Driving from Alaska: Adventure in the Late Season

The ghouls, monsters and movie characters have come and gone. Smashed pumpkins adorn the sidewalks; signifying that Halloween is over. Happy November! Today I reflected back on the past month, which has mostly been a blur out of my car window. Driving the Alcan was an adventure.

And it’s not an adventure until something goes wrong…

Weather was not on our side. Although we really had no other choice, it was a fairly late time of year to drive the Alaska-Canadian Highway down to the Pacific Northwest. We had an amazing adventure with some expected bumps in the road (pun slightly intended.) In retrospect, I’m going to let you in on some important information that I would have loved to know about before I headed south. Be more prepared than I was. Things to think about:

1.) Time of year and ICE:

-If you are planning on driving later than September or earlier than May, you should carry snow chains and de-icer with you. At one point, ice froze to our car as we drove which made for some interesting ice art. We smelled rubber melting on ice as we passed through Fort St. John (oh the irony of ice melting rubber). We had to make an emergency stop to spray down the hubs with hot water to melt the ice away, shoving loonie after toonie into the pressure washer.

We got into a routine of breaking ice off of our car regularly.

Icy artwork created as we traveled!

2.) Wildlife:

-Avoid driving at night. There is a lot of wildlife that you DO NOT want to collide with! Many of these animals are nocturnal. Be careful driving at dawn and dusk as well. Moose are crepuscular which means they are active during these time (stick that in your vocab bag.) Moose collisions have become increasingly fatal and frequent. BRAKE FOR MOOSE. Your life may depend on it.

-Heed the wildlife signs. May areas have a warning sign for elk, caribou, moose, and bison that frequent these areas. Take them quite literally. Most of the time when we saw a wildlife warning sign, we would see the real deal.

Roadside caribou in a “caribou warning” area.

3.) Gear to bring:

-Make sure you have adequate camping gear. Even if you don’t plan on camping, lodging is few and far between, so it might be wise to be prepared. This would include:

~ Tent ~ Sleeping bag ~ Camping stove ~ cookware and utensils ~ Sleeping pad ~ Water purifier ~ headlamp ~ bear spray ~

Those are the necessities but I would also recommend a candle lap which you can hang inside your tent for added warmth. Sleeping bag should be at least -15 degrees for post September camping. Some hardcore (or broke) campers think sleeping pads are unnecessary but they will keep you warm if the ground freezes.

-Food! We definitely went overboard with food, but life is better with a full belly anyway. Have enough for extra days just in case you get held up.

-Spare tire. A no brainer.

4.) Know where you are going:

-Decide whether the Alcan (Alaska-Canadian Highway, closer inland) or the Cassier (Stewart Cassier British Columbia Highway 37, more coastal and mountainous) will be the best choice for you. Note that the Cassier is more remote. If you were to become stranded there is a chance that you might not see another car for a day or more (hence the extra food!) We decided not to take the Cassier even though we would have saved a few hundred miles, simply because it is more risky to drive it at this time of year.

-Have a good detailed map of the areas you will be traveling in.

-The Milepost is somewhat useful. Although if you travel North to South you will have to read it backwards. It is also tailored for RVs which didn’t help us much. It was great for a quick bite to eat and to get out of the cold.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me and ask questions about this trip. I’d love to hear if you are planning on driving to or from Alaska!

A long, long drive but very, very worth the adventure.

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