Saturday, August 25, 2012

Surviving the Alaska Highway

I'm finally home, rested and feeling safe and sound. I think I went on this trip with grand illusions of a fun road trip with my friend. It definitely was quite an adventure, but it was far from a vacation. It was hard, it was dirty and most of the time, it wasn't much fun. We made the best of it, but pushing through almost 2700 miles in 3 1/2 days with very little sleep was grueling.

There was a bit of a change in our route. We ended up having to drive a lot more east than I expected because the route I thought we'd be on was mostly gravel, not paved.

Three of us left on Thursday Aug. 16th at 10pm. Linda's friend, Fred took the 1st shift and drove through the night for 8 hours. Before leaving Alaska, we saw a moose and a big owl. But once we were in Canada in Yukon Territory, we saw very little wildlife besides mosquitoes and crows.

But the scenery was breathtaking.
Kluane Lake near Destruction Bay.

Somewhere in the Yukon.

The Alaska Highway.

When you're driving through such remote areas, you stop at every stop that offers fuel. We realized early on that fuel stops were almost a couple hundred miles apart, so if you missed one gas station, you might not make it to the next. And when you're pulling a trailer with all of your friend's worldy possessions, it puts a dent in your gas mileage. Not to mention the steep mountain roads you're climbing. I have to admit I was surprised and thrilled at how well her little Ford Focus handled the trip. Fred was great about checking on the car at every stop, making sure everything was in working order. It was very helpful having a mechanic on this adventure. If it had just been the 2 of us like originally planned, we wouldn't have thought about checking everything as throughly as he did. Plus he did almost all of the night driving.

We finally stopped at Watson Lake around midnight Friday after driving for 26 hours. I can't sleep in a car, so by the time we stopped, I had been awake for over 40 hours and was not in a happy place. My travel companions were able to get a few hours of catnaps when they weren't driving, but not me. As much as I tried and wanted to, I couldn't fall asleep for even 5 minutes. I was delirious and cranky and trying my hardest to not break. I managed to get 6 1/2 hours of sleep that night and felt like a new person.

Watson Lake is on the southern edge of the Yukon, close to the British Columbia border. Sometime in the 1940s, a homesick American GI posted a sign with the mileage to his hometown. Since then, people around the world have left or sent signs to be posted in this odd little spot. There are over 76,000 signs here. I have a hard time imagining that there were that many people traveling through this area. I wondered if they had traveled here before and brought the sign the next time they drove through (why would they do this drive again??) or if they knew about it and brought the signs with them or if they sent the sign after driving through. And did they steal the sign from their various cities? There were 2 signs from the area where Linda and I grew up. Hesperia and Victorville. We looked for Apple Valley, but didn't see one. I didn't see a San Francisco sign, either.

It wasn't until we were in British Columbia that we saw our most exciting wildlife.
First we saw just the 1 bison, all alone on the side of the road. We quickly snapped a photo, not wanting to agitate him and make him charge. We drove a few more miles and saw a herd of them on the side of the road, with babies! This time, we kept our distance. Bison with babies to protect...we weren't messing with them! But it was so cool seeing all of them on the side of the road!

About an hour later, we saw a handful of mountain goats grazing on the side of the road.

When your goal is just to 'get there', you don't end up stopping as much as you should to enjoy the views. But we managed to snap a few photos when we'd stop for fuel or to switch drivers.
Linda by Summit Lake in the Northern Rockies.

A quick photo during a pit stop somewhere in the middle of British Columbia near the Peace River.

This was a once in a lifetime trip. Linda and I travel really well together and I'm glad I had this time with her and was able to help her move to her new city. I'm also very grateful to be able to say I've driven the Alaskan Highway, but it is not something I would ever seek to do again. Yes the scenery was amazing, but quite honestly, after hours and hours of looking at the same mountain ranges, millions of trees and similar lakes and rivers with little to no sleep, the beauty gets lost in the desire to just get to your destination.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a tough trip but what an achievement and an amazing experience. How great to travel with your friend and to help with her move and through such beautiful countryside. A wise move to keep well away from bison and baby but the mountain goats look lovely delicate creatures.

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating trip and what a trooper you are!

Photo Cache said...

that is an adventure. you are a good friend.