Sunday, August 30, 2015

Driving the Alaska Highway (Al-Can)

This is the starting point of the famous Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The paved road runs 1523 miles through Canada (hence the name Al-Can Highway) by way of the Yukon Territory to Fairbanks. Built in 1942 during World War II in 8 months to provide road access to Alaska where an invasion was thought possible, the then dirt road required 17,000 workers laboring in extreme conditions ranging from 90 degrees to 70 below zero, and tackling tough terrain requiring 133 bridges.


The scenery is always interesting and often breathtaking. Most of the highway is two lane and speed limits range from 45 to 60 mph, but many sections are hilly, curvy, and perhaps in need of repair, so caution is always required. Frost heaves create roller coaster dips and rises, and shoulders can be narrow or non-existent in places. Numerous sections were under construction in 2004 to straighten curves and make other improvements. All in all, the roadway is not a problem to drive, as long as you don't treat it as a superhighway. Slow down, drive cautiously, and enjoy the scenery and wildlife.

They aren't kidding! Within a quarter mile of this sign...

...I came upon this caribou (reindeer is the term for them when they are domesticated) smack in the middle of the road, and I must have seen several dozen as I traveled the highway. But caribou were not the only animals observed from the road, as seen below.

Deer, bison, big horn sheep, and mountain goats were frequent sights, especially in the Yukon. In addition, I saw a black bear in the middle of the highway from a hundred feet away, but it was 40 feet up the hillside by the time I reached that section of road and all I got was a photo of its rear end scampering up the slope.

How about a few more scenery shots?

On my trip to Alaska, I took the Alaska Ferry to Skagway, crossed over the Al-Can traveling north on the Klondike Highway heading to Dawson City in the Yukon (knowing I'd be on the Al-Can on my drive back to Chicago in two months.) One reason: The Klondike Highway is also called the "Top of the World" Highway. The second reason: For all you fellow English teachers or literature buffs, the reason is shown in the next two photos...the cabin of Robert Service...

...and a block away, also on 8th Avenue, the cabin of Jack London...

And then you reach Fairbanks, Alaska. It's an extraordinary drive through majestic scenery, and I recommend it highly!

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