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SMART Alaska Caravan

We are a retired couple (originally from Long Island, New York) living full-time in our 5th Wheel RV since July 2013. We are headed to Alaska from June to September 2015 with a caravan of 20 rigs from a camping club called SMART (Special Military Active Recreational Travelers). This is a group of active and former military personnel from all across the U.S. who have come together to travel through Alaska for three months.

Click on the points on the map to see what we did at each location.




Jun 17, 2015

June 17 - Day One

Roll call was by radio at 0730 hours starting with Reveille then each rig calling in their number (we are SMART 15). One couple had to drop out of the caravan already. While shopping for supplies for their Alaska trip, the wife fell and broke her arm. The doctor said it was the worst break he had seen in all his twenty-something years of medical practice. The wife had surgery today and they are hoping to join us afterward.
We were assigned to group two for departure (there were five groups of three, five, five, five, and three). The groups were directed to depart 15 minutes apart so that we did not crowd the highways. In Canada, if you have five or more vehicles behind you and don’t pull over to let them pass, you could get a large fine. Don’t want to do that.
The stop at the border was interesting. I had to go in to file paperwork to declare a shotgun in our possession. When the couple in front of me moved on, I walked up to the counter and gave the agent the paperwork. The agent was highly annoyed because I had just walked up. CANADIAN LESSON #1: Wait until called forward to the counter regardless of whether there is a sign telling you to wait or not.
Today’s trip was 250 miles from Great Falls, Montana, to Fort McLeod, Alberta, Canada. It was 5-1/2 hours to get there. We were advised not to get into the campground before the Wagon Master and got a target time of 4 p.m. When we arrived at 2:30, we looked for something to do to kill time. There was a fort to look at so we parked on the road and spent two hours poking around the place. The fort was very interesting and worth the stop.
At our travel meeting tonight, one of the other couples said they spotted a herd of about 200 buffalo shortly after crossing the border. Everyone said all they saw were cows and horses. He told us the buffalo were up on a hill and hard to see. It is possible that we thought they were cows so we ignored them. CANADIAN LESSON #2: Pay attention to ALL animals you see.



Jun 18, 2015

Rocky Mountain House Museum

June 18 – Day Two. Today’s trip was 250 miles from Fort McLeod, Alberta, to Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. It was 6 hours travel time. We were in the very first group to pull out at 8 a.m. It was overcast, sometimes foggy, sometimes rainy, as we drove through flat, rolling farmland initially. South of Calgary more trees appeared and the terrain began to roll with small hills. This is definitely farmland and cattle ranch territory.
Arrived at Riverview Campground around 2 p.m. after a six hours. The campground folks parked each rig personally. We parked the RV then drove into town to look at the Rocky Mountain House Museum. It had lots of antiques and stories about Canada’s history. Outside was an old Forestry Patrol Cabin used by the RCMP during rounds through the wilderness. There was also a one room schoolhouse built in 1907. The two buildings were moved there from other sites in town.
We found out at the 7 p.m. travel meeting that the couple with the broken arm will not be joining the caravan. The wife had to go home for therapy after surgery. We also discovered that the couple who owned the parrot got turned around at the border. The rumor was that they didn’t have the proper paperwork for the bird. There is great concern about the avian flu in Canada. So much so that no one is supposed to be allowed across the border with raw poultry or eggs (doesn’t matter if it is frozen or not – it must be cooked). CANADIAN LESSON #3: Make sure you have all required paperwork for your pets.


Jun 19, 2015

Millar Western Saw Mill

Day Three. We were assigned to group 4 leaving at 9 a.m. The drive was only 150 miles from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, to Whitecourt, Alberta. The countryside became very wooded at times with pine, birch, and aspen. The weather started out partly cloudy and bright, then gradually got more overcast until thunderstorms erupted.
We arrived at noon at the Whitecourt Lions Campground and were parked by the camp host personally. At 3 p.m. we took a tour of the Millar Western saw mill on the edge of town. Wow! We went in a group of 8 and were issued safety vests, helmets, glasses, and ear plugs. The noise was deafening and the floors vibrated as trees rolled along conveyer belts, were tossed around like match sticks, and automated saws reduced them to two-by-fours.
The schedule called for pizza with the Mayor of Whitecourt at the local park, but it was cancelled because of the rain. The Wagon Master was able to have the Forest Interpretive Center (which happens to be located across the street from the campground) open for us to use their meeting room. After pizza, we were all able to look around the center. It is a small museum that explains the harvesting and processing of wood. There was also an interesting video about how paper, particle board, and fiber board are made.
We discovered that the couple with the parrot who were turned away at the border have a bizarre story. It turned out that they would be able to enter Canada with the bird, but would have a problem coming out of Canada even though the bird was born and raised in the U.S. and they have paperwork to show it is their pet. They wound up driving back 80 miles to Helena, Montana, and after getting nowhere with four different, overlapping government agencies, wound up shipping the bird back home. They caught up with the caravan today.