Day 36: We woke up in one of the most beautiful campgrounds we’ve ever stayed. Williwaw is surrounded by gorgeous mountains and glaciers!
We wanted to take the time today to see all the things in this area that we passed the first time around in our RV because it’s easier to get in and out of places with just the truck. There is a large road sign at the entrance of the Kenai Peninsula that we missed on our original journey in, so we returned to that turn off today so we could get a photo in front of the sign.
Then we followed the turnagain arm to a couple of adorable little ski towns that we missed coming in – Girdwood and Alyeska. We stopped for lunch at a small place called the Silvertip Grill. An amazing bacon and bleu cheese burger for the win! (Isn’t that always a great combo?) Then we took in the amazing green hills as we drove up to the Copper Creek Mine.
These mountains made me feel like I was in the hills of Switzerland! With the low clouds and waterfalls streaming down the mountains, it was magic! We drove all the way up to the top where it connects to a portion of the Crow Pass trail. It’s considered to be one of the best hikes in all of the Chugach Mountains, following a portion of the original Iditarod Trail, including its highest point. End to end, it’s a 21-mile trail through glaciers, waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, mine ruins, and wild berries!
As we drove back down we had a handful of bear sightings.
We returned to camp and decided to make the hike to the glacier within our campground. It starts on the Trail of Blue Ice, and then our camp host directed us off the trail to cut through the forest so we could walk to the base of a glacier and several waterfalls.
And then we cut away from the trail, into the rain forest, bear spray and mosquito mister in hand!
We had to scale a few rocks along the creek, and then we were there.
At this point, we had been gone for so long that we forgot what day we were on, so our chalkboard days are messed up from here on out, haha. I lost a day somewhere in my mind because I have Day 35 here, on Day 36 of our trip.
We took some time to sit and enjoy our surroundings and reveled in the fact that we were trying our best to keep warm here, with ice all around us, and back home in Phoenix they were experiencing 118 degree temperatures. Not missing that one bit!
Then we retraced our path through the forest, back to the boardwalk of the trail.
We crossed the bridge over North Williwaw Creek, watching for the salmon running in the water. We didn’t see too many as the peak season for the salmon to run begins at the end of July.
Such a beautiful forest!
We returned to our campsite to grill up some dinner and enjoyed another passing storm.
Day 37: We had kept our schedule open for the last few days, waiting to see if all the thick clouds and rainy weather would clear up so we could do a glacier cruise and see a handful of glaciers up close from the water. However, we awoke to another dreary day and decided it was not worth the expense to spend all day on a boat and not get the full glacier experience. We also figured it would be hard on Charlotte to be happy on a boat for 6 hours, especially with how cold and windy it has been. Ultimately, it just wasn’t worth it to us, but if you do happen to be traveling to Whittier on a sunny day, I hear the 26 Glacier cruise is incredible! Another time!
So we chose to leave Whittier and start driving in hopes of finding some sort of July 4th festivities. We had to back track around the turnagain arm and up to Anchorage again on the 1 North. We looked at a few RV park options north of Anchorage in Palmer, but with the holiday just tomorrow, many places were filled to capacity. We just decided to keep driving.
The 1 turned east past Palmer and we continued driving through farmland and then mountains. We found a great spot in an area called Glacier View at the Grand View Cafe and RV park. We decided to take an afternoon to catch up on some laundry and eat at their restaurant. Using both of the units at the RV park laundrymat, as well as the washer/dryer combo in our motorhome, we were able to get through the 7 loads of laundry that have been calling to me.
We had homemade pizza and carrot cake at the restaurant, and returned to the RV where Charlotte could work on her new tricks and we could all enjoy a family movie night as we watched the fog move in all around us. We took our chalkboard photo at midnight and it was still light outside.
Day 38: Happy 4th of July! Today we headed to Glennallen because we had heard they hold an Independence Day parade. However, we got a late start and by the time we reached the town, the events were mostly over. We decided to turn south onto the 4 toward Valdez. We planned on adding another national park to our list. In fact, the largest national park in the country at 13.2 million acres… Wrangell-St. Elias!
This national park has three visitor centers in a wide spread because this is not an easy national park to access. Copper Center is the main visitor center, and was right along our route, at the Richardson and Edgerton Highways. Access to the national park from here requires flying or at least a one hour drive, one-way. We picked up some junior ranger booklets, watched the park movie and learned a little about the park from the rangers and exhibits.
Then we were back on the highway, southbound, to Kenny Lake. There were a few RV parks closer to the park entrance, but I read reviews about the roads being rough for an RV, so we chose to stay here and make the drive in with the truck the following day.
The park we chose was the Kenny Lake Mercantile & RV Park, about 20 miles before the park entrance in Chitina. It’s a no frills park, as you can see from our drone photo below, with our RV just lined up with the others along the roadside, but it was clean and had a large grass area for the kids to play in.
We played frisbee and horseshoe in the grass and celebrated our 4th of July by grilling out and enjoying being outdoors in beautiful weather!
Avery hunted for four leaf clovers and Charlotte was VERY excited to have her turn to hold the chalkboard sign!
There may have been some Snapchatting fun while we waited for dinner.
We had s’mores and Bomb Pops, told spooky stories around a campfire, and enjoyed the daylight until well past our bedtimes!
Day 39: Today we took an adventure out to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park! From our RV park in Kenny Lake, it was about a 20 minute drive to Chitina, where the road becomes very rough. This is where we begin our journey – a full 60 miles on rough dirt roads to the town of McCarthy. We were warned to be prepared for anything! Much like the Dalton Highway, this is a true Alaska experience, but can be dangerous as there is no cell service once you get away from Chitina, and that also means no roadside assistance. We discovered the danger of the roads all too soon as we hit a very deep pothole coming in and it busted the bike rack on the back of the truck, taking my mountain bike with it! Half of it anyway. The frame was ripped in half and the poor thing horribly mangled. Guess there won’t be any more biking for me on this trip.
There are some interesting points along the way. The first being the Kuskulana River Bridge at Mile 17.2, a one-lane structure constructed during the frigid winter of 1910 and now one of a few jaw-dropping scenic vistas along the McCarthy Road.
It took us nearly two hours to reach the end of the road- right before the footbridge into McCarthy. It was a decision of the town (with a population of about 40 people) to not allow vehicle traffic in, so all cars must park and walk the mile into town.
The views along the way were beautiful! Look at that glacier!
McCarthy was very small, but very charming! It was raining cotton again, as it was when we were in Talkeetna. I feel like it adds to the ambiance of the town!
We found a cute little place that was serving up lunch and ate before we waited for our shuttle to take us the last 5 miles into the old mining town.
We emerged from the shuttle at the Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark. The mines were operated from 1911-1938 and were among the nation’s largest. They contained the last of the great high grade copper ore deposits discovered in the American West.
The second of three visitor centers is located here, and our kids took the opportunity to turn in the junior ranger books that they completed on our long drive in. Another badge in the books for these experienced junior rangers!
The scale of this place was impressive! I couldn’t imagine living and working here back in the 1920s though, especially in the deep snow of winter!
We walked a little ways out of town to get a better viewpoint of Root Glacier. This glacier is about 4 miles roundtrip from Kennecott. It’s one of the few glaciers that you can walk right up to the base of and touch. However, we were at the end of the shuttle schedule for the day and didn’t have the extra hours to spare before we had to catch the last shuttle of the night.
We returned to town and waited about 15 minutes to squeeze very tightly into the shuttle van with no AC.
So blessed that this little gal is such a trooper through all of these adventures!
This time the shuttle took us right through McCarthy and all the way to the footbridge. As we crossed, we saw a huge chunk of ice floating down the river from a glacier.
And then we were back to the truck but we still had the long 60 mile trek on those hairy dirt roads back to Chitina and then another 20 miles to our RV park. It was a very long day, but worth every moment! We enjoyed the very long Alaskan sunset with the windows down!
Day 40: Today we awoke with zero idea of where the day would take us! We considered going further south to Valdez, but after looking through photos and deciding it was so similar to Seward, we decided to head out of the state/country and come in through another access point in the Yukon, perhaps Skagway.
Long driving days are restful for us (well maybe not the driver). We stay in our PJs, make snacks, play games, and watch movies. After a string of such busy days, we really need these recharge days that are still filled with beautiful scenery out of our windows.
We took the 4 north and ended up full circle through Alaska, back in Tok. We could have stopped here, but the sun was still up and we were rocking out to Pandora and so why not keep driving? We weren’t planning on it, but we actually ended up leaving Alaska completely early in the evening. We took our chalkboard photos back at the international boundary as we crossed back into Canada.
We continued on until about 10pm, when we reached the Discovery Yukon Lodge, a full service RV park, just past Beaver Creek. We planned to continue onto Whitehorse the next day.
Day 41: We woke up and got right back at it today. We lost an hour of time crossing back into Canada, so our schedules are even more thrown off than they already have been with all the daylight!
We knew what to expect from making this journey just a few weeks earlier, so we were prepared for the worst of the roads. It was clear that they had actually come a long way in repairing them in just the time we spent in Alaska.
Our first stop of the day was for some photos by the beautiful Kluane Lake!
We stretched our legs for a bit and the kids hunted for pretty rocks.
We drove another half hour and then found another beautiful lakeside spot to stop and grill up some lunch.
Give them a little outdoor time and they are as quiet as can be, each in their own little world!
We made it to Whitehorse today and stayed at the same Pioneer RV Park that we stayed at coming in. We had sprung a leak in our water pump from the rough roads so my handy husband was able to pick up some plumbing parts and fix that up after we ran some errands at Canadian Tire and the Real Canadian Superstore.
Day 42: We left Whitehorse today and took the Yukon-2 south, back to Alaska, but at a different point of entry. The 2 is an incredible drive! One of our favorite lakes of the trip turned out to be the amazing Emerald Lake.
Shortly after, the landscape turned other-worldly. Boulder mountains rose from the ground and elfin trees grew on them with tiny waterways flowing in all directions. Low hanging clouds and fog made us feel like we were in a mystical land.
And then we were at the international border crossing (excuse the dirty windshield photo, as it is the only one I took). Back in Alaska!
The descent into Skagway was a narrow valley in between mountains, at an 11% grade for 11 miles! We worked our brakes good!
And then we drove into the most picturesque railroad town ever! I immediately fell in love with Skagway!
We parked to walk the town and grab some dinner at the Skagway Brewing Co.
Charlotte had her first taste of pickles and loved them! And the same went for the rest of us. Everything was so delicious! My recommendations? Try the Spruce Tip Ale if you want an amazing, brewed on site beer. And I tried a burger with chili peppers and bacon, but I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any burger this place is serving up!
After lunch, we strolled through the nearly empty streets. It was so nice to get the opportunity to see everything without the large crowds of tourists that are here on most days when the cruise ships are docked at the port just south of the train station.
There are many original buildings still in place from the origin of the town during the Klondike Gold Rush. This is one of Skagway’s oldest buildings, from 1899.
When the sun came out briefly for us, we had the pleasure of seeing a full rainbow over the train station!
All of the events of the day wiped out Charlotte and she ended up falling asleep in Daddy’s arms as we strolled down the streets back to where we parked the truck.
From main street in town, we drove a short ways to the old Gold Rush cemetery at the edge of the woods. Famous historic figures from Skagway’s history, including Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, a legendary con man, and Frank Reid, the hero would ended up killing him in a shootout in 1898, are buried here.
It is a very eerie place to walk through. Many of those buried are people who flocked to Skagway to strike it rich, but ended up dying from the harsh winter conditions.
A short walk from the cemetery through the forest is the beautiful Lower Reid Falls.
We were so grateful that we added this Skagway detour to our trip because it became our favorite town in all of Alaska! We planned a few more days here, including a ferry trip to the nearby town of Haines, AK!
Here is the our travel map from week 6:
Next week we enjoy the last of our adventures in Alaska before heading south down the Cassiar Highway toward Vancouver!