10 tips for RVing to Alaska (part 1)

RVing in Alaska last summer taught us many things. We gained not only a useful perspective but some much-needed confidence. Alaska is a lot of things but being wholly predictable is not one of them. Prior to beginning our trek from Northern Idaho through Canada toward our family’s 50th state, we had a growing list of Alaska fear factors that others had helped us build.

I’d like to take that list and work through the fears one by one separating out fact from fiction and offering up my top tips.

When I first set out to share my top 10 tips, the content quickly became too detailed for one post. Therefore, I have broken the list into two parts. Today I will cover bug & mosquito populations, road conditions, and route decisions. Tomorrow I will follow up with weather conditions, internet access, wildlife encounters, RV and truck breakdowns, flat tires/cracked windshields, food prices, and mail retrieval. Let’s get started!

FEAR #1: BUG AND MOSQUITO POPULATIONS

We’d heard horror stories about the HUGE Alaskan mosquito population. Yes, we’ve been to the Florida Everglades. Yes, my husband grew up in the humid, lake filled, mosquito-ridden state of Minnesota. But Alaska was worse, way worse (at least that is the story we kept being fed).

Driven by my desire to survive, I purchased garlic capsules. I added “take garlic” to our morning routine hoping it would help make us less tempting to bite. In the end, the area of bugs and mosquitos was perhaps one of our top surprises. While we did find isolated pockets with a healthy mosquito population, on the whole, they were so frequently not present that we would often forget to be thankful for their absence.

Given the size of the state, this isn’t necessarily surprising. In the lower 48, Minnesota has a lot of mosquitoes but Northern Idaho does not. Roughly 1,000 miles separate these two states. However, in Alaska, you can travel 2,700 miles and still find yourself in the same state. It makes sense then that there will be areas within Alaska that are very bug-heavy (those who opted to drive to the Arctic Circle told us they practically battled bugs in hand-to-hand combat) and many areas that are not. Ironically, our most prominent mosquito memory occurred in the Yukon, NOT in Alaska.

RVING ALASKA TIP #1: Our traveling friends own an electronic, hand-held bug zapper. Not only is this useful in eradicating bugs from your area, but the kids find it to be intensely exciting to use. We also found mosquito head nets to be useful while fishing in a few locations where the bugs were thicker and our hands were busy (clicking through will take you to Amazon via my affiliate link). Our worst mosquito encounter occurred when we boondocked next to a placid lake. It’s probably best to be leery of a location that is so ideal for mosquito reproduction.

FEAR #2: ROAD CONDITIONS

Overall, roads in Alaska fall somewhere between fair and good. Few roads were actually bad. Those that were did not surprise us and were typically not a required route—we simply opted to drive them anyway due to the lure of fantastic views.

Photo: The Denali Hwy. This was one road that we regretted traveling on due to the exorbitant amount of dirt it brought into our RV.

Again, the drive to Alaska through the Yukon offered the largest stretch of roads that were in repair. I also think it’s fair to say that our scale of what makes a good road “good” was diluted slightly as our time in Alaska lengthened.

Photo: After driving the Denali Hwy. we spent several hours cleaning the entire RV from this thick layer of dust.

By the end of the summer, we certainly hadn’t driven freeway speeds in many months. However, who would want to miss all the beauty? Going slower sure aids in taking in the breathtaking vistas and animal sightings!

Photo: After taking the Top of the World Hwy, the truck and RV get a MUCH needed wash!

RVING ALASKA TIP #2: Meeting oncoming traffic while driving on poor roads was rare. We often took advantage of both lanes to weave around or between frost heaves. We traveled with another family and took turns taking the “lead driving position”. Communicating with walkie talkies, we were also able to give each other some warning if there were road conditions to be aware of. If you are following another RVer, take cues from their speed and driving. Continue reading “10 tips for RVing to Alaska (part 1)”

just how bad are the mosquitoes in the Yukon?

Hi! It’s been a while. Remember me? We are currently in Florida working in the panhandle with Samaritan’s Purse for the Hurricane Michael recovery efforts. You are welcome to hop over to my Instagram Page and view my daily stories to see more about what that is like (be sure to say hi while you are there).

Where are you at? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to since my last post! Today I am going to do a time hop back to a post that I wrote in route to Alaska this last summer. I’d waited to post it until Trent had time to edit the accompanying video. I hope you enjoy!

When we started telling others about our plans to spend the summer in Alaska, one subject inevitably surfaced again and again: mosquitoes. People really felt it was important to let us know how bad they were.

However, I’ve learned to use caution when fear is involved. After all, it almost kept me from visiting Florida the first year we wintered in the RV. Plus there are these two strong factors that we believed set us squarely in a category devoid of any mosquito naivety:

Trent grew up in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes and millions of mosquitoes.

We’ve been to the Everglades!

However, we haven’t even crossed the border into Alaska and we’ve already learned some major mosquito lessons. Just how bad are the mosquitoes in the Yukon? You be the judge. Continue reading “just how bad are the mosquitoes in the Yukon?”

pray out fear, freedom is waiting on the other side

Some people say it’s best to face your fears. However, in order to embrace the freedom that is waiting on the other side, we need more than posture, we need a plan.  Here is what I have found to be the number-one most effective strategy: pray out fear.

We don’t often realize how many decisions are based on our fears. While some fears are rational and designed to keep us alive, I believe most of the fear that guides our decisions are not of this life-preserving variety. These fears need to be identified and dealt with.

FIRST: FIND THE FEAR

It’s become a little game I play—an adult version of hide-and-seek—identify areas in my life where fear is hiding. Because of our traveling lifestyle, my circumstances are continually shifting. This means I always have a lot of new material to work with, making it easier for me to flush out fear from its dark corners so I can meet it head-on and pray it out.

Since we started traveling, I’ve found that each region of the country has its own natural disasters, potentially deadly animals or unique hazards. Residents worldwide are often pretty low-key about the particular brand of danger living in their own backyard. However, there always seem to be a group of people who haven’t actually been to said location but yet have strong opinions which they must share for the sake of our family’s health and welfare. We discovered this to be particularly true while planning our trip to Alaska. As often happens, the list of fear factors only seemed to grow with each new person we spoke with.

-Bug and mosquito populations

-Road conditions

-Route decisions

-Weather conditions

Internet access

-Bear encounters

-RV and truck breakdowns

-Flat tires

-Cracked windshields

-Food prices

-Mail retrieval

pray out fear

FEAR VULTURES

As our Alaska departure date drew near, I noticed how frequently this group of people rotated around this list like vultures, picking at their own favorite fears and flinging them in our direction. I will admit, the temptation to bite was strong.

Continue reading “pray out fear, freedom is waiting on the other side”

how to find eternal value in a short-lived gold rush

In the late summer of 1896, while our country was coming out of a financial recession, three men followed a hunch and found gold in the Klondike River of Canada’s Yukon Territory. As news of their new gold discovery spread south to Seattle, it lit a flame in the hearts of the recently impoverished people. That flame licked its way across the continent and set the hearts of over 100,000 ablaze with the hope that they too could strike it rich. Leaving behind families and jobs, they flocked north hoping to cash in and turn their luck around.

DISAPPOINTING DISCOVERY

The journey was long and arduous. Most were not prepared for the extreme conditions that awaited them. 70,000 were forced to turn back before reaching their intended destination of Dawson City. About a year after setting out, the remaining 30,000 began arriving into Dawson only to discover that claims had already been made on the land containing their treasured riches. A few stayed on to seek employment. Most turned back, empty-handed.

SILENT SENTINEL

The city of Dawson, complete with dirt streets, now stands as a capsule of time reminding us of how quickly a dream can come and go. Tailings* stand in lonely heaps just outside the city’s border reminding me of a child who has lost interest in his toys and was never asked to clean up the mess. The original dredge used to coax great riches from the hidden folds of the earth has been retired from active duty and now stands as a silent sentinel guarding the memories of the past.

eternal value short-lived gold rush

GOLD GLITTER

For Quinten’s 9th birthday we tried our luck panning on the banks of the Klondike River. With hopes held high but expectations kept low, we scooped and swished like the best of them, eyes alert for the elusive gold glitter at the bottom of our pans. While the experience proved memorable in both a historical and educational sense, we were left with gold dust so fine you could only enjoy its glitter before washing it away in the stream. Continue reading “how to find eternal value in a short-lived gold rush”

how limited water, food, and internet can be good

Our trip through Canada to Alaska has been educationally gratifying. My mind has soaked up the opportunity to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush and whaling industry of the late 1800’s and the Steamboat era that soon followed. However, another aspect of personal application has been a lesson on limited living or: how limited water, food, and internet can be good for you.

A NEW TRAVEL APPROACH

In many ways, this road route has differed from those that we have done in the past. For one, we are traveling with another family for an extended amount of time, sharing the ebb and flow of travel days, trip planning, and potty break pullout stops. For another, we don’t have a pre-scheduled itinerary with campground reservations stretching into the weeks and months ahead. Instead, we have a general overview of our route and every few days we review the next leg of our trip and make tentative plans for our upcoming stops.

limited living
Photo: Last original bridge from the Alaskan Hwy

This method of travel is made possible due to advanced planning on my husband’s part who worked to ready the RV for extended dry camping endeavors. The beautiful thing about dry camping is the cost (often free if you are simply parking at a roadside pullout) and the flexibility (Want to stay longer? No problem! Ready to leave sooner? Let’s go!).

limited living
Photo: A view of our solar setup

Continue reading “how limited water, food, and internet can be good”