Our family loves road trips, and decided to do the road trip to end all road trips, the Alcan Highway!
So this trip is Minnesota to Anchorage, Alaska. 3223 miles. Four CDs of music from the 60s to today from showtunes to bluegrass to pop. Three kids. One van. Camping half of the time to save money. Trying very hard to not watch any movies or have screen time of any kind. Trying very hard to make history come alive and let our kids see the world with an empathetic eye towards the first nations peoples as well as the pioneer spirit. Showing them first hand how our earth is changing and how we have to take care of it. Being a family, enjoying each other, spending 24/7 together, giving ourselves time to do nothing but just BE.
We couldn’t take off too many weekends during wedding season, and didn’t want to spend our whole time just driving, so we opted to give all our time to the trip up, then sold our van (which was still in good shape but getting older) and flew home. And just because it was pretty tough for me to organize this trip in doable drive times evenly paced each day…I’m listing our drives for future families that may want to do the same thing.
Day 1 – Minneapolis to Glendive, MT (our longest drive was first to get it out of the way)
Day 2 – Glendive, MT to Medicine Hat, Alberta
Day 3 – Medicine Hat to Banff (I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Banff, so this was where we stayed a few days)
Day 4 through Day 6 – Explore Banff, Lake Louise, John got to assist a wedding with Two Mann Studios, lots of camping and adventure
Day 7 – Banff to Grande Prairie
Day 8 – Grande Prairie to Fort Nelson, British Columbia
Day 9 – Fort Nelson to Watson Lake, Yukon
Day 10 – Watson Lake to Whitehorse
Day 11 – Whitehorse to Tok, Alaska
Day 12 – Tok to Anchorage
Day 13 through Day 17 – Kat shot a wedding and a family session, lots of cousin adventures, hiking a trip to Homer, and soaking in Alaska’s gorgeousness
Yep, a lot of driving, a very busy trip, but so much fun. With 7 or 6 hour drives a day it was manageable for sure, but it does wear on you after a while. If we were to do this again, I think we’d find one or two times in Canada where we would have stayed a couple days just to have time not in a car. But overall, we had a blast.
Though we’re photographers, we don’t take a ton of pictures when we are on vacation since that is family time. But we did take some images that you’ll find below! Enjoy!
The Dakotas get are given a hard time for being flat and boring, but northern Montana and the plains of Canada are FLAT. Like, see for miles while not seeing another person at all flat. There is a beauty in that starkness, but I was also glad we could drive 80mph to get through it. We definitely got our fill of wide open spaces!
We take a lot of pictures of clouds. We love weather! And our drive had a lot of it, sometimes we knew we were driving through the mountains but just couldn’t see them.
I love black and white landscapes, especially when the subjects have a lot of tonal variety. This image is of dead trees at Sulphur Lake.
The Canadian Rockies are gorgeous, just go there someday, totally worth it!
Cooper directed this image of him, he was so proud he got up on the building! This was at an abandoned coal mine near Banff. In Canada, their parks and historic sites are very kid friendly, they leave artifacts right in the ground and it is fine to climb all over them. Very different from our American experiences.
I love this one of Lyra.
Since I’m not a morning person, John took an early morning to himself and hiked around Lake Louise, he got some lovely images.
And then there is Lake Louise, my mecca. It is MAGICAL. Seriously. Go there. Do it. Visit. It is the most lovely place and pictures do not do it justice.
Maxfield Parrish is one of my favorite painters. His work is how I first fell in love with Banff and Lake Louise, so we had to recreate his painting “Daybreak” with the girls. We got there nice and early so the waters were still, and they were such troopers doing this! John shot for just about 5 minutes, that is all it took. Not bad! Especially considering we had slept in the van the night before as the temps dropped really low and we were freezing! Promises of hot chocolate helped. I love Ainsley’s pointed toe, and the reflection on the water is just perfect!
So now I’ll divert a bit to the travel blog side of this post…this is what a lot of the Alcan looks like…
…quite a bit of this…
…but you also get to see some fantastic animals, close up! We saw ground squirrels, pikas, mountain sheep, wood bison, moose, black bears, eagles, ravens, and we think a porcupine. Wildlife is everywhere!
We really loved the Yukon. The Goldrush is a fascinating part of our history, as is the Alcan itself. Where America built a highway in another country without their permission, then said “my bad, here you go!” and gave it to Canada. Canada actually got quite a bargain in that deal, especially with all the tourism that now happens in the summer. Below is an image of the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake. It started out small, but now people from all over the world (including us!) nail their city signs or license plate or basically anything on these posts, wandering through here was so interesting!
This image is from the Sourdough Campground in Tok. The owners are awesome and every evening they have a pancake toss. If you get a sourdough pancake into the bucket, you win a free breakfast!
ALASKA! YOU ARE GORGEOUS! Every turn of the highway brings new stunning vistas! And we know we barely scratched the surface in what there is to see.
The kids were getting squirrely, so John had them run around in a field, they paused to check out the ocean and mountains, and I got this image. I love it so much. This was on the drive to Homer. Homer quickly became my happy place.
This is not photoshopped, these are the real colors from a Homer sunset at about 1030pm.
We were at the beach for low tide and got to see jellyfish, shells, birds, and play in the Pacific Ocean! John and I have now been in this ocean as far north as Alaska and as far south as Nicaragua! The kids LOVED playing in the surprisingly not freezing water and had a good hour of just exploring. There aren’t many pictures of Cooper because he was chest deep in the water most of the time and running around like a puppy.
Some of the most wild and beautiful places on earth. We were so fortunate to be able to give this experience to our kids! Cooper is already talking about working for a summer in Homer when he is a teenager and the girls want to work at the horse ranch in Banff when they graduate high school. We love all the things we saw, the time we took to spend together, and the people we met and visited. It wasn’t all perfection, and living through the crazy experiences were part of the beauty of the trip as well. Road trips are amazing! I hope you enjoyed our images!