Milepost 3395 Dawson City, BC, to Delta Junction, Alaska.
Everywhere we stopped along the Alaska Highway we met people, and here’s the thing: They were all originally from somewhere else. Texas, Utah, Ohio, Ontario, Ireland or parts farther removed, they gave varying answers to the first question that we all asked each other at every new stop: “Where are you from?” Not until we reached the most remote settlements in the Yukon did we encounter the First Nation folks who would answer, “Here. Always been here.”
The other unique trait of these immigrants to the great north was their eccentricity. It seems that the sort of people who would answer the call of the wild are the sort that are essentially non-conformists. Undaunted by solitude and the lack of conveniences, they had settled into the most unwelcoming locations this side of the border where services were limited and dangers were high.
Every roadhouse and lodge was operated by displaced or re-placed – or maybe mis-placed wanderers. We met RV park owners who had come out from the city to start a new life, we met university students working a summer job in the tourist industry, and there were cooks and heavy equipment repairmen helping to keep the outposts operating for one more season.
The other thing that was unusual about these unusual business owners was the quirky attempts they made at competing for the diminishing tourist dollars. Chainsaw carvings were popular, Old West themed RV parks, the “world’s largest weathervane (a DC-3 airplane mounted on a post)”, a museum of stuffed trophies from musk-ox to moose, or left-behind WWII vehicles (the troop transport still operating for bear tours through the forests out in back).
So, one of the off-handed delights of the Road Trip of a Lifetime along the Alaska Highway is the quirky and tenacious proprieters of the entire 1,500-mile-long complex who are keeping it all going.
Or not. Perhaps two-thirds of the lodges we passed were closed and boarded up, some a long time ago, some last year. It’s a rough life up here, and it’s a rougher job trying to keep the outposts open when the tourist revenue is diminishing year by year.
We developed a deep appreciation for these tough folks who serve the would-be adventurers like us, keeping us safe for the night and fueling us up for the next stretch of highway. Mighty good folks there, all along the way, and we enjoyed meeting them!
Here are a few more photos that we captured along our transit of the official 1,488 miles of the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek BC to Delta Junction, Alaska:
We finally reached Denali, a day’s travel past the end of the Alaska Highway, beyond Fairbanks. We have found a campsite right behind The Black Bear Coffee House where our daughter, Wendi, works every summer. I’ll be writing about their transient lives next.