Thursday, September 15, 2016

Our Alaska Adventure Recap



5 months, 13,905 miles, 15 breweries, 31 National Park/Monument Passport stamps, 5 World's Best Cinnamon Rolls and good times, that pretty much sums up our Alaskan travel adventures. No new pictures in this post but some of our favorites!

Our Favorite Brewery
We had no idea what to expect when we left Salt Lake City on April10th embarking on this journey. Filled with anticipation and a little bit of worry at the thought of leaving our 5th wheel in storage for so long and living in a sub 100 square foot camper for the next 5 months. Now, 153 days later we have returned to Salt Lake having fulfilled lifelong dreams.
Where to start? The fishing? The wildlife? The existing friends we met up with along the way? The friendships we made while we were up there, the sights we saw or the adventures themselves? You just can’t put them in any order as they all were great. But alas, I must try……


Although the sights themselves were incredible, I would say that the highlights of our trip included the people that we met along the way. Working our way north we stopped by Sequim, WA and spent a few days with Johnny, then it was on to Sidney, British Columbia were we met up with our Quartzsite friends the Colibaba’s spending over a week with them touring the area. There were other planned meetings as we knew several of our friends were working or traveling though British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska. We met up with Lee and Trace in Glenallen, Bill and Kelly as well as Steve and Linda in Seward, and Les and Sue in Homer. In Fairbanks we met up with Wisconsin friends Bob and Lorriane, Minnesota friends Tom and Shelly and our main Fairbanks attraction; Barb’s cousin Lori and her husband Jim. Then there was Jo and Ben who we crossed paths with in Chicken and of course we can't forget Dino and Lisa in Yellowstone! We looked forward to each of these visits along the way happy to see a familiar face, catch up and compare adventures.
Then there were the friendships we made along the way. Each of these were unexpected and just icing on the cake! We met George and Nancy in B.C, catching up with them several times in the following months. Rod and Sharon of the Lazy Salmon who we had a chance encounter along the roadway outside Soldotna and the Ross’, Rich, Susan, Angela, Billy and Sandra (see our blog on how we met them here) who graciously allowed us to camp in their front yard for several days at a time on 3 occasions, took us fishing, whale watching and played several aggravating games of Aggravation! And last but not least Faye and Dave in Fairbanks. Encounters that we are grateful for and hopefully friendships that will continue.

Fishing…..We caught 4 variety of fish that we had not caught before; our best Grayling fishing was at Smith River Falls in B.C., a tough and remote area to fish but we caught several fish over 20”’s. Haines provided us with our best Dolly Varden fishing with some nice fish that provided a nice fight when combined with the current of the river. Thanks to our new friends Rich and Susan who took us halibut fishing we caught several of these tasty beasts. Not the hardest fighting fish but heavy and tiring to reel in when you have a big one on or the action is fast and furious. But our favorite fish by far was the Sockeye (Red) Salmon on the Kenai, Russian and Buskin Rivers. There is nothing like hooking one of these fish and have it spool you as it tries to run down the river. Not only was this our funnest fish to catch it is also the most hazardous as was demonstrated by several soakings from slipping in the river and injuries from reel handles banging against Barb’s wrist multiple times. We brought a variety of fishing equipment but next time we go we will one bring a set of 6wt, 9wt and light spinning rods along with good waders.

Barb with a Red

And a Dolly Varden
And a Grayling
Me with a Kenai Red

But let’s talk about the money as this was one of our biggest unknowns going into this trip. We researched many blogs trying to get an idea of how much it would cost so we thought we would provide our expenses to anyone looking to go in the future. We started out this trip with a loose budget of $15,000. I am happy to report that we came in under this amount at $14,195! We brought $5,000 in U.S. cash, $3,800 in Canadian cash and the rest in a Wells Fargo account that we had opened just for this trip. We chose Wells Fargo as they offer free foreign exchange and have branches throughout Alaska. While in Canada we paid cash for everything, food, gas, fishing licenses….everything…. we did not want to deal with the exchange rate on our cards. Ends up that we spent all but $5 so we pretty much nailed that amount on the head.

Our largest expense category was fuel at just over $3,400. Finding diesel fuel was never an issue as we tried to fill up anytime we got below ½ a tank. We only had one issue when we became extremely low on diesel exhaust fluid out in the middle of nowhere. Since that incident we kept an extra gallon or two with us.   

Next up was groceries at just over $2,700. We were told food was expensive in Canada and Alaska so although it was not a surprise but it was still shocking to pay 2-3 times lower 48 prices in some locations.

As many of you know we put our 5th wheel in storage and bought a truck camper specifically for this trip. Doing this allowed us to access many remote locations and dry camp/boondock the majority of the trip. We only spent 45 nights in fee campgrounds, our total campground expense for the entire trip was $762 for an average of 4.98/night.

All figures are from Salt Lake in April to our return to Salt Lake in September
Many fulltime RV’ers want to go to Alaska but think they can’t afford it, well think again, it is does not really have to be that expensive. Although we were probably a little conservative financially, we did not live super frugally either. We just watched what we spent and spent it on things we really wanted. Our usual non-Alaska monthly expenses are about $2,000 a month on the low side so we would have spent at least $10,000 in those 5 months anywhere we went. Looking at it that way, Alaska on cost us $5,000 on top of our normal expenses!
We have no regrets on how we planned the trip knowing what we knew at the time. Knowing what we know now we would do a few things differently. One of our primary focuses on this trip was fishing. Although we had good fishing, we missed the peaks of the runs in a couple areas. Next time we go up we are going to try and time the peaks a little better and make sure we are in the right areas. We visited a lot of cool and unique places and we are glad that we went. But now that we have “been there seen that” so to speak, next time we go up we will probably skip a lot of those places and head straight to some of our favorites; Haines, Fairbanks, Homer, Ninilchik and Soldotna.

Traveling with a pet in Alaska was not an issue at all. We were asked for Daisy's rabies vaccination papers entering Alaska but that was the only time and most of the National Parks did not allow pets on the trails but other than that we had no issues at all and would not hesitate to bring a pet along. She had a great time seeing all the sights and going on hikes where she could!

So obviously by now you may have guessed that this is not a once in lifetime trip for us. We are already planning a return trip! Our emotions, memories and friendship are pulling us back and we want to go next year again. But there are so many other things to see! The lakes of Ontario are calling us next summer and the summer of ‘18 we really want to do the east coast, so right now it is looking like the summer or ’19. So to all of our friends, old and new, and to Alaska itself…..Thank you, hope to see you soon.




36 comments:

  1. We too know we'll be back, not in a caravan again but maybe with some friends. Great to have met you guys and hope next time we can have a longer visit. Enjoy being back in the 5th wheel.

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    1. Oh man, I forgot you guys in the blog, edited and corrected! Would you believe we were actually a little sad when we put the camper away?

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  2. Glad to see we're not the only ones with an "alcohol" category. :) Your camping fees are impressive, but show that Alaska is so doable! Great recap!

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    1. This first step is to admit it, the second step is to embrace it!

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  3. You certainly had a wonderful time and it was so much fun going along with you. Taking a small unit is key I believe. It opens so many doors to where you can stay and go. I am so envious of all that fresh fish. Sockeye Salmon is our favorite:) Thanks so much for sharing:)

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    1. We have been told that Halibut is the best tasting fish, we however prefer the sockeye as well!

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  4. So glad to hear you will be coming back to Alaska. Wish it was sooner, we had so much fun hanging out with you guys! See you soon!

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    1. We wish it was summer all the time so we could do it all. We had a great time as well and hope to see you sometime this winter!

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  5. Great recap! We sure enjoyed tagging along. Glad you had a fabulous trip and made it back safe and sound. We can hardly wait to return to Alaska after reading everyone's blogs.

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    1. Can't wait to follow along on your Africa/Normandy trip and see you guys in Arizona!

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  6. Thanks for the great write up on doing Alaska in a truck camper. I will keep this for our upcoming trip.

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  7. We loved following your adventure through Alaska, as we had always felt that the camper route was the way to go. If you are going back in 2019, will you purchase another truck camper at that time?

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    1. We have not decided exactly what we are going to do. We might take the 5th wheel as we know exactly where we are going and will not be near the bad areas.

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    2. What do you consider "bad" areas. We will be going for the first time next year with a 23 foot TT.

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    3. For us the worst stretch was between Tok and Glenallen. I am sure that others would chime in on their thoughts as well.

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  8. Great recap! Was great to live Alaska vicariously through you guys (and a couple others as well!!)

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    1. There was certainly enough of us up there to live vicariously through!

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  9. You had us at 15 breweries :-) Thank you for sharing the financial side of your adventure too.

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    1. There were one or two that we missed so we have to go back up!

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  10. We are living our lives pricariously through you. We enjoyed your pictures of Daisy and Barb. Your trip was so well documented that we feel that we don't need to go now. Thanks.

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    1. We will send the a bill for 1/2 of the money you saved, or maybe just a beer next time we see you.

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    2. Vicariously is the word I was looking for. My editor doesn't work with comments. A beer it is.

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  11. Best re-cap! Nice to know that it can be done without breaking the bank. I don't know when we'll get to go, but I can't wait to fish up there! What a great trip you had! That Daisy!

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    1. Let us know when you go, we can help you out on where to go and what to use for fishing.

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  12. Awesome recap! Thanks so much! Your blog has helped so much with guidance for our trip there next summer! That's a lot of National Park cancellations too!!!

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    1. Can't wait to read about your trip! Some of the National Parks have up to 4 or 5 Visitor Centers with different passport stamps.

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  13. That was a great write up. Thanks for sharing it and I loved the bear paw prints at the end!!

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    1. Seemed like the perfect picture to end our Alaska tale....

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  14. Great recap and I share your feelings, Alaska is truly an adventure and it is not for the faint of heart. You did it right taking a camper. For us we were young and bold and took our Betsy.
    Cheers !

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    1. We will probably be stupid and bold next time and take our 5th wheel.

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  15. Great re-cap of your adventure! Not sure if you remember us, but we met in Valdez and I've stopped by to read your blog occasionally since then. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Alaska too and will probably do another sometime in the next few years. I'm sure we will do things a little differently then, and will take more time in our favorite spots instead of trying to see it all! Glad to see you were able to sell your little camper and are enjoying the lower 48! If you ever pass through Indiana, please let us know. Happy travels!

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    1. We certainly do remember you two, we really enjoyed that cruise! We are already planning our next trip although it is a few years away. Great to be able to dream! What part of Indiana are you in?

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    2. We live in Charlestown, in Clark County directly across the Ohio River from Louisville KY. Charlestown State Park is nearby with some nice campsites and hiking. (Our driveway is available for overnights too :) )

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  16. Great photos! Looks like an amazing trip, thanks for the share!
    Kylie

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