The Alaska Highway. It conjures up a strong mental image for anyone that has dreamed of visiting the Northern reaches of the world. The road to the last frontier is legendary for being rough and wild. Well, I'm afraid to say it has not escaped the paving machines and is now smoother than Kansas. It isn't going to win any awards for scenery either, in fact it is mainly comprised of pine trees interspersed with more pine trees. If you're a cycle tourist stay away. For us blessed with the 4 sturdy wheels of Forest, it was a classic road trip with bangin' tunes, legendary company and a few good sunsets to boot. But that's not what stands out in my memory. What makes the Alaska Highway so special transcends landscapes and cars and roads. It's the anticipation. The search for wild places in The North starts here.
Though the Alaska highway actually begins in Dawson Creek, this story begins a bit further south in Whistler. We left on a hot summers day. It wasn't fully realised at the time but it was the last one of those we'd see for a while. Still, not wanting to let the good weather go to waste we break up our time behind the wheel with an underwhelming visit to Nairn falls and a refreshing dip in the beautiful icy waters of Joffrey Lakes. Letting our excitement get the better of us we drive past countless ideal camp spots preferring to drive on into the sunset. Funnily enough darkness falls shortly after and we drive for longer than we should. We end up up in one of those iconic North American trailer parks complete with all you can eat BBQ and a redneck owner who spruiks his full RV hook ups. We're not buying it. Just a spot of grass to put up a tent is good thanks.
The beauty of day one on the road contrasts sharply with day two. We pass through towns named 50 mile house then 100 mile house and then yep you guessed it, 150 mile house. The landscape was clearly a source of inspiration for the bloke naming these places.
Our excitement turns inside the walls of our trusty steed Forest. We blast tunes, become obsessed with the fate of our podcast's protagonist Adnan and convince each other that all the roadkill is only sleeping. Its a mammoth day of driving but we finally hit the Alaska Highway and morale is still high. We feel invincible when we come across a perfect wild camp spot looking out over the undulating hills of Northern British Columbia. The G&T's flow freely as we discuss plans for the North.
Day three is a haze. We spend the entire driving in the Boreal forest, the largest forest in the whole wide world. Wow that sounds cool aye?! It's not. Pine tree after pine tree after pine tree after pine tree pass by. My mind turns inwards. Every now and then there is a shout of 'bear!' or 'bison!' but we each slide quickly back into our sleepy stupor. By the late afternoon time we're all a little bit Boreal crazy. Then we come across the greatest state border crossing sign we've ever seen and all of a sudden the excitement is back. We make camp shortly afterwards. In Yukon Territory.
We drive into Whitehorse early the next morning with a decision to make: East to Alaska or North to Dawson. The draw of the North is strong. It wins out. We supply up and continue on. As the hours go by the rolling hills and pine forests start becoming pocked with lakes. We cross enormous rivers and catch sight of mountain ranges far, far away. The excitement builds higher and higher. In the early afternoon our road bound marathon comes to an end at Dawson City. We can't help but notice the word 'city' is a bit of a deception. This once booming goldrush hub is a shadow of its former self. Part living museum, part trickling tourist destination, part end-of-the-road hideaway; Dawson is nothing if not unique. It's not what brings us this far North though.
Early the next morning we grab some last minute provisions and hit the road again. Some of us will be back here a lot sooner than we think, but that's a story for tomorrow. All I can say is that the real adventure is only just beginning.
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