Friday, January 18, 2008

The Alcan Highway

Have you ever driven the Alcan Highway? Ever heard of it?
It is that highway that takes you to Alaska. Most of it is unpaved and it is a very long 2 lane road.
The Alcan starts at Dawson Creek in northern Canada and takes straight into Alaska. Of course, if you live in the "lower 48" states of the U.S. just getting to the start of the Alcan can be a long trip in itself. Basically, you have the travel the entire length of British Columbia just to get to the beginning of the Alcan.
The Alcan is beautiful, a bit wild and it is a bit of a culture shock for most lower 48ers. You meet some wonderfully friendly Canadians along the way.The only major town after Dawson Creek is a place called Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory, which is hundreds of miles past Dawson Creek. There are a few small towns in between. Be careful you don't blink though, otherwise you may miss them. Always stop for gas when you get about a 1/2 tank of gas. You never know when you'll come across a gas station next time.
You will get to see some amazing critters most of the time. Moose are fairly common, and it isn't all that uncommon to see a bear or two either. Please don't stop nearby them to take a close up picture. Bears really hate that. (No, I don't speak from experience!)
Most folk travel the Alcan in the summertime because that is generally when people come to visit Alaska. It's warmer then...duh! They get to put up with dirt and gravel roads, chipped windshields, mud and mosquitos...and mosquitos...and mosquitos.
It's at this point that I would HIGHLY recommend that you use some handmade soap with bug be gone ingredients in it if you ever plan to make such a trip. I DO make those during the summer months. They really are helpful.
Actually, the summer months are NOT my favorite time to travel the Alcan highway. I actually prefer the wintertime...YES, I said wintertime! Road conditions are easier to travel then, nice, solid road. It is generally cold enough that you don't need to worry about the roads being overly slippery and the road is VERY well sanded. Yes, it is cold, so be prepared to bring survival gear with you should you choose to travel in winter. Plan you trip to ensure that you can stop at night in a nice warm motel. Winterize your car and make sure you have some sort of heater for your engine. If there is no place to plug in your car at night to keep it warm, you may have to leave the engine running all night if the weather is getting more than 20 below zero which is very typical.
My first trip to Alaska, I travelled by car in January of 1973. It most certainly was an adventure for me. Especially since I was from southern California and had barely ever been OUT of California. However, the trip was beginning to wear thin by the time I reached the Alaskan border. I cried when I saw the temperature posted on the building at the border shack... it was 68 BELOW ZERO...and that did not include the wind chill factor. That was something I learned about from hard knock experience at that time. The wind was blowing nastily, causing your body to feel that it was an equivalent to 100 below zero. The border patrol guy told me that. That's when I began to cry. He said to get thee to Tok Junction and hole up for the night please. NO PROBLEM!!! I AM OUTTA HERE!
Welcome to Alaska!