. Going out to look at whales was also fascinating. Fairbanks is the official end of the Alaska Highway. We left the RV in Fairbanks and drove the Jeep along the Alaska Pipeline to the Arctic Circle, near a town called North Pole. You can have Christmas cards sent from there, so we sent cards to the grand-kids.

“For anyone attempting the trip, I would suggest taking The Milepost Guidebook, which lists every little thing you can find along the side of the road by milepost marker. It tells you so much.

“I would also warn people about the mosquitoes up there. In the summer, they’re probably three times the size of what we see in the Midwest, which makes it really helpful to have an RV.

“I would recommend it for anyone who has a vehicle. It’s a long trip, but it’s worth it.”

 

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2 Comments

  • We are going to attempt this trip you did, we are planning to leave florida mid June whre can we obtain the mile post guidebook? We are traveling with children 10 and up, there is anything we need to know aside from you intereting description of you trip? Any other suggestions? Restaurants, places to visit on the road? Any special place?Lake Louise?…? Rough roads, we teared the mud guard from our 40 ft rv last trip visiting yellow stone park. We took a wrong road guided by our GPS and took us into a forest
    Thank you for your advise mercy sanchez

  • I am a nephew of Roy Butch Smith who was a sordgouuh miner during the Klondike gold rush in the early 1900 s. I know he made Fairbanks his winter home for several years. I believe he also had a dog-sled mail run for a time between Dawson and Circle City. He also lived and died at the Sitka Pioneer Home. I am trying to research his history in early Alaska. Do you have any references or books that mention his name or tell of his adventures? I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

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