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Thread: Your Alcan Highway Story

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    Member COtoAK's Avatar
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    Talking Your Alcan Highway Story

    We were driving through Tok yesterday and I was remembering my first time driving the Alcan a couple of years ago.

    I have heard a ton of great stories on experiences driving up and we'd love to hear your story.

    I'll wait a couple of post before I post our story.
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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Wife locked the keys in the car in Haines Jct. at 11:30 at night. Spent an hour on the phone with someone (at 30° weather, coats in the car) trying to figure out if we could get a tow truck or locksmith to help us out. Ended up catching a ride to the hotel and sacking out

    2008 personal best for mileage on the highway: 1002
    2009 personal best: 1030

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    St Paul, Mn to Anch, Ak in 4 days.
    By Automobile.
    I puked on the way.
    In 1967.

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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guy View Post
    St Paul, Mn to Anch, Ak in 4 days.
    By Automobile.
    I puked on the way.
    In 1967.
    By yourself in 4 days in 1967? I bow you you, sensei....

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    I drove from Ft. Walton Beach Florida to AK in 2005. I took a pit stop after the first days drive in New Baden, IL, I made the final trip of just driving time in 5.5 days. Arrived on July 15th exactly three years to the day that I left AK. I drove by myself with only a couple CD's. One was Michael Jackson's Greatest Hits vol 1.

    I had a minor hiccup outside Saskatoon when my fuel pump didn't like the heat and excessive speed. I wrote mileage for a tax rebate, I am certain that in one day I drove over 1200 miles. I left FL with two cartons of smokes and arrived in Willow with way less than half. Plus drank about three red bulls a day.

    My car had no A/C so I really suffered until I reached British Columbia. This sounds pretty gross but the seat never had time to dry out while I was sleeping so I had to drive 10 plus hours a day with a sweaty, nasty seat to sit on. The sweat wore a body shaped depression in the foam cushion that I think is still there.

    After driving across the country with my window down I got to Willow and the left side of my face and arm were so much darker than the rest of me that I had to start wearing long shirts until the tan faded a bit. My legs were pretty pale but eaten up by the mosquitoes that got into the car just across the border in Montana.

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    Member AKFishOn's Avatar
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    Ran out of gas in the pickup in 2006, took apart and spliced together the kid's yard (sprinkler type) toys in order to make a siphon in order to siphon gas from the U Haul to a can to put into the truck. A good mouth full of gas when starting the siphon. Humorous as we look back on it.

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    Member COtoAK's Avatar
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    We were driving down the Alcan when my husband thought that he saw guys with moobs (man boobs). Instead, it eventually became a group of about 20-25 naked cyclists doing a bike ride. This was in 2006.
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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    When I get more time I'll elaborate, but it involved two cars, two trailers, a 2 1/2 y/o and a 7 month/old, a broken trailer axle and tongue, 7 flat tires and 10 days from CA to Wasilla (with 1 1/2 days in Dawson for trailer repairs, and many diaper changes along the way). It was years before we took another road trip

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    I drove the Cassiar Highway on my way to my next duty station in '96, biggest mistake I could have made and should have stayed with the Alcan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    I drove the Cassiar Highway on my way to my next duty station in '96, biggest mistake I could have made and should have stayed with the Alcan.
    How bad was bad? My inlaws are considering driving the Cassiar on the way back to Idaho/Oregon when they return so any advice would be highly considered.
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    Member Phish Finder's Avatar
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    We drove up from Key West in a Toyota Tundra hauling an 7X16 trailer. We made it from Key West to BC in 5 days (with a couple of stops at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's to pick up some fishing gear. We took about 3 weeks to go from the BC border to Tok. There were lots of grayling, rainbows, and camping involved.

    I stopped at every stream in the Yukon to fish for grayling. Had a few 50 fish before breakfast days. The shortest drive was about 3/4 of a mile. We were camping by a nice little stream for a couple of days fishing, hiking upstream the entirety of the two days. We drove almost a mile after packing up and crossed the same creek again, found a few honey holes, and kept fishing for a couple more days.

    I set up a fly tying vise in camp in the evenings and collected bugs, hair, feathers, whatever I could find. Some of the bugs were different than anything I'd seen before. I ended up running out of size 12, 14, and 16 dry fly hooks and ended up fishing huge flies that didn't resemble anything.

    Here's a piece of advice for anyone who travels the Alcan without much time constraint: buy extra dry fly hooks and bring plenty of thread. Also, stock up on propane at Canadian Tire

    We didn't hit Alaska until I was almost out of flies.

    Oh well, lesson learned.

    We stopped at a few places to shower and eat someone else's cooking for a change. One place was a campground/hotel/restaurant/fuel station/beer depot. The owner loaned me a canoe for an early morning fishing trip. I ended up with some nice rainbow (20+) trolling a black mosquito. I'd never trolled a fly before. Nothing else worked. The black mosquito dead drifting behind the boat drove the bow's crazy.

    Great time!
    ><((((>.`..`.. ><((((>`..`.><((((>

    "People who drink light 'beer' don't like the taste of beer; they
    just like to pee a lot." --Capitol Brewery

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    Member dkwarthog's Avatar
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    Default Winter trip

    In '96 I drove an old Toyota 4Runner from Talkeetna to the UP of Mich in the end of December. On the first day, 75 miles from Tok, the alternator died. I first noticed that the windshield was icing..on the inside!. Then the headlights started dimming. I checked the temp, it was -55 F. Kept her on the road until the battery completely died 20 miles from Tok. 8 PM and no one else on the road. Hitchhiked part of the way to Tok before getting picked up. Spent 3 days in Tok waiting for an alternator from FBX. It stayed -40 to -60 the whole time. When I was getting ready to leave a young kid in a beater corolla pulled up to get gas. He was wearing shorts and sweatshirt, heading to WA. I asked if he had winter gear...Nope, asked if he had food...Nope. Told him I'd keep an eye out for him down the road, he didnt seem to be worried...ahhh, the innocence of youth

    In the Yukon, I got behind a plow in a blizzard. Couldnt see at all. Suddenly thru the whiteout 50 feet in front of me I see the flashing lights. He had stopped completely in the middle of the road....Only thing I could do was swerve into the shoulder to avoid him.

    As I hit the shoulder, I then see there is a truck parked on the shoulder. In the middle of nowhere, here is a guy parked on the side of the road. WTH??? So I swerved again and thru the snowbank and over the embankment and land in 5' of snow, 40' off the road.

    When my knees stopped shaking, I climbed out the window and crawled back up to the road. The plow truck drug me back on the road and after cleaning all the packed snow from under the hood, off I went.

    Other than alot of black ice in BC and some cold nights napping in the front seat, I made it home OK on Christmas eve, but missed the festivities as I went straight to bed and slept for about 20 hrs.

    Ever trip on the Alcan has been an adventure and I look forward to doing it again someday. Now that Im "grown up", its hard to justify the time off work to do it, when I can fly home in 6 hrs...

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    Member junkak's Avatar
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    Drove an 1984 Cougar up in late August 1989. At the US to Canada border the agent questioned my route and tires. Seems if the tire is stamped 'All Season' you are good to go.

    At one snowy pass there was a line for vehicles to 'charge' up the hill. I waited for the 18-wheeler to crest the mile long run then built my speed and momentum for the cruise up. Made it 2/3rds then the Cougar would not roar anymore.

    At that point I felt a bit stuck. Thankfully 2 other folks that had not made it up the hill gave my front end a push (toward a sheer cliff) and I rotated to a downhill pattern.

    Later that night I stopped in Fort Nelson for a shower and meal. My wallet fell out of my pants in the shower area. Didn't notice till later on. Went back to shower area to find my wallet minus $400 cash. (approx 30 minutes) (if Canada allowed firearms I would be in jail now)

    Once I hit Tok my water pump went out. If I ran the engine no water/antifreeze leaked. Took the chance and rolled in on the Muldoon exit to my apartment. Car didn't start after that.

    Best road trip of my life.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by COtoAK View Post
    How bad was bad? My inlaws are considering driving the Cassiar on the way back to Idaho/Oregon when they return so any advice would be highly considered.
    Gas stations were few and far between, the road itself sucked and had a few spots that were a little scary.
    There was also a section closer to the states that was all dirt and followed the Frazier River and there was no guard rail. If you were going a bit too fast and hit those washboards you could very well end up in the river. It was a lonely drive with just me and my youngest son and noplace to stop and chat with the locals without feeling seriously out of place.
    We couldn't wait to hit a town that had a restaurant in it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    Gas stations were few and far between, the road itself sucked and had a few spots that were a little scary.
    There was also a section closer to the states that was all dirt and followed the Frazier River and there was no guard rail. If you were going a bit too fast and hit those washboards you could very well end up in the river. It was a lonely drive with just me and my youngest son and noplace to stop and chat with the locals without feeling seriously out of place.
    We couldn't wait to hit a town that had a restaurant in it.
    Then the Cassiar is not a good idea for the inlaws then. They will be driving back on their own, but dropping off their 5th wheel here at our place. Gas stations on the Alcan are few as well. Most say that they are supposed to be 24 hours, but sometimes their card readers don't work. It's always best to bring an extra can or 4... or even a tank if someone could fit that into the bed of their pick up.

    I remember sleeping after Laird Hot Springs and finally getting into a town. We were interested in getting diesel for the truck, pumping air in our tires and taking restroom breaks for the kids. The Weather Channel was on and it was on Canada. Because I had just woke up, I had to ask my husband if that's where we really were and how far we were from the Alaska border. I guess it just shocked me to know that we were still in Canada and we had that much longer to get into Alaska.
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  16. #16

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    I would stick to the AlCan, that's where the most traffic, gas stations, and towns are and they would be a whole lot safer going that route. I thought taking the Cassiar would be quicker but it wasn't, all it did was save me from having to drive through Montana and Idaho to get to Washington state.

    As an aside, does anyone know if you need a passport to drive through Canada? I might have to drive to eitehr Montana or Idaho to pick up a trailer and I do not have a passport, though I do have several different pieces of ID.

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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Going up through the Fraser canyon is the fastest, then you hit Williams Lake, up through Chetwynd and then on the highway just north of Ft. St. John. Did this two years in a row, no big deal. Road is much improved. Made it from Portland, OR to past Williams lake in about 8 hours....pretty smooth sailing

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    Quote Originally Posted by AkHunter45 View Post
    As an aside, does anyone know if you need a passport to drive through Canada? I might have to drive to eitehr Montana or Idaho to pick up a trailer and I do not have a passport, though I do have several different pieces of ID.

    As of June 1, a passport is required. They also have a passport card that is cheaper and does the same thing. Some state ID's that are considered "enhanced" are also accepted, Alaska is not yet there.

    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html is a link to the gov't site that gives all the required information about the different options.

  19. #19
    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    cassiar hwy: Despite its name including the word "highway" it is a remote mine access road and not for the folks that need human company every day. However it has some of the most stunning views available on any road in North America. When I drove it in the early 1980's all the bridges were one lane so if an truck was coming you pulled over. Drive slow and enjoy the views. There were hundreds of places to pull over and camp and fish, but I was a passenger on that trip and had no control of what we did.

    Three trips north and only one trip south all in the 1980's. The one trip south was the start of a 36,000 mile 7 month road trip around the US after college.

    Coolest things seen:

    Bridge wash out near a lake caused the road to detour onto a glacier wash. The repair crew was sitting on the remains of the road feeding parts of their lunch to a herd of Stone sheep.

    At night in Banff NP saw one of those flashy collared bull elk standing in the road. Thought is was some kind of alien until my lights fully lit up the elk. He might have gone 350 inches.

    Just south of Ft Nelson through a 2 mile long construction zone I counted 8 black bears eating the grass on the embankment. The road crew all had their backs turned to them working on the new asphalt. Black bears in BC - who cares.

    On a dirt section of highway south of Whitehorse I saw a five legged black bear cross the road in front of me. I started to stop since this bear had five legs. That is something you don't see every day. As I started to slow down where the bear crossed I was able to look over and see the bright yellow eyes of a huge totally black wolf. The fifth leg was the wolves tail.

    On a trip north I watched motorcylces launch themselves over the big rolling ridges south of Lake Kluane. I don't if they were purposely launching themselves 20 feet into the air on their BMW touring bikes, but it was pretty interesting to watch bikes jumping towards me like I was on a supercross race track.

    On my second trip north I was west of Whitehorse in the burn area where the "watch for horses" signs are and noticed a funny looking horse running behind some wild horses. A second look and there were horns on that horse. A hard look and it turned out to be about a 180 to 190 inch mule deer buck in velvet. An aquaintence in Whitehorse as confirmed that they see some huge mulies up there once in a while.

    Laird River hot springs in the winter. The coolest thing ever at -30 below. Getting dressed as the water freezes on your skin was kind of weird though. At night watch out for the benches mounted on the bottom of the pool out in the middle.

    Just west of Tok once some bison ran across the road and we had to stop and watch them cross. One big bull stood there an dared us to drive past them so we just sat and watched until they moved into the trees.

    Not long after letting the bison pass we were over flown by a red super cub and passed at the same time by a Nija like sport bike with a 5 gallon fuel can strapped on the rear. About 5 miles later the super cub was on the road side and the sport bike driver was taking to the pilot. Fueling the plane, or maybe the plane was fueling the bike? I have no idea what that was about but it was pretty strange.

    Mechanical Issues:

    On my second trip north in 1986 I was driving my "new" 1977 Dodge Power Wagon. The kid (Navy jet mechanic) that sold it to my dad that summer said that it had some kind of fuel flow problem with the tank behind the seat. The bed tank worked fine. I had some serious issues in Idaho with the fuel flow and changed the fuel pump. Several times in southern BC I had issues and the truck would stall out at 70mph. Several fuel filters later and it was still shutting down.
    One morning outside a diner in central BC I decided to take the whole fuel line apart. If I didn't get this fixed I was not going to make it through Yukon without buying fuel cans. The fuel up take line from the seat tank to the engine area was all factory band clamped between the steel lines and the rubber hose sections.
    I had dozens of hose clamps from the fuel filter kits so I tore the factory bands off and found the fuel flow issues on the steel pick up line. There was a small stainless steel section of some kind of fastener or pipe stuck in the end of the tank pickup line. The only way for this small piece of metal to have gotten there was to have been placed there when first assembled at the factory in 1977 or 1976. This was a decade later on back road in BC and had caused the two previous owners of the truck to sell it as a lemon. The piece was wedged in there so tight that I was forced to cut the end of the fuel line off with a hack saw. No fuel flow issues ever again in the old Dog Dodge. I miss that truck.

    In February 1990 it was -72 in Tok and we were ending the round trip of the US that winter by driving home with extra stuff from the states in trailers. Still in the old Dog Dodge. Just after all the hills to the east of Tok I blinked and fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up when the 4 inches of snow on the shoulder of the road started to suck me into the ditch. Over corrected and into the ditch I went. The ditch was filled with 10 feet of plow pushed snow so I was still sitting almost level with the road sort of. There was silence for a second and then the trailer slammed into the truck as it jack knifed up on the road. The engine died with all the snow being sucked into the carb. I had my winter gear in the front seat and called my buddy on the CB to turn around and come help me dig out. He as already up at the bridge and could see Tok in the far distance.
    As we stood on the road to assess the situation two trucks stopped and out popped a group of folks headed home to Northway. Their highschool B-Ball team had just beaten Tok and the party was over and they were headed home. I should mention that they were all three sheets to the wind and dressed in light jackets and high tops with work gloves. No winter gear on anyone but my friend and I. it was -72 below and here were folks trying to help and I thought they were going to die out there helping me. Well 30 minutes later all three trucks pulled my rig back onto the road - now frozen solid- and nobody but my friend and I were cold. Arctic gear didn't help much. Dragged the frozen truck to Tok and had it thawed the next day and put some good antifreeze in it. -50 below just didn't cut it that trip.

    People and Food:

    Off the main drag Asian resturant in Jasper. The waitress was from Quebec out for the summer prior to starting college back east. Stunning on all levels. Sun lighted brown hair down to her knees. Olive eyes. The song bird like voice with the French accent. She spent her time off work climbing the local mountains and was in awesome shape. Headed to med school in the states once she finished her undergrad in a year. I could not pronounce her name correctly so we settled on Jacky. The food was just run of the mill asian but it was the largest tip I have ever left while sober.

    In BC there is an indian reservation near a lake that you cross on a long bridge. Just after the bridge there was a truck stop on the left (west) side of the road. On the back of the parking lot was a little grey diner with the order counter right at the grill. A small old lady was taking orders and cooking with her son backing her up on another grill. The only place to sit was along the wall on a counter with 6 or 7 stools. The old lady was pretty crabby but the french toast was the best I have ever eaten anywhere - 2in thick fresh baked bread, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of apples with the egg batter. I have never been able to copy it at home.

    At Haines Junction I took the last 2-top table out in the middle of the room and had just received my food when a back packer walked in. Cold wet and looking for a friendly face. I had the only empty chair in the room and invited him to sit. He was 22 and on holiday from Toronto. He owned a printing business that specialized in post cards and other heavy stock printing. He takes August off and travels by getting on a train and getting off someplace and walking around for three weeks. This time he flew to Whitehorse and started walking. He as on his way back from Haines where he had just spent two weeks silver fishing and was looking for a ride back to Whitehorse. We talked alot about Alaska and that was his next years plan - kayak down the Mckennzie then paddle to Prudhoe - it might take longer than 3 weeks.


    Freaky:

    On the trip down in 1989 we were camped near some fields in central BC off of a small rural highway west of Banff/Jasper NP. There was a stream running at the base of a high glacial esker ridge that the road cut through. It was very dark by the time we finished dinner and started to turn in around midnight. Things were quiet when we heard something walking across the stream towards us. This is deer and elk country so that is what I thought it was. We listened some more and that is when we determined that what ever was walking across the stream towards us was on two feet moving really slow.
    We started talking loud and said that "we can hear you so why don't you identify yourself" and it would stop for a few seconds and then take another step towards us. We tried really hard to make it sound like four feet but it sounded just like a fisherman wading in the stream. We broke out the flashlight and the pump shotgun and racked a shell in the chamber. At that classic sound it turned around and bounded up the side of the hill still making the sound of just two feet. The stream was about 25 feet across and it only made two splashes getting out of it, but we don't know how far it was across to start with. All we saw in the flashlight beam was moving brush on the hillside, but it stopped making noise about half way up over a 100 yards away so our light could not show us much by then. Bigfoot or a deer I will never know since we didn't cross over in the morning to check it out.

  20. #20

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    My story is on the Cassiar. It was in 91. We were heading north about 100 miles north of where you turn to go to Hyder. The road was a lot narrower than it is today. And the trees came right up to the road.
    Well we were doing about 65 mph down the road when out steps a moose. We hit the skids, and just out of luck, right befor we hit it. It turned sideways. All it did was wipe the dust off the side of our truck. Otherwaise, I wouldn't be writing this today. I would have been dead.
    But as far as the Cassiar goes. I love the road. I have driven up the Alaska highway and back down the Cassiar 5 times now. 91, 02, 04 ,06, and 08. Three of those times in a motorhome.
    There are only two spots now that are still gravel. And its only about 20 or 30 miles. The scenery is far better than the Alaska Highway. True, there are no towns to speak of. Dease Lake isn't much of a town. But there are gas stations along the way.
    And going to Hyder is a great time if you like bears. There is a bear viewing platform there. And if the pinks or dogs are running, you have a good chance of seeing brown and black bears up real close. Pretty much Aug and the first part of Sept.
    I would recommend to anyone, to drive the Cassiar. At least I see no problem with it. If you break down, you may not like it. But then you wouldn't like the Alaska Highway either brokedown.
    I would highly suggest anyone driving the Alaska Highway or Cassiar for the first time. Buy a copy of the Milepost. I buy a new copy every time I drive up there. It is a book of maps and information that is most valueable for the trip.
    Last edited by chobbs; 06-27-2009 at 09:21. Reason: want to add something

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