the alaska highway

There is so much history wrapped up in the Alaska Highway, also known as the ALCAN (the military acronym for the Alaska-Canada Highway). There had been a lot of talk and study about creating a link between Alaska and the Lower 48 under President Herbert Hoover, however when the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened in December of 1941, it was deemed a military necessity. President Roosevelt authorized construction and less than 30 days later, construction officially began on March 9 of 1942. It took 8 months and 12 days for them to punch out a pioneer road through the wilderness. That is pretty incredible. Working 7 days a week, the men who worked endured mosquitoes and black flies in the summer and below zero temperatures in the winter. Weeks would pass with no communication with headquarters and the further out they worked from base camp, the harder things got.

The thought was that if the Japanese were going to invade, they would do so through Alaska. And then in June of 1942, the Japanese invaded Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutians. This added a new sense of urgency to complete the ALCAN! More than 10,000 American troops poured into the Canadian North and were working from east and west. Construction ended on October 25 of 1942 when it was possible for vehicles to travel the entire length of the highway. The Alaska Highway didn’t open to the public for another 6 years in 1948.

I have so enjoyed traveling along this road. The vastness of wilderness this pioneer road crosses is unbelievably beautiful and impressive. The history we have learned about along the way has given me a greater sense of respect and awe for all those who have come through here before me and even before the creation of the Alaska highway. This truly has been the trip of a life time and this being the road that brings us to our new home is just a taste of the richness of the area.

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We started out at the historical milepost in the middle of Dawson Creek, British Columbia. We met some people also traveling the same direction as us. One family was from Fairbanks heading home and the other was a traveling nurse who was transferring to Anchorage. It’s great to meet people along the way, hearing their stories and sharing ours.

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About 20 miles into our journey, we pulled onto a side road for about 3 miles. (MP 17.3) This portion of the road was part of the original Alaska Highway. Over the years there has been work to improve the highway with smoother, straighter roads. Because of the improvements, there is a 35 mile discrepancy when you reach the Alaska – Yukon border between the mile posts and actual driving distance. The original route was winding up and down, back & forth through the landscape and across the only original timber bridge built along the Alaska Highway that is still used today.

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20130505-160451.jpga little inn along the Alaska Highway in the middle of nowhere

20130505-160520.jpghomemade chili, the Milepost and the open road

20130505-160528.jpgjust a little bit of mud….everywhere I go

20130505-160535.jpgmy napping position for the day, pillow borrowed from V

20130505-160549.jpgthe huzband and V looking at some dead animal fur

20130505-160556.jpgan old church along the Alaska Highway

Our destination for the day was Fort Nelson (pop. 6,147).  Originally known as a fur trading post, the only way in and out of this isolated region was via river till 1922.  It wasn’t until the Alaska Highway came through in 1942 that Fort Nelson was connected with the outside world.  What boggles my mind even more is it was as recently as the 1950’s that Fort Nelson was still a pioneer community without power, phones, running water and more.  When others were fighting for rock & roll, there were communities being introduced to electricity!

20130505-161315.jpgFort Nelson at about 10 pm.  Though the sun has just recently set, there is still light in the sky.

I am just eating this history stuff up!

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7 thoughts on “the alaska highway

  1. I did a road trip a few years ago driving from Springfield, Missouri to Homer, Alaska. We loved the ALCAN and looking at your pictures made me think back to that trip! Looks like you guys are having a great time! Thanks for sharing!

    1. thanks for taking a look. we are hoping to make it down to Homer this summer to check it out. have some friends that live down there! maybe i’ll bump into you! =)

  2. Amazing photos, as usual. 🙂 I too am loving the history lesson you are providing on your blog. Makes me want to load my crew up and head that way too!

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