Well, for all the stressing, researching, calling Canadian government/public health and asking others’ advice, I can now say our drive north through Canada to transport our camper van, trailer & us back to Alaska was easy peasy!
We drove through Canada in FOUR days, a record for us. Justin’s first trip driving north in 2003 probably took 10 days. In 2018 and 2019, we took 7 days. With a heavy camper pulling a heavy trailer and a 25-gallon diesel gas tank, we weren’t sure what to expect. Canada gave us 6 days to get through, which made us a bit nervous. Shockingly, we still got 15-17 mpg, and ending up logging 500+ miles and 12+ hours each day with great weather and no hiccups.
I mean, we did have to line up a lot of stars to make it go smoothly.
Canada wants to make sure that anyone transiting through is Covid-free and has food, water and emergency supplies. We were carrying 5 extra gallons of diesel, 30 gallons of water, 15 days of food and 2 full-size spare tires (one for the camper and one for the trailer).
We heard varying reports of whether or not we’d be allowed to sleep in our camper, or would have to make hotel reservations for the whole trip. We didn’t quite understand that, as Canada’s take is they don’t want you in their grocery stores/restaurants, and they want you to interact with people as little as possible. Hotels=interactions. So we thought a self-contained van made the most sense! And even though all the campgrounds are closed to outsiders, there are plenty of pull-offs and rest areas for boondocking. We were relieved our border agent encourage us to sleep in our van.
We stopped for our pre-entry PCR Covid tests in St. Cloud, Minnesota, on Friday, May 7. And 28 hours later as we pulled up to a campground outside of Portal, North Dakota/Saskatchewan, on Saturday, May 8, our negative results came in. So we boogied over to the border on Saturday around 4pm.
Our border crossing was nothing like others’ accounts. We didn’t have to wait in line for 8 hours. We didn’t get turned back because we didn’t have enough water. We didn’t get turned back because we didn’t have enough sandwich provisions (true story).
We handed the border agent our vehicle registration (Alaska), passports, licenses (Alaska addresses) and vaccine card for good measure. He asked us 17 times if we had any guns (no). Then he went to his computer for about 15 minutes, and came back with instructions to go on our merry way.
The one blunder was that we had to take an at-home Covid test within the first 24 hours. I can’t say the border agent’s instructions were real clear, he just kept saying “follow the instructions on the paper.” Come to find out those instructions were in FRENCH, but we figured out we had to do a video call with a nurse within 24 hours, so we booked a hotel for that first night and woke up at 6am to get online and take the test. There were 150 people ahead of us in “virtual waiting rooms.” Surprisingly, it went rather quickly and we were tested by 8:30am. Then we had to then drop the test kit off, which was a whole other obstacle. We tried 4 drop off locations before finding one open 2 days later in Dawson Creek.
Another snafu was the Yukon Territory, which is the last section of Canada before crossing into Alaska. They want you out within 24 hours. It takes a solid 11 hours from the point of entry to exit for a normal car. Reminder, we were driving a camper AND trailer full of stuff. Yukon’s roads are the worst of all the territories, so we just had to be mindful and plan accordingly for the right timing. I think we exited the Yukon with 30 minutes to spare on our clock.
It was weird going through Canada without stopping. And we only saw TEN other cars from the US. In a a normal year, US license plates might even outnumber Canadian plates. Also, we’d much rather break up the drive with some hikes and pitstops to our favorite places (like the Sign Post forest in Watson Lake. We ate lunch in front of it, but we didn’t dare get out to walk around).
The wildlife, on the other hand, still showed up! We saw 14 black bears, over 40 buffalo, 8 stone sheep, 6 porcupine, 3 elk, 3 moose, 1 fox and 3 eagles. I really wish we got a picture of the stone sheep because they were so cool!! But it wasn’t in a spot where we could pull over easily, and they move fast.
In total—from picking up the van in Colorado, driving to our storage unit in Virginia, making a pit stop in New Jersey, and finally chugging along up to Alaska through Canada—our trip was 6,628 miles. Nothing compared to other road trip mileages, but a lot of miles for a short time!
We were only gone from Alaska for 34 days, although it felt like months with everything jam-packed in. And we spent $1521.45 in gas, which is basically what we’ve been spending in storage unit fees each year. Worth it to have all our stuff in one location now!