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Affectionately known as ‘the Whites,” the White Mountains National Recreation Area was originally a mining region during the early 1900s’ gold rush. Even today, the remnants of these mining operations can be seen in various spots along creeks and rivers: long-abandoned dredges, shanties, and gravel tailings. Today, the White Mountains National Recreation Area’s primary industry is outdoor recreation. The region sees a few thousand people every year keen to explore the pristine wilderness and test their survival skills.
The closest town, Fairbanks, is about 60 miles south. Fairbanks is the second-largest city in Alaska (Anchorage being the first), and it boasts many modern amenities like fast-food restaurants, theaters, and museums. Though one can drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks, due to the sheer distance, many visitors find it easier to fly into Fairbanks and book an RV in Fairbanks North Star Borough.
Though the turn of the century brought an influx of miners seeking to strike it rich, the White Mountains National Recreation Area is so vast that finding wilderness that was literally untouched by mankind is easy. The park encompasses over a million acres of tundra, rugged mountains, and babbling rivers. In summers, hike over 250 miles of trails, many of which cross open, seemingly barren tundra. On a quiet morning, hikers may find themselves sharing the windswept plains with caribou, deer, and moose. Near the streams and rivers where there are strands of straggly pine trees, bears, wolves, and wolverines are commonly sighted. On the treacherous mountainside, dall sheep and goats nimbly leap from rock to rock in search of lichen and mosses to nibble on.
Adventurers can wade out into the Beaver River or one of the adjoining creeks to pan for gold - there are flakes and nuggets still to be found - or fish for salmon, arctic grayling, northern pike, and burbot. Alternatively, launch a raft or a kayak and spend an idle day floating down the river. Several species of raptor birds frequently fly near sources of water in pursuit of fish to sup upon. A shortlist includes gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles.
In bends of rivers, there are brambles of berry thatches, for which Alaska is famous. Snack on fresh blueberries and blackberries while hiking or boating. Grocery store fruits pale in comparison to sun-warmed, just-off-the-vine berries.
Considering that the closest town is 60 miles away, it makes far more sense to rent a camper and RV camp in White Mountains National Recreation Area. In doing so, one can be hiking or fishing within seconds of waking up, rather than embarking on a long drive.
Though the White Mountains National Recreation Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which has a long-standing policy that one can RV camp anywhere there is a clearing, BLM has asked visitors to use established campgrounds where possible. The White Mountains National Recreation Area RV campgrounds are primitive, but they do have a few amenities. Cripple Creek Campground is large enough to accommodate 18 rigs, and it has wheelchair-accessible vault toilets and a hand pump for drinking water.
Mount Prindle Campground is slightly smaller with room for 13 sites. In addition to vault toilets and hand pumps for water, each site has a fire ring. Roast marshmallows for a classic camping snack.
Fairbanks is no longer a roughshod, scrappy mining town where residents struggled to survive an eight-month-long winter. Fairbanks is a modern town with many features and attractions that one might see anywhere else in the lower 48. It boasts several museums, including the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, which showcases around 100 vintage cars ranging back to the early 1900s. After exploring Fairbanks, hop into a rental motorhome and head to one of the neighboring towns.
Oil pipelines have long been a point of contention among the Alaskan residents. Visit the Alaska Pipeline Viewing Point near Fox, AK. The signage depicts just how challenging it was to create the technology needed to transfer oil and design the pipes to keep the impact on wildlife to a minimum.
How many days is it until next Christmas? Head down to the town of North Pole, in an RV rental and their residents will gladly let you know. The town of North Pole has embraced the Santa Claus myth wholeheartedly. In addition to Santa Claus’s House, which shelters the world’s largest fiberglass Santa Claus statue alongside a gift shop, the town residents personally answer thousands of letters addressed to the North Pole. The town is decorated in Christmas motif year-round, complete with candy-cane street lights and tinsel.