Senior Voice -

By Dimitra Lavrakas
Senior Voice Travel Correspondent 

Restrictions are a disappointment for vacationers

So take to the hills, sea and streams

 

April 1, 2020

Dimitra Lavrakas photo

Drive the Haul Road and boast silently as you return home with the road dirt badge of honor proudly displayed.

Well this is a conundrum for a travel writer - travel restrictions. I have said this before and I will say it again: you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, one that millions of people travel to, so get out on the road and see your state.

And spring is one of the best times to journey across Alaska. It's a quiet time before the hordes come (or not this year) and the weather is usually pretty good with not-too-low temperatures and sun.

There's life flooding back into the environment with trees and flowers beginning to bloom and newborn animals to see. In particular, it's a good time to see bears because spring is the time they are intent on eating roughage to dislodge that anal plug that kept them from fouling their den in the winter - an anecdote I loved to regale visitors with at the Skagway Visitors Center and it amused them mightily.

On the road

If you have a camper or an RV then you are all set to venture out. If not there are many RV rental places you can use like http://www.abcmotorhome.com, http://www.cruiseamerica.com, or http://www.abcmotorhome.com. There are restrictions on what roads you can take with a rental so check with them before you plan.

For sure you can drive down the Alaska Highway to the Taylor Highway (after it opens in the spring) and head north to Eagle, then Chicken and over the border to The Top of the World Highway, a spectacular ridge road, and into one of my favorite places, Dawson City. Or turn off the Alaska Highway, west of Whitehorse, onto the South Klondike Highway. In either case, the George Black Ferry will carry you and your vehicle free of charge across the Yukon River.

Dawson City was the epicenter of the Klondike Gold Rush, and every time you turn a corner you'll be reminded of it. Stroll down wooden boardwalks and into restored historic buildings. The streets are still unpaved - frost heaves make asphalt roads too expensive to repair. In the winter they're hard packed, in the spring rutty and sloppy and in the summer, dry and dusty, just like any frontier town.

Dawson City throws open the doors and rolls out the welcome mat for tourists from mid-May through mid-September. In winter, the pace slows and there are fewer places open. Wintertime population is about 2,000.

It's an eighteen-hour drive that I usually break up with an overnight stay in Canada because the exchange rate makes it cheaper.

There are several RV and tent-camping sites in town. Long for a bed? I stay at Klondike Kate's cabins in town and her restaurant is excellent. I particularly like the arctic char, a sea-going Dolly Varden trout, that you can't get many other places. There are bars and it's of them. Those Yukoners can drink. Enjoy Bombay Peggy's long list of liquor including an impressive selection of Scotch while you view paintings by Halin de Repentigny hanging throughout. I love his work.

If you can, sneak up the Dempster Highway at least to the Tombstone Mountains that look like upright coffins.

Take a hike

Going by way of Whitehorse, do stop for a dip just north at Takhini Hot Springs to unspring your back.

If you haven't driven the Parks Highway to Denali, you have missed out. I still have the image of driving past Denali in the early evening one winter night to see a meteorite falling across the summit. I also experienced the death of my battery the morning after I arrived in Fairbanks at minus fifty-eight-degree

weather (yes I plugged in but everything froze).

Keep going to Prudhoe Bay to see its sights as well as all the pump stations along the way and the snake of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Along the way you can see herds of muskox and caribou.

Road south

Most likely many of you have been to Whittier, Homer or Seward. If not, shame on you. Only a couple of under-an-hour or a couple hours south of Anchorage, they all have something to offer.

Seward has the Alaska Sealife Center to see marine animals and creatures up close and trips out into Resurrection Bay to see all the bird and marine life.

Whittier is a peculiar town at the dead end of the road that stops short of Prince William Sound. During World War II, the United States Army constructed a military facility, complete with port and railroad, near Whittier Glacier and named the facility Camp Sullivan. A spur of the Alaska Railroad was completed in 1943, and the port became the entrance for United States soldiers into Alaska. The Army also constructed a building that houses most of the town's just over 200 residents along with its grocery store.

The late Inupiaq Elder Silas Negovanna from Utqiagvik once told me about when he was stationed there and used to ski around the lip of the glacier and ski down into the mess line. Maybe it's true, but then he was real practical joker.

Homer and Seward have fishing tournaments if you are keen to get out on the water and slay some.

Dimitra Lavrakas photo

Dawson City's streets can get mucky during breakup but, like in any frontier town, there's boardwalks.

Or take the Alaska Highway and turn off to Haines or Skagway to explore. In Haines you can pan for gold at Porcupine Creek Mine with John Schnabel, father of Parker Schnabel of the Discovery Channel's program "Gold Rush."

In Skagway there's the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad that offers several different tours from 2.5 to 8 hours. Or take the round-trip to the Denver stop and hike up to Denver Glacier. It's not too hard and has some wood walkways along the way.

Visit Skagway's impressive Arctic Brotherhood Hall with its spectacular driftwood-adorned exterior and said to be the most photographed building in Alaska.

No matter wherever you go in Alaska you'll have a good time and bring home memories and be supporting local businesses. Be well.

At Senior Voice press time, some of these businesses and venues had closed due to the coronavirus. Be sure to contact any destination for updated information prior to a visit.

 
 

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