Sunday, August 22, 2010

Alaska Highway, Part 1

Bridge on Alaska Highway

(Click any photo for details and other sizes)

The Alaska Highway is just under 1,400 miles, stretching from Dawson Creek, BC to Delta Junction, AK. You hear a lot of stories about how terrible of condition it's in, but that's a thing of the past. The road is as nice, if not nicer than many of the 2 lane road in Arkansas. The difference is, if something does go wrong, you can be a couple hundred miles away from the nearest community (which may still be less than 2,000 people). That is what catches people out on this road. You're no more likely to have car trouble than any other 1,400 miles drive, but if you do, it's a big deal. No cell phone reception except within a few miles of the main towns, and sometimes not even then (none in Watson Lake, for example). Add to that the fact that weather in some sections, like the part over the rockies, can suddenly turn life threatening at any time of year, and you need to be prepared. But anyone can make this drive, so long as your car is in good repair and you have good tires.

Right out of Dawson Creek there's a side trip to a neat, curved wooden bridge; part of the original Alaska Highway:

Alaska Highway Kiskatinaw Wooden Bridge

The rest of the first leg, north to Fort Nelson, is mostly rolling hills through trees, with not much interesting in the way of photography:

Alaska Highway Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway Alaska Highway

After that, you head west and cross the northern Rockies, which is a very pretty segment:

Bridge on Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway

It was mostly overcast on the east side of the mountains, but cleared out (still very hazy due to large forest fires in the area) on the west side as I approached Muncho Lake. Muncho Lake is a brilliant turquoise color due to suspended glacial sediments - basically rock ground down to the consistency of flower and floating around in the water:

Muncho Lake

Muncho Lake Muncho Lake

I stopped at Liard Hot Springs, which is very hot: between 110º and 125ºF, depending which end of the pool you're in! I only made it about two-thirds of the way to the hot end. This pile of stones is where people shuffle to the hot end, place their stone to prove they were there, then run back to the 'cool' 115º in the middle.

Liard Hot Springs

A little further down the road, I stopped at a place called Whirlpool Canyon, where there is supposedly a 'violent whirlpool' somewhere nearby. I didn't find it, but the place was neat enough anyway:

Whirlpool Canyon

Whirlpool Canyon

And yes, there's plenty of roadside wildlife along the way:


Bison Bison


A mother black bear and her cub chew on some bones:

Black Bear and cub chewing on bones

Black Bear Black Bear

And here a Canadian Lynx watches me from the bushes in a full on stalking-cat pose:

Canadian Lynx

Finally I arrived in Waston Lake, Yukon Territory. Population 1,500 - biggest town I'd seen all day, and most of the next day too! The Signpost Forest is where visitors hang a sign from their hometown or state. Unfortunately, I didn't have one to put up:

Signpost Forest

Rest of the way to Alaska next time.

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