¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 7:21 a.m.

To be honest, I didn't expect this trip to happen.  We had a standing offer to drive a car up to Anchorage if the one person we knew up there ever bought one somewhere in the lower 48... but then all of the sudden we had a 2016 Forester and a set of Alaska plates to pick up, and a loose plan on how to get it there.

I basically spent one morning building this little sleeping platform, with the front seats all the way forward there's plenty of room for the cheapest memory foam mattress I could find:

We threw some food and water in the car, a sleeping bag, a harbor freight toolkit, a lithium jumper pack, packed our bags and we were ready to go.  The only other change to the car was mounting some Falken Wildpeak AT Trails on the stock wheels so it wouldn't be useless in snow.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 7:31 a.m.

Day 1

Quakertown PA to Menemonie WI

We wanted to give ourselves buffer for any delays that might arise later in the trip, so it was full speed ahead through the lower 48- which went just fine other than a bit of weather in PA and the discovery that a CVT Subaru actually begins losing fuel economy pretty drastically above about 70mph.  We even managed to meet up with fellow rally people Gabe and Colin in Madison for dinner despite only giving them like 20min warning as we drove by:

We kept going until a little after 10pm, and then turned in for the night at a highway rest stop with a plan to get moving again nice and early.  1082 miles down.

Toyman!
Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/11/22 7:34 a.m.

Super jealous. 

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 7:43 a.m.

Day 2

Menemonie WI to Shelby MT

We hit the road early as planned, saw two bald eagles we failed to photograph, and pretty soon we hit North Dakota, which was a real milestone since that was the only remaining state of the lower 48 that we hadn't been to yet.  No extra stopping though, we had ground to cover:

Well, ok when we hit Montana we did have to visit the dinosaur museum, if only to grab a postcard:

Pretty soon the scenery started to get more clasically Montana as we took highway 2, and we established the upper end of the Forester's max cruising speed- 84mph yields 20mpg, 86mph is 17mpg and it only drops faster from there- for reference 65mph is like 32mpg so it's a pretty drastic fuel economy drop.  With the cruise set at 84 we crossed a whole lot of this:

Our stop for the night was the closed Carousel rest stop in Shelby MT:

2170 miles down.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 7:58 a.m.

Day 3 

Shelby MT to Banff AB

We got up even earlier than usual to be in Glacier National Park before sunrise- it was mostly closed, we had the place to ourselves:

The nearest border crossing opened at 8am so we left in time to be first in line:

Crossing was uneventful, and all of a sudden we were in what looked like more of Montana but the speed limits used the funny little numbers on the speedometer and the fuel prices were some completely confusing made up values.  After being completely bewildered at a gas station for a bit, we cruised right past Calgary to visit the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary which is not only an incredible place doing good work, it's also owned by rally people!  So we learned about wolfdogs, talked rally stuff for a bit, and had a lovely time:

Then we drove up to a remarkably empty Banff (the advantages of doing a trip like this while it's still cold and snowy) where we got a remarkably nice cheap room and climbed Tunnel Mountain before getting a fancy fondue dinner at The Grizzly House:

 

2500 miles down.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 8:16 a.m.

Day 4

Banff AB to Decker Lake BC

We headed for the Icefields Parkway but had to pull off the highway immediately for this sunrise view:

May be an image of tree, sky, nature and mountain

I can't wait to see the DSLR photos for that one, we'll have to drop those in later.  We also dropped by a near-totally-empty Lake Louise, getting a nice isolated walk in where there would normally be hundreds of tourists in warmer weather:

The Icefields Parkway was a "snow tires required" road so there were some icy sections, a few bits with deep snow, and a brief exciting period of whiteout conditions.  The Wildpeak AT Trails are decent on everything but ice so it was fine for the most part, a dedicated snow tire would have been better but it wasn't too dicey.  Somewhere along the way we passed the closed snow covered Skywalk, and stopped at this beautiful frozen waterfall I can't remember the name of:

By the time we stopped for lunch (poutine!) in Jasper, it was clear something confusing was going on with our schedule for later in the day- once we were off again Sara told me it was a surprise and to just drive.  Drive where?  An airfield in Vanderhoof.

We got to the airfield and Sara informed me that we were gifting a bottle of whiskey to a pilot named Big Bird and getting in a plane.  Ok then, I wouldn't have guessed that one!

Turns out he's a former bush pilot and friend of our local paramotor guy, we had to take turns riding along since the plane is only a two seater:

I even got to fly a bit, which brought back every memory of being terrible at flight simulator as a kid- I was OK while we were banking but totally disoriented when I tried to fly straight; probably for the best, we have enough expensive hobbies.  What an experience, and totally unexpected thanks to Sara's sneaky planning.

We grabbed some surprisingly good pizza at Cozy Corner Pizzeria in town, and then drove until we were tired and parked at a rest stop in Decker's Lake- even in the woods of rural BC, the rest stops seem to be cleared all winter and this one was even heated!

3118 miles down.

Ian F (Forum Supporter)
Ian F (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/11/22 8:19 a.m.

I've been following this trip on FB and was wondering when the GRM post would happen. 

If I had been the buyer, I would have asked you to install a block heater prior to departure (assuming it doesn't already have one).  I understand it's basically mandatory for any vehicle in Alaska.

I've wondered how long a PA to MT drive would be.  I have biking friends in Bozeman I want to visit sometime.  Granted, I would be driving slower since the MPG-speed drop is even worse with a minivan.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 8:37 a.m.

Day 5

Decker Lake BC to Teslin YT

This was the first day of real remote stuff, or at least it felt like that.  We got gas at the last possible stop and set off north on 37 into the wilderness, suddenly more worried about fuel range than speed.  It mostly looked like this:

But sometimes like this:

We got fuel again in Dease Lake and things got even more empty- just about every restaurant, motel, and gas station was boarded up and covered in snow beyond that point.  We stopped for a nice little picnic lunch at a terrifyingly named rest stop:

After driving for most of the day we found the YT/BC border and Sara climbed a 7ft snowbank to get this photo:

Then, at the intersection of 37 and the Alaska highway (or the Alcan depending on your preference) we had an unpleasant surprise- the only fuel station was closed, completely snowed in.  This meant we had to hope that there was a station open in Teslin, or risk running out of fuel before we reached White Horse, so we drove as efficiently as possible to try and be prepared for the latter scenario.

If you've never had to hypermile a car in order to avoid being stranded and freezing to death in the Yukon, no surprises here- it's extremely stressful and I don't recommend it.  At least the views were good:

Luckily when we got to Teslin there was some stuff still open, so we fueled up- we were on track to make it to White Horse before the tank was empty if needed, though.  We drove from there until we were tired and slept at another rest stop near nothing at all.

3850 miles down.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 8:52 a.m.

Day 6

Teslin YT to Healy AK

Off again through some amazing scenery, all giant mountains and frozen lakes.

We stopped for a little picnic lunch staring at the mountains, and despite being on the largest highway in the area it was the quietest moment of the trip- not one vehicle went by and it was just us and the mountains, enjoying a "warm" afternoon in the sun because it was above freezing and there wasn't much wind.  Pretty soon we were moving again for this:

And we added a 49th state to our list:

Recognize any stickers on that sign?

The border crossing was uneventful again and we made good time to Fairbanks, where we got fuel and ice cream but couldn't find a bathroom- one shouldn't judge a city by its' off-highway gas station area, but our impression of Fairbanks was "soggy cold Newark" so we hit the road again immediately.

According to the weather and solar activity predictions, that night was our best chance for seeing the Northern Lights so we found a spot nice and far from any light pollution and setup camp- the lights were faint but present:

May be an image of nature and sky

4650 miles down.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 9:09 a.m.

Day 7

Healy AK to Seward AK

We passed more snowed-in touristy stuff and drove into Denali National Park for a little hike before the visitor center opened.

We also stopped by the sled dog kennels, but they were closed to the public- we did get to hear the excitement of what I'm guessing was a sled leaving, though, since the dogs made a ton of noise and then suddenly dropped silent as somebody issued a few commands.

Driving south from Denali, we still hadn't seen a single moose and were beginning to wonder if it just wasn't in the cards- but then, at a creek near the road, there were a whole bunch.  No phone pictures, you'll have to wait for the good ones since Sara was sprinting all over the place with the good camera to get good shots.

Next was Talkeetna, where we went full tourist and had some reindeer gyro pizza (amazing) at Mountain High Pizza Pie:

The other people eating there were wearing ski and snowboard gear with what looked like climbing harnesses- we figured they were backcountry skiing and climbing as part of that, which was only partially correct.  After lunch they just casually walked down the road to their rides:

After watching them take off (the helicopters were on the ground for about 90 seconds!) Sara ran out onto the ice for a picture or two, mostly on the fancy camera again:

Then we drove straight past Anchorage down to Seward, which took the rest of the day.  Standing on the shore of Resurrection Bay certainly felt like we had reached the finish line, what a journey!

Took a little walk around, found an abandoned railcar, didn't get a good photo of yet another bald eagle, and settled into an airbnb without setting an alarm for once.

5101 miles.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 9:16 a.m.

Day 8

Seward AK to Anchorage AK

Breakfast, Sealife Center, Conservation Center- lots of animals, touristy stuff.  It was a fun way to spend a day after driving so much:

That day will have a lot more DSLR photos we need to post later I'm sure.  Then, the true finish line, we handed the Forester off to its' new owners and grabbed yet more amazing pizza at Moose's Tooth:

5250 miles, mission accomplished!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 9:23 a.m.

Day 9

A Tour, Some Hikes, and Flying Home

Our hosts made excellent tour guides, making a huge breakfast, chauffering us around for hikes at Flathead Mountain and Turnagain Trail, a visit to Whittier (accessible only through a single lane tunnel), Girdwood (ski bum central with some tasty food trucks), an art gallery and ice cream:

And after we said our goodbyes, dropped us off at the airport for our redeye flight home:

And on the plane, one last surprise- a better view of the Northern Lights!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
4/11/22 9:26 a.m.

In reply to Ian F (Forum Supporter) :

I'd say 3 days should be reasonable PA-MT even in a slow vehicle, assuming you don't want to see much on the way.

Toyman!
Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/11/22 9:34 a.m.

Looking forward to the "good" pictures. 

 

TurnerX19
TurnerX19 UltraDork
4/12/22 8:42 p.m.

Glad you are back OK. I just sent Sara an email about a painting.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
4/12/22 8:44 p.m.
Toyman! said:

Super jealous. 

 

X5

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltimaDork
4/18/22 7:33 a.m.

Some more photos, hopefully sort of in order.

Glacier:

Wolfdog:

Banff:

Lake Louise:

Icefields Parkway:

Vanderhoof:

BC into Yukon:

More Yukon:

Alcan Border:

Middle of Alaska Somewhere:

Denali National Park:

Moose!

Denali:

Talkeetna:

The last bit of road to Seward:

Resurrection Bay:

Sealife Center and Conservation Center:

Whittier:

Near Anchorage somewhere:

Anchorage:

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
4/18/22 8:05 a.m.

I massively enjoyed following along with this on other social media. Well done trip. 

 

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
4/18/22 9:12 a.m.

Lots of snow and cold weather.   Heater in car at night?   

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UltimaDork
4/18/22 9:17 a.m.

In reply to Datsun310Guy :

Nope- just a good sleeping bag and some extra blankets, but that's part of the reason for the foam mattress since inflatable ones tend to steal some heat from you.  It was chilly waking up in the morning but not terrible.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth:

Thanks!  A few times there we had to take advantage of the only cell service of the day for Sara to get a post out, but it was fun trying to keep a daily update going.

Antihero (Forum Supporter)
Antihero (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
4/19/22 12:47 a.m.

The best dinosaur museum in MT is in Bozeman, according to some it's the best overall.

 

Sounds like a hell of a trip!

kodachrome
kodachrome New Reader
4/19/22 8:04 a.m.
Antihero (Forum Supporter) said:

The best dinosaur museum in MT is in Bozeman, according to some it's the best overall.

 

Sounds like a hell of a trip!

Bozeman also has the "best food in the world" when you've been living on fruit, 2 pieces of bread, 2 slices of meat and cheese for the last 2 days in Wyoming. 

Sounds like we have to go back to Bozeman!

kodachrome
kodachrome New Reader
4/21/22 1:55 p.m.

And, my one of my favorite things: maps.

johndej
johndej Dork
4/21/22 4:15 p.m.

That's absolutely awesome. Great stuff and thanks for sharing!

Antihero
Antihero GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/2/22 2:40 p.m.
kodachrome said:
Antihero (Forum Supporter) said:

The best dinosaur museum in MT is in Bozeman, according to some it's the best overall.

 

Sounds like a hell of a trip!

Bozeman also has the "best food in the world" when you've been living on fruit, 2 pieces of bread, 2 slices of meat and cheese for the last 2 days in Wyoming. 

Sounds like we have to go back to Bozeman!

Since we were just there, here's a teaser pic for you:

 

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners
TZzrZxPrA2uGbx0wuwNrZtbTh7sFNbCkmah1fUqzWfJDFll9vAvffSVHGK97Zf7s