February 22, 2015

North [Back] to Alaska

North to Alaska, isn't that a movie?

We stow all belongings for the road, hitch up our trailer, and pull out. Headed home.
Ready to depart.
We didn't go very far the first night, just to Birch Bay campground at Blaine Washington. Blaine is just minutes from the Canadian border.

Nice sunset
This is a very nice campground, nice sites, well spread apart, a clean, heated restroom-shower house, a well maintained beach with picnic sites and separate tent areas. Some of the  larger camper areas even had plug-ins for electricity.

We had 1000 miles to get to Prince Rupert for our Friday, Feb 27th reservation on the Alaska Ferry, Taku. The weather cooperated with us most of the way. I'm glad that we allotted some extra time to get there though. The roads were mostly clean and dry, hardly any ice or snow, but some of them weren't in the best shape. Even paved roads get ruts in them, and pulling the loaded trailer in some areas took all of Bill's concentration.  Since it is only the end of February, there aren't any RV parks, or campgrounds, or in some communities, no motels, or restaurants, or fuel stations open.  It got to be a challenge finding a place to stop for the night.  There are usually paved, or gravel pullouts, but sometimes these weren't plowed yet either. The ones that were plowed have no camping signs, but we did stay anyway. Figured that we had an excuse since nothing else was open, and we are a self contained unit, so no worries about leaving any trace.  Some pullouts had outhouses, and garbage containers, but most didn't. Thanks to the essential Milepost guide, we could read ahead and know how many pullouts were coming up. Anyone who plans on driving to Alaska or in Alaska, and aren't familiar with the area, should have one of these handy guides.
This gravel pullout is plowed, and had a beautiful view.

Cold, but beautiful, I'm grateful for the camper furnace.
We averaged 250-350 miles a day, which may not seem like much, but when you account for the fully loaded (almost to the limit) trailer, and the twisty-turny, uphill-downhill mountain summits, the less than ideal road surfaces, AND the loaded semi trucks, who apparently don't have to observe any speed limits, we were worn out at the end of the day. (And by we....I mean Bill, as he does all of the driving, I was just hanging on, and checking the Milepost for what's next.) 

We reach Prince Rupert early afternoon on Thursday. YAY, we made it in time, with plenty to spare. The road ends at the ferry dock, and is 5 lanes wide. Lanes 1-4 have lines drawn on them for vehicles to line up in preparation for loading onto the ferry. Line 5 leads to the BC Ferry system.  

Map from the Milepost
Again, you aren't supposed to camp overnight there, after all, it is right in the road, but a ferry employee stopped by, and advised us that it was no big deal, and to go ahead park there until 5:00am, which is Alaska Ferry check-in time for our 7:00am departure. We got our tickets, our vehicle sticker, and parked the Wakefield Wagontrain for the night.  Later that afternoon, a nice pickup truck parked in the lane next to us, and we met a young man who was from Ketchikan. He wanted to drive around and sight-see the town, and invited us along. After our excursion, we invited him back to the camper for dinner and conversation. William and his wife Silva were originally from Iran, and they had moved to Holland first, then southern California, and now with their two children were living in Ketchikan. William had owned a fish charter business there, but his main line of work is construction. He had been working in Colorado, and was headed home. We had fun sharing some of his culture, and food, while we shared our dinner with him. 

Five in the morning came very quickly, as we brewed our morning coffee, and pulled out our wheel chocks to get in line for US Customs at the entrance to loading onto the ferry.  We cleared, and got our wagontrain into line for our position in the ferry.
Parked and ready for travel onboard the Alaska Ferry Taku.
Once the vehicle is in place, we gathered up what we needed for the day, and headed up to the forward lounge to claim our window seats.
The sun isn't quite up as we cast off our lines and motor out.
I realize that between Prince Rupert and Ketchikan, we have another Dixon Entrance crossing to navigate. (Well at least the Captain does, I'm riding along.) It looks like it may be another calm one. Two in a row, the purser said that he could get a collection going, and I could ride along on all of his trips.  He had seen some fairly nasty weather crossing from the opening to the Pacific Ocean.

We arrive Ketchikan in the early afternoon, and find out that we have a six hour lay over that we didn't know about.  
Arriving Ketchikan, next to us, the ship Columbia is in dry dock for repairs.
William offers to take us to his home for food, and we gratefully accept.  Their home is WAAAY up on the hill with a gorgeous view, and we meet his beautiful wife Silva.

Departing Ketchikan, we arrive Wrangell at 12:45am, and drive off of the ferry in the dark. Next to the harbor where Denali Rose floats in her slip, is the parking area for vehicles and trailers, and the ramp to load small boats into the water.  There is a sign that says "No overnight camping" (as usual), but we reason that it is 1:00am, we pay for a slip in the harbor, and we aren't going to "camp" for a long period of time.  In the morning, a local police truck scopes us out, but we think he sees the Ferry Sticker in the window, and figures out that we aren't trying to homestead there.

Overlooking Heritage Harbor
With about 1/2 of our belongings.......we're home.

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