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So you're thinking about driving to Alaska?

Riding Bikes along the Valdez Glacier Stream

In June-July 2019, this family of four tallied 8,000 miles over 60 days, visiting nine U.S. and Canadian National Parks and sleeping in 39 different places. We towed a twelve foot Taxa TigerMoth trailer (mostly to carry bikes and boats) with our 2015 Volvo XC60 (which had 80,000 miles). And, we brought the whole ensemble along on the Alaska Marine Highway System from Prince Rupert to Juneau to Glacier Bay to Juneau to Haines.

Juneau to Haines on the Alaska Marine Highway

Our path to Alaska crossed British Columbia on the Yellowhead Highway, bounced along the Alaska Highway, the Haines Highway, Tok Cutoff, and the Richardson Highway. We stayed nights in Prince George, Smithers, Terrace, Gustavus, Juneau, Haines Junction, Beaver Creek, Glennallen, Valdez, Delta Junction, Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Muncho Lake, Fort St. John with stops through Burns Lake, Houston, Kathleen Lake, Tetsa River Lodge, and Dawson Creek. And that was after three weeks in Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Waterton, Banff and Jasper.

Life-renewing showers at Discovery Yukon. We stayed twice!

What's it like to come home?
When we landed back at home in Colorado, we breathed a sigh of relief and were promptly swept back into the repetitious grind of daily life: school, sports, family, work. The long break was energizing and helped us remember how grateful we are for being close to friends and family, indoor toilets and tables, hot, spacious, clean showers and coffee made by the pot instead of the cup. It worked?!

Tucker and Kenedy paddling Jackson Lake while Kris was in New York City.

Should you rent out your house?
Prior to launch we packed up, de-cluttered, cleaned and posted our house on Airbnb to offset costs and lack of income (from me). 

But by the end of the trip we were still broke...and happy and proud. If you already Airbnb your house, this would be a SUPER easy option. For us, making our house a welcoming home for guests while wrapping up work, soccer, school and planning was… challenging and emotional. It was also stressful staying responsive to guests without burdening friends and family who remained local. We were deep in the Yukon, without consistent connectivity, when guests checked in..."can you hear me now?" Fortunately, they were easy, self-reliant and hands-off.

A Digital Nomad

Kenedy paddling Pyramid Lake while Kris was in Chicago.

Kris powered through a massive summer workload as the strange landscape of the Yukon and Alaska passed outside our car window. He worked alongside the Bow River, while drinking lattes and eating cinnamon rolls in Valdez's comfy Latte Dah, huddled up in the trailer for shelter from winds and cold in Glacier National Park and even presented from a payphone in Muncho Lake.  Ultimately he worked all but ten days (in Glacier Bay and Juneau) including saying goodbye to us for two trips stateside.  

Kris in Chicago while we camped in Jasper.

Some of our strangest and most outstanding memories are because of Kris's status as a working nomad. His work was consistent and stable while everything else around us changed.  It did dictate our choices-- we were constantly chasing coverage and/or wifi-- but also enabled splurges every so often.  In hindsight, it would have been great to have a few more days free of the digital tether but, as some say, start where you are--we went, even if it wasn't perfect!

Finishing up the day along the Bow River in Banff

So what about the mighty, tiny trailer?
The awning and outside kitchen were nonnegotiable comforts! Thinking back, it was a nearly perfect solution for our trip: we used it to carry the boats and the bikes, get away from bugs, snow, wind chill, to make an impromptu roadside/parking lot coffee or lunch, to take in a movie, and as a magnet to meet new and interesting people.

Chilkat Pass: these six wheels can take us anywhere!

The Volvo XC60 suspension wasn’t great for pulling even a light trailer. But, the TigerMoth was small enough to move by hand, including so that we didn’t need to back down the ramp onto the ferry. And we just love Taxa’s thoughtful design and ruggedness.

The beginning of the end (for us)

Did you have it or not?
  • Ice? Yes but the cooler was usually not very cold.
  • Gas? No problem. Lots of gas!
  • Laundry? We had way too much laundry all the time and only one place that we really wanted to do it (Snowdome in Jasper).
  • Coverage? Great cell coverage at most of the towns along the Alaska Highway but not much in between. WiFi was tough. Mostly this comes through satellite which is OK for checking the occasional e-mail, but not great for making reservations or loading maps.
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  • Power? We were always powered once we invested in the GoalZero Yeti to charge items required for digital nomads.
  • Sunshine? 16-22 hours of manic sunshine (kinda weird indirect, semi-sunshine, though).
  • Cords? Often lost.
  • Showers? Take them whenever you can because you never know when the next will come.
Kenedy on the mic at 11PM!

Any recommendations on camp eats and drinks?

Laundry, fuel, ice and food were constant needs during our trip. You can find food and groceries all along the Alaska Highway but stock up when you find the good stuff (if you have room). Memorable options for us were the IGA in Glenallen, Three Bears in Tok, Rainbow Foods in Juneau, and Little Green Apple in Haines Junction. We were in delicious, fresh food heaven in BC and even stayed at Hidden Acres Farm and Treehouse where we were able to buy freshly harvested spring greens and peas.

A few specific tips on how to make the best of day-to-day food on the road:

  • We spent five nights and six days rafting the Main Salmon where we learned that wraps are the best delivery method for salad.
  • French press coffee makes a big mess. Plus the coffee gets cold fast if it's cold outside. Aeropress (or maybe pour over) is the way to go even if you have to make one cup at a time.
A typical lunch
  • Good ground coffee, like Kicking Horse, was available just about everywhere. Pre-made smoothies, like Happy Planet, were also at most gas stations to keep things on the healthy side.
  • Mike’s Mighty Good just-add-water Ramen surpassed a lot. But, then again, food just tastes better when you're camping.
  • Seeds of Change pre-cooked rice in a vacuum bag is easy to heat and tastes great with cubes of paneer and curry simmer sauce.
  • Birch Benders pancake mix: grab it up whenever you see it and then eat it often.
  • Bagels toasted on the camp stove are a special camp treat.
  • Wean yourself from pop in favor of bubbly water at gas stations.
  • Sir Kensington mayonnaise and mustard make lunchtime sandwiches a little more exciting.
  • For gourmet PB&J just add freshly baked raisin bread and local jam.
PB on raisin bread with Copper River Valley jam

Would you do it again the same way?
Heck yea! But, let's be honest, it was hard for many reasons.

Me-ish time.
  • Being away from the comforts and luxuries of home.
  • Not having space for me-time.
  • Motivating to work.
  • Asking selfishly for time off of work.
  • The long cold walk to the bathrooms.
  • Missing friends.
  • Long drive boredom and waiting.
  • Staying organized.
  • The full spectrum of laundry and wifi (and the never-ending need for ice and fuel).
  • Being broke for several months after return.
What was the best part?
We all relish the experience for different reasons but, being from a landlocked state with big(ish) mountains, I think we'd all agree that the best part was our time touring the inside passage. The three day, two-night ferry ride was in no way boring. At nearly every moment, there was was something to see off the sides of the deck, most often a whale or sea otter or bald eagle. And, it's hard to describe our Glacier Bay experience...euphoric, life-changing, the stuff of dreams. We could have spent days just watching humpbacks from the campground shore. And, Juneau...well, we named our dog after Juneau if that's any indicator.

It's all too easy to lose the motivation to tackle these big dreams as a way of life, instead of as a one-time event, but we are closer, stronger, more curious and courageous for having made it happen.

Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest U.S. National Park.