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Spoiler alert:  we made it!

Start:  Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, Canada

End:  Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Miles:  542 mi

TOTAL TRIP STATS:  3,700 miles / 6 days / avg. ~ 610 miles a day, or 12 hours of driving

Highlights:  Seeing a grizzly bear and two cubs on the road right before the U.S. border … we couldn’t stop because we were in a line of construction.  Those things sure are big!  Arriving back in the U.S. after five days!  Cheap(er) gas prices, with no need for litre and dollar-amount conversion.  Seeing not one but TWO brochures for Chicken, Alaska – and stopping to take a photo of the sign at the start of the highway up to it.  Meeting a couple from Washington and seeing a moose through binoculars.  Crazy wind and mountain views all along the highway to Anchorage.  Driving through a winding mountain pass, with a road sort of tacked onto the side like it would fall off with a little shake.  Stopping to observe a glacial stream (and learning a thing or two about property ownership in Alaska… turns out even on public roads, the land itself is owned to the centerline by the parcel owners…)  Knowing this was finally, finally the last day of driving – and being able to make the push through.  Returning to multi-lane highways between Palmer and Eagle River.  Driving into civilization.  Seeing the big “Anchorage Welcomes You” sign.  Stopping.  Sleeping.  Not driving anymore.

Lowlights:  Road quality, although it actually wasn’t as bad as we had heard.  The roads outside Whitehorse were almost worse, as (unlike most other times we’d driven) it had not been previously raining, so the dust kicked up in all its dusty glory.  Getting to our motel room at 1 AM after unloading all my stuff and realizing there was no way we would get a good night’s sleep on my empty floor.

I haven’t gotten the Google map to work properly since I posted it on Day 2, but in the interim they seem to have updated the route to include that last bit of bad road between Whitehorse and Beaver Creek – before, Google directions would not even register that segment as a passable road! (And to be fair, some of it was pretty bad… full dust and gravel and major potholes).  Here is a link to the overall route map, starting from the Chicago area (and not including the drive from Ithaca to Buffalo to Hilliard to Indiana).  And here is the total route from Ithaca, about 4,500 miles.

Construction dog outside Beaver Creek - it has a jacket!!!

Construction dog outside Beaver Creek - it has a jacket!!!

Welcome to Alaska (I should have gotten a better photo!)

Welcome to Alaska (I should have gotten a better photo!)

Finally, the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway

Finally, the Alaska portion of the Alaska Highway

Boreal forest and mountains (Wrangell-Elias??)

Boreal forest and mountains (Wrangell-Elias??)

Chicken, Boundary, and Eagle

Chicken, Boundary, and Eagle

Mom observing the moose

Mom observing the moose

Pond along the Highway

Pond along the Highway

Serious mountain situation

Serious mountain situation

There's a glacier in there somewhere

There's a glacier in there somewhere

Brought some of the Alaska Highway with us.  Car needs a wash!

Brought some of the Alaska Highway with us. Car needs a wash!

Start:  Muncho Lake, British Columbia, Canada (10AM)

End:  Destruction Bay, Yukon Territory, Canada (11PM)

Miles:  602

Our best (most efficient) driving day, I think.  We didn’t do as many miles, but that was due more to the road than us.  Part of what this day feel great was that we were actually on the Alaska Highway by mid-afternoon – felt so much closer to our goal, and really started to realize how far we had already come.  The trip felt a lot more manageable being two days, not six.  And when we reached our stopping point for the night, we knew that the next night would be in my apartment in Anchorage!  (but actually ended up being a motel because it was so late and I had no furniture or anything there).

Highlights:  Seeing a herd of 80-100 wood bison on the ride of the road.  Driving into the Yukon Territory and realizing we’d pay less for gas, and as it turns out would actually have roadside bathrooms (BC doesn’t).  Watson Lake, where we were practically overrun by RVs but saw two Northwest Territory license plates, as well as the Sign Post Forest (it’s worth a look – none of the sites I found about it, including the one above, give sufficient indication of how freaking big this thing is).  Stopping in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, with not one but TWO McDonalds.  Mount Logan (or was it Mount Hubbard?) in the distance.  Kluane Lake and its accompanying park – really, really amazing.  Looked like another world.  Taking a “glamor shot” of the Subaru (covered in highway dust) in front of the mountains and the lake.  The Talbot Arm Motel, where we stopped for the night, with its logo of a grizzled old gold miner or something.  Splitting a bottle of wine to celebrate (early) our trip – “house” wine, Sawmill Creek, from Ontario.

Lowlight:  As always, we put in a lot of hours that day, and didn’t get to stop as often as we might have.  Being in the car for 12 hours a day was also really beginning to wear on me, and probably Mom as well, as if my legs were just stitching themselves to the seats.  We tried to make semi-frequent stops on the side of the road to walk around, to look at the amazing scenery, and because there was really no one on the road, so it would be easy to just stop on the side of the road anyway.  More mosquitoes, though still not as bad as in Regina.

We had one more (extremely long) day of driving left, but we’re almost there!

Wood bison (including many babies!), BC

Wood bison (including many babies!), BC

Yukon Territory welcome sign, Yukon

Yukon Territory welcome sign, Yukon (also note major discrepancy in translation)

 

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Walking through Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

Walking through Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Northwest Territory plate, Watson Lake, Yukon

Northwest Territory plate, Watson Lake, Yukon

 

Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway, Yukon

 

Mom at Mile 1000 (1610 km) of the Al-Can Highway

Mom at Mile 1000 (1610 km) of the Al-Can Highway

Coyote at rest stop, Yukon
Coyote at rest stop, Yukon

 

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

 

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

 

Subaru Glamor Shot, Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

Subaru Glamor Shot, Kluane Lake National Park, Yukon

PS – if you can to go to Kluane Lake, do it.  I would go back.

It’s already (past) bedtime, but I’ll post tomorrow.  For now, some fun stats from the trip:

Miles:  ~ 4,000 from Columbus, OH to Anchorage, AK (and more like 4,500 if you count the Ithaca leg)

Days:  7 (counting the Columbus – Chicago leg)

License Plates (Places):  49

Mom and I counted the states and provinces’ license plates we saw on the way, starting from Chicago.  We got 40 states in all, and 10 (of 13) provinces!

US STATES (in order we saw them)
In US:  IL, IN, WI, MI, NV, NY, OH, IA, MN, ND, ME, PA, OK, WY, TX, OR

AK – first saw on bridge at International Falls – Fort Frances!

In Canada (and Alaska):  FL, NM, NE, AZ, MT, MS, VA, ID, CO, NC, WA, CA, UT, MO, WV, GA, KY, SD, HI, TN, AR, NJ, VT
(Also saw several U.S. Government plates in Anchorage)

Did not see Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina

CANADIAN PROVINCES
MB (Manitoba), ON (Ontario), SK (Saskatchewan), BC (British Columbia), NB (New Brunswick), AB (Alberta), NS (Nova Scotia), QC (Quebec), YT (Yukon Territory), NT (Northwest Territory)

Did not see Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, or Prince Edward Island

Animals:  Mom has the sheet with the final counts, but we saw one or more of:  moose, grizzly bear, black bear, wood bison, domesticated bison, reindeer, mule deer, white-tailed deer, fox, coyote, Arctic hare, blackbird, raven, various other birds, ducks, trumpeter swan, mosquito (ugh), prairie dog, possibly otter, and one sheep.

Mountains:  Chugach range, Wrangell range, the ones in Kluane National Park, northern Rockies, (from far away) Mt. Hubbard, Mt. Logan (the tallest point in Canada), and the beginning of the Aleutian chain.  Probably others too – very lovely but after a while they all looked the same!

Glaciers:  Portage, Exit Glacier, and a third one I can’t remember the name of north of Anchorage.  Hiked up to Exit, not close enough to touch

Sarah Palin cardboard cutouts:  yes.  These exist.

More to come.

Drove Mom to the airport this evening (Ted Stevens Airport!) and drove back alone in the rain to the apartment.  Lonely at the moment, but the time had to come, and things will be okay.  It’s always weird when you’re really, finally in a new place and it’s up to you to take the next step.  Been there.

The rain clouds that rolled in this afternoon have at least made it like an actual night here!  Kinda nice to see the orange high-pressure sodium lights of city parking lots and streets again.  Probably won’t be quite as nice when that’s most of what you see in the winter.

Catching up on things with this computer, and doesn’t feel like 12:45 but I should get to bed.  Blogging will recommence for seriously this week – starting with Day 4 of our epic trip, and catching up to now.

So many photos to sort through.  Here is one.

Alaska Highway, Yukon

Alaska Highway, Yukon

And here is another (of Anchorage)

Anchorage and Cook Inlet, 10:30PM, from Flattop Trail

Anchorage and Cook Inlet, 10:30PM, from Flattop Trail

Good night!

Greetings readers,

My mom and I arrived safely in Anchorage around midnight (while the sun was still at twilight stage) last night!  The last few days’ drive have been long but AMAZING, and I will be posting photos and summaries retrospectively in the next few days when I have Internet access hooked up.

Summary:  We drove through Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory, saw 34 states and 9 provinces’ license plates, and saw the following animals (I have a count of totals elsewhere) – moose, wood bison, regular bison in a pasture, mule deer, arctic hare, coyote, grizzly bear (mama grizzly and two cubs!), black bear, ducks, swans, possibly a loon, a lot of ravens, and fifty billion mosquitoes (that is an accurate count).  We drove through mountain passes, boreal forest, past beautiful lakes with mountains rising right from the shore, and past rivers and glaciers.  We saw the tallest point in Canada (Mt. Logan) and went north of the 60th parallel.  We saw the roadsign pointing to Chicken, Alaska (too far out of our way, but I am TOTALLY going back).  And we took glamor shots of the Subaru in front of mountains, with the wheels covered in dust from the Alaska Highway.  Good times, 3700 miles.

Starting work on Monday!  Excited and overloaded at the same time!

Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park, Yukon

Kluane Lake in Kluane National Park, Yukon

Herd of Wood Bison, British Columbia (before Watson Lake, YT)

Herd of Wood Bison, British Columbia (before Watson Lake, YT)

Start:  Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (10AM)

End:  (hopefully) Valleyview, Alberta, Canada (???)

Miles:  ~ 700

No time for photos, we’re still on the road but might not end up with wi-fi.  Will post more tonight if possible.

Highlights:  West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping center in North America!  Huge.  Haven’t seen bison yet, but did stop at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police training academy and heritage center, and I got a photo with my first moose (turns out it was a stuffed moose in a RCMP uniform).  Entered Alberta this afternoon, looks about the same as SK but beautiful sunny skies and soon, SOON we will see some bison.

Lowlight:  We spent too much time in Regina and will have a late night tonight.  Oh well, there’s always tomorrow and more road to go.

Three more hours to go, and we’re stopping in Valleyview, AB for the night (or somewhere on the way, if we just can’t go any further).  Tomorrow we head into British Columbia, and really begin the wilderness leg of the trip!!!

Start:  International Falls, Minnesota (9AM)

End:  Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (10PM)

Miles:  626

Highlights:  Beaver dams!  Blue heron!  Prairie dogs which had taken over an empty lot in Portage la Prairie!  So much wildlife, and luckily the only animals we’ve hit (and boy have we hit them) are lots and lots of bugs.  Canada is lovely in western Ontario and pretty uneventful otherwise, although the drive is just interesting enough to not get too monotonous.  Stopped for lunch at Yesterdays Restaurant in Kenora, ON, looked like a small summer-tourism town among the woods and lakes.  We’ve been keeping track of license plates and in addition to various U.S. states, we’ve seen Nova Scotia and New Brunswick!  (The harder-to-find plates when you’re this far west).  If we see Prince Edward Island we’ll automatically win.

Lowlight:  Regina, at least the outer suburby area where our hotel is, has SO. MANY. MOSQUITOES.  We got bitten up just getting things out of the car, ugh!  One of the disadvantages of the prairie.

We have to get on the road so I’m only uploading one photo.  Today we plan to get to and past Edmonton, and ideally to Grande Prairie or Valleyview in northwest Alberta.  Apparently Kate and William (the royals) are also in Alberta these couple days… I’m guessing they were smart enough to fly to their destinations though!

Farmhouse in Whitewood, SK

Farmhouse in Whitewood, SK

Small lake in western Ontario

Small lake in western Ontario

And, the map – I realized the embed link didn’t work so just click on it and zoom in!

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=201480590623565578563.0004a5df2b74730aa1961&ie=UTF8&ll=50.148495,-100.879585&spn=22.972677,66.785301&t=h&output=embed
View Alaska Trip in a larger map

Start:  Highland, Indiana (9 AM)

End:  International Falls, Minnesota (12 AM)

Miles:  ~ 650

Monday:  We set off from Nana’s house yesterday morning and drove north through Chicago, Madison, Eau Claire, rural Wisconsin, Duluth, and rural Minnesota until we stopped just shy of the border in International Falls.

Highlights:  Wisconsin sure has a lot of cheese stores!  We saw a Castle, Haus, Chalet, and several of unspecified type.  Duluth is actually a pretty nice city!  Really cool grain silos, large ships, and other industrial buildings along the port and bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Saw a redwing blackbird, and after dark a few foxes and deer on the side of the road.  The last leg of the trip was the roughest, in the Boundary Waters national area, which included hard rain and high winds, fireworks going off DURING said rain and winds, fog, deer looking ready to bolt, and most of all the dark woods.  We were going to cross into Canada last night, but we saw the motel sign and just needed to sleep.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin

Bluffs, Wisconsin

Bluffs, Wisconsin

Minnesota Welcomes Us

Minnesota Welcomes Us

Lowlight:  I think my camera lens is broken.  AGAIN.  All these photos are coming out grainy and just wrong.  Will look into this…

Tuesday:  Officially leaving the U.S. today, not to return until reaching the Alaska border.  After crossing into Canada first thing this morning, we’ll be heading northwest to Winnipeg and Regina, stopping in the city or perhaps going a few more miles down the road.

Anchorage or bust!

Below is a map (hopefully this works!) that I’ll be adding to as we go along to track the route.  Notice that according to Google, the area between Whitehorse YT and Tok AK doesn’t really exist.

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=201480590623565578563.0004a5df2b74730aa1961&ie=UTF8&ll=51.524013,-116.50701&spn=22.972677,66.785301&t=h&output=embed
View Alaska Trip in a larger map

Leaving for Chicago this morning, and ending up (eventually) in Alaska next Saturday!  I’m working on figuring out a “blogging from the road” format, so check back for updates and hopefully a (not on the road) moose photo.

Leaving Ithaca with a full car (slightly less full for the next legs of the trip)

Leaving Ithaca with a full car (slightly less full for the next legs of the trip)

Hi everyone.  So, a few updates:

  • I got a job and am moving to Anchorage, Alaska.  Yeah.
  • I just participated in Cornell’s graduation ceremony and am at this point 95% (ish) done with my degree.
  • Summer is officially beginning with a potluck at our house on June 1.
  • And I am, for the time being, ratless (RIP Tiny!)

I’ll be back with something more interesting soon!

Masters of Regional Planning on the move - Cornell Graduation 2011

Masters of Regional Planning on the move - Cornell Graduation 2011