- Frank DeArmas
The Alaskan Highway
Dawson Creek to Delta Junction
1387 miles. when you think about it like this, it does not seem like such a great distance. Heck, we travel between Michigan and Florida four times a year, and it’s 1338 miles and takes us two days. But the difference between these two drives are as different as you can get.
Starting in Dawson Creek BC, and ending in Delta Junction AK, this road takes you though some of the most spectacular scenery and vistas I have ever seen. Parts of it are like any other road you may have driven, smooth and easy to drive, while other parts are so rugged that at most you can do 5 to 30 miles an hour without destroying your RV or car.
It travels through towns and cities, and through some of the most remote locations on the North American continent, so remote that were you to break down, there’s no cell and no services for hundreds of miles. Yet every year many people take this ultimate road trip to see the last frontier. Well, now Jan and I can say we are one of those people.
The official start of the Alaska Highway is a cute little town in BC that offers a view into the history of the highway. Here we learned how after the attack on Pearl harbor, the US military wanted to build a road from the lower 48 to Alaska to defend against invasion from Japan.
And build it they did, and in record time. Jan will have some more details below. As you travel you see signs that mark the old Alcan, as over the years it has been improved and shortened to its current length.
It was cool to see the old curved wooden bridge that used to be part of it, but now lies unused. Here we received our start of the highway pin, and set out for what I could not have imagined would be the ride of a lifetime
Our next stop was a quick one night stay in Fort Nelson where we did not even unhook the jeep. They had a cute little group of stores and a place where they had a good buffet for dinner.
The most important thing we were able to get from our stop here, besides the chicken, was some information we gathered from a group of people that were heading back from Alaska and had just been to where we were heading next, Liard Hot Springs in Liard River BC.
The story they told us about the mosquitoes and biting flies had us kind of freaking out. In fact if you saw the picture of us in Delta Junction on BucketQuestRV Facebook group (also below) with our netting on our heads, well that was their recommendation. And man were they right!
Liard Hot Springs
If you go onto YouTube you will find a lot about this stop. In fact it is a really popular stop on the way up to Alaska. As the name implies, they are a natural hot springs that offer a chance to soak in the warm thermal springs in the area.
It will just cost you a transfusion lol. It is a beautiful place but my god the mosquitos were just unreal. Should we ever do this trip again, I’m skipping this stop.
Watson Lake, YT
This was one of my favorite stops as I had read so much about the signpost forest started by a GI missing home. We got to put up our sign from Adventure Caravans, and had a chance to go through and look at all the different places people were from.
We saw Michigan, Florida, heck we even found one from Pell City Alabama where our friends Johnny and Cheryl live. We enjoyed this so much that on our way back we are going to put up our own sign. I’ll make sure to post pictures.
White Horse, YT
This is the capital of the Yukon Territory and it’s a modern big town. We had a great time learning about the history of the area, checking out the SS Klondike, and paddle wheeled steamer that use to bring people to the area up the Yukon river, and even got to understand the history of the land during the ice ages.
That plus grocery stores and good restaurants. By this point in our trip this was really a great thing as we needed to restock, remember, we left June 17th!
We only spent one night here and it was raining, but from what we could see it was a beautiful, yet desolate landscape. The town only boast 35 people and I believe it. One gas station, one RV Park, one motel, and bears. That’s about it.
What it also has, is the start of a horrible stretch of road. I’ve been joking with the folks traveling with us that the Alcan was not so bad, they should try driving in Michigan. Ok that stopped here.
But as bad as the stretch between White Horse and Destruction bay was, we were in for an even worse road between Destruction bay and Tok AK.
Ok, worst road ever. Seriously my average speed on this 224 mile stretch was 25 mph. During our trip we kept being reminded how messed up this road was. We passed an RV in the process of burning to the ground. We passed another that had gone off the side of the road. And our own Caravan was the victim of this road. We watched helplessly as the rear tire on the drivers side came off his fifth wheel right in front of us and went racing into the woods, never to be seen again..
Pictures taken by Bill Johnson and Sandy McConnell
Luckily they were able to pull off and we pulled off with them, This is where the caravan was amazing. No fewer then 8 rigs pulled over to offer help. Between the tail gunner, several Caravan members, and the experience of the wagon masters knowing where to get help, they were able to limp into Tok at 2 am.
So when I tell you, be careful on this stretch of road, please know, I’m not kidding. We need to go back this way and you can bet I’m going to be going very slow.
Delta Junction - End of Alaska Highway
The end of the Alaskan Highway and just a short drive into Fairbanks. It seems almost anti-climatic as Delta Junction is really just a cross roads where the Alcan ends. In my opinion it should really be Fairbanks but ok I get it. I’ll write about Fairbanks in a separate blog as there is so much to do there.
So we stopped and got our picture taken by the end post knowing we will be back on the Alcan in a few weeks on our way back home.
Jan’s Facts of the road
In 1942, The Alaska Highway was built to defend the Territory of Alaska from threats in the Pacific and stands today as one of the boldest homeland security initiatives ever under- taken. The over 1,500 miles of roadway was built in less than 9 months for a cost of $130.6 million.
About 75% of Yukon's inhabitants live in the capital of Whitehorse and its surrounding areas with a population estimated at 24,000. The next biggest town is called Dawson, with a population of just 1,300. All other towns have a population of less than 1,000.
Fireweed - Tall, edible wildflower with pinkish petals that grows wherever it wants. Northerners know that when the fireweed “tops out” it’s time to dig out the long underwear or become a “snowbird “.
This is Yukon’s territorial flower.
Sourdough - this word originally meant a yeasty concoction with a long life for baking. Now it’s also applied to anyone who has lived in Alaska for a long time. It is said that sourdoughs stay in Alaska because, even though they are sour on the land in the winter, they don’t have the dough to leave.
A good example of a sourdough is a place called Buckshot Betty’s Restaurant in Beaver Creek, population 78.
We stopped for lunch about half way through one the worst roads I’ve ever been on. (We could only go between 15 and 25 miles an hour due to pot holes. ). Our greeting was, “We close in a half an hour, quit yakking and place your order or I won’t feed you”. I thought to myself, “You must be Betty.”
Another couple, a dad and his daughter, driving his bike cross country, came in after that and he got the same greeting, maybe even worse. We were the last 4 in the restaurant. When we got ready to leave the dad said “please don’t leave us alone with her, we’re almost done.” Now that’s a great example of a sourdough in my opinion. With that said, the food was amazing.
That's it for now. As always we hope you enjoyed the blog and until next time we will see you on the road!
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