1 August 2012 2.00PM 62 F Drizzle
That nice quiet, empty rest stop mentioned at the end of the last trip report, the one I pulled into at 2.00 AM, slept in and had considered it ideal for dropping the dogs first thing in the morning, before hitting the road again. Well, maybe not so much…….. as it wasn’t until I had got the dogs all out of the truck onto the picket line, watered and started walking the first of them, that I noticed a couple of bicycles, in a clearing, leaning against a tree. Looking further into the woods, I noticed two small tents – oh dear, my empty rest stop wasn’t so empty and the poor cyclist/campers were getting what was probably a fairly unwelcome early morning wake up call from 5 yipping huskies. Having decided that the damage was done, I just carried on and hoped that either they were really sound sleepers or that they were going to be getting up at that time anyway. Eventually, by the time I was walking the last dog, a bleary eyed, tousled headed young man emerged from one of the tents and ambled towards the toilets. He waved – at least I hope it was a wave. On his way back, he came over to see the dogs and I explained that his tent was too well hidden and I was sorry for disturbing them. He did say it was an unusual alarm clock but that it had worked. With the dogs suitably refreshed, I loaded them and we headed off to Teslin and a proper breakfast for the driver.
Sadly, the breakfast didn’t quite live up to my hopes, soggy French toast and bland coffee, but as there’s no other place to eat, one must simply be happy to have been able to get something/anything hot and fresh. Consoling myself with thoughts that the section from here to Whitehorse is fairly good and thus should see me hit the big city in time for late morning coffee and donuts from my favourite Canadian establishment, the ever wonderful Tim Horton’s. Buoyed by these thoughts and the morning sunshine, we romped through the next couple of hundred miles and arrived in Whitehorse and battled our way through the traffic into the downtown metropolis. With the soaring temperatures, I was happy to find a shady spot to
abandon carefully park the truck, reasonably close to the last decent coffee shop for hundreds of miles. With both travel mugs filled and a box of deliciousness on the passenger’s seat, it was time to head north and the bouncy section of the Alcan that always upsets the suspension of the truck.
There was a long section of roadworks around the site of the Tahini Burn, which seemed to have involved the Highways Dept pouring tons of sand on the road surface and then driving off to leave travellers to pack it down. The spell of dry, hot weather meant that describing that section as a little dusty would be a bit of an understatement – suffice to say, if you were following another vehicle, or someone passed going the other way, you couldn’t see the end of your own bonnet (or hood if you don’t know what a bonnet is).
Passing through Haines Junction, I again stopped for lunch at the Village Bakery there, still good ! And probably the only place in the whole of North America that I have found that makes a proper tasting scone.
Climbing up from Haines Junction, is possibly one of the most wonderful sections of the trip. The mountains stretch out in all directions, some still capped with snow, some gleaming in the sunshine. Long sections where there is no other traffic and no signs of people or habitations allow me to imagine how vast and desolate this place must have seemed to those first explorers. There are information boards at some of the rest stops detailing how the First People lived and survived in this Region, fishing, hunting, berry picking and trading.
The dogs were doing fantastically well, eating and drinking with no issues and even Yuri seemed to have decided that maybe I wasn’t so bad after all. Kalinka was still happiest if she was beside Jak, an arrangement that happily suited all of us. Late afternoon, we pulled into the US Customs for the simple formalities of coming home. Or not, as it turned out.
Customs Official No. 1 had to pull out the Book of Instructions on how to process a dog into the US. Asked me for the Rabies Certificates, which I duly handed over. Asked me for their Health Certificates, which I duly gasped at, and said they didn’t have any, as we hadn’t needed them before. Without looking up, he proceeded to read the paragraph out loud to me, dogs transitting Canada into Alaska, even from another US State require valid Rabies and Health Certificates. Much discussion ensued between me, Customs Officials, Nos,1, 2 and 3. No.3 said this was a new rule put in place fairly recently which is why I hadn’t been asked on previous trips. No. 2 said it wasn’t a new rule and it had always been that way – but couldn’t explain why it have never been enforced before and No. 1 just kept quoting the Book. I, of course, just stood there worrying about the dogs getting hot in the truck and wishing they could decide what was to happen. In the end, after a few phone calls, we were allowed in, with an official form and a requirement to quarantine the dogs for 30 days once we got home. It just doesn’t make sense to me, a fact emphasised as I drove away, and watched a wild fox trot across the hillside past the Border. So, anyone driving to Alaska with dogs this winter, and passing through Canada (which short of swimming up the coast, you’ll have to do), be aware that US Customs will want Health Certificates for each dog – or maybe they won’t.
The dogs got a nice rest and walk at Tok, beside the river, and had a look in the water. None of them showed any inclination to go paddling despite the heat. I got my dinner at Fast Eddy’s – a welcome respite and a good meal, setting me up for another few hours of driving. As I drove the north, despite the lateness of the hour, it was still daylight, which made the driving a little easier, especially on the Tok Cutoff which seemed to be hosting some kind of moose “chicken” games. On one section of road, I had to do 3 emergency stops, to avoid moose dashing across the road.
Eventually, just before midnight, I could feel the yawns coming with increasing rapidity, the heavy eyelids winning the battle and figured Chistochina was a good place to camp for the night. I did double check there were no other signs of life around this time.
The last section to home always seems the longest. So close and yet still hours of driving away. Passing those places that have become familiar landmarks, Glenallan, Euraka, the Sheep Mountain Lodge, all signify progress. Dropping down into Palmer, passing our vets’ office, and getting through Wasilla without hitting a red light all helped to speed me home. With only 20 miles to go, I came upon a queue of traffic. Now, where you live, that might not be unusual. Where we live, it’s practically unheard of. Whilst I was gone, it seems the Borough had decide to dig up the Parks Highway and chose a Saturday to close a big stretch of it. A 30 minute delay may not seem like much, but after 8 days on the road, and only being 20 minutes from the house, it was a little frustrating.
Soon enough, I was home, pulling up to our gate and trying to entice my new companions out of their truck. It seemed that the welcoming screams from their new kennel mates had unsettled them a little. Eventually, everyone was out and settled into their new spots.
So, that’s the final leg of the trip report. I won’t finish this one with the same statement with which I have finished the others – I do love the drive, the fantastic scenery, the amazing wildlife, the people, both friendly and interesting and yet occasionally a little scary. Each time I drive the Alcan, I see different things and experience different emotions. It’s so much more than just a road.