My initial thought as we started on the Alaska Highway was that this road is as good as any other. I was preparing myself for a good 1,000 miles or more of gravel or crumpled blacktop. Fortunately most of the Alaska Highway is paved and it has a few stretches that are smooth. The first several hours of travel were pleasant and my confidence began to build. The first steep mountain downgrade eroded that confidence significantly. We came to a pull-off at the top of a hill that was there for trucks to pull into and check their brakes. No big deal. In the East there were plenty of places like that as well and most of the downgrades following seemed easy enough. We stopped to look at the sign which indicated the turns and grade of the hill. There were several turns and the steepest portion was 9% grade. I kept the van in a low gear and started down. I could always feel that we were overloaded, but these steep downgrades sharpened that sense of feeling substantially. I think I could have stopped if I had so desired. I am still not sure. What they don’t tell you on the sign at the top of the hill is that the road is narrow and rough and under construction!
We met quite a few trucks on the Alaskan Highway. We often met them at the times when I was frantically clutching the steering wheel and developing spasms in my leg from braking. They would calmly or not so calmly pull out from behind me and roar on past. I couldn’t help but admire these truckers. My guess is they are not wearing skinny jeans. We even had a greyhound bus passing us periodically!
We now had to watch our gas gauge and plan accordingly. Throughout the trip we did not have a problem with “potty breaks” like I thought a family with six children would. One of the reasons is that we stopped so often for gas that everyone had frequent opportunities to use the washroom (as they call restrooms in Canada). The gas stations on the Alcan are further apart and some were not open for the season when we passed through. Gas stations along the Alaskan Highway tend to be more interesting. One had thousands of hats hanging from its ceiling. Some are just shacks with fancy names.
Below was an interesting gas station/lounge.
We drove until nearly dark and decided to try sleeping in the van for the night. We looked on our Alcan map and saw a rest area a few miles ahead that had bathrooms. The only bathrooms that we found however were in the trees. Other travelers must have been deceived by the map as well because toilet paper was strewn throughout the branches of bushes and trees in protest.
We all found a spot in the van to sleep and actually slept well for a few hours. Exhaustion enables a good sleep even when you are cold and laying over a hard arm rest. We got an early start that morning because everyone was shivering. Fortunately daylight comes early in the North so we could easily see the random Bison that wandered onto the road. (Our windshield was cracked on previous road trips through the Alcan when driven by the Snaders.)
We saw lots of bison and other wildlife along the Alcan. The scenery improved dramatically in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory. I would highly recommend the drive but I would not recommend pulling an overloaded trailer.
Our God is an awesome God! His handiwork is evident everywhere but through this area it is loudly proclaimed. We stood in awe at the majestic mountains, beautiful rivers, and the wildlife. I absolutely loved it in spite of the stress!
Below are Dall Sheep on the mountainside. The picture is a little blurry because we were freehanding with a telephoto. I couldn’t find any full curl rams.
Another point of interest was the Sign Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon. There are literally thousands of signs from all over the world. We saw quite a few from Pa including Ephrata, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and others. I substantially expanded the hunting opportunities for the PA hunters by nailing a Pa Game Land boundary sign on a tree. (I did not steal the sign – I purchased it at an auction.)
Destruction Bay, Yukon
We ran into some snow squalls in the Yukon