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July 17, 2010

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Ride, Ride, Detour

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There it is, Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.  Wow, I’m really getting up there!

I came to it early in the day in Dawson City, British Columbia.  I admit, I was ignorant as to why the Alaska Highwya starts in Canada 1,500 miles from Alaska (and why it’s in miles).  Now I know, it was built by the US Corp of Engineers during WWII to bring supplies and weapons to Alaska to fight the Japanesse.

Woohoo!

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Woohoo!

 

1,500 miles of roadway were built in 9 months and turned over to Canada.  Straightening and improving the road began right away.  Now it is the lower half of an infinity symbol with a route even farther north.  Probably something I should have know before.  The problem was that I could read other people’s blogs all day before I left, but actually doing research on my own made me too antsy to get on the road.

I road 900 miles in two days on the highway.  More than I’m used to and much less than many do.  Even though I was making a big push north and west I still have time to get of the bike for an hour or so here and there.  The views keep getting better as I head west and animals seemed to line up along the roadway.

I was most surprised to find bison who seemed to like it just fine.  Mountain goats and bighorn sheep fit right in and black bears frequent the shoulders snacking on all the green growths.

 

The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake is awesome, a true highlight for me!  I spent over an hour in it, reading where everyone had come from, and thinking about how cool it is that so many people have made the trip from so far away.  Knowing there are so many other wanderers out there is reassuring sometimes.  Aside from leaving my home on Day 1 this is the only other place the emotion of the trip really got to me.  Oh, and I found this.

Awesome, My Hometown

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Awesome, My Hometown

 

My hometown sign now has my name and date on the back 🙂

Attached to the Sign Forsest is the Watson Lake visitors center which was super helpful.  I got a much better idea of what the distances to go where and what to find along the way.  With that info and a balding back tire I decided on the less strenuous southern route to Alaska first, probably with a stop in Kulane National Park to ensure my tires arrive in Alaska before I do.

The next morning I stopped in Johnson Crossing for the World’s Best Cinnamon Roll.  After a 20 minute wait I decided it needed more icing to be in the running.  On my way to Whitehorse from there I saw a sign for Atlin in BC.  I’d seen it mentioned in a handout I’d picked up and am pretty sure someone I met in Yellowstone mentioned it to me too.  Tied to the sign was a banner saying that their music festival was this weekend.  Ok let’s give it a go and all of a sudden I was heading south.

Driving to Atlin

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Driving to Atlin

 

It was a beautiful drive with Atlin Lake paralleling me to the right.  After the construction ended early on the road was good enough to actually look around on too.  Pulling into town I quickly made a loop of the mainly empty streets, found the visitors center, and discovered that there was no music festival this year.  They really could have taken down the sign on the highway.

Canoeing on the lake had crossed my mind so I visited an outfitter.  “Well you can’t get far in a 2 night trip, but you could follow the shoreline down.”  Renting a canoe was a reasonable $25/day except they didn’t have a vehicle to transport it with for a few hours.  Looking at their canoes I saw they were the RV versions compared to the sleek one I’d had in the Boundary Waters.

He recommended a few roads to take on the motorcycle and I did intend to go back.  Instead I came across the town Warm Spring which was just what it sounded like, tepid at best.  The meadow next to it was sunny and warmer though and I spent the afternoon napping, reading, and wandering there as cars came and went.

I looked over my maps some more there and decided to continue my detour and go to Skagway on the Alaska penninsula the next day, then ferry to Haines AK, and drive north again from there.  Wow, only one more day to Alaska all of a sudden!

Eventually I decided to setup camp there for the night as another car pulled in doing the same, followed by a family in two trucks later.  Well I had the right idea.  I didn’t know this would become the center of town though.

It all worked out, at least for me and the family, as we sat around a campfire having a good time till 1:30am.  By then it was chilly from the wind going over the glacier on the far side of the lake, but still not dark.  The sun goes below the horizon, but it stays bright 24 hours per day.  Even without a moon there were only 7 stars in the sky when I went to bed excited to know I’d be in Alaska later that day.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Mama Setz
    Jul 17 2010

    Great pictures – from bison to Santee with stops along the way.

    Reply

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