Alcan Highway, Yukon Territory
2004 Trip to
Click on photos for larger views
I love to drive.
Traveling by auto is just the primo way for me to relax, think,
and view scenery. So the 1800+ mile trip to Whitehorse is a great
road trip - not quite long enough, but a fantastic way for me to
travel! The dog shows in Whitehorse were scheduled for June 18-20
this year, and the two weeks prior to leaving were spent getting
the van ready and catching up on all my work (with hopes it wouldn't
pile up while I was gone).
Jim Bob Davenport
(also known as my brother Jeff) is my mechanic-slash-vehicle mentor.
year's debacle with the big van, I was looking forward to a
great trip this year. The big van was convenient because it had
so much room in it - but things didn't come together with a new
radiator and I just wasn't comfortable with a last minute fix. Add
to that the cost of gasoline these days (and the fact that the big
van is a guzzler), I chose to take the mini van instead. So I made
an appointment with good ole Jim Bob, and we met up at the shop
to go over my list of "needs fixed" on the little van.
The rear shocks
had gone bad and were rattling a rhythmic beat with every bump on
the highway, so that was high on the list. I also had a variety
of things like temperature sensor, fix the side door (it hadn't
opened in years), change over tires, etc. Jim Bob worked diligently
to get through all the various problems - and even though the shocks
were a major p.i.t.a., he never cussed once. I think Jim Bob isn't
a real redneck after all. Even through the various bumps, bruises
and burns (the shocks had to be cut off with a welding torch) I
never heard a single curse. But I don't even try to decipher the
grunts anymore. Some things are better left unknown.
With work taking
more time than I anticipated (I took on extra work at the fishing
lodge this summer), I was scrambling the night before leaving. The
bed I built for the big van - which fit in it so nicely with storage
and walking room - fit snugly into the little van with not much
room left over. I packed everything into plastic tubs .. clothes,
dog's first aid kit, auto "repair" kit (jumper cables,
extra antifreeze and oil, basic tools, etc.) .. and piled it into
the van. Add in the cooler in the back, the spare tire and hydraulic
jack, and a port-a-potty and there was just enough space for the
two dogs. We were traveling with no extra room, but at least we
I left straight
after music lessons on Tuesday night. Lessons ended at 7, and although
it was a strange time to start out on a trip, I was just eager to
get on the road. My 17 year old niece Alissa was housesitting for
me, and I had left her home with detailed instructions. I'd also
left her with three 12-packs of pop, a couple bags of chips and
two boxes of cookies, a freezer full of microwaveable food, some
little boxes of cereal and several containers of yogurt for breakfast
foods - and the guides at the fishing lodge had work for her. So
I was comfortable knowing she would be busy and well-fed while I
was gone. It was kind of a "working vacation" for her,
but was the first time she'd stayed alone at night. I was pretty
sure she'd be okay though, especially with the two dogs left home
Trick and Kylee
settled in quietly for the drive north. It's nearly a three hour
drive to Anchorage. I stopped and got gas there - it was 12 cents
a gallon less than I'd paid on the peninsula. I checked the gas
mileage and was pleased to see it was better than expected. Things
were looking good! As we followed the road past Palmer, I sighted
a few moose, including a cow and very young calf by the side of
the road. It always bothers me when there are moose near the road
- accidents between moose and vehicles are common here in Alaska.
We camped about
150 miles north of Anchorage that night. It was very "dusky"
when I took the dogs out for a last potty break for the night, and
I could hear and vaguely see the mosquitoes buzzing around us. It
wasn't until I got settled into bed that I realized how many had
made it into the van. I killed a couple dozen but they just kept
showing up - and I finally pulled the blanket over my head and tried
to sleep that way. Breathing warm recycled air makes me slightly
claustrophobic, so I spent the night alternating between breathing
fresh air and battling mosquitoes, and breathing the hot air and
getting a bit of sleep. By 6:30 a.m. I was fully awake and I pulled
on my clothes, grumbling a bit about lack of sleep. I took the dogs
out and I was able to then see the stream not far from the parking
area, and the swarms of mosquitoes that instantly descended on the
dogs and I. No wonder so many had made it into the van. I had practically
parked on top of their breeding grounds.
Trick poses on a fence made of "burls"
round "growths" found on local tree trunks.
The road northward
to Glennallen had a lot of curves and some gorgeous views of the
mountains in the Alaska Range. In places the mountains rose starkly
above the highway, dwarfing the trees and bringing an "ant-like"
feeling to those traveling along the road systems. It's a beautiful
drive and there was little traffic.
I did run into
areas of construction throughout the trip - many with flaggers stopping
traffic to wait until a pilot car could lead us through. With no
choice but to wait, I enjoyed the beautiful weather and just kicked
back and listened to some music. I have very eclectic tastes while
traveling - I prefer music I can sing loudly to .. *L* .. so I have
a variety that includes Paul Simon's "Graceland", Natalie
Imbruglia, No Doubt, Nilsson, and an old Eagle's tape.
I made it over
the border into Canada with no problem. The official at the custom's
station said there had been a lot of people through on their way
to the dog show, which didn't surprise me. The majority of entrants
at this show are Alaskans.
occasionally to take a break, we made good time as we drove farther
into the Yukon Territory. Tall purple flowers lined the roadway
in areas, interspersed with bright yellow daisies, butter-colored
Indian paintbrush, and a variety of other flowers in shades of blue
and white. Added to that was the constant array of mountain scenery
and the occasional river or lake. As a friend used to say .. "everywhere
you look, it's like a picture postcard". Yukon Territory is
I stopped at
Kluane Lake and took pictures. Trick and Kylee posed for me on the
bank above the lake, although Trick clearly indicated she would
prefer to go down and jump in. I wasn't sure I wanted her wet and
stinky though. Kluane Lake is an incredible color, ranging from
a brilliant turquoise to a striking deep blue - depending on the
depth and the sunlight. It's also a large lake, stretching along
several miles of the highway.
spent the second night at Destruction Bay. I wimped out and got a
motel room. We only had a few hours more to get to Whitehorse, so
I figured a good night's sleep would be best. The dogs and I stretched
out in comfort and watched a bit of TV (they got all of six channels
there). No phones were in the rooms, so I went out to a pay phone
and called my niece to check on the home front. All was fine and I
went to bed feeling pretty good about the trip.
I departed leisurely
from the motel at Destruction Bay the next morning, after carefully
checking the credit card slips. This was the place that last year
had accidentally overcharged my card by $400 .. and I was NOT going
to have that happen again!
With the van
gassed up, air pressure and oil checked, we were back on the road.
The scenery continued to be gorgeous and the weather was incredible.
Skies were virtually cloud-free. The mountains along here looked
very much like the ones seen in the Alaskan Range. It was only about
two in the afternoon when I drove into Whitehorse. I'd missed the
turn-off to the motel, but it gave me an opportunity to refresh
my memory of where the show site was.
I also took
some time to stop at a bank and exchange U.S. money for Canadian
money. While most places gave an exchange, it was always to the
advantage of the business. The only good ways to get the right exchange
was to use Canadian money or a credit card, which automatically
figures the exchange for you.
into the motel, I settled the dogs and kicked back to relax a bit.
It was about four o'clock, and we had a fun match (obedience run-through)
scheduled for six. I very nearly fell asleep. Trick was tired too,
and the run-through was sloppy but it was good to get her into the
ring for some practice.
trial class started at 8:00 the next morning. Friday dawned clear
and warm. We hadn't slept really well as the room was warm, despite
the floor fan that I kept running at maximum speed all night. The
deep blue cloudless sky promised heat later, and I wondered how
Trick would do. Little did I know that the day's temperature would
top out at 36C (which is 96.9 Fahrenheit). The Novice B obedience
class was a large one, and Trick was next to last. I parked the
van in what little shade was available and spread sun screens across
the windows, but even so it was really warm. Trick was sluggish
and her performance was not up to par, but she qualified with 188
points out of a possible 200 for her first leg towards her Canadian
As soon as we
were done, we headed back to the motel. I thought "screw security"
and left the motel room door wide open to allow for some cross-breeze.
The fan was going full blast and the window was open too, but even
so it felt hot and slightly muggy. We were lucky that the humidity
was not really high during this heat wave! Even the locals were
looking a bit "limp" with the unusual hot weather. I went
down to the cafe and ordered some chicken for myself and a large
bowl of ice cream for the dogs. They were very happy to get that.
Later I called
Mom to let her know how it was going. She told me it was hot at
home, well into the seventies. I told her "add on twenty degrees
and you'll know what I'm in here". With no air conditioning
in the van, motel room, or show facility we were really feeling
the heat. Who would've thought that the Yukon Territory would be
so darn hot??
another hot day, and there were two obedience trials scheduled.
Trick's first class started at 9:00 a.m. and the second one at 1:00
p.m. She was in the third set of stays in both classes, meaning
that she would actually show an hour and a half to two hours later
than the class started. There were 23 entrants in Novice B, with
several being German shepherds. It was neat to see the woman who
had owned Trick's sire at this show. She had a four year old bitch
that was Trick's .. umm.. cousin, I guess. Trick's father was Raven's
great-great-grandfather. A male littermate of Raven's was also there,
and two other German shepherds - all in Novice class. Trick ended
up doing her group stays between two other shepherds.
Like the great
dog she always is, Trick pulled off two more qualifying scores that
day regardless of the heat. I wasn't sure she would handle the second
show well, being as how she spent a great deal of time in the warm
van throughout the day. But she came through in great style, with
a 194.5 as her third leg for her title. High in trial was only 196,
so I was especially proud of her bringing in a great score.
With her three
qualifying scores completed, I didn't see much reason to hang around
in the heat on Sunday to get a fourth leg. I figured we'd take advantage
of the time and head towards home - and hopefully towards cooler
temps! So we had a leisurely evening, woke up at 6:30 a.m. (which
is amazing, as I'm a night owl) and headed out of Whitehorse about
8 a.m. after getting gas and checking fluid levels in the van.
As I packed
up the van that morning, I found something interesting. Two nights
before I had taken an apple out of the cooler and put it on the
bed - and forgotten it. I found it with an area nibbled out of it.
The tiny pieces of peel were on the blanket of the bed, as if something
had spit them out. Six inches away were a couple of mouse droppings.
I flashed back
to when Jim Bob and I were working on the van. He was putting in
a temperature sensor as I changed the air filter. When I took the
old air filter out, I noticed a quantity of small black debris in
the bottom of the air filter casing. I commented to him at the time
that it looked like mouse droppings. I wiped them out with a damp
paper towel and he agreed. I had wondered at the time how they'd
gotten in there, and when.
NOW I was wondering
if the mouse that had produced those droppings had traveled with
me all the way from Alaska. This van was an older van, and had been
used to transport the dogs for the past ten years. One of the places
in the back where you would plug in headphones had come loose and
fallen into the side paneling of the van, leaving an opening that
would be just great for a mouse to get into. I wouldn't think a
mouse would live there, especially as I have dogs in the van a great
deal of the time. But the newly nibbled apple was really making
me wonder. I pulled off the top blanket of the bed and shook it
out, then folded it and put it away. As I drove off later into the
heat of the morning, I hoped that the mouse - if it were still in
the van - had lived through all the heat and wasn't some little
mouse corpse decomposing in the walls of the van.
If the worst
thing that happend on this trip was a dead mouse in the van, I could
handle that .. *L*
The day got
hotter and hotter, and about 100 miles north of Whitehorse I could
see a smokey haze that dimmed the mountain view. I was pretty sure
it was smoke, anyway, and had been concerned that the high heat
might result in some bad forest fires. Sections of the highway were
already bordered with burned out areas from various past years.
I eyed the haze and turned on the radio, scanning the bands to see
if I could find one that broadcast far enough to be picked up out
in the middle of nowhere. After half an hour or so, a station came
on - intermittently, but enough for me to hear that there were forest
fires in Alaska. I knew I could at least make it to the border and
they'd let me know if there was a problem
I crossed over
into Alaska about 3:30 in the afternoon, and they didn't mention
fires. As I passed the entrance to the road that headed north to
Dawson City, I saw an orange and white barricade blocking it. On
the barricade was a hand-printed sign that said "CLOSED - FIRE
- MILE 45". I felt lucky that the fires producing all that
smoke were north of the Alcan.
|It was about
5 p.m. when I drove into Tok and stopped to gas up the van before
heading south towards Anchorage. I had planned to make a joke with
the people inside about it being 120 degrees out, but as I walked
up to the door of the convenience store/gas station, the temperature
gauge on the wall outside the door read 114 degrees. Granted, it was
in the sun .. but then again, so was I.. *LOL* .. I bought some dinner
and some cold diet pepsi - and a present for my brother - and headed
out to where I'd parked the van in the shade. I brought the dogs out
and let them relax in the shade for a bit, where a tiny breeze helped
cool us. Fifteen minutes later we loaded back up and were on our way
Other than being
hot and long, the drive south was uneventful. Mile after mile of
mountainous country rolled by. Because of the heat, I opted to just
keep driving. If I stopped, I'd have to either roll up the windows
and suffer in the heat, or leave the windows down and get munched
on by the hordes of mosquitoes that seemed to be psychic enough
to know exactly where I was going to stop. A section of road along
the Matanuska Glacier was under construction, and I had to stop
there and wait about half an hour for a pilot car. As we drove slowly
through the construction area, I snapped quick photos of the glacier.
I couldn't stop because I was in a line of cars being led through
the construction site.
The first photo
(to the right) is of the glacier as it winds down from the Chugach
Mountains. This glacier is 27 miles long and averages two miles
wide. Because I couldn't stop at the top of the road and take a
decent picture, it's hard to see the true magnitude of this beautiful
photo shows the leading edge of the Matanuska Glacier. There's a
park that allows access to this area of the glacier, and a few years
back I stopped there and went hiking on the glacier ice. I took
Trick and Kylee with me, and Trick thought the bitterly cold streams
winding through the glacier ice were just the best to play in. If
it hadn't been after 8 p.m. and in the middle of a construction
area, I would have been very tempted to stop again to enjoy the
coolness of the ice during this hot trip.
With the brightness
of the sun that day, my digital camera washed out the color in the
glacier ice. It actually shows with a great deal of blue in it -
click here for a photo I took
of this incredible ice in 2000.
I made it into
Anchorage around 11 p.m. and decided to drive straight through and
get home that night. It was nearly 16 hours since I'd left Whitehorse,
some 900 miles from home. I was tired but awake and ready to get
to my own bed. As I headed off of Turnagain Arm, about a mile before
the uphill climb into Turnagain Pass, I made one more stop for a
picture of a sunset. It was a beautiful sunset, but I missed the
peak of it as I couldn't find my camera. It had slid down behind
the seat and I was just tired enough to get a bit panicked thinking
I had left it somewhere. I found it in time to catch the last of
I pulled into
my driveway just after two a.m., tired but happy after a great trip!
Tori and Dora greeted me with wiggles and kisses, obviously well
taken care of but glad to see me nonetheless - and Raven the cat
told me in no uncertain terms that I should NOT have left home,
even though Alissa had spoiled him rotten.
I'm already looking
forward to the next trip!