It’s hard to describe the feeling that washes over you when you see the sign welcoming you to Alaska. Almost three weeks on the road for us — six nights of camping, two unplanned motel visits, six nights of planned hotel stays, two nights of a pre-planned backpacking adventures, two nights at a friend’s home and, boom, there it was.
Even if you didn’t take the time we did to get to it, it’s probably marks the end of some kind of epic journey or hours upon hours in the car driving through the wilderness. No matter who you are, it’s a big deal.
It felt both dramatic and anti-climatic. There it was, just planted there, the Alaska border sign. To us it represented countless hours of working, dreaming, scheming, packing, driving. Then there was the emotional investment, the monetary investment, the betting of literally everything we have on this — the gamble that moving to a faraway adventure would be the answer or, at least, an answer. We are betting that this risk, this great big chance will help us.
All of that wrapped up in a road sign surrounded by a handful wandering tourists, next to our dead bug coated station wagon.
It’s been awhile since I last wrote about our journey, mostly because cell signal was inconsistent at best, but mostly nonexistent after we crossed into Canada.
First we had the drive into Washington from Idaho and through Oregon. That road winds over desert and though river gorges and into the most glorious lush, green, perfect Pacific Northwest evergreen you can imagine. Those trees and the mist and rain welcome you home. We spent time with friends and went to church, and I didn’t want to leave. I cried like a baby off and on in the car for an hour or so as we drove out of town.
We crossed the Canadian border at the “truck crossing” to avoid traffic, then drove up around Vancouver where we caught the Sea to Sky Highway into Whistler.
More trees and the rain lifted to reveal blue skies reflecting in ocean and rivers. It was astounding and wild and amazing. We camped overnight at Nairn Falls just outside of Whistler.
The next morning we started driving – up, up, up into British Columbia. The road winds and turns and has hairpin corners that make you hope to God you meet no semis as you travel. Then, suddenly, the rocks change from grey to red and brown and you’re driving through hills and and grass and stunning riverscapes.
And that’s about the time it started raining. There we were, somewhere in British Columbia, in rain. As we approach Prince George we determined that we are adults, and we don’t have to camp in the rain. … which led to a motel that might be the stage for a horror movie, we don’t really know.
Nothing truly horrible happened to us at the Camelot Motel (which allowed dogs … and was only place we found with room). A general grimy feeling and some cigarette holes in the blankets but hey — it wasn’t outside and it wasn’t in the rain.
The next day we drove out of Prince George and up to Dawson Creek. Rain. Rain, rain, rain. Pouring rain, sideways rain, rain that turned into a full-fledged snowstorm as we went over a mountain pass. Rain. (But I did see my first moose!!!)
Lunch in Dawson Creek, then more rain. Rain up the highway. Rain down the highway. Rain as we filled the car using our gas can just 10 miles outside of Fort Nelson, our stopping point for the night, after we totally overestimated our ability to get from point “a” to “b” without needing gas. (Oops!)
We called it a night at the Super 8 in Fort Nelson. Cleaner than scary Carnival Motel, but with much worse wifi. Oh well. Here’s a little video I made that night. Do I look as tired as I feel?
Truly, those two days were miserable. We were all cold and damp. Outside pitstops with a chance to run around were limited — too rainy. Driving for hours upon hours in the rain is enough to make anyone grumpy.
That brings us to Thursday. Weather report out of the Whitehorse, Yukon area was 70 degrees and sunny — great news for people who were very, very tired of 47 and pouring rain (and snow?!) in the middle of June.
As soon as the weather started to break, just an hour or so into our drive, we started feeling better. While at the Camelot creep-fest we had downloaded the entire Chronicles of Narnia, so we started burning through that — more for Luke and I than anyone else. It was easier to be happy about driving under sunshine. We did over 10 hours that day, some of which was spent on some seriously rough roads, all of which are under construction for the summer season.
I wish I had a picture of the sign that noted “Potholes — next 35 kilometers,” or the signs the next day that said “rough roads — 46 kilometers” … they were not a joke. I did snap a few pictures of the view we had.
The drive between Fort Nelson, BC and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory was absolutely the most scenic and fun. We spotted at least four black bears (like this guy pictured below), wild caribou, buffalo, a bald eagle and rock sheep. Gorgeous views of the Canadian Rockies were everywhere. We camped just outside White Horse at Marsh Lake.
And then there was Friday — the drive into Alaska — and when I’m writing this (although I won’t post it until we have wifi again). We left Marsh Lake as soon as the boys woke up, had a huge brunch at Burnt Toast in Whitehorse, and then hit the road.
Friday’s trip wasn’t so much about distance as it was about time. Thanks to ice heaves — spots in the road that have become roller-coaster like bumps thanks to the freezing and thawing of the ground — it’s pretty slow going. There were also 11 bajillion potholes and construction that stopped us as we waiting for a pilot car to return and guide a line of six or seven cars and RVs through roadwork.
Incredible mountain views surrounded us all day. But when we reached the Alaska border and crossed back into the U.S. at about 3 p.m. (or 4 p.m. where we had just come from since Alaska has its own timezone) I was ready to be totally done.
We still had another two hours to go to the tiny town of Tok, Alaska, where we are an awesome dinner before hitting the road for another 20 miles to reach our campsite for the night.
This weekend is summer solstice, the longest day of the year. That doesn’t really matter so much to us down in the “lower 48,” as they call it, but it’s kind of crazy awesome up here where you can celebrate the sun setting for a mere three hours. Tonight sunset is at 11:30 p.m. and sunrise is at 3:30 a.m. But “set” doesn’t mean what we think it means. Sure, it goes down. But it does not get dark — it’s like a several hour twilight before it’s light again. (We’ll pay for this in the winter when it doesn’t exactly ever get truly light for more than a few hours a day).
Tomorrow? Tomorrow we drive another six or so hours to actually reach the Anchorage area and, well, home. We will spend the next three nights at the home of a cousin of a friend and then, Tuesday, get the keys to our home and put an end to this temporary homelessness and tent life. By the time this gets posted, we will already be there and I’ll be working on telling you all about it.
Home. Hello, Alaska.