Our group of 38 airstreams pulled out of Dawson Creek this morning between 7 and 9 a.m. and headed north on the Alaska Highway. We were very excited to be following this road. We think of all the young men working during wartime emergency in 1942 to provide this desperately needed road. It is difficult to grasp how vast and endless was this wilderness before the road.
Several times we could look northward and see the ribbon of road cutting through the forested landscape many miles ahead of us. After spring thaw, much of this terrain could not be navigated with wheeled vehicles — they would suck deeply down into the muskeg. The completed Alaska Highway provides year-round such a vital artery from Alaska to the lower 48 states.
A little harder to get our heads around is what parts of the Alaska Highway are original to the 1942 war-time effort and what parts were rebuilt on newly surveyed right-of-way and not at all the original route. Twenty miles into our drive we followed signs off Rte 97 onto the old Alaska Highway, headed for the Kitskatinaw Bridge.
This is the original 1942 curved wooden trestle bridge crossing the Kiskatinaw River. Very nice solid bridge building, this bridge has held up very well. The 534 feet long bridge is banked and sharply curved. Look closely in the picture and you see the wooden planking is curved. It was fun to drive across this historic bridge and follow, for a few miles, this original segment of the Alaska Highway.
We climbed out of our trucks and stretched at our next stop, Shepherd’s, and talked with our friends about their drive this morning. Surprisingly, one of our group already had a large rock strike and break his windshield. The suspense is gone, we won’t wonder anymore when it will first happen. Fortunately he was able to apply clear tape inside and out and the windshield appears to be weather-tight for now.
This stop really is all about eating. We piled into The Shepherd’s Inn, right alongside the Alaska Highway, and ordered our coffee and cinnamon buns. Some of the group sat down for breakfast but our three couples ordered to-go. Nick didn’t even get out of the restaurant before tasting his. Can you tell from the picture how good the cinnamon buns are? You can take our word for it, these are that good.
The remainder of our first and longest driving day, 280 miles, was uneventful. We pulled into Fort Nelson B.C. by 3 p.m. into a nice full-service campground. We toured the Visitor Center and learned about Ft Nelson’s history, economy, and people. Interesting to us, the labor force ramps up in winter. Remember what I said a little earlier, driving is more difficult after spring thaw?
The oil and gas workers can get everywhere on the frozen surfaces and apparently much less so after winter. What do we know? Full-timers like the dreamstreamrs are chasing 75 degrees and aren’t even likely to get to see the northern lights. Lucky arctic workers!
Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees
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