Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 8: Haines Junction, YT to Seward, AK

Alaska Trip Day 8 (Thu Jul 1): 734 miles, 13 hr 45 min

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Happy Canada Day! I'm not sure if I've ever been in Canada on Canada Day, but now I have...if only for a few hours. We had quite a drive ahead of us, so we woke up at sunrise - which doesn't sound that early except that sunrise was 4:43 AM local time.

On a related note, I should mention that for almost two weeks straight during the trip, we went to bed before sunset and woke up after sunrise. That means we had almost two weeks of constant sunlight while we were awake. It was weird, but we got used to it by the end of the trip. Some hotels had better sun-blocking drapes than others.

What is there between Haines Junction and the Yukon/Alaska border? Well...there's this giant gold pan (which I think is - surprise! - the "World's Largest"). There is also more pretty scenery to be had, but we don't have any pictures of anything between Burwash Landing and the border, because we had to concentrate on the drive.

The portion of the Alaska Highway between Haines Junction and the Yukon/Alaska border is, quite possibly, the worst road I've ever driven. But it's not really anyone's fault. Frost heaves (dips in the road caused by sporadically melting permafrost) are a serious problem up here, much more so than on the rest of the Alaska Highway. It makes for an interesting drive, and not in a good way. My advice: between Destruction Bay and the Yukon/Alaska border, don't go faster than 50 mph (80 km/h), and watch for those red flags on the side of the road. These are no ordinary dips and bumps. They mean business.

Whew! Made it. Road conditions get better once you cross the border (except for construction), which I guess makes sense. The westernmost stretch of highway in the Yukon isn't really a top priority for Canada, considering Americans make up 85% of the traffic west of Haines Junction (according to The Milepost). A long term effort to improve this stretch of road (funded in part by the USA) has been underway for quite some time, but either what they're doing isn't working, or they just gave up. That's fine, though...we don't want to make driving the Alaska Highway too easy, do we?

We wanted to get a picture of Mo the cow puppet with the fancy brown Alaska sign instead of the boring green sign, but two buses full of tourists had other ideas, and we didn't feel like waiting for them to leave. I think it's funny that we were met with bus loads of Alaska tourists literally as soon as we crossed the border. Darn tourists!

Anchorage is only 421 miles away from the border? I have to be honest - given that this is the largest state the Union, that doesn't seem like much. Maybe I just got used to seeing much larger numbers on Canadian kilometre-based signs - for example, this one.

Not too many mountains before our left turn in Tok. But don't worry...they'll be back.

Good stuff.

Here's a question: what is the purpose of those poles on both sides of the road (also seen along the road to Skagway)? My guess is that the poles tell you where the road is when it's covered in two feet of snow, so that you can stay on the "road" rather than drive off a cliff.

Speaking of snow...yay snow!

I've heard of people who went to Alaska on vacation, and then called back home to say, "We're staying here. We're not coming back." And that's what they did. We considered it for a bit, too, but we ultimately decided that we actually like our friends and family.

This is Matanuska Glacier, an hour or two east of Anchorage along the Glenn Highway (Alaska 1). The glacier land itself is privately owned, so there are two ways to see the Matanuska Glacier: 1) pay the private owners $20/person to see it up close, or 2) see it from a distance for free at a nearby State Recreation Site. Wanna guess which option we chose?

The obligatory Mo the cow puppet glacier picture. We would see several glaciers in Alaska. This is not the last Mo + glacier picture of the trip.

It's hard to go wrong here, isn't it? Everywhere you look... (Remember that this is not all of the pictures we intend on sharing. Still working on getting Amber's next set posted online.)

That's the extent of the picture taking for Day 8. We decided to wait until the return trip (Day 10) to detail Anchorage and the Anchorage-to-Seward drive, since we'd have much more time to dilly dally on our way back up. It was kind of a long day as it was. I'd say that trying to get from Haines Junction to Seward in one day is pushing it a little, and I only recommend you attempt it if you're a hardcore road tripper on a time crunch. We did it just fine, though...and with two hours of sunlight to spare!

1 comment:

amber said...

P.S. The second installment of photos (up to mainland AK border) is posted here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=3189491&id=9359299&l=9b911e3116

Next set coming soon...