Land Crossing into British Columbia?

Discussion in 'Railways, Highways, Waterways' started by phoebepontiac, Apr 12, 2013.

  1. Hello Folks!

    My son and I are planning a road trip from Seattle back up to AK in a sweet Honda Odyssey we're buying from my husband's grandmother. (I'm finally giving up my youth, my pride, and my 13 year old CR-V and fully embracing my role as minivan-driving hockey mom.) I'm wondering if anyone has any advice about the border crossing into Canada, the one on the way to Vancouver. I've never driven into Canada, have only really ever had a layover there, so I'm rather a newbie in this area of travel. We've got passports, I'm going to have a notarized letter from my husband giving permission to transport my son across the border, and we're going to have paperwork and insurance in order on the minivan, which will not yet be registered to me. I'm a little fuzzy on what to declare and what to definitely not bring besides obvious contraband -- I was thinking of having no food whatsoever on board and stocking up in Vancouver. Other than that, we'll only have camping gear (no stoves or anything), basic travel supplies, and a box of kid's presents that were dumped on us last trip that we didn't have room for flying back.

    I've got a 2013 Milepost (THE travel guide for that route), but it's a little scant in the part about crossing the border. Anyone have any thoughts about the border crossing or the drive up to AK?
  2. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    If you've got passports and solid proof the kid is yours (they were real sticklers for that when I took my family up there from WA) you should have no problems, if you have a solid reason for going up there, which you do. I believe they'll get a kick out of someone driving to alaska. to somewhere more wretched and more north than their country.

    If you have time to kill and want to see more rural BC, don't go through the Blaine checkpoint, consider going through Lynden/Aldergrove a few miles east of it, open 8am to midnight or so (check first). bypass all the hustle/bustle/bullsh*t of blaine. nice little towns up that way are abbotsford, langley, fort langley, etc. those towns are about 20-30 miles southeast of vancouver, IIRC.
  3. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Farther east, up through Idaho, is Lake Kootenai Lake, very nice drive but probably out your way. I went up there once in the 70's with a friend who collected water sample every week or two for a research project at WSU (nice racket: federal grant --> motor boat & cabin rentals on the lake, unfortunately for me, his boss was also up there vacationing at the same time and had "borrowed" the water skis from the gubmint boat. :D ).

    Don't know if it's worth paying to see the inside, but there is also house, called the "Glass House" (outbuilding, even little gazebo-equivalents overlooking the lake) all made of embalming fluid bottles.

    The leg to Alaska, once called the "Al-Can Highway" though I haven't heard that term for years, used to have extra requirements for travelers, e.g. a 2nd spare tire.

    Keep an eye out for an Alaskan legislator who might be thumbing a ride to avoid being groped.
  4. Thanks nachtnebel! I've actually been wondering about which way to go... There's a family-friendly hostel in Blaine, and I did want to see Vancouver. But then, that route sets us up better to take the Cassiar Highway, which I'm told is a no-man's land, like, you get stuck for a day if the one gas station in hundreds of miles is closed. Plus, there are still unpaved patches on that one, and I'm hoping not to ding up my pretty new car too much on the trip! The more rural route you mention looks nice, and sets me up better for the more switchbacky but also more civilized Alaska Highway, and yet it looks almost like you're taking side streets for quite a while before you get to a highway. Ah, what to do! No matter what route I take there will be some inefficiencies and doubling back. I guess that's what you sign up for when you live in the wretched north!
  5. People talk about the Al-Can sometimes up here, but I don't know, is that supposed to be the whole way up to Alaska? Because now the maps have it separated into segments: Alaska, Haines, Campbell, Cassiar. From what I can tell you can mostly get by with one spare tire these days, but cell coverage is still patchy so if you do need help it can be a bit of a wild west situation. But that time of year the route is lousy with RV's, so plenty of people to stop and give you a ride to the next dot on the map.
  6. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    The Milepost web site ( has a good pdf series of maps of the AlCan highway. From what I hear, it's paved (sometimes poorly) the entire length now.
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  7. Cool, I'll have to take a look. Didn't think to check their website, duh. A smart phone would probably be nice for this trip, but I'm a late adopter of all this newfangled technology.
  8. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    Smart phones are of limited utility in that area. Cell phones period are of limited utility. If you can borrow a radio that has the Alaska Emergency Calling Frequency in addition to CB and FRS radios would be a really good idea.
  9. I'll look into it, thanks!
  10. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Smoke signals might work. Don't mess with the moose.

    It will one of those trips, perhaps the trip, that you'll never forget. :)
    phoebepontiac likes this.
  11. Frank

    Frank Original Member

    A friend of mine, a senior paramedic and occasional officer in the Rockville (MD) VFD has a tradition of wearing a certain shirt on Sundays at conventions.

    It goes along the lines of:

    Pet the moose
    Feed the bears
    Catch salmon with your bare hands
    ALASKA PARAMEDICS...We thank you for your support

    Been trying to find one of these for the better part of a decade.
  12. This is in our front yard:

    It's the brown bears that I worry about. You just never know what they're going to do. :)
    Frank likes this.
  13. Mike

    Mike Founding Member Coach

    Mmmmm, steaks!

    When I lived in Moscow, Idaho (8 years) we never saw any moose, nor heard of any in the area. Over the last 40 years they've migrated south into that area and moose sighting even in the town are very common.
  14. RB

    RB Founding Member

    When I lived up in Maine we had wandering moose taking a stroll down main street on a regular basis. Didn't have to go far in any direction to be in the wild.
  15. nachtnebel

    nachtnebel Original Member

    What a beautiful picture. When I saw that, I also saw an open fire with a spit. mmm venison.
    Nothing as tasty as nature :)

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