Airstream Alaska

North to Alaska

“Alaska is not as intimidating as you may think!” said Lynda Polk, President of the Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club. “It’s not a foreign country. If Alaska is on your bucket list, it’s a wonderful adventure.”

Top of the World, on the way to Chicken, Alaska
Top of the World, on the way to Chicken, Alaska

Lynda and her husband Jim recently towed their 25-foot 2012 Flying Cloud from California to the 49th State; a destination that had been on their radar for some time. “Over dinner with fellow Airstreamers, the trip became a go,” she said. Following almost a year of excited planning at once-a-month group get togethers, the group—“14 adventurous people, 10 dogs, and seven silver Airstreams”—embarked during spring and gathered at their launch point: Mile 0 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club
Mile 0, Dawson Creek

“Our simple group motto was, ‘everyone is responsible for their own happiness’,” said Polk. “What worked so well on this adventure was having friends to share the journey, but also the flexibility to extend our stay at a favorite spot or jump off and discover another town on our own.”

Their activities varied from kayaking, biking, and hiking; a scenic ride on the vintage White Pass and Yukon Route train; an excursion in Prince William Sound for an up-close view of a calving tidal glacier and a island rookery brimming with Kittiwakes; a float plane salmon fishing adventure on a glacier-fed lake; and a vintage single-prop de Havilland Beaver flight over the enormous Juneau Icefield. “I loved this flight!” said Polk. “Married to a pilot, small plane flights are the norm, but this was our first floatplane trip ever, and my first small plane flight when Jim wasn’t flying.”

The Polks at Lake Moraine
The Polks at Lake Moraine

“If you’re up for an adventure, Alaska, British Columbia and Yukon Territory can surely deliver,” she said. “What surprised me the most was while Alaska was our ultimate destination, we were overwhelmed with the sheer beauty and vastness experienced in British Columbia where the provincial parks were spacious and well maintained. Glaciers were abundant, along with a plethora of waterfalls, rivers and lakes. We shared similar experiences in the Yukon Territory where the wooded government campgrounds were generously sized, private, and provided campers with firewood…gratis!”

Atlin, BC
Atlin, British Columbia

Prior to launching their Alaska adventure, the Polks and other members of the Greater Los Angeles Airstream Club studied the route and learned what to expect during the trip. “We had read so many articles—both good and bad—about traveling the Alcan Highway with its potholes, mosquitoes, flat tires and Airstream damage,” said Polk. “While we didn’t want to carelessly dismiss the advice of those who had gone before us, we also didn’t want those experiences to determine or dictate our journey. Aside from the now well-used rock guards on our Airstream, we are happy to share that we returned to the States without any damage, and not one flat tire in our group.”

Based on the success of their club’s trip, the Polks are already looking ahead to another. “The more we look back on our Alaska adventure the more we realize the most difficult part of the journey was the re-entry to reality,” she said.

Approaching Canadian Customs
Approaching Canadian Customs on Top of the World Highway

Tips for Airstreaming to Alaska

What makes for a great Alaskan adventure? “Whether you’re hitting the road solo or traveling with friends, it’s really not as intimidating as you might think,” said Polk. “As with all adventures, planning and preparation are essential.”

  • Be sure your Airstream and vehicle are in great shape.
  • Plan well in advance if you wish to camp in national parks. “All members of our group participated in the minimal structure of the overall event and we secured a few sites in advance that were in spectacular (and popular) spots,” said Polk—including Denali National Park, and a bluff top campground overlooking stunning Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula to celebrate the Fourth of July.
  • Be familiar with national holidays, in both the US and Canada, “when campsites can be more rare than grizzly sightings,” said Polk.
  • The infamous Top of the World Highway isn’t as treacherous as you might have heard, and the road “wasn’t bad until we reached Valdez,” said Polk. “From there, it was rough, but up there the air is crystal clear and makes you feel like you really are on top of the world.” Don’t attempt this scenic road during nasty weather, however. “Go to Dawson City and wait it out,” suggests Jim Polk.
  • “They say there’s two seasons in Alaska,” she said—“winter, and construction.” Be aware that construction season in Northern BC coincides with tourist season, and gravel roads will be muddy.
  • Related: Consider duct-taping yoga mats to the front plexi wrap and rock guards. (Learn more tips about dirt-road travel in this issue.)
  • Pick up a current edition of Milepost, the popular Alaska trip planner and travel guide to the highways, roads, ferries, recreation, sightseeing attractions and services within Alaska. “It will become your best friend along the way,” said Polk.