Home > Uncategorized > Days 67 and 68: Driving along the Alaska Highway

Days 67 and 68: Driving along the Alaska Highway

Location: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Miles Driven (past two days): 893

Total Miles: 16,458

So I ended the last full post telling you I was off to drive to a dark site to see if I could catch the Northern Lights. I did find a dark spot on the way to Tumbler Ridge, BC (south of Dawson Creek), but unfortunately the sky was hazy, and a bright crescent moon combined to make night seeing pretty poor.  Oh well, hopefully I’ll have a chance to catch the Northern Lights later in this journey up hear in the north.

Spent the early part of next morning walking around Dawson Creek for just a bit.  Found the famous “Mile 0” marker, which stands in the middle of a 4-way intersection, and indicates the start of the Alaska Highway.  I’ve only seen photos of this marker in some roadtrip books, so it was pretty cool to stand right in front of it.

I then went over to the visitor center area where they had a museum about the Alaska Highway. 

Some history about the route

Got some good recommendations of things to look out for along the route, and was told to keep my eye out for some wildlife (HINT: Foreshadowing).  After touring the museum, I was in the car on the way to Alaska.

The drive was scenic, despite some more haze caused by the forest fires in BC.  I also got to see caribou – five of them, in total, all in separate spots.  I was able to grab a decent, albeit blurry, photo of one of them.

Those things were big.  Hit one of those going 50 mph and that’s the end for the animal and the car, I’m sure.  Fortunately, they seemed to stay on the side of the road for the most part.  There was one who couldn’t make up his mind which side of the road to go on, but eventually he settled on a route and the queued up cars were able to pass.

I passed by scenic Muncho Lake on the way.  Very blue water, and a big lake, but vision was once again limited by the smoky haze in the air.  Still nice to look at, though.

Muncho Lake

The drive did not disappoint.  Lots of great vistas.

Looking back on the Alaska Highway

It was around the point where I stopped and took the above picture where I realized the driver’s side headlight was out.  I wasn’t sure if I could find an auto parts store in the next town, Watson Lake, but I figured at the very least I could get the light replaced further on in Whitehorse.  I’ve been avoiding nighttime driving, anyhow, so I figured I’d be in decent shape (though it is the law in Canada to drive with headlights on at all times).

I drove somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 miles that day and wound up near the Liard Hot Springs.  It was after 8, and I was pretty beat, and ended up sleeping until close to 7AM.  I was tempted to try out the hot springs, but I was easily discouraged knowing I’d have to tolerate the strong smell of sulfur in the air.

The goal for the next bit of driving was to make it to Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory, before the end of the day.  Towns that have some size are found about 300 miles apart from each other on the Alaska Highway, and occasionally you can go 100-150 miles without services.  So I always make sure to fill up for gas even if I have 2/3 of a tank full.  All the pumps up here are pretty old-fashioned, but still have the digital readouts of the price and litres.  I’m wondering if I’ll see the style of pump that displays the amounts on those spinning dials.

Soon was on the road after waking up.  Passed a unique sign early in my driving:

At Liard Hot Springs, I had seen posting about how they’ve reintroduced bison into the area.  Sure enough, not long after seeing the sign above, I found a bison strolling along the shoulder.  I had seen bison once before in 2005, in South Dakota, but I think this one was easily the biggest I’ve ever seen.

I slowly drove past him, then when I was a safe distance ahead, I looked back and zoomed in with my camera to take a picture.

the size of the bison is staggering

Not long later in the drive I encountered another bison.  This one was well off the shoulder, however, lying in the grass.  So I’ve seen a good amount of wildlife (as promised), and there’s a lot left to my time on the Alaska Highway.  So far: caribou count – 5, bison – 2

I made good progress that morning, and by early afternoon I had crossed the border into the Yukon Territory.

 

I hit the town of Watson Lake just after crossing the border, and there I experienced the heaviest amount of smoke I’d seen yet.  The attendant at the gas station told me it’s been that way at least for a week now. 

Watson Lake is known for the famous “Sign Post Forest”, where travelers from all over the world leave signs from their home areas on their along the Alaska Highway.  Pretty cool, and I had no idea how big the thing was.  It was just like a maze.  I wish I had brought something to hang.  Oh well, next time.

For my friend John. Go 'Cats

Gig 'Em

Across the street from the Sign Forest was the “Northern Lights Centre”, a small planetarium/museum I had heard about back in Dawson Creek.  I love planetariums and anything space-related, as many of you know.  It was good timing, too, as a planetarium show was starting an hour after I arrived.

cool sign outside the planetarium

The planetarium show ($10 admission) was split up into two parts – first part dedicated to the Northern Lights, second part a presentation about space and the Universe.  The first part alone about the Northern Lights was well worth the cost of the admission.  The show explained the cause of the Northern Lights, some of the mytholigies, and had some great video filmed right from Watson Lake.  Unreal.  If you never saw a video of the Northern Lights, enjoy this time-lapse video I found on youtube.  Amazing.

The latter half of the presentation I could have done without.  Maybe I’m a bit snobby about space education, but there were some things in the video that were either wrong or no longer relevant.  To wit:

  • Talking about the Galileo spacecraft “currently exploring Jupiter”.  The mission ended in 2003, when NASA sent the craft plunging into the Jovian atmosphere
  • Explaining that the Voyager I and Voyager II spacecraft, currently the farthest man-made objects in space, are “nowhere near the edge of the solar system.”  Both craft, relatively speaking, are fairly close to entering the Heliopause, where the Sun’s influence gives way to the space beyond our solar system
  • A graphic of the asteroid belt inside our own Solar System (between Mars and Jupiter) which showed, like the movies do, asteroids just feet away from each other.  In reality, these asteroids are very far apart

Not that I got bent out of shape about these things, but I would’ve preferred something a little more up to date.  Then again, I can understand that it must be hard to keep up on these kinds of things when advances are made everyday.  Presentations about space are probably out-of-date a month after they are made.  And it can’t be easy for a planetarium to get funding to update their videos.  The people at the Centre are very friendly and I had a great time overall.

I left Watson Lake after that and it wasn’t long before I saw clear skies again.  Seems Watson Lake sits in some kind of valley and before I knew it, the skies were blue and I could see the colors of the mountains again.

On the way I passed the scenic town of Teslin.  Hung out at the overlook, got some exercise, and enjoyed the nice breeze in the air.

It was somewhere around here that I realized the headlight on the passenger side went out.  I suppose that’s a good thing, that they both lasted around the same length of time.

Made it to Whitehorse after 7PM that day.  I hung out for a while at some local bars.  One had a jam session where people in the town just went up and played guitar/sang, and that was pretty enjoyable.  Never heard Bach’s Prelude in C on a Spanish Guitar, but it was pretty cool.  Enjoyed talking with the locals.  Canadians are some of the kindset, most welcoming people I’ve ever met, and they have a great love for their home.  I definitely understand why they do after having driven all this way.

Reminds me of a joke I saw posted above a urinal in a bathroom I used along the route that day:

A man decided to write a book about famous churches around the world. So he bought a plane ticket and took a trip to Orlando, thinking that he would start by working his way across the USA from south to north.  On his first day he was inside a church taking photographs when he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read $10,000 per call”. The man, being intrigued, asked a Pastor who was strolling by what the telephone was used for. The Pastor replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God. The man thanked the Pastor and went along his way.
 
 
Next stop was in Atlanta. There, at a very large cathedral, he saw the same golden telephone with the same sign under it. He wondered if this was the same kind of telephone he saw in Orlando and he asked a nearby nun what its purpose was. She told him that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 he could talk to God. “OK., thank you,” said the man. He then traveled to Indianapolis, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. In every church he saw the same golden telephone with the same “$10,000 per call” sign under it. The man, upon leaving New York, decided to travel out to the Midwest to see if western states had the same phone. 
 
He arrived in Canada, and again, in the first church he entered, there was the same golden telephone, but this time the sign under it read “40 cents per call.” The man was surprised so he asked the Pastor about the sign. “Reverend, I’ve traveled all over America and I’ve seen this same golden telephone in many churches. I’m told that it is a direct line to Heaven, but in the U.S. the price was $10,000 per call. Why is it so cheap here?
The priest smiled and answered, “You’re in Canada now, son, it’s a local call”. 

 

No doubt Canada could be seen as heaven on Earth.  Beautiful country, and great people.

joe

BONUS: I learned very early this morning that Mazda twittered about my roadtrip and website.  I was thrilled.

http://twitter.com/MazdaUSA/status/20404155773

  1. August 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Those blue-sky road photos are great — kind of exactly how I want the Alcan to look!

    • August 7, 2010 at 3:18 am

      Thanks, roadtrip guru. You have a tentative time set for your next trip?

      • August 7, 2010 at 10:40 am

        Tentatively next August. Hoping to get there for the peak of mosquito season.

  2. The Mommie
    August 6, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    John’s idea to contact Mazda about the trip was a good idea. We wonder…………might they pay for the headlights? Will you now do Mazda commercials? Guess we will have to “stay tuned”.

    This ride with you continues to be a priceless experience. Via con Dios, my Jip.

    “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” –John Muir

  3. August 8, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Great post, joe. Like the flip flops look. The Sign Post Forest looks pretty cool. I can see myself spending hours walking through and reading them.
    Nice wildlife pictures. Very funny joke that you found.

    • August 10, 2010 at 2:18 am

      Yes, I found myself easily losing track of time in the sign post forest checking out all the locations. I was trying to find if there were any from Binghamton, but the closest I found was one from Rome, NY.

  4. February 3, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the
    most useful sites on the internet. I’m going to recommend this blog!

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