The gentle patter of rain on the roof wakens me from a sound sleep. For a moment I’m back aboard my sailboat then I remember where I am. I’m in a travel trailer parked beside the Copper River in south central Alaska. I look at my watch. It’s 3 a.m. and light from the long summer day frames the window in a soft glow. I snuggle into the warm blankets and fall back asleep. I’m feeling very much at home.
A week ago in Anchorage I joined my friends Dave Kelley and Ted DeGroot. Both retired TV directors, they are on a four-month RV tour of Alaska and Canada’s northwest. Ted drives a 28-foot Itasca motor home and Dave pulls a MicroLite trailer behind his Chevy Silverado. Our travels will take us in a 1,000-mile arc, from Anchorage to eastern Alaska, then south through Canada’s Yukon territory, and finally back into southeast Alaska and Skagway.
But before heading east from Anchorage, we take a side trip to Seward in the Kenai Peninsula. The long, wind-swept bay of Turnagain Arm leads us south. Alaska is rainy and today is no exception. The road to Seward winds through deep valleys, past dark pine forests and quiet alpine lakes.
Near Seward we find a place to “boondock,” or stay free for the night. Just up the valley lies the Exit Glacier, one of dozens in the Kenai Peninsula. With a view out the window of a clay-colored river and misty, rugged mountains, we eat a tasty home cooked meal. I take a walk in the late evening drizzle—I’m settling easily into the RV life.
The morning is cool and overcast, typical of a coastal Alaskan summer. In Seward we walk the docks, admiring the bountiful catch of salmon and flounder that the charter boat fishermen bring in from the day’s fishing. Seward is known for its spectacular scenery, but as the rain falls there is little to see but fog and mist.
Returning north, we stop in Anchorage to buy groceries. Alaska is expensive and food costs much more than back home in Michigan. But fuel prices in Anchorage are reasonable. “Once we get inland, gas will get a lot more expensive.” Dave tells me, topping off his tank. Now with full pantries and fuel tanks, we head east on the Glenn Highway up the Matanuska River Valley.
As a sailor I’ve noticed the similarities of travel by boat and RV. Both share the same cozy closeness of a snug cabin. Both vessels are self-sufficient and self-contained, capable of being on their own for extended periods. Both share the ability to anchor or boondock for the night. But best of all, both share the similar, cheerful sound that rain makes falling gently on the roof (or the deck) above.
Smaller aircraft, including...
Smaller aircraft, including float planes, are an essential mode of transportation up here, due mostly to the rugged terrain and the sheer vastness of Alaska.
Away from the damp coastal air, the weather clears, revealing the snowy Chugach Mountains. Soaring peaks poke through rags of tattered cloud. The scale of Alaska is vast. It takes an hour to pass the icy tongue of 18,000-year-old Matanuska Glacier. A mighty river of fractured ice, it spills down wide valleys from distant coastal mountains. At winter-worn Glennallen we turn south down the Richardson Highway.
Here the road follows the Alaskan Pipeline that snakes 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. At a rest area we stop for the night beside a quiet lake. There are no facilities, but we don’t mind. We’re completely self-contained. With all the comforts of home we feast on a dinner of grilled salmon. The light of the long Alaska summer evening lingers well past midnight.