The Alaska Highway – The Adventuring Persona

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.”

Donna at Coal River Lodge at Milepost 533, was the owner and chief cook.  Her lodge is up for sale.
Donna at Coal River Lodge at Milepost 533, was the owner and chief cook for 14 years. Now her lodge is up for sale.

Coal River Lodge

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.

Paul has spent his life servicing the heavy equipment at the lodges along the Alcan Highway.
Paul has spent his life servicing the heavy equipment at the lodges along the Alaska Highway.
Alfred, born in Texas, was perpetually cycling the Alaska Highway, at 71 years old sometimes pedaling all night to reach the next outpost.
Homeless Alfred, born in Texas, is perpetually cycling the Alaska Highway, at 71 years old the constant wanderer sometimes pedaling all night to reach the next outpost.

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.

Toad River Lodge has 7,000 hats attached to the ceilings.
Toad River Lodge has a collection of 7,000 hats attached to the ceilings.

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).

The western saloon-themed RV park at Fort Nelson, BC, had chainsaw-carved benches and rifles for door pulls.
The western saloon-themed RV park at Fort Nelson, BC, had chainsaw-carved benches and rifles for door pulls.

Log Bear Bench

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!

The Signpost Forest was started by Carl Lindley, a US soldier who was helped construct the Highway.  We added our sign to the 72,000+ collection.
The Signpost Forest at Watson Lake, Yukon, was started by a US soldier who helped construct the Alaska Highway. We added our sign to the 72,000+ collection.
Can you find our sign at the Sign Forest?  (Just left of and slightly below center.)
Can you find our sign at the Sign Forest? (It’s just about in the center.  Click on photo to enlarge.)

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:

The second log bridge at Canyon Creek was designed to carry military vehicles and civilian traffic alike.
The second log bridge at Canyon Creek was designed to carry military vehicles and civilian traffic alike.  It would have easily supported our pickup and RV but we crossed a newer one.
Canyon Creek bridge 2
Kaye studied the ingenious log engineering of the early bridge builders.
I explored the ruins of Silver City, Yukon, a once-thriving mining town of 3,000 residents.
I explored the ruins of Silver City in theYukon Territory, a once-thriving mining town of 3,000 residents, now empty.
The roadhouses were built to service the traffic along the Alaska Highway in 1942-1943. The one at Prophet River closed many years ago.
The roadhouses were built to service the traffic along the Alaska Highway in 1942-1943. This one at Prophet River BC, closed many years ago.
“Lum and Abner’s, Since 1942” says the sign on the truck door. It’s part of highway history now.

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.

We caught our first glimpse of Mt. McKinley (Denali) from 150 miles away before we reached Fairbanks.
The Alaska Range looks majestic from the highway east of  Fairbanks.

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