Well, here I am again, embarking on another of my adventurous road trips. When I was little, the idea of spending time in a car driving from place to place seemed rather dull. Of course, the occasional landscape was breathtaking. But aside from Yosemite-esque views, miles of road really had little appeal. At some point that changed. Now, I find the idea rather thrilling. In large part I credit Ken Burns and his beautiful portrayals of the U.S., especially his awe-inspiring National Parks documentary. I’ve also recently discovered another documentary of our road trip history – Paving The Way: The National Park-To-Park Highway. There are other reasons too, which vary from enjoying the quiet solitude of long drives to the ecstatic feeling of witnessing some of nature’s grand spectacles. And then there is the sheer adventure of it all, which brings me back to my current road trip: Alaska
Nickname: The Last Frontier
Motto: North to the Future
Area: 663,268 square miles (2x Texas)
Population: 738,432 (1.26 people per square mile)
Alaska itself is wilderness manifest. It embodies adventure. Even getting there is an adventure. The first thing people say to me when I mention I’m driving to Alaska is, “Driving?! You mean you’re driving around Anchorage or Fairbanks, right? Flying to get there first.” “No,” I respond, “I’m driving there.” “From where?” they say with a horrified or skeptical look.
You can, in fact, drive to Alaska. That’s half the adventure! During WWII the US built a highway from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska (near Fairbanks). The Canadians gave us permission and supplies; we brought the troops and equipment. 75 years ago, a road emerged in 8 months. Yes, that’s 8 months – all 1,700 miles of it. Since then it’s been straightened and upgraded. It’s entirely paved. And aside from inclement weather risks and the occasional summer construction project, it’s quite safe, if not isolated.
So as I pack this week and prepare for this journey of a lifetime, use your imagination to picture tracts of endless forests, the tallest mountains in North America, streams churning with rapids (and salmon), miles of rolling tundra, and a sun that almost never sets. The Yukon is calling – I, for one, am answering its call.