Recently retired and ready to spread their wings, Len and Faith Todd wanted to do more with their time than just wait for the grandkids to stack up. Avid travelers, they purchased a Toy Hauler with the expressed purpose of doing some snowmobiling in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula … but another motivation waited, unspoken. Tour Alaska. Trip of a lifetime. They waited. They researched. They prepared. In late June 2009, the trip of a lifetime began. During the trip, Faith and Len blogged about their adventures and kept a growing audience of friends and family rapt with attention and not a little bit jealous. In this chapter, their Alaskan Adventure comes to a close, but their love for the freedom and opportunity of RV living continues.
The last three days of our adventure were in our home away from home – Munising, Michigan. We have vacationed there annually for a decade and have no plans to stop. Every year we come up here, we discover new and captivating beauty. This year we visited the Hurricane River, which flows into Lake Superior near Grand Marais.
The shoreline between the river and the town is an inviting sandy beach protected by the huge Grand Sable Dunes. This stretch also includes the historic lighthouse at Au Sable and a gorgeous little waterfall a short hike from the Point. The area is dotted with welcoming campgrounds of all shapes, sizes and amenities – but, if you are planning a trip in 2010, call ahead. Road construction in and out of the parks is making some changes to the access points. Call the Interagency Visitor Center at 906.387.3700 or the Grand Sable Visitor Center at 906.494.2660 for more information.
Sightseeing is not the only draw along the Hurricane River. Anglers can catch their limit of sunfish and smallmouth bass here as well. If you find this alluring, you can try your luck using crayfish and small worms. You should have a full frying pan in no time!
Grand Marais is a charming, little hamlet at the end of M-77. In spring and summer hike the numerous trails, visit waterfalls, lake and streams and kick off your shoes for a walk along the shoreline of Superior. The Independence Day celebration in July and Music and Arts Festival in August are summer highlights. In the winter, snowmobilers descend on the town, cruise in, around and even on the Big Lake. But Grand Marais isn’t all about the outdoors. Tour the Maritime Museum and browse the gift shops for locally-made arts and crafts.
Near Munising, we also found a trio of gorgeous, springwater-clear inland lakes: Little Beaver, Big Beaver and Kingston. If you’re up that way, definitely check these out!
Our arrival in Munising, it turned out, was warmly anticipated. Len’s friends, Raoul and Catherine Revord invited us to meet them for breakfast at their beautiful log cabin on Upper Twin Lake. What a feast! Fresh peaches, sausage and Raoul’s famous French pancakes. Don’t even ask…I tried…it’s a secret family recipe passed down from generation to generation. No wonder Raoul’s always smiling. Thank you, Raoul and Catherine for the warm welcome home!
Thursday night, we enjoyed a campfire on the beach of Lake Superior. As we reminisced and raised a glass to toast our journey, the sun fell behind the horizon. The perfect ending to our storybook adventure.
With their Adventure of a Lifetime in the rearview, Len and Faith Todd have returned to the familiar fit of their home in the mitten of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Faith admits that, in the summer of 2009, a road trip to Alaska would not have been on her Top 5 ‘must do’ list. But she says, “After the fact I can say it was the best trip I’ve ever taken. The thing that really sticks out in my mind – and I know this will sound trite, but it’s true – the beauty and the grandeur of all the passing scenery. It’s like a crescendo. It just keeps building and building along the way until you get to Alaska. Then, it’s just one “oooh” and “aaah” after another…no matter what direction you are facing. You are literally surrounded by breathtaking beauty.”
Len agrees, “For anyone considering this trip, if you get the chance, just do it. Do not pass it up! We wish we’d had more time. Looking back, there were a couple of other things we wish we had done.”
In addition to the richness of the adventure, the Todd’s are wiser for their travels. And they are ready and willing to share their experience with other RVers planning to head up to the Great White North. That wisdom begins with what to bring with you.
Says Faith, “Packing fourteen pairs of shoes is unnecessary. One can easily get by with a mere four.” But is there anything indispensible? “Well, Len. I’m so glad I was traveling with someone as resourceful and mechanically minded as my MacGyver.”
And what advice would Len “MacGyver” Todd offer?
“Well, for starters, this is not the kind of trip that you want to be your ‘maiden voyage.’ Have the bugs all shook out of the RV long before you head up this path.
Len’s ‘pre-flight checklist’ is practical and, as you can read about in previous chapters of this adventure, colored by first hand experience. “Consider getting two spare tires for your towable. I would also suggest a trailer tire pressure monitoring system…and definitely pack the wheel bearings before you depart.”
Once you are on the road in northern Canada and Alaska, Len has two very practical suggestions: drive slowly and watch your gas gauge. “Drive at a speed that will enable you to stop quickly. The folks taking care of the roads do their best, but not all road malfunctions will be marked. And, of course, be ready for a bear, moose or caribou to shorten that available stopping distance for you without asking permission.”
Faith agrees, “Go slow on the Alaskan Highway. You’ll probably save yourself some repair work if you keep it light on the gas pedal.”
And fuel, Len?
“Make sure you have an extra five gallons of fuel. Once you have less than half a tank of fuel, do not pass a fuel stop. The next expected fuel stop is not always open. In addition pack tools to wrench anything that is on the truck and or towable and enough food to last you for a day or two. You may get stuck out there for an unexpected overnight.”
Another practical piece of advice from both Len and Faith: check prices before you go. Canada and Alaska can get expensive, especially for fresh vegetables, Internet service and fuel.
Any parting advice?
“Keep a fairly detailed log, take lots of pictures…and take time to smell the fireweed.”
So what’s next for the Todds?
Well, for the time being, having a new house built is keeping the intrepid trekkers close to home. But, when the house has been completed and christened by the sweet voices of adored grandchildren, the Todds will again cast their eyes to the North. The Toy Hauler waits, ready to take them back into the Upper Peninsula, where they will forge twin tracks across the snow crusted Yooper Trails. Waiting to spend another Memorial Day weekend on the shores of Lake Superior. Ready for their return to the Porkies, where there are so many trails yet to explore. And, of course, waiting for another trip across the Rockies into Wyoming, where fish still tell tales of a MacGyver with a fly rod.
Beyond that, the roads are a little more open. Images of the autumn color in New England are enticing, so the Hauler may be in for a whirlwind tour of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Green Mountains. Granite cliffs. Monstah lobstahs…and an endless supply of “so much more” to see.
With that in mind, Better RVing will be keeping tabs on the Todds, from time to time sharing their further adventures with all of their new friends, fans and fellow devotees of the adventure that is RV living.
Chapter 1: Dude—No Way!
Chapter 2: Celebrating Our Independence
Chapter 3: Exploring Black Hills and Plush Valleys
Chapter 4: Rodeos, Rivers, and Bears—Oh, my!
Chapter 5: Big Fish and Bigger Sky (Wyoming and Montana)
Chapter 6: On the Fly in Wyoming
Chapter 7: Glacier National Park & A Glimpse of the Great White North
Chapter 8: Yukon Get There From Here
Chapter 9: Alaska … Roads, Rain and Rabbits
Chapter 10: Seward’s Glory
Chapter 11: Not Just for the Halibut
Chapter 12: Mountain and Flame
Chapter 13: Fairbanks, Loonies & The Road To Destruction
Chapter 14: Icefields, Parks and Canada in the Rearview
Chapter 15: Reservoirs, Dinosaurs & the Devil’s Playground
Chapter 16: Superior Views & Yooper Trails
Chapter 17: The Adventure Continues