This summer the Alaska Highway is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Many travelers imagine driving 1,400 miles of gravel road with temperatures ranging “from 90 degrees above zero to 70 degrees below zero. Men will have to fight swamps, rivers, ice and cold. Mosquitoes, flies and gnats will not only be annoying but will cause bodily harm” (HistoryNet.com). That was the promise in a recruiting notice for construction workers during World War II, but 75 years have improved the conditions for travelers. Click the play button below to hear Larre describe his many treks along this route through the mountain wilderness.
Our family drove the Alaska Highway in 1986, when we moved the household from Valdez, Alaska to western Wisconsin. Our overloaded trailer suffered bent axles, coincidentally with the Canada Day holiday. So we took a holiday in Fort Nelson, Yukon waiting for a repair shop to open and then to make the repairs. On the bright side, it was beautiful weather, there was a very nice community pool and and the Nelsonians were very welcoming.
Today the road is fully paved and driving conditions are good. Keep in mind, though, that the cold winters cause some damage each year. If you drive in May and early June these spots will be marked but probably not yet repaired. Watch for the orange flags! When crews are working on repairs, you will have some gravel and/or delays to wait for a pilot car to guide you through active construction.
Larre is proud of his ability to drive from Wisconsin to Tok, Alaska in 54 hours. Personally, I enjoy the trip more when we take the time to experience some of the people and places along the way. Planning for a week going up and another week coming back would make a fabulous vacation in and of itself.
Keep in mind the distances when planning your trip. For example, TravelYukon.com points out that the province is slightly larger than California with a population of 37,600.
Keep in mind the distances when planning your trip. For example, TravelYukon.com points out that the province is slightly larger than California with a population of 37,600. If you don’t stop in Whitehorse, you will see more wildlife than people along here. There are twice as many moose as people residing in Yukon. You can also see grizzly and black bears, bison, elk, sheep, porcupines, marmots, picas, red foxes and many bird species.
Speaking of Whitehorse, the city may be a good place to check to make sure your vehicle is in good running condition. I'm not going to bring up any personal incidents, because we finished talking about that in an earlier episode. I'm just saying, it's a long way between service stations through here.