The following refers to day five of our journey: Wednesday, June 24th.
We slept like the dead last night. I don’t know how I manage to get so tired when all I do is sit for hours, but somehow it happens. I took a glorious, blessed, marvelous shower and then we went to breakfast. We saw this great sign hanging inside the diner:
I’m trying to determine if this means we can go whatever speed we want, since we’re well past March?!
After breakfast, our road-weary bodies were back on the road yet again. We travelled about four hours before reaching Whitehorse, where we stopped for gas and lunch. It is mind-boggling how far apart the towns are here, and when you think you’re approaching a decent sized city it usually turns out to be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dot on the map. Whitehorse is the largest town we’ve passed through in two days, and with a population of 24,000 it’s not that big. It’s not that I have anything against small towns…hello, I came from the smallest town ever invented. It’s just that when you drive for so many hours without seeing any towns whatsoever, you start expecting all the people to be bunched up together in the next town. When that town turns out to be small, you start realizing there simply aren’t that many people out here…what a concept! I am still floored by the vastness of the land, and the sparseness of the human population out here. It’s unreal.
We ate our lunch and headed out. Along the highway we have run into a lot of road construction, but the Canadians do it right…they only work on one mile at a time. This sure makes the entire process much more manageable. Our wait times have never been that long, and we really haven’t had cause to complain. We made a pit stop in Destruction Bay, after which we encountered some more road construction. While following the pilot vehicle we passed a large machine that had an “Oversized Load” sign hanging from it. I started laughing when I realized the workers had added an L to the beginning of the word “Oversized”…so the sign now read “Loversized Load”. How funny is that? Guess these guys don’t really have much else to do while they’re out here in the boonies.
The Milepost book, which has been invaluable, had a very interesting excerpt about the construction of the highway from this point to Alaska. This construction is the result of an agreement between Canada and the U.S. called the Shakwak Agreement. The Shakwak Project involves reconstructing roughly 300 miles of the Alcan Highway between Haines Junction and the Alaska border. The real difficulty lies in the stretch between the Donjek River and the Alaska border, because the soil is of glacial origin and not well suited for road embankments. “Anything that causes the permafrost to melt will cause the ice-rich soil to liquefy, and liquid soil has little strength and will settle or subside.” This process causes dips, cracking and undulations in the road known as frost heaves. (Milepost, p. 208) I have a love/hate relationship with frost heaves. Some sections of the road are really fun, and as we go flying up and down the bumps it’s kinda like being on a roller coaster. This is the part I love. However, some sections are extremely rough and jarring, even bone-rattling. There are a few bumps that should have done us in; I’m really surprised the car didn’t break in half. What an interesting result of this harsh, rugged climate. It looks like a pretty regular forest with no end in sight, and yet we are traveling on glacial earth that rarely unfreezes. It’s mind-boggling.
We finally saw a moose today…and boy was he HUGE! Seriously, I think he was the size of our car. That might be a slight exaggeration as he wasn’t anywhere near the car so I couldn’t make a very accurate assessment…all I know is that he dwarfed those scrawny dudes we saw in Utah a few weeks ago, lol. We also saw a bunch of swans, which are beautiful. We still haven’t seen any caribou, which I’m a little disappointed about. But there’s always the trip home, so I’m not too worried.
We reached the border crossing around 8:00 pm, and promptly gained another hour. Alaska is in a different time zone, so as soon as we crossed it became 7:00. We pulled into our destination campground at Deadman Lake shortly thereafter, and we were not impressed. The campground was right next to a lake, which sounds great but as it turns out the ground was pretty boggy. The mosquitoes and deer flies were the worst we’ve seen thus far, and the vegetation was scrawny and unappealing. We also didn’t get any phone service, which concerned me because I was supposed to call Ann and let her know our status. Since we had picked up another hour, we decided to nix this campsite and keep going. Boy am I glad we did! Another hour or so later we arrived in Tok (rhymes with poke), Alaska. We stopped at Fast Eddy’s for dinner, and it was the best meal I’ve had in days. I had salmon while Hunter had a cheeseburger, and we were both fairly impressed with the meal. Yum! We also had cell phone service in Tok, so I was able to call my dad and let him know we were back in America. I called Ann and checked my five million emails, and then we headed out to find a campsite.
By this time we were completely exhausted. I was ready to park the car and sleep in the passenger seat but Hunter persevered, and a few miles outside of Tok we found the perfect campground. The Eagle Trail Recreation Site was heavily wooded and beautiful, and practically vacant!
We had our pick of campsites, and at long last we were snug as bugs in our tent. We had arrived at the campsite at 10:23 pm, which is 12:23 in Utah (and therefore, my head). Needless to say, we were completely wasted. I was concerned that the sunlight, which never left, would keep me awake…but I was far too tired for that. We also picked the right tent…when studying up for this trip we learned that darker tents are recommended, due to the non-stop light. If you try to sleep in a light tent during the light night, it’s like having a lamp shining into your eyes all night. Therefore, we picked our tent very carefully…and it has served us well.