Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 15: Whitehorse to Fort St. John, BC

I've already talked about the drive back from Alaska in general; all that's left is to provide a few more pictures and random thoughts from the drive home. Next up...

Alaska Trip Day 15 (Thu Jul 8): 829 miles; 13 hr 46 min

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This was a full day of driving, so we wouldn't have much time for lollygagging. But that doesn't mean we didn't take a bunch of pictures along the way!

"Turn in 1330 km". I like my maps and my GPS, but you don't really a map to drive the Alaska Highway. Just keep going straight. (Except for that turn in Haines Junction, of course.)

We saw a coyote on our way out of Whitehorse, a picture of which is included in Amber's 4th album, which I'll provide a link to in tomorrow's be-all, end-all Alaska Trip summary post.

Sure, we got up really, really early (4:30 AM local time), but the sun was already up by the time we hit the road. Hooray for being north of 60°! I don't know what town this is, but it wasn't far from Whitehorse.

Most of these pictures, I have no idea exactly where they were taken. But this is the bridge over Nisutlin Bay (near Teslin), also pictured here from above.

I think I've been posting too many mountain and lake pictures and not enough plant pictures. So, here you go.

Most of the bears we saw on our trip were grizzlies, but here's a black bear. Amber thinks black bears are way cuter. I don't have a preference.

Now...a side story. Somewhere between Teslin and Watson Lake, we saw a small pickup pulled over on the side of the road, the driver waving us down as we passed. "Hey, we broke a fan belt...can one of us get a ride to the next town?" Let's say you were in my shoes. What do you do? What do?

Well, here's the thing. I would almost NEVER give a complete stranger a lift in my car. It's too risky. Besides, this is what AAA (or, in this case, CAA) is for, right? But here's why I made an exception. For one, we're in the middle of nowhere. Pretty much the only chance this guy has is if someone gives him a lift into town. There is no cell phone reception up here (at least not on our phones - maybe with another provider?), and even if you could call a tow truck, tow trucks up here are REALLY FREAKING EXPENSIVE. (I'm totally guessing here, but...myabe $1,000 for a 40 kilometre tow to Watson Lake?) If that were me on the side of the road, I'd be trying to wave someone down too. And up here, it could be two hours or more before the next car comes. Really, I wasn't all too worried that the stranded motorists on the side of the road were criminals in disguise. They didn't seem to fit the profile. (Maybe I'm too trusting of rural Canadians. He did have a really awesome Canadian accent, you know?)

So, anyway, we made room for one in the back seat and drove him to Watson Lake (40 km or so), where he knew some people who could get him a new fan belt and take him back to the broken down vehicle. It went completely without incident, and I don't think he stole anything out of our back seat, either.

What should you take from our experience? 1) If you're going to drive the Alaska Highway, make sure you bring a reliable car, so that you don't end up like this guy. 2) If you see a stranded motorist on the side of the Alaska Highway asking for help...well, for safety's sake, I don't know if I should completely advocate stopping. You never know. But if you're only going to help one stranded motorist in your life, northern Canada is the place to do it. I'm sure there are lots of places in the world where thieves take advantage of sucker tourists by posing as broken-down motorists. I just don't think the Yukon is one of them.

Back to the pictures...

This is where we stopped for lunch - Cranberry Rapids, near Fireside, BC.

More stone sheep. They like to hang out around here.

Muncho Lake, still my favorite part of the Alaska Highway. The drive wasn't as much fun coming back, though, because it seemed like they started about 5 new construction projects that week compared to what we encountered heading north. How do most construction projects start? By pouring gravel all over the road. My only guess is that this is how they repave for cheap up here: pour gravel everywhere, apply an oil or something to hold the gravel together, ground it down until it becomes relatively smooth, and ta-da - new pavement!

(Side comment: Is the Alaska Highway a "north/south" road, or an "east/west" road? Depends on where you are. In British Columbia, it's signed north/south; the Yukon signs it east/west; and in Alaska, it's north/south again.)

I really like this picture of the road next to Muncho Lake. Desktop background, anyone?

On the bright side, all of the newly begun construction allowed Amber to take lots of pictures.

Good to know the fine people of Fort Nelson have something to do in the winter.

Bye bye, mountains! Hello, straight road. The Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek stretch is mostly flat.

Now...we hit rain at some point pretty much every day heading north, so that kept the car fairly clean. Coming back south, however, we didn't see any rain at all between Day 11 (Anchorage to Denali) and Day 17 (Yorkton to Madison). That allowed the car to collect quite a collection of dead bugs:

I don't think I've ever gotten a car wash in my life - I'm always inside the car, so why should I care what it looks like from the outside? - but when we got home, I gave my car its first ever non-complimentary car wash. And it still didn't get rid of all the bugs. I think I'm going to have to scrub.

On that note, here's another Alaska Highway top tip: if you don't want your car to look like mine, get a car bra before you go.

1 comment:

allen_t said...

Ask the hitchhiker if he curls. If so, he must be ok, eh?