Posted June 11, 2023 – Narrated by Carmen
Show your true colors
and glow with excitement.
Keep looking up.
Have a magnetic personality.
Get a charge out of life.
Stay full of wonder
and lighten up.
Alaska’s growing season may be short, but the flowers are worth the wait.
Fanciful late summer plumage soothed our nerves as our frontal lobes surged with executive processes.
We were playing Russian roulette with the weather.
It was almost September, and we had yet to complete our sightseeing goals.
Cooler weather had chased off the bugs, but every morning we cautiously inspected the mountains for signs of Termination Dust.
We were lonely tourists.
Daylight hours had shortened and campgrounds were preparing to close for the season.
Yet, here we were, juggling the details of nomadic life in a strange land as we continued, Northbound.
Worse case scenario?” I asked Jim.
“Do you really want me to say?” he replied.
“Yes. Tell me the worst. Don’t hold back.”
Now, it occurs to me that you may be here to browse info for your upcoming Alaska adventure and are not keen to hearing about our disaster management plans.
I get it. Feel free to scroll along and enjoy the flowers.
The official long-term prediction is always, “Fair weather until mid-September.” For more accuracy, we consulted the almanac, but unstable climate and weather anomalies are known to fubar the flower and fishing industries. So, a little ol’ freak ice storm or atmospheric river could slow us down, leaving us stranded.
Jim’s plan, in the event of a weather disaster (which, unknown to us because we had no cell signal, actually happened a few days later on Alaska’s west coast), then we’d have to surrender the entire rig to the nearest storage facility – whether in Alaska, Yukon or B.C – and fly south to San Diego where we’d rent a car and find a place to live until Spring when we’d fly back up to retrieve the rig.
We also had plans for fuel shortages and breakdowns, and especially for missteps – you know, the dumb stuff you do when you find yourself slap-happy in a gorgeous natural setting – like that guy in the 70’s who went fishing and got lost for two months.
We even had a plan for a potential tragedy which could occur due to no fault of our own. Yes – before we set out for Alaska we had our lawyer line up our legacy ducks in a neat little row. 🥀
Now, I don’t want to harp on this, but a three-word search: “Alaska tourist killed” will reveal that vacationers of every nationality are frozen to death in glacial lakes, slaughtered by grizzlies, crashed into mountainsides, crushed by chunks of ice. Seriously, if the Death Rock of Doom doesn’t get you, the world’s tallest tsunami is revving up to finish the job. 🌻🌸🌼
There’s a reason why Alaska is the biggest state with the smallest population of very cautious people who hear the words, “freak accident” and “tragic death” far more often than do, say, the inhabitants of Pennsylvania.
Fairbanks, at last!
Nevertheless, we travelled through fires, floods and washed out roads and villages in pursuit of our first-ever view of The Northern Lights.
Jim crafted our itinerary to be near the 65th latitude for peak viewing in early Autumn.
Jim found the iPhone app “My Aurora Forecast & Alerts” to predict when and where the lights are, and the accuracy was spot on.
Waking up at two-o’clock in the morning paid off.
Obviously the dog ate my homework when it came to researching, “How to photograph the Northern Lights.”
But once I gave up trying to capture these magnetic ropes by the tail, I relaxed and immersed in the peaceful display undulating across the heavens.
It was like a lava lamp lighted highway. The experience imprinted into my memory as the universe whispered her secrets.
Knowing what they were doing, National Geographic captured the Alaska Northern Lights in the video below.
On our way to Chena Hot Springs we drove through North Pole.
There’s more than a sleigh full of kayfabe at work in North Pole. Evidently, the whole town is in on the (wink-wink) Santa’s workshop theme.
It made me wonder how Halloween is done here? But we were only passing through to experience something we needed more than Christmas.
Chena Hot Springs
About 70 miles north, into the Fairbanks North Star Borough …
we finally arrived to our northernmost destination, Chena Hot Springs Resort.
These natural thermal mineral spring waters flow into a tiny valley at the end of a long country road.
Over a hundred years ago, a pair of gold miners with aching backs founded the resort as a healing place for laborers.
Before our first soak, we settled, creekside, into our woodland campsite.
Alaska is a higher level of beautiful.
That pun serves, because this thrilling closeness to the natural world is also expensive in time, money and energy.
We were all physically exhausted – Even Pico’s fluff-toy entourage looked beat.
So, we paused here in this exquisite boreal paradise to sooth our sciatica and calm our nerves with morning walks in the valley.
We decompressed with warm, satisfying soaks in the natural geothermal pool and tried to forget about the other pool – the one full of magma stewing below.
In the evening we hit the Trails End lounge for Happy Hour.
Later, we tucked into Jim’s hot and delicious miracle chow – high flavor, low fuss and nutritious 600-calorie meals that he can whomp up within minutes from his minimally stocked travel pantry.
We thought there’d be plenty of opportunity to view The Aurora in Chena, but clouds from a gathering typhoon, blocked the sky.
Fortunately, we set up camp only about a hundred yards from, the Aurora Ice Museum.
Aurora Ice Museum
Located on the Chena Hot Springs grounds, the world’s largest year-round ice environment, the Aurora Ice Museum, is built with over 1,000 tons of ice and snow.
It was like strolling through the Aurora Borealis and every bit as challenging to photograph.
The museum is a frigid 25°F, so the museum supplies parkas.
Champion ice carver Steve Brice created this winter wonderland of life-sized ice sculptures.
Dazzling hand-crafted ice chandeliers light the way.
Everything, including the bar, is crafted from locally harvested ice.
In the workshop, a Viking showed us how he does the dishes by carving a disposable champagne glass.
Later, in the bar, a delightful Appletini is served in the hand-carved ice glass. Cold has never tasted so good.
Now, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t tell the children, but I have firsthand information that Santa prefers Appletini’s to candy canes 😉.
Most Ice Palace visitors arrive by bus from Fairbanks. Perhaps that’s why it is tradition to break the ice glass against a rock upon departure.
But, since we arrived with a perfectly good freezer we broke tradition instead.
Hmm… how many Happy Hours will these glasses hold up for on the, long, long journey South?
We had every intention to find out as we turned south toward Haines.
Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series
- Chapter 1 – San Diego to Malibu
- Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay – Chula Vista, California
- Malibu Beach RV Resort – Malibu, California
- Chapter 2 – Malibu to Morro Bay
- Morro Bay State Park – Morro Bay, California
- Chapter 3 – Morro Bay to Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park – Santa Cruz, California
- Chapter 4 – Santa Cruz to San Francisco
- San Francisco RV Park – Pacifica, California
- Chapter 5 – San Francisco to Eureka
- Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair – Wilton, California
- High Water Brewery (Harvest Host location) – Lodi, California
- Harmony Wynelands (Harvest Host location) – Lodi, California
- Van Ruiten Family Vineyards (Harvest Host location) – Lodi, California
- Four Fools Winery (Harvest Host location) – Rodeo, California
- Lawson’s Landing – Dillon Beach, California
- Mia Bea Wines (Harvest Host location) – Redwood Vally, California
- Johnny’s at the Beach – Eureka, California
- Chapter 6 – The Oregon Coast
- Harris Beach State Park – Brookings, Oregon
- Bay Point Landing Resort – Coos Bay, Oregon
- Blue Herron French Cheese (Harvest Host location) – Tillimook, Oregon
- Seaside RV Resort – Seaside, Oregon
- Chapter 7 – The Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Washington Land Yacht Harbor Airstream Park – Olympia, Washington
- Salt Creek Recreation Area – Port Angeles, Washington
- Chapter 8 – Victoria, British Columbia
- Weir’s Beach RV Resort – Victoria, British Columbia
- Chapter 9 – Victoria to Mackenzie
- Riverside RV Resort – Whistler, British Columbia
- Big Bar Rest Area – Clinton, British Columbia
- Walmart Parking Lot – Prince George, British Columbia
- Alexander MacKenzie Landing – Mackenzie, British Columbia
- Chapter 10 – The Alaska Highway
- Northern Lights RV Park – Dawson Creek, British Columbia
- Former Prophet River State Park – Peace River, British Columbia
- Hay Lake – Fort Liard, Northwest Territories
- Northern Rockies Lodge and RV Park – Muncho Lake, British Columbia
- Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park – Liard River, British Columbia
- Chapter 11 – Yukon
- Watson Lake Visitors Center Parking Lot – Watson Lake, Yukon
- Teslin Rest Area – Teslin, Yukon
- Norsemen RV Park – Atlin, British Columbia
- Hot Springs Campground – Whitehorse, Yukon
- Real Canadian Superstore Parking Lot, Whitehorse, Yukon
- Gold Rush Campground – Dawson City, Yukon
- Chapter 12 – Top of the World Highway to Chicken, Alaska
- Downtown Chicken Cafe and Saloon
- Chapter 13 – Tok to Valdez
- Tundra RV Park – Tok, Alaska
- Gulkana River Rest Stop – Gulkana, Alaska
- Bear Paw RV Park – Valdez, Alaska
- Chapter 14 – Glacier View to Anchorage
- Grand View Cafe and RV Park – Glacier View, Alaska
- Alaska Raceway Park (Harvest Host location) – Palmer, Alaska
- Ship Creek RV Park – Anchorage, Alaska
- Chapter 15 – Kenai Peninsula
- Heritage RV Park – Homer Spit, Alaska
- Marathon RV Campground – Seward, Alaska
- Chapter 16 – Whittier to Talkeetna
- Williwaw Campground – Whittier, Alaska
- Talkeenta Camper Park – Talkeetna, Alaska
- Chapter 17 – Denali
- Riley Creek Campground – Denali National Park, Alaska
- Chapter 18 – North Pole to Chena Hot Springs
- Riverview RV Park – North Pole, Alaska
- Chena Hot Springs Campground – Fairbanks, Alaska
- Chapter 19 – Tok to Haines
- Fast Eddy’s Restaurant Parking Lot – Tok, Alaska
- Gravel Turnout – Beaver Creek, Yukon
- Gravel Turnout – Destruction Bay, Yukon
- Haines Hitch-UP RV Park – Haines, Alaska
- Chapter 20 – South to the Lower 48
- Gravel Turnout – Haines Junction, Yukon
- Teslin Rest Area – Teslin, Yukon
- Jade City Parking Lot – Jade City, British Columbia
- Mehan Lake Rest Area – Bell II, British Columbia
- Fort Telkwa Riverfront RV Park – Telkwa, British Columbia
- Walmart Parking Lot – Prince George, British Columbia
- 100 Mile House Municipal Campground – 100 Mile House, British Columbia
- Mt. Paul Golf Course (Harvest Host location) – Kamloops, British Columbia
- Crowsnest Vineyards (Harvest Host location) – Cawston, British Columbia
- Final Chapter – Lessons Learned
- Mileposts (the book)
- Cash and Currency
- Dump Stations and Potable Water
- Internet Connectivity
- Canada Border Crossing
- US Border Crossing
- General Observations
- Final Thoughts
- Our Camp Sites
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.
FYI: Harvest Host’s popular podcast, “Roads and Stays” just released an episode about Living in Beauty where Jeremy Storton asks us how we lightened up and simplified our lives to make our retirement dream of full-time travel come true.