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1st time traveler through Canada in April

1st time traveler through Canada in April

Old Mar 8th, 2014, 04:46 PM
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1st time traveler through Canada in April

Hello, I am moving to Alaska in April from Texas and I am setting out on a 5,000 mile road trip to get to Cooper Landing, AK by April 26th. I am leaving Texas on April 18th. I am planning on getting into Banff late Sunday, April 20th. This will leave me 6 days to get to AK.

I have been to Canada (Montreal) but that was in the summer and I wasn't driving. I know this will be totally different than what I have ever experienced before. I am from Texas so I rarely drive in snow. It is more ice that I deal with but I usually stay home. So I basically have no experience in these conditions. I was hoping for advice on driving up there.

A few things to consider about my situation:

I drive a 2014 Subaru Crosstrek.
I will have my 2 year old black lab with me.
My route as of now is:
Banff --> Jasper --> Grande Prairie --> Fort St. John --> Liard River Hot Springs --> Whitehorse ---> Tok, AK --> Anchorage --> Cooper Landing.

Some questions I have:

What kind of weather should I expect in late April? Are winter storms still prevalent or will I be dealing with mainly snow accumulation from the winter?

How many miles are realistic to drive in a day? Do you think 6 days is enough to get there from Banff?

Are there radio stations or weather websites you recommend for me to listen to and check in on the way?

What are the typical speed limits in these areas?

How essential are snow chains in late April?

Really, any advice on anything would be wonderful. Any resources you can give me (websites, books, etc) would very much appreciated.
kateb6 is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2014, 05:17 AM
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if you are moving to alaska, the question about how essential are snow chains is irrelevant...just buy them as you'll need them. are you sure you want to do this without an experienced winter driver? please make sure your car is properly stocked. think worst case scenario...you drive off the road and are stuck in freezing temperatures for 8 hours...your dog needs food, candles, a propane little campstove is handy to melt ice, blankets, heavy duty boots, hat, mitts...it's about a 40 hour drive and for average daylight hours...i'd estimate about 10 hours. do not try to drive at night. considering that you aren't experienced, i'd only plan on doing about 6 hours a day and please make sure you map out where the next town is that has accommodations (that will accept your dog) - towns are very far apart so you need to plan ahead on where you will stop.
ltt is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2014, 04:20 PM
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Hey, wow, my drive from Seattle-Dawson Creek-Whitehorse-Tok-Anchorage in early April some years ago could match very nicely your interest in information.

First of all - let me echo what was said by the person before me. While on the Alaska Highway, one determines how far to go on a given day by the placement of various decent-sized spots for lodging along the way. (in brief: you either drive 300 miles on a given day, OR you drive 600 miles that day) So get that part projected in advance.

Like you, I had no idea what to expect upon planning my trip for an April 1 departure from Seattle. I do recall a couple of bits of sage advice: buy a copy of "The Milepost" for $35 or so, as it is a thorough guide to the Alaska Highway.

The other bit of advice I recall reading online was: "arm yourself with a good ice scraper". Unlike the tiny piece of cheap-ish plastic which is given away as advertising in so many places, the one I got for this trip was a long brush/scraper, not unlike a baseball bat in length. It only snowed seriously in Chetwynd, BC (which is prior to the AK Highway) but I recall how glad I was to have that serious ice scraper upon awakening and going outside to a parking lot filled with vehicles whose engines had been plugged-in at night, to stay warm.

Prior to going outside, I recall my having watched Canadian weather reports showing Alberta socked-in by a serious snowstorm, and terrible weather across much of eastern Canada... and this was about April 2 or 3, and here I was soon to depart Dawson Creek toward Alaska!!

For the record, I was driving a standard rental car sedan, and while it was a dirty MESS upon arriving in Anchorage, it was very easily equal to the challenge in every other way.

Now, let me give you some raw data:

During upward of 2400 miles between Seattle and Anchorage, I encountered perhaps less than 30 miles of unpaved roads, and well under 30 miles of any sort of snow or ice sticking on the roadway.

Roadwork must be done often along the Alaska Highway because of the deep freezes during some of the area during winter. Let me also point out that, especially in these unpaved patches, where there is a specific bump in the roadway, they do a good job of putting a red flag in the exact spot OF the bump - unlike standard U.S. procedure, which is to post the yellow "Bump" sign, and then leave you wondering and guessing just where the main impact OF said bump will be.

The 'worst' snow encounter I had along the whole path was not long after setting out to the north/west from Fort Nelson, BC... one morning, when I encountered a few miles of patchy ice on the roadway, and what I seem to recall were switch-backy driving conditions as I climbed toward what I think was the highest summit on the path of the Alaska Highway.

Most of the whole expanse of the journey will be just you and the open road!!! There are miles and miles of what is merely thick forest, you, and the road you're on, with nothing else. (in a way I wish I'd had a dog to stop and bring outside for a break

My early April departure saw basically nobody on the roads. I drove north/west bound one day for nine hours and saw just seven cars on the road which were going in MY direction during that 9-hour period.

I was amused by some photo opportunities where, despite a viewpoint mentioned around the next bend (or wherever), I could just STOP my car right IN my lane (on the two-lane, one-each-way roadway) and take whatever photo I wanted, for any approaching vehicle being audible with my ear from miles away in the still of the great white north.

A few times along the trip I rounded a curve and was immediately in awe of amazing scenery/surroundings. In one spot this entailed a herd of Bison grazing on either side of the small roadway. In another spot a herd of Cariboo were partially blocking the roadway, and it was very easy to slow down and take in the sights before finding a path through the troops.

Other times it was mere frozen lakes which captured my awe... some perhaps the result of the unending tree-lined countryside almost lulling me to sleep.

On the night I approached Whitehorse, YK... I recall not having heard any radio stations for hours... and then suddenly one station from Whitehorse came on... and I was SO let-down by the fact that they were wasting that station on a simulcast of the Friday night BINGO game in town there. Then, I found myself momentarily amused by "O-sixty-two... I-twenty-seven...B-eight".

(maybe I'll make a part two here, to split this up for easier reading)
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2014, 05:04 PM
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As to your time concerns... On my path there, from Seattle, I stayed in Hope, BC... Chetwynd, BC... Fort Nelson, BC, Whitehorse, YK... Tok, AK... then Anchorage.

One thing I'd be interested in, is the stages of the ice melt between my early April trip, and your later April trip. It was my take that the frozen element of some lakes in the area, seemed to enhance the scenic element of the trip.

I love that you have yourself targeted for Banff by a certain date, and that anyone answering you here need not try to project your target from so far away (Texas).

Let me say that, on my return trip, I drove 2000 miles in 3 days to get from Anchorage to Calgary, so you really can make tracks if you need to do so.

So let me project your trip as I sense it:

First, doing the wise thing that is to project BACKWARD.

OK, I want you to awaken on the morning of April 26th in Anchorage, because you need to see what is THERE, if you're gonna be 100 miles from it. There's just no substitute for having a look around the supposed big city before removing yourself to a remote-ish area.

SO, that means, the night of April 25 in Anchorage

The night of April 24 in Tok.

The night of April 23 in Whitehorse, YT

The night of April 22 in Fort Nelson, BC

The night of April 21 in Grande Prairie, AB

The night of April 20 in Banff, AB

Of course a whole lot of this is craaaaaaaaaazy, because there is SO much to see and enjoy, and this all projects your just zooming through, barely noticing any of it.

AT least do everything in your power to have the needed documentation to assure the dog being rubber-stamped to both get INTO Canada, and Back into USA (Alaska style) so as not to slow yourself down any further.

I am confident that you can both achieve your hectic travel goals AND see a whole lot from the car, as you drive along the way.

Traffic won't be much concern after you get out of Alberta, and while snowy weather remains a significant threat along much of the path, it is also OK to just roll the dice and hope... realistically... for a clean trip weather-wise.

IF I were gonna toggle any of the trajectory I just wrote... in order to make-up time on certain days, and maybe allow more time elsewhere... I would surely consider getting from Whitehorse to Anchorage (700 miles / 12.5 hours) in one long day of driving.

To me, the most scenic part along the path between Prince George, BC and Anchorage, is the area near Kluane Lake, YT... so perhaps one might see that early in the day after departing Whitehorse... and then not dawdling so as to see some of the more impressive mountains in Alaska before dark... and then reaching Anchorage very late.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2014, 05:30 PM
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On my reverse path, once I became motivated by a weekend in Calgary... I left Anchorage one morning, and stayed in Whitehorse... then Fort Nelson, and then Edmonton before driving to Calgary in the morning.

Were I in your shoes/paws... I would appreciate (my) numbers, and destinations, while making considerable allowances for the DOG needing occasional breaks - of the sorts which would be good for YOU too!

I am confident that you CAN accomplish the journey you anticipate, and I don't sense any particular pitfalls which will prove monumental to you. Obviously border documentation for both you and the dog, is important, as is the understanding that you will be appropriate when weather delays are just larger than you are.

Recharge your cell phone and your camera batteries each night, and don't push yourself tooooooooooo far. (if you want further incentive not to push yourself out there - read up on {the location of} Snag, Yukon

FYI - to mild surprise, there was a 24-hour gas station somewhere (what I seem to recall was) just west of Kluane Lake. Oh, and when you get to Tok, even if gas stations are closed late at night, you can still pump gas using your credit card.

It would be wonderful if you had a few more days to toss into your trip... but I still say you can give it a serious go, even if you don't have enough time to fully enjoy!!

(the mountain scenery in Alaska, even from the car, is pretty awe inspiring)

Hope this helps!
NorthwestMale is offline  
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