Posted October 7, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
“To travel hopefully is better than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”
The Alaska Highway was born to be a military supply route, but it grew up to be a story-teller.
This unforeseen attribute had us riveted from Mile-0.
Built for war, this 1,187 mile (1,910 km) road opened to the public in 1948. Since then, driving to Alaska is a surefire epochal adventure for any traveller who is up for a dense narrative with beaucoup twists and turns.
Every overlander comes away with a unique life-altering experience, but not always the one they intended.
The North Country entropy is extreme and often results in dire consequences. Enter the random moose, wild fire, flood, flat tire, broken axel, shattered windshield or medical emergency and the journey takes a new course.
Tow trucks transferring disabled vehicles over hundreds of miles to the nearest town and a freshly stranded motorhome, port side up, down a steep rocky embankment alerted us, early on, that anything can happen.
Our fondness for self-preservation had us on hyper-alert. We were more than a bit jumpy because around every dusty turn …
a creeping zombie landslide might finish us off.
But within moments of those nail-biting ravine crossings we’d break into ecstatic reverie over the glorious landscapes …
and majestic creatures revealing themselves along the roadside.
That’s how it is in North Country – one minute is “Oh my God, I’m going to die!” and the next moment is, “Oh, Lord, take me now!”
But there was no sharing this existential tug-of-war in real time because internet connectivity was mostly nonexistent. I couldn’t text to loved ones: In the last fifteen minutes we dodged falling rocks, saw a she-bear coaxing her two cubs down a tree, had to stop for a herd of bison and forty rock sheep before a herd of caribou ran across the road toward a lake that appears to be a magic portal.”
No. Every moment was ours alone – lost and vulnerable in a mystical land, separated from our former selves.
Being technologically declawed over long stretches of time brought us closer together – closed that distance many couples reserve for The Big Stuff. We hugged often for both comfort and warmth.
The uncharacteristically cold, windy and wet weather never abated. An early summer retreat south to a warmer climate was on the table until we heard about a major heat dome in the lower forty-eight. Remaining on course was an offer we couldn’t refuse.
The wheel was in our hands, but The AlCan was captain. All we could do is hang on and pay attention.
Every evening – after surviving a new episode in this wondrously wild frontier – we collapsed, exhausted from the road, eyes burning from daylight overload.
The AlCan was built in an act of desperation. Originally conceived in 1920, but only seriously proposed after the WW2 attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 – the scars of that emotional year are more enduring than the permafrost.
The drive is half-fantasy and half insanity. Frequent washouts, buckling, and the odd beaver damn collapse are some of the reasons why only 5% of Alaska visitors are road-trippers.
Built seventeen years before Alaska became the 49th State and seventy-five years after the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million (equivalent to about $153 million in today’s US dollars) road maintenance remains an impressive but complicated project
Every kilometer is an ongoing construction zone in various stages of completion, destruction, and completion again.
But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Before we merged onto the AlCan, we pulled out of Mackenzie, British Columbia beneath a gorgeous bluebird sky …
our innocent hopes soaring like a bevy of swan over a glimmering lake …
as we headed north through Peace Foothills.
At midday we arrived to …
Chetwynd, British Columbia
Every summer, Chetwynd sponsors the world’s most prestigious chainsaw carving competition. Due to a planning blunder we missed it by only a couple of days.
Yet, with no crowds – and hundreds of award-winning chainsaw carvings on display – the advantage was ours.
We found ample free parking in the middle of town, bought refreshments and strolled along the AlCan in the warmth of midday viewing the collection.
Spending only two hours with the Academy Awards of Chainsaw Carving hardly cut it. But, The Road called.
On to …
Dawson Creek, British Columbia
and Mile 0 of The World Famous Alaska Highway. Woo-hoo!!!
Bursting with bright AlCan expectations, we settled into our campsite and took a stroll in the countryside.
Presently, we came upon The Walter Wright Pioneer Village, an historical collection of buildings, artifacts and stories of miners, farmers and trappers who colonized the area before the Alaska Highway was built. The salvaged buildings are handily arranged in a Main Street fashion.
A sudden downpour cut our Old Town trip short, so we ducked into a cozy pub for an excellent tasting.
The next morning we set out for …
Peace River, British Columbia
where we settled into a free campsite beside an old WW2 airport to relax and kill time before our Muncho Lake reservation in two days.
Fort Liard, Northwest Territories
The following day we took a 110 mile detour off the AlCan on Highway 77 to the Northwest Territories.
The wildlife viewing opportunities on this road rival The San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
With no traffic, we drove as slowly as we liked.
Never stepping outside the truck, we spotted bear, lynx, fox, bobcat and a bison herd.
The incredibly artistic Kaska Dena people at Fort Liard were our hosts.
First we fueled up …
and then settled into a gorgeous free camping spot on the shore of Hay Lake …
where I took a paddle …
while Jim whipped up his Classic Nicoise Salad.
The next morning we returned to the Alcan and moved toward …
Muncho Lake, British Columbia
The drive to Muncho Lake was brutal. We were constantly cueing up for the pilot car to take us from one point to the next.
We get nervous when the fuel tank is below half. Just when we were about to panic, we saw this lodge …
where this sturdy little pump offered services while pulling off a damn good Don Rickles impersonation.
While fueling up we caught the fragrance of what‘s that? Cinnamon rolls!? Way out here that’s about as likely as a whiff of Chanel #5 wafting up from the surface of a Louisiana swamp – but it was true!
Flying on a sugar high we powered on …
… at about five-miles per hour, past a band of rock sheep attracted to minerals on the roadside.
Presently, we pulled into our home for two nights at Northern Rockies Lodge & RV Park on Muncho Lake.
Jim reserved this site on what was once a beach.
The unprecedented water rise prompted the local authorities to close down the park’s RV dump services.
If the water had been a few inches higher (or our rig a few inches longer) backing in and out could have been a disaster.
Fortunately, the rain subsided, and for a couple of days we enjoyed the beauty of the lake …
and the view of the surrounding Northern Rockies.
We pulled out of beautiful Muncho Lake with our black and gray tanks still full and in dire need of maintenance. But how to find services in a flood zone? Just one teeny-tiny cell signal would be a help.
But, hey, what’s the rush?
Okay, we’re getting the message.
Press on with patience.
Eventually, we arrived to our next destination …
Liard River Hot Springs, British Columbia
The natural thermal spring smoothed out the rough spots.
Hey, who’s afraid of that big bad road now?
Not these old tourists, soaking away our worries in a remote area where bears are a common hazard and may be feeding only ten feet away from the pools.
Okay, that concludes the British Columbia part of the AlCan. Maybe Yukon will be more tame? 😂🤣😜
Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series
- Chapter 1 – San Diego to Malibu
- Chapter 2 – Malibu to Morro Bay
- Chapter 3 – Morro Bay to Santa Cruz
- Chapter 4 – Santa Cruz to San Francisco
- Chapter 5 – San Francisco to Eureka
- Chapter 6 – The Oregon Coast
- Chapter 7 – The Strait of Juan de Fuca
- Chapter 8 – Victoria, British Columbia
- Chapter 9 – Victoria to Mackenzie
- Chapter 10 – The Alaska Highway
- Chapter 11 – Yukon
- Chapter 12 – Top of the World Highway to Chicken, Alaska
- Chapter 13 – Tok to Valdez
- Chapter 14 – Glacier View to Anchorage
- Chapter 15 – Kenai Peninsula
- Chapter 16 – Whittier to Talkeetna
- Chapter 17 – Denali
- Chapter 18 – North Pole to Chena Hot Springs – coming soon!
- Chapter 19 – Tok to Haines – coming soon!
- Chapter 20 – Haines Junction to the Lower 48 – coming soon!
- Chapter 21 – Lesson Learned – coming soon!
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.