It’s after 10 o’clock at night and my body is telling me it is time for sleep after a three-mile trek up the gravel side of a mountain in the Canada’s northerly Kuane National Park. But it is also two days before the longest day of the year and the sun is still boldly in the sky and giving me no rest.
We have been on the Alaska Highway for three days., starting in Dawson Creek, where, inauspiciously, heavy rains sent the creek over its bed, washed out a bridge and closed down the center of town, including the iconic “Mile 0” signpost that marks the beginning of the Highway.
The night before, in Grand Prairie, Alberta, high winds and driving rains forced us off the road where we sought shelter for the first time in a Walmart parking lots. Dozens of similar vehicles spent the rain-lashed night there.
Once the rain stopped, the beauty of the scenery shone through and wildlife – bison, elks and bear grazed along the edge of the road.
We spent the next night in a provincial park on Muncho Lake, a spectacular alpine lake where you could sit quietly on the shore and watch the birds fly by.
In the morning, we left as early as we can get going, around 8 am, and drove to the Liard Hot Springs, once a favored camp of some of the 10,000 plus US Army engineers and soldiers who built the highway in 1942 after the Japanese occupied one of the Aleutian islands. The blitzkrieg effort bulldozed through more than a thousand miles of wilderness and laid down a primitive road to the Alaska territory.
Today, the hot springs are part of a provincial park and we enjoyed a lovely soak.
In Watson Lake, workers on the road began a tradition of planting signposts to remind them of places they would rather be and that practiced has been carried on for 75 years by visitors to the area.
Mark drove for a third day on the 1,300-mile long highway and we spent our third night at a small RV park on Teslin Lake run by some of the local Tliglit First People. The next morning we visited the Tlingit cultural center where traditional practices like turning moose skins into soft moccasin leather and building painted canoes are taught to new generations.
We arrived at Kluane National Park around 3 pm and prepared to hike the King’s Throne trail, a 2,000-foot gravel climb above Lake Katherine. The view was magnificent.
From our campsite that evening we had a full view of the mountain we had climbed.
Ahead of us we expected an easy two-day ride to Anchorage. We did not know that the roughest road lay ahead.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.