On The Road…Part 1 The Alcan Highway



His & Hers Alaska: Ready to Hit the Road!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from us here on the blog.  We’ve been busy driving like mad to make it from Alaska to the East Coast of the Lower 48 in less than 24 days.   If you’ve missed out on the news so far, we have embarked on a six month road trip around the U.S. for the winter!  Luckily we’ve been capturing the days by making LOTS of YouTube Videos!!

Everyone asks how we came to take this trip.  It’s pretty simple, we’ve talked about it for years.  We have always wanted to spend time exploring our beautiful country and since moving to Alaska, we would be able to have the added bonuses of wintering in warmer climates and visiting family and friends we don’t see as often as we would like along the way!  We really started getting serious about making the trip happen this past winter and spring.  Every year, we’ve talked about it, but THIS YEAR, things started to look like the stars might align and we would really be able make it happen.  As the year progressed and each piece of the puzzle fell into place, we allowed ourselves to get more and more excited.  In the summertime, we started to mention to our families that we MIGHT be headed south for the winter, but we kept very realistic expectations that if any one piece of the puzzle fell away, the trip would have to wait.  Having the chance to meet the many RV bloggers who came to Alaska this summer, only served to fuel the fire that drove this trip, as we very much wanted to experience what our fellow bloggers shared with us about the full time RV lifestyle.  In the final weeks of August, the last three major factors fell into place and we realized, we could do it!  The North American Road Trip would happen!

We left our home in Seward in the trusted hands of friends on September 20th, went to Anchorage for five days of business and then took off for the great beyond on Friday afternoon.

The Unofficial Start

We knew we were cutting it close in terms of weather by waiting so late into September to leave, but we were hoping we’d get out of the state without incident.  We didn’t!  In the video below, we share the experience of getting stuck on the side of a mountain in the Alaska Range on the Tok Cutoff, our first night on the road.

Day 1: Stuck in a Snowstorm

 

At first it seemed like this was a terrible start to our trip, but as it turned out, we realized the universe had put us right where we were meant to be.  We made a new friend and shared our humble abode with him, when the weather prevented him from moving down the road, despite there being no room at the nearby inn (literally).  We were also in the right place at the right time to visit with someone on a very important occasion.  If we had gone on to where we had planned to spend the night, we would’ve been without phone service and would’ve missed that opportunity.  The details are probably less important to you, than the fact that we realized for the first of many times, just as the universe had lined up the stars to make this trip happen, that same greater power would make sure we were right where we were supposed to be at the exact moment we needed to be there.  It’s humbling and empowering at the same time to have that realization when taking a trip like this and we’ve frequently been reminded that it’s really not by accident that we decided to take this journey.

We survived the night! Everything always looks better in the light of day.
We survived the night! Everything always looks better in the light of day.

The weather cleared the next morning and we were on our way again with blue skies and hearts full of hope.  Thankfully, the remainder of our drive down the AlCan was uneventful, precarious at times, but nonetheless without incident.

Day 2: The Morning After and the Northwest Territory

 

Day Three was lovely!  We saw wildlife, had the chance to check out the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake and leave our mark.  The best part of the day came at the end though, when we rewarded our tired bodies for surviving the many hours on the road with a nighttime soak in Liard Hot Springs.

Day 3:  Bear, Bison and a Bath

 

You’ll love day four.  The Canadian Conservation Officers boarded our rig to ensure we were not transporting poached/illegal fish or wild game meat.  At the end of the day, we had planned to have Chinese food for dinner at a restaurant Ben ate at with his dad when they drove our truck up back in 2008, but we never found the place.  So we ate at a food truck instead.  You’ll love the accents and friendly nature of these chefs.

Day 4: COPS and Taco in a Bag

 

We took the obligatory photo at the Alcan Sign in Dawson City.  A little tired, but no worse for the wear, we pressed further down the road that night.

We survived the infamous Alcan Highway!
We survived the infamous Alcan Highway!

 

You might guess by the title of Day Five’s video that the road we chose left a bit to be desired.  The day was off to a great start, we enjoyed beautiful farmland scenery in the morning hours, had lunch with our good buddies from JenEric Ramblings in Williams Lake, BC and then took off again hoping to clear the U.S. border by nightfall.  Hoping, was the keyword in that last sentence…we made the mistake of believing the Milepost map and decided to take what turned out to be a steep, curvy highway across the mountains.  45 miles turned into over two hours of driving.  We did witness an amazing sunset as well as the rising of a huge beautiful moon, but let’s just say, I became intimately familiar with first gear and left new finger indentations on our steering wheel.  We finally found the big eight lane highway that we had hoped to reach and Ben started saying, “wouldn’t it be nice to find a Wal-Mart to park in overnight?”  Well, we did in Merritt, BC and without much more thought, we exited the highway, parked the rig and went to bed.  The border would have to wait another day…

Day 5: Sure, let’s take that road

 

Ben made his way back into the driver’s seat the next morning.  As the day progressed, we were actually grateful we had decided to stop the night before.  We drove through Peachland, BC that morning, which proved to be a breathtakingly beautiful region, one we would have missed if we’d driven through in the dark.  We’d LOVE to stop here in the future for a time, as they had vineyards and wineries, fruit stands on every turn, two shimmering and inviting lakes and adventure sports all around.  We resisted a great deal of temptation as we drove through this area, we were about to cross the border into the U.S. and didn’t know what fruits and vegetables they would allow us to bring as the list fluctuates regularly.  We are of the mind that it is sacrilege to pass up wine tasting, but I had developed a migraine and Ben was behind the wheel, so neither of us really needed to partake of such liquid delights.  Finally, we wanted to stop and play!  We had been driving for DAYS and everyone in the RV (dogs included) were anxious to get out and stretch the legs.  We pushed on though and crossed the border around 11am.  They took our tomatoes and bell peppers, asked a few questions and sent us on our way.  What a great feeling, we had made it!  We drove the last few of hours from Osoyoos to Spokane, found another Wal-Mart, ran a few errands, had dinner with friends and went to bed.  Tomorrow, we would play, today we needed a good rest.

Day 6: Back in the USA

 

Hope you’ve enjoyed this leg of our trip, it gets even better when we start stopping at fun places and doing cool stuff, so stay tuned.  Be sure to subscribe to our blog and YouTube Channel and follow us on our social media outlets to keep up with us on our North American Road Trip!

R~

Digging Razor Clams in Polly Creek + Video

One of our favorite Alaskan activities is digging razor clams!  Alaska’s Razor Clams are commonly found along sandy beaches of Cook Inlet.  They are the best tasting clams we have ever eaten and their meat has a succulent sweetness which is normally reserved for crabs.

Alaska Razor ClamsRazor Clams are technically a marine bivalve mollusc, with a siphon, neck, foot and shell.  Their shell is rather thin and range in size from your thumb to larger than a grown man’s hand.  Razor Clams live on the sandy intertidal beaches of Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska.  They are harvested on minus tides cycles and there are usually a few good days every month.


The State of the Clams

Fishing regulations change all the time in Alaska, make sure you know the regs before you fish. Clamming is considered fishing.
Fishing regulations change all the time in Alaska, make sure you know the regs before you fish. Clamming is considered fishing.

In recent years, Razor Clam populations on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula (east side of Cook Inlet) have been in a gradual state of decline.  I’m no expert, but some say there were storms that disrupted the reproduction cycle while others will probably blame it on global warming.  A local biologist would be able to give you a more accurate answer.  Alaska Fish and Game has kept a close eye on the populations and put measures in place to protect the fishery.  They started by reducing daily catch limits from 60 to 25, then closed some beaches, and currently razor clam digging is completely closed on the road system.


There is a place…

Not to worry, you can make a run across Cook Inlet to Polly Creek.  Only being accessible by boat or plane has kept the clam beds healthy and bountiful.  The best parts about going to Polly Creek are there is NO LIMIT and the clams are HUGE!

Miles of sandy beaches are exposed at low tide.
Miles of sandy beaches are exposed at low tide.

There are plenty of clamming beaches on the west side of Cook Inlet, but Polly Creek has been a local’s favorite for decades.  People will fly in from all around Southcentral Alaska and Ninilchik is a popular launching point for boats.

There is a catch that can ruin your day at best and will kill you at worst, the tides.  With a mean of 3o feet, Cook Inlet is home to the fourth largest tidal range in the world.  That is a lot of water and it moves quick, the last place you want to be is stuck on the clam beds without a boat when the tide starts rolling back in.

 


Ninilchik

Ninilchik is a small town on the Sterling Highway with a rich history.  It’s hard to put into words, but Ninilchik has always been a happy place for us.  The views are priceless, the beach is fun, and we can ride our ATV everywhere.

We have a couple of favorite places to camp in Ninilchik, Deep Creek State Recreation Area and Deep Creek View Campground.  We love staying at both places, there is something nice about staying right on the beach, but having electricity and wifi is awesome.

John and Joan Smart own Deep Creek View Campground and J&J Smart Charters.  We first met them in 2010, Rebecca and I were exploring the side roads of Ninilchik and stumbled upon an awesome campground up on the bluffs.  The views are amazing and the rates are only a little higher than boondocking on the beach.  They conveniently run fishing charters right from the campground and there are fish cleaning tables for the guests to use.  This comes in handy when you have bucket loads of clams.

Ninilchik is also home to Salmonfest, an annual Alaskan music festival that takes over the fairgrounds and town.  Our clamming trip was during Salmonfest and their campground was booked so we decided to stay down on the beach.  Much to our surprise we found some of our blogging friends camping down there!


Getting Underway

The following morning we met John down at the tractor launch and headed across the inlet.  They use a unique method to launch boats in Ninilchik, a tractor hooks up to the trailer and backs the boat down the beach to launch the boat.  The water dictates how fast you can make the run across the inlet, if its smooth boats will cruise at 30+ mph, if the water is choppy you might be bouncing along in the teens.

Waiting for the tide to roll out.
Waiting for the tide to roll out.

Once you drop anchor at the clam beds the waiting game begins.  Minute by minute the landscape changes, I made a really cool time-lapse a couple of years ago.  Before you know it, the boat is sitting high and dry on the beach.  John sets out a ladder to make it easier to climb out of the boat and a rinsing bin to clean the sand off your clams.


The Digging

Razor Clams taste great, but digging them is a workout and labor of love.  We feel the work is well worth it, one trip yields enough meat to make amazing meals all year-long.  If you have never gone clam digging before you will have to choose between a clam gun or a clam shovel, we use a gun.  I don’t think one is better than the other, it all comes down to personal preference.

With our clam gun and buckets in hand we headed off looking for the show.  The show is the mark or abnormality in the sand made by a clam indicating its location, most of the time it looks like a dimple, sometimes a crater, and others will squirt and pulse.  Once you find a show you start digging.  The gun has a handle with a little hole, line up the show with the clam gun and push it into the sand, cover up the hole on the handle to create a vacuum, then pull the gun and sand out of the hole, and repeat until you find the clam.  Some clams are deep and some are shallow, some will even escape from you because they can dig pretty fast.  Occasionally you will damage the clam while digging, make sure you keep it because it’s the law.  Broken clams are completely edible, they just take a little longer to clean.

If it sounds like I am speaking a foreign language, we made a video of our experience.


Cleaning Clams

Now the real work begins, cleaning them!  Upon your return from a clam digging trip to Polly Creek you will have bucket loads of clams and they don’t clean themselves.  It can be tedious, but when you combine it with your drink of choice and some good friends it almost becomes fun.

We blanch our clams in hot water to release them from the shells and then start cleaning.  I’m not even going to try putting this part into words, Rebecca does a great job of showing you how to clean a razor clam in this video.


Eating!

Yes, we have finally reached the best part of the day.  After all that work digging and cleaning clams you get to reward yourself with eating them, we like to have a clam fry.  We made a video of how we fry clams, but it is really easy.

  • Drain standing water from clams.
  • Season the clams, be creative!
  • Dredge clams in flour.
  • Dredge in beaten eggs.
  • Dredge in a 50/50 mix of flour and crackers (Saltines Ritz, Pilot Bread, etc,).
  • In a skillet, heat your oil of choice, place clams in skillet when oil is ready.
  • Flip once when breading is nicely browned, clams cook fast and are usually cooked in perfect time with the breading.
  • Remove to a plate with a towel when the other side has browned.  Lightly sprinkle with a little sea salt at this time.
  • Consume with your choice of dipping sauce; tartar, cocktail, or get creative with some mayonnaise.

The Experience

There are certain experiences you really shouldn’t pass up [especially if you already live in Alaska] and finding your way out to Polly Creek is on that list. We would like to thank J&J Smart Charters for showing us a great time clam digging.  If you are looking for a nice place to camp or would like to book a salmon, halibut, or clam digging charter across Cook Inlet give John and Joan a call, they are great people.

J&J Smart Charters

www.smartcharters.com

1-888-HALIBUT


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Although this trip was sponsored, our opinions are genuine and not for sale.  

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We decided to see how far we could get up the highway before it was closed.  Not far.
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Perfect Day for  Plane Ride!
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