Feisty Old Woman Goes North to Alaska–Part One
Summer is almost here, again. It’s time for Mother Nature to turn the temperature up in Texas. When people start baking cookies on the dashboard of their car. it’s time for this feisty old woman to escape to cooler climates. Last summer I decided to drive to Alaska.
North To Alaska
There are three main “North to Alaska” routes. They are:
- Rocky Mountain Route
- Gold Rush Route
- Inside Passage Route.
I utilized all three.
“Go West Young Man,” the old saying goes. Not being young or a man, I’m changing the saying to, “Go West Feisty Old Woman.” Great advice, but first I had to get from Texas to Canada.
Sleeping In My Car
At the time, I had a Subaru Forester. It got great gas mileage and there was just enough room with the back seats folded down to put a 4-inch foam mattress to one side. I took a tent but felt more secure behind closed and locked doors. I’ve been traveling solo for many years and have techniques for staying safe on the road. “Suzan’s Safety Strategy” will be available soon.
The “bed” took up one side of the Forester but there was plenty of room for the “kitchen” I made, plus a box for clothes, toiletries and food storage. I also had a small cooler that sat behind the front seat.
To the right is a photo of the Camp Chef travel case I bought to turn into my kitchen. The case is made of a heavy duty fabric, with weather resistant interior and wrap around handle for extra support. It is 16.5″ X 34.5″ X 9″
The photo on the left illustrates most of my “kitchen” items that are stored in the case. I built the wooden interior compartments. They do not come with the case.
Travelers & Friends
I was packed and ready to go, however the most direct route to Alaska was not the way I was going.
Travelers are constantly meeting people. Some people become friends and we usually promise each other that we will visit if we ever get to their “neck of the woods.” So instead of pointing my car Northwest, I drove straight north from Fort Worth, Texas to Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada. Google Maps says it’s a little over 23 hours of driving covering 1,401 miles. I used Google maps to plan out the whole trip before I left in order to estimate how much money I would spend on gasoline.
Planning Gasoline Expense
Here’s how I figured how much gas it would take:
- Subaru Forester = 15.9 gallon tank = 28 miles per gallon (Average)
- 1 gallon = 3.78 liters (Canada’s measurement)
- 1 mile = 1.609 Kilometers
The price of gasoline was an average of $2.64 per gallon. Canadian prices were comparable.
Here’s the complete breakdown of the whole trip:
|Fort Worth, Texas to Estevan SK, Canada||1,401miles|
|Estevan to Banff||660|
|Banff to Whitehorse||1,435|
|Whitehorse to Denali National Park||710|
|Denali National Park to Homer, Alaska||458|
|Homer to Haines||976|
|Alaskan Marine Highway||0|
|Prince Rupert to Prince George||466|
|Prince George to Glacier National Park USA||808|
|Glacier N.P. to Fort Worth, Texas||1,686|
|Total Feisty Miles||8,580|
I divided the total miles by 28 gallons per mile, then multiplied that by $2.64 and came up with $808.97. In reality, when adding up all my receipts, I spent $932.62. This is a fair estimate because I did not figure the miles driving around once I reached my destination. (A total calculation of expenditures will be at the end of the Alaska series.)
Travel At The Speed Of You
I took my time and allowed three days to get Estevan. I love to stop in small towns along the way and chat with locals. Once you pull of the highway, the discovery of rural America begins. In every small town across this big country, there is a little local coffee shop where Crotchety Old Men sit around a table and drink their morning coffee. These guys will fill you in on any local information you may want to have. If you are a Feisty Woman of any age, then you should expect a bit of flirting at the breakfast table, which is ever so fun, in my opinion.
The miles rolled underneath the tires through Oklahoma in spite of road construction everywhere! Since I left late in the day I only made it up through Kansas on the first day. That state was lovely. It’s covered with grass covered sand dunes where happy cows feed and grow fat for market. Every now and then a big red barn perches on top of a hill like it’s pushed its way out of the earth just to add a complimentary color to the landscape. The beauty of Kansas is soothing. When my eyes were too tired to stay open, I pulled into a Truck-stop and parked for the night. I had made net sleeves to go over the back windows so I could crack them for air circulation. The netting kept out the mosquitoes, but let in the wonderful aroma of cow dung and hay.
The sun woke me up the next morning with a stunning display of pastel colors. I utilized the facilities inside the Truck-stop and managed not to buy any useless do-dads. You have to know how to shop at Truck-stops to find a bargain. Pretend you’re a truck driver and look for audio books, and you-can’t-find-it-anywhere-else DVD’s. Beef jerky can be found in all kinds of flavors and insta-fix-your-vehicle gadgets are in abundance.
The next town that claimed my evening was Mitchell, South Dakota. When I pulled off the highway I spotted one of these signs:
Most American towns have a small RV park where you can park for the night. Frequently, I was given a discount because I slept in my car. Tent camping is cheaper; however, I usually paid for an RV spot so I could have electricity for all my gadgets. Price vary, but you can usually pay anywhere from 10 to 25 dollars. Some of the RV Parks had the internet available at no extra charge.
I carry a 25 foot heavy duty extension cord that slips up through the netting on my back window and into the car.
If you don’t see a sign, then stop and ask a local. They know everything, which is what I had to do in Mitchell, because I couldn’t find the RV Park. It was tucked back behind the local community swimming pool. There were very few RV spots taken so I pulled into one and recharged my gadget’s batteries (laptop, phone and Kindle Fire.) When the camp hostess finally showed up I didn’t need the electricity anymore so asked if I could park by the little house where two bathrooms were located. I paid her $10.00, parked, and locked my car. I noticed a gate and pathway which I immediately wanted to explore. The pathway went across a creek on an old wooden bridge that Indiana Jones would have been proud of. On the other side was the beautiful city park. Lovely ancient oak trees flung their shade across the picnic tables and slopping lawn. At the end of the City Park was a levy holding back a wide slow river. These places are the hidden jewels of “The Road” that every traveler treasures.
Small Town Discoveries
When I got back to my car I noticed a line of cars parked behind mine. More cars were coming. Miniature baseball players piled out of the vehicles with their moms, dads, grandparents and older siblings. I had stumbled upon another jewel of “The Road” which was delightful. I followed the throng of people and watched a mixed gender T-Ball game. It took me three days to wipe the smile off my face. There is nothing cuter that a kid trying to knock a ball off a Batting Tee with a bat bigger than they are.
Crossing An International Border
The next morning, with all my happy memories stored away, I got back on the road determined to make it to Canada. I had my passport and driver’s license with me to get through customs at the Canadian border and two those items are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to get back into the USA.
My friend, his mom, and varies animals lived on a farm near a river. I think they called it a creek but it sure looked like a river to me! That night I watched the mom barrel race and had a grand time. I’ve always loved horses and was a decent rider when I was child playing “cowboy” on my uncle’s farm. (Do not believe any of my family members who dispute this claim.)
I greatly enjoyed my visit to Estevan meeting my friend’s family and learned quickly that Canadian folks are some of the nicest people in the world. They even invited me to an extended family gathering where I was given a great piece of advice to take with me. “When you get to Banff National Park, make sure you visit Moraine Lake.”
Traveling Across Canada
I headed northwest on Highway 39 to the town of Moose Jaw where Highway 1 picked up this Feisty Old Woman and carried me west. You can learn a lot about Canada by paying attention to the names of towns. While traveling through the beautiful province of Saskatchewan I drove through Swift Current, Gull Lake, Maple Creek and Medicine Hat before entering the province of Alberta where Calgary and the “North to Alaska, Rocky Mountain Route” is located.
You can find more information here: http://www.northtoalaska.com/Maps-and-Routes/Rocky-Mountain-Route.aspx
Calgary has wonderful things to offer, but visiting large cities was not on my agenda. I headed straight for Banff National Park.
Banff National Park
There are excellent hiking opportunities all over Banff National Park. Wear sturdy shoes because some of the trails are primitive. I really enjoyed the hike visiting the HooDoos. Not only is the geological rock formation interesting, but the surrounding vistas are lovely
One of my favorite things about the park was the excellent highway system that allowed visitors easy access to stop, park, walk around, and enjoy the stunningly beautiful natural areas. I can’t say the same thing about the city center of the town of Banff. The traffic there was very congested, but I did manage to get a parking place near the grocery store and was able to gather some much-needed supplies. There was no internet access at the campground but if you feel like you must be connected while you’re there, here is a helpful site… http://www.canadianrockies.net/banff/using-the-internet-in-banff.html
These photos are of Lake Louise. The Photo with the boat rental gives you a little perspective of the size of the lake.
I remembered the advice from my new friends in Estevan and drove to Moraine Lake.
This place is truly incredible. I spent a couple of hours here and still didn’t want to leave.
The forest offered lovely trails with trees so ancient Merlin visits twice a year.
There are several lakes in Banff National Park along with waterfalls, creeks, and rivers.
Alaska Calls My Name
I spent several days there and still didn’t see everything the park had to offer, but Alaska was calling my name so I got back on the road.
Just north of Lake Louis, I took Hwy 93 up through Jasper National Park before turning west on Highway 16 through Mt. Robson Provincial Park toward the “North to Alaska, Gold Rush Route.” http://www.northtoalaska.com/Maps-and-Routes/Gold-Rush-Route.aspx
On this Route, you will drive through British Columbia. Every traveler has their own likes and dislikes, but Canada satisfied ALL of my likes! If you love to see wildlife, mountains, extensive forests that pump clean pure oxygen into the world, wide open vistas, and fields covered in bright yellow crops of Canola, then you should spend some time in Canada in the summer.
The scenic views driving across British Columbia were as beautiful as driving across Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
Stay tuned for Feisty Old Lady drives to Alaska, Part 2.