It may not be a trip for everyone, but it is a trip for anyone with a sense of adventure and an eye for grand vistas and wild places. It is 1,387 miles of wide-open spaces, beautiful mountains, abundant wildlife, and most importantly for this traveler, little traffic. It is the ultimate road trip in North America; the famous ALCAN highway.
ALCAN is short for the Alaska-Canada Highway, a WWII military road in its inception, and now a well-maintained, lightly traveled way to drive a personal vehicle to the arctic. Most people call it the ALCAN or just the Alaska Highway. The road has been open to the public for decades now, but many people shied away from it because of horror stories they’d heard about the condition of the road.
“Carry two spare tires, at least.”, “You’ll need to bring a ton of extra fuel!”, “Hope you’re a mechanic!”
Those were common pieces of advice thrown out to anyone thinking about tackling the lengthy unpaved parts of the highway. Those days are gone. Now the highway is almost entirely paved except for a few stretches that are under construction.
To be honest, there is a fair amount of construction. There must be. The road takes a beating every winter, (yes, the road is open year-round.) But the real construction can only happen in the short summer season, after the frost heaves and potholes rebloom during the spring thaw. Still, you can travel for hundreds of miles between roadwork sites, and what you’ll see is nothing short of spectacular.
Cameras, binoculars, and maybe even a spotting scope can all be put to good use all the way from the beginning of the highway, at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, right through the Yukon portions of the road, and into the Alaska interior. The ALCAN officially ends at Delta Junction, but you can drive all the way to Anchorage and beyond if you desire.
Along the entire route, be prepared to see caribou, bears of the grizzly and black varieties, moose, wolves, foxes, wild sheep, bison, elk, and unending and expansive vistas. The road will be busiest in July and August, but even then traffic will not amount to much compared with anywhere in the lower 48 of the U.S., or the southern end of Canada. You will see RVs of every shape and size, and trucks hauling supplies to northern settlements like Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and Delta Junction, but not much else in the way of traffic.
For the truly adventurous, a side trip north of the 64th parallel to Dawson City and a ferry ride across the Yukon River is well worth the effort. Poet Robert Service and Author Jack London both lived in Dawson 100-plus years ago and their log cabins remain for the dedicated travel to explore.
And don’t forget to look up. The night skies along the ALCAN Highway are sometimes filled with wondrous sights. Take the aurora borealis for example… Any month of the year the aurora, commonly called the Northern Lights, might be visible anywhere along the ALCAN. The further north you go, the better your odds of seeing them.
It is truly a drive everyone should take at least once in their lives. For me once isn’t enough. I’ll be back on the ALCAN again soon.
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Keith Crowley, www.crowleyimages.com
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