The highway heading north from Whitehorse

Alcan Highway, Yukon Territory

2004 Trip to

Whitehorse, YT

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. After last 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 were traveling!

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 for her.

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 stands on a fence made of burls, in Yukon Territory, Canada

Trick poses on a fence made of "burls" -
round "growths" found on local tree trunks.

The "hills" along the Glenn Highway in Alaska

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.

Stopping only 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 truly beautiful.

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.

The bright purple flowers that lined the roads
Kylee (and Trick) at Kluane Lake
Kluane Lake, showing the gorgeous colors natural to that lake
Trick poses above Kluane Lake
I 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.

Typical scenery along the Alaska-Canada highway as it winds through the Yukon Territory

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.

After checking 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.

Trick's obedience 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 CD title.

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??

Trick poses with her ribbons after we returned home

Saturday was 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.

A distant mountain, seen heading south on the Glenn Highway in Alaska

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*

Trick, on the Glenn Highway, with mountain in the background

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 again.

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 glacier.

The Matanuska Glacier, as it winds out from a mountain pass
The end of the Matanuska Glacier

This second 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 the sunset.

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.

The sun sets behind the mountains of Turnagain Arm

I'm already looking forward to the next trip!