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Old 10-18-2012, 11:55 AM
 
3 posts, read 28,167 times
Reputation: 16

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I've done quite a bit of reading on this topic, but wanted to see what some of you ALCAN regulars think of my scenario. The bottom line is I would love to see this road as sort of a last Alaskan adventure as I PCS to Florida for my next assignment. That being said, I am a father and husband so safety is absolutely paramount. I actually enjoy long distance drives by myself but I know this is a different animal than usual. I've lived here for 4 years and in doing so have picked up a bit of winter driving experience. I do not consider myself an expert however. I'd say the hairiest thing I've driven in winter is the road from Anchorage to Fairbanks in a 2008 Chevy 1500 4x4 with A/T tires. (Did it in December) I will be by myself with a dog to keep my company. I am also slightly terrified of heights. (kind of ironic I'm in the Air Force) So switchbacks and mountain roads with no guardrail in the winter are going to cause much anxiety. So here's the setting:

The Timeframe: Early November. As in wheels hitting the road on the 1st. I want to be able to hit the lower 48 by the 6th at the latest.

The Rig: New 2012 F-150 4x4 with Off-Road package. I will have a camper shell with approximately 500lbs in the bed. I'm switching the tires out to Good Year Duratracs which get awesome reviews for snow/ice. They also will be studded since they are pre-drilled anyways. I actually have a question pertaining to this as well. I JUST bought this truck and will be driving most likely with temp tags. Will this be a problem with the border? I'll have 1 full size spare on rim.

The Route: Dont have my exact map on me at this time, but I'm planning on making Beaver Creek by the 1st day, on to Watson Lake by the 2nd, Fort Nelson by the 3rd, southern Alberta by the 4th. Montana/Idaho on the 5th. I have a milepost and can change up just a bit, but I will have a dog with me. She's an Akita though and pretty comofortable in the cold so she could POSSIBLY sleep in the truck if needed. I plan to only drive approximately 500 miles a day. Night time driving is not an option as I've just heard too many bad things. (at least until I get into southern Canada.) Hoping this is a feasible time line. I've also read that the road between Watson Lake and Ft. Nelson will have many steep drop-offs and switchbacks and what not. Thats enough to make me start sweating now...

The Gear: Picked up plenty of cold weather gear in my time here and will bring most of that. Also planning on an extra container of gas (5 gallons). I'm going to pick up a small propane space heater in case I get stuck on the side of the road. I'll have a cooler full of water and food, an emergency roadside kit and some basic stuff like a knife/hatchet, etc. Maybe even some dry wood.

The backup plan: I also have a ferry reservation leaving out of Haines on the 5th. But it almost seems like if I've gone that far, I've already come through the roughest parts. Please advise...

So what do y'all think? Is this doable? My priorities are safety above everything else and then timeline, scenery, etc. In other words, I would put flat, stratight and boring above mountain scnenery. I welcome any and all advice and greatly appreciate it.

Thanks in advance!!!
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Old 10-18-2012, 01:02 PM
 
Location: Fairbanks
36 posts, read 60,928 times
Reputation: 50
I drove up from Oregon to Fairbanks at roughly the exact same time last year. It wasn't bad at all. A couple of those days are pretty short, if you're just looking to make time and not check scenery (FBX-Beaver Creek, Watson Lake-Ft. Nelson)

That being said, I did the drive from Portland, Oregon to Fairbanks in 5 days with stops in Cache Creek, Dawson Creek, Watson Lake, and Destruction Bay. I was originally intending to make it to Beaver Creek the last night, but the road between Haines Junction and Destruction Bay was absolutely the worst bit of driving the entire trip.

My advice is to plan out your gas stops with the milepost, and drive until you feel like calling it a night. You'll be fine.
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Old 10-18-2012, 01:41 PM
 
Location: Homer ak.
203 posts, read 270,667 times
Reputation: 169
You will be starting your trip a couple of days after the full moon. The critters like to move about more with the full moon.
Having said that if you can travel at night in fresh snow it is really bright and the game sticks out more.
You will have to drive in the dark for the first couple of days to do 500 miles.
I would drive behind somebody that is not driving faster than you are comfortable driving and just follow them not too close that your lights bother them but close enough to keep them in sight. Let them look out for the animals and they will tell you when to slow down for the curves by their brake lights.
I wish I could drive with you I have relatives in florida and it is a wonderful drive;but I have other commitments during that time.
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Old 10-18-2012, 01:48 PM
 
Location: Bethel, Alaska
21,358 posts, read 32,300,817 times
Reputation: 13696
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roby81 View Post
I am also slightly terrified of heights. (kind of ironic I'm in the Air Force) So switchbacks and mountain roads with no guardrail in the winter are going to cause much anxiety. So here's the setting:

The Timeframe: Early November. As in wheels hitting the road on the 1st. I want to be able to hit the lower 48 by the 6th at the latest.

The Route: Dont have my exact map on me at this time, but I'm planning on making Beaver Creek by the 1st day, on to Watson Lake by the 2nd, Fort Nelson by the 3rd, southern Alberta by the 4th. Montana/Idaho on the 5th. I have a milepost and can change up just a bit, but I will have a dog with me. She's an Akita though and pretty comofortable in the cold so she could POSSIBLY sleep in the truck if needed. I plan to only drive approximately 500 miles a day. Night time driving is not an option as I've just heard too many bad things. (at least until I get into southern Canada.) Hoping this is a feasible time line. I've also read that the road between Watson Lake and Ft. Nelson will have many steep drop-offs and switchbacks and what not. Thats enough to make me start sweating now.
How to Drive to Alaska in the Winter - ExploreNorth

Current Road Conditions - Highways and Public Works - Government of Yukon

DriveBC

You can make it to Whitehorse from Fairbanks in a day, if you leave early enough. I've done this a few times.
Whitehorse to Watson lake is doable in a day, too. This only takes around 8-10 hours or so. Don't drive between Watson Lake and Fort Nelson at night, lots of critters in this area including Bison.
From Fort Nelson you can make it a long way into Alberta in a day. Might even make it to the MT border if you wanted to.

The steepest spot on the Alcan is around Steamboat Mountain not far from Fort Nelson. They do take good care of the highway in Canada. Just take your time as you leave Liard River Hot Springs, which you MUST stop in at for a soak. Totally worth it.

Most of the hotels are pet friendly along the way.
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Old 10-18-2012, 02:00 PM
 
Location: Palmer
2,518 posts, read 5,871,034 times
Reputation: 1365
It sounds like you have been living in Alaska so already should know how to drive on snow and ice. Just take it easy and don't push it. Winter is the best time to drive it in my opinion.
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Old 10-18-2012, 02:33 PM
 
4,718 posts, read 8,691,220 times
Reputation: 2153
I just drove from South Florida to AK and Back along that same route... Only the Watson lake to Fort Nelson portion did I see more animals than I really cared to. BTW, day time I had similar issues with wildlife, you just get a little extra reaction time. I ended up driving at night, because I had no choice. Hotels were all full and 4 of us in a truck and no one wanted to sleep another night in the truck. We ended up staying in a cabin on Muncho Lake. Saw TONS of large animals on the road - so I drove slow... (sarcasm: on) BTW, Critters to me = squirrel sized animals. Huge Moose running across the road and Bison in the road are not critters... Try large animals capable of totaling your vehicle and causing great bodily harm. (sarcasm: off)

To be honest, the switchbacks and height never bothered me at all on those roads, so I don't think you will have any problems at all. I am not scared of heights, per se, but not overly comfortable either. Might have something to do with falling off a 2-story house a few years ago...


We had different stopovers on the way up and back and other than availability we never had a problem. Definitely fill-up/top-off whenever possible, just in case. Try to bring a little Canadian money along the way - the credit card satellite may be down, but the pumps will still work if they power. (Whitehorse has a Wal-Mart and someone mentioned a trick where you can buy a pack of gum with a $100US and they will give you change in Canadian Money at a good rate. ) Your most expensive fuel will be at Muncho Lake if they are even open. (It was $1.99/LITER when I was there) Central to Southern Alberta has the cheapest fuel in Canada ($1.09/Liter this summer). Of course, here in the the good ole USA it is even cheaper.

Here's my take on it, if a semi pulling an 80ft container can drive those roads, I should be able to drive them with my truck too... I like to follow them at a distance as previously advised. Enough so that if they hit a Bison/Moose or drive off the cliff I have enough time to avoid the shrapnel.

BTW, Where in Florida are you PCSing to? Good luck, have fun, enjoy the trip.

Adding the caveat, that I am married with children too and not to pick on you. BUT, why is it that 'us' married men with children always have to put in that we are married with children and need to be safe? Are single men with no children not allowed to be safe? Is somehow their longevity not worth it because they are not married or do not have children?
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Old 10-18-2012, 05:33 PM
 
3 posts, read 28,167 times
Reputation: 16
Basically only added the married with kids part to say that I have people relying on me so I feel I need to be a little more safety concious. No insult to single folks intended.

Sounds like most of you are concerned mainly with the animals. I might try and look into a bull bar or something to beef up the front end. That'll make the wife happy. "But babe, I NEEDED it!"

BTW- I did have one more question. For the folks that have taken the western route down into Seattle, is that an easier route or is it worse? I'm doing a stop in Vegas so it doesn't matter if I pop out in Montana or Washington. Is this the route people refer to as the "Cassiar"?

Thanks for all the replies so far folks. Please keem em coming.
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Old 10-18-2012, 05:50 PM
 
Location: Deltana, AK
857 posts, read 1,611,896 times
Reputation: 1149
The Cassiar is an alternate route, further north (which isn't really recommended in winter). Once you hit Dawson Creek, the western access route to Seattle is more mountainous than the east access route to Montana. Check the weather and road conditions before you decide.

Six days should be plenty of time, including possible layover days to wait out heavy snow. Shouldn't have to deal with any really extreme cold though.
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Old 10-18-2012, 05:59 PM
 
Location: Homer ak.
203 posts, read 270,667 times
Reputation: 169
to me winter driving is nice with the rocky mountains in the rear view mirror. get out of the mountains as soon as you can. take the alcan get into america at sweetgrass mt.
and drive down to vegas
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:47 PM
 
4,718 posts, read 8,691,220 times
Reputation: 2153
Roby81- was just messing with you.
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