Alaska Highway RVing: Whitehorse to Tok

We got home last night from 17 days touring Alaska in our motorhome, accompanied by Whitehorse friends who rented a motorhome from Fraserway. We drove 3,345 km (2,078 miles) in the RVs, plus another couple of hundred in the Tracker we towed. Total driving time in the RVs was just under 45 hours. This was our itinerary:

Sat Aug 1 – to White River: 409 km (254 mi)
Sun Aug 2 – to Tok: 229 km (142 mi)
Mon Aug 3 – to Palmer: 449 km (279 mi)
Tue Aug 4 – to Portage: 158 km (98 mi)
Wed Aug 5 – to Seward: 130 km (81 mi)
Thu Aug 6 – in Seward: 0 km/mi
Fri Aug 7 – in Seward: 0 km/mi
Sat Aug 8 – to Talkeetna: 383 km (238 mi)
Sun Aug 9 – to Denali: 245 km (152 mi)
Mon Aug 10 – in Denali: 0 km/mi
Tue Aug 11 – in Denali: 0 km/mi
Wed Aug 12 – to Tangle Lakes: 224 km (139 mi)
Thu Aug 13 – to Tok (via Copper Center): 476 km (296 mi)
Fri Aug 14 – to Congdon Creek: 375 km (233 mi)
Sat Aug 15 – at Congdon Creek: 0 km/mi
Sun Aug 16 – at Congdon Creek: 0 km/mi
Mon Aug 17 – home: 267 km (166 mi)

That looks like this on a map…

Alaska RV route map

After editing, I have 1,875 photos. With good Internet only for a few hours during the entire trip (at Talkeetna), I was only able to post a handful of pictures on Facebook, and blogging the trip seems quite intimidating at the moment, but we saw some amazing things, so I’ll give it a shot.

Getting away from Whitehorse took a bit longer than we had expected, but as we headed west on the Alaska Highway, we left the rain, and just after 3:00 pm, we made our first stop, at one of our favourite beaches on Kluane Lake. MJ and Jim had rented a 23-foot Class C motorhome, the largest that Fraserway offers in Whitehorse, and we expected to make good use of Cathy’s Tracker.

RVs at Kluane Lake, Yukon
MJ and Jim’s dog, Charlie, is a wonderful little rescue, and gets along great with Monty and Bella. He’s always seemed very adaptable, so we had high hopes that he’d enjoy his first trip.

Enjoying Kluane Lake, Yukon

I’ve seen many comments online this year about how rough the Alaska Highway is. I found it to be quite normal, which means that you need to take care and be alert for road damage that may or may not be marked. The only exception to that comment was a lengthy gravel section near the Donjek River that was extremely rough and washboarded.

Our destination for our first night was Discovery Yukon, formerly the White River Lodge, on the Alaska Highway at Km 1818, 409 km (254 miles) from our home. During the trip, we planned to stay at both commercial and government campgrounds, with location being the main criteria for which one we chose.

Discovery Yukon, formerly White River Lodge, on the Alaska Highway at Km 1818
There are 50 pull-through, full hookup sites, and we got 2 side by side, with a picnic table between us. The sites cost $42 each, with 10% off for our Good Sam membership.

RV sites at Discovery Yukon, White River
Scattered around the campground is a large collection of military construction equipment from World War II when the highway was built. This part of the campground doesn’t seem to be in use anymore – it was where I had hoped to be parked for the night.

WW II construction equipment at Discovery Yukon campground
Most of the equipment has deteriorated beyond restoration, but this ambulance would be a great project.

WW II ambulance at Discovery Yukon campground
This “Northern botanical garden” is a nice new feature.

Northern botanical garden at Discovery Yukon RV park
At about 9:30, with lots of daylight left, Cathy and I took the dogs for a walk along the highway to the bridge over the White River, just over half a kilometer west of the campground. Right at the bridge, the river changes its character dramatically, from being a mountain river upstream…

White River, Yukon
… to a braided glacial river downstream. Within a very short distance of the bridge, the riverbed is a couple of kilometers wide.

White River, Yukon
On Sunday morning, before hitting the road again, I spent more time checking out the artifact collection, which really is quite impressive. Overall the campground and the facilities in general at Discovery Yukon are quite nice – it’s a particularly nice place to wander with the dogs. My only complaint was that the advertised wi-fi barely functioned even inside the small lodge – it wasn’t really worth the time and frustration of trying to use it.

Artifact collection at Discovery Yukon campground
As were all sitting in our rig discussing the day ahead, one of Trans North’s Aerospatiale AS 350 helicopters came in to land, with a good-sized boat dangling from a sling! We actually knew that it was coming sometime today, as we had talked to a Whitehorse sheep hunter the previous evening. He told us a fascinating story about his party’s boat sinking up the White River, being rescued by helicopter, and now paying some $8,000 to fly the boat and motor out. That’s some adventure!

Boat rescued by a Trans North helicopter
Sunday would be an easy day, with only 229 km (142 miles) to drive to Tok, and nothing in the way of stops planned other than the border crossing. At Km 1865, travellers come to an odd assortment of “stuff” along the highway that no doubt produce many guesses as to what it is. I’ve watched it expand over the past 20 years or so – it’s a section of highway for testing various ideas to protect the permafrost that lies below the road, and so stabilize the road surface. See this page for more information.

Permafrost testing area, Alaska Highway
We stopped in to see the very nice Visitor Reception Centre at Beaver Creek. I used to spend a lot of time in Beaver Creek with tours, but few bus tours come this way anymore.

Visitor Reception Centre at Beaver Creek
Staff at our Visitor Reception Centres can always be counted on to have the information you need, even when you didn’t know before you walked in that you needed it – Sid was no exception to that rule 🙂

Visitor Reception Centre at Beaver Creek
Alaska welcomes the gang 🙂 I actually took this photo as we left Alaska because the place was far too crowded as we entered Alaska.

RVs at the Welcome to Alaska sign on the Alaska Highway
We met a very large group of cyclists (50 or so) and their support vehicles at the border – some at the sign and the rest at the Customs crossing. They are members of a group called Texas 4000, and over 70 days will be riding all the way from Austin to Anchorage, gathering support for the fight against cancer. The first Texas 4000 ride took place in 2004, and since then over $4.5 million dollars has been raised for the cause. There’s a sign on the back windows of the van that says “We biked here from TX”.

Texas 4000 charity cyclists at the port Alcan border crossing
Just before reaching Tok, we made a short stop at one of my favourite rest areas, at the Tanana River bridge, Milepost 1303.

Rest area at the Tanana River bridge, Alaska Highway
Along the way, we stopped in to see one of my Facebook friends who I hadn’t yet met in person, and he invited us to have a look through his private museum (because it’s private, I’m not saying who or where). I was quite stunned by the size and variety of his collection, and by what he’s done with it – it takes a while to start noticing some of the details in the many rooms. For someone like me, it’s exciting to see the sort of passion it takes to create a place like this over a few decades.

Private museum along the Alaska Highway
There are several themed rooms in the museum, including this wonderful bordello bedroom, which would be unlikely to exist in a public museum here.

Private museum along the Alaska Highway
I could have spent hours there. This old apple box end says “We believe in trade with the Empire. This box material and apples are Canadian products. Nails made in Great Britain. BUY EMPIRE PRODUCTS”. It makes me think of the maps we used in school when I was young, with countries of the British Commonwealth circling the globe in pink.

Private museum along the Alaska Highway
Our home for Sunday night would be the Tundra Lodge & RV Park at the western edge of Tok.

Tundra Lodge & RV Park, Tok, Alaska
We were given sites #19 and 20 at the furthest edge of the campground. Lovely, large sites with water and 30 amp power for $33 US (currently $43.21 Canadian). After registering, I’d gone over to the Tesoro gas station next door to fuel up and wash the rig (the wash is free with a fill).

Tundra Lodge & RV Park, Tok, Alaska
The large, clean, washrooms were close by.

Tundra Lodge & RV Park, Tok, Alaska
Wifi is only available in the very comfortable lodge reception area, which was either a very long walk or a short drive from our sites, but was reasonably fast.

Tundra Lodge & RV Park, Tok, Alaska

The next day, to Palmer, would be one of our longest driving days, so we had a quiet night and were in bed early.

Comments

Alaska Highway RVing: Whitehorse to Tok — 11 Comments

  1. I’m headed for the former White River RV Park today having spent the last couple of days in Whitehorse. I’m looking forward to more posts if your Alaska trip.

      • I also stayed at the Discovery Yukon Lodge and the wi-fi worked okay even out in the campground. Slow but functional. I was hoping that it wasn’t closed like so many of the other placed I’ve stopped at in the past.

  2. Well I was away myself for a bit, thinkihng when did your 16 or so days go by…glad that you all got back in one piece. And looking forward to more of your stories, observations and great photos…I may still be headed up in September but it would only be to work on a cabin outside Homer…which I would gladly do!

    • Our itinerary until the last second included Homer, but things got too rushed and that was the destination that was cut. We’ll be retracing this approximate route next June with a month or so to play, though, and Cathy will get her wish to camp on the Homer Spit (the most crowded and expensive RV spot in Alaska, I hear). 🙂

      Have fun!

  3. Shame on ya, Murray!
    You are making us waaaaay toooooo jealous!!!
    I -really- do enjoy your pictures and narrative !!

    Dave & Judy

  4. Murray, we have only car camped on the Homer beach spit…that is an experience…interesting folks down there too! But the views are beyond compare. We did July 4th week for nearly a decade at my brother’s cabin out in the bay! Never, ever got tired of that. Now kids are grown and it should be easier to plan and schedule..but it’s not.

  5. We are leaving for Alaska in 10 days, and our original plans included Tok. Then we scratched it because of time limits. Now I regret it.

    • There’s never enough time. And a 10-day itinerary is a challenge, as you found out – there’s just so much to see! Are you renting an RV and just doing Kenai-Denali-Fairbanks now?

      • 2011 was our last cruise. The past 2 trips (and this upcoming one) we get a car in Anchorage and make the rounds. Always do Denali, Fairbanks, the Richardson to Valdez (new) then to the Kenai. I wish we had found AK in our 30’s. We would be living there now.