Do not go on the Alcan Highway. Don't do it. I'm warning you. You will be forever changed.
Every may long weekend a bunch of my friends and family go camping in the mountains. A local park, far enough from society but close enough that there are showers.The offroading trails are relaxed and beautiful. All night campfires in the mountains are nothing to complain about!!
Only problem is there is this road sign we pass...
"HWY 40" ... "Scenic Route to Alaska".
Have that haunt you for seven years. Seven years passing a sign that evokes adventure, screams excitement and unknown. That emotion was finally realized around this time last year. When one of us FINALLY said what everyone was thinking. "Why haven't we done a road trip to Alaska yet?" So we started the planning the trip.
First, we hit the internet and searched all the information you possibly could to learn everything about driving up the Alcan Highway, Dempster Highway, then the top of the world highway, finishing off with the Denali. Believe it or not, there isn't a whole lot of information out there. It's a best kept secret. There's some weird stuff about a drink with a toe in it. World famous cinnamon buns and a lot of questions about this place called "Chicken".
Second, make a list of every possible little thing you could think you would need for three weeks out in the middle of no where. Oh. No cell service. We're going to need CB radios... antennas..wiring....what's the gas situation like up there? Oh dear, there's 600 kms without gas in spots! Jerry Cans... mounts..spare tires..jacks. Two jacks. Does everyone else have a jack? Do we need three jacks? What if one breaks? Three jacks is too heavy. How is all this going to fit!?
I'm pretty lucky that I work for Toyota Northwest's Parts Department and have access to multiple accessories suppliers, technicians, and great people that you can bounce ideas off. I've built a lot of trucks, but not for this kind of adventure.There is a lot that you really don't think about when it comes to your vehicle on one of these trips:
- There will be days without being able to stop for ice. How do we keep our food safe?
- Three weeks without a shower sounds AWFUL. Lakes up there are far too cold. How are we going to tolerate each other without a shower!?
- How do I carry an extra tank of gas on my truck's body?
There was more on the list but these were the big worries. It didn't take long for me to pool my resources and come up with the answers. All of them can be added to my vehicle, without sacrificing too much space.
After three months of working on my truck, having it inspected, new tires and a good old fashioned oil change we were off! We never had any issues on our trip, but we noticed there were plenty of other people struggling along the way. The Dempster Highway was large part of this adventure and it takes you all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It is amazing, but can be extremely dangerous. We helped quite a few people change tires, get gas and even coming back we had to drive through a forest fire that was crossing the highway. They closed the highway down an hour after we passed through. I'm glad we had the fridge and the other essentials because if they closed that highway while we were up in the Northwest Territories, we would be stranded for days, hungry, stinky and tired. There was no other highway out.
To go into the details about offroading near Dawson City or seeing three different mountain ranges in one view, would take months. Its a big world, especially in the Yukon. Here is a photo of a trail that we drove on. In the distance the trail looks like a mere walking path. Photos do no justice to the unbelievable scenery.
I can say that we found the fantastic Cinnamon buns, and Chicken, Ak is the neatest little gold town. We panned for gold for 3 hours(even though we only scheduled half an hour) and enjoyed every mile marker along the way. Camping with mountains surrounding you, where there are no emails, no text messages and a sun that doesn't set must be the most relaxing thing I have experienced.
As for the toe drink...it really does exist in Dawson City. It is a drink called the Sourtoe Cocktail. I'll let you search for its details on the internet but the toe was stolen to say the least. Not sure who would steal a toe?
I learnt a lot on this road trip and I have to say being over-prepared allowed me to relax instead of worry. Isn't that the whole point of a vacation?