Now is the time to see Alaska. And bears. And moose.
May 3, 2011 Leave a comment
This month, Fulcrum releases the fourth edition of the best-selling The World-Famous Alaska Highway: A Guide to the Alcan & Other Wilderness Roads of the North (ISBN-13: 978-155591-749-4, $22.95) by Tricia Brown, giving readers detailed info on the Alaska Highway—or Alcan, as it is more commonly known. For nearly seventy years, this roadway has enchanted motorists with its breathtaking mountain vistas, winding past sparkling streams and lakes through Canada and the Canadian Rockies and into Alaska, the Last Frontier. Did I mention the wildlife?
Go to Alaska. If you have ever had the smallest of inklings to see this stunning place, trust me, you should. I went one summer during high school, when I visited a quirky aunt and uncle living in Valdez, because my parents had it in their heads that this city kid needed to have a “wilderness experience.” Okay, most of what I remember borders on traumatic: they were renovating their double-wide trailer and we had to shower outside in our birthday suits via garden hose (which my parents had failed to mention to me). But, if that’s not a wilderness experience, I don’t know what is.
Trauma aside, I have amazing memories of an unbelievable place that is almost untouched by man…the crisp, clean air, endless hours of daylight (we usually had dinner around 11 pm), the northern lights, and the wildlife strolling about as if they owned the place. For someone who had only ever seen BIG animals in the zoo, to see a moose standing next to our car is an experience I will never forget.
We recently caught up with author Tricia Brown to discuss the latest edition of her book and why she thinks Alaska is such a great travel destination.
Please tell us a little about how your passion for Alaska was sparked.
My extended family began trickling up to Alaska in the early 1970s, and their glowing letters and phone calls convinced us to finally make the move in 1978. The gigantic fish! The midnight sun! A wolf spotted right there on the edge of town! My salesman dad tended toward hyperbole, so I wasn’t sure—really—what we’d encounter on the 4,000-mile drive and in Alaska itself. But it truly was surreal. It was like moving to another planet, where the sun didn’t set and kids went to bed, and people mowed their lawns at 10:30 pm. And the mosquitoes were true to legend. Plus, coming from the cornfields of the Midwest, the rugged surroundings were exotically beautiful, and the mingling of Native and non-Native cultures fascinated me.
What was the most challenging part of updating the book the third time? Favorite part?
It’s a logistical challenge to plan for a drive-up, fly-back trip, especially if you rent an RV, as I do. So I begin by renting a car in Portland for the one-way drive to Everett, Washington, the nearest Cruise America rental site, then load everything from the rental car into the motor home before returning it. The whole time I’m packing, I have to think about flying it all back, so I really get lean on what to bring along.
An unpleasant highlight of this year’s trip was when I suffered a gallbladder attack while camping in a remote site in northern British Columbia. At that particular spot, we were camped outside of cell phone service, but within range of a wireless network. With more facts from medical sites, and knowing the mileage from the last town to the next town, we were able to decide to see it through until morning, when the pain had subsided and we could press onward to Whitehorse. I made sure this edition has solid information about what to do in case of a medical emergency! (And I said buh-bye to the gallbladder two weeks after we got home.)
What recommendations/tips do you have for first time travelers on the Alcan or even to Alaska or Canada?
I always encourage people to pace themselves, to slow down and enjoy Canada as much as they will Alaska. Everybody’s in a hurry to get to their destination, but Canada’s west is so great, it shouldn’t be rushed through, especially for those who appreciate natural history and human history. You can fly right by a bear feeding at the forest’s edge or miss a sign that describes the hazards of road building. There are incredible museums, great restaurants, rodeos, water parks, and the like. Have some fun.
For those who want to see bears, especially, I recommend traveling in late May. Sure, it’s chillier and the leaves haven’t fully opened in the Far North, but this is the time when black and brown bears are coming out of hibernation and feeding on the new spring grasses along the edge of the woods. One year, we counted nearly three dozen blackies. (An obvious tip: stay in the car for your photos and don’t take risks around wildlife.)
What kind of personal feedback have you received about the book in previous editions? What do you hope readers will notice/learn/love about this latest edition?
I want to make the trip easier and more fun. I want to be a trusted voice offering insights and insider tips to my friends. This edition is loaded with photos and details on where to go and what to see, lists of hotels, restaurants, and campgrounds to aid in planning, and essential information on miles between cities. It’s planning made easy.