Our journey to Alaska officially began at Mile 0 on the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. The highway stretches 1,387 miles to Delta Junction, Alaska. The Mile 0 Post shown above is the most photographed landmark of the Alaska Highway. The post sits in the location of the original stake placed by American soldiers surveying the highway in 1942. The original stake was destroyed in a traffic accident in 1946 and replaced with a more formal metal post that evolved over the years into what you see here.
The Alaska Highway was built by the U.S. Army in just 8 months in 1942 to provide a land route from the continental United States to Alaska. This was in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Read more about the construction of the Alaska Highway in my article on our Journey to Alaska.
The original Alcan (as it was named in 1942) was entirely gravel, with sharp curves and steep hills suitable only for military vehicles. The entire highway has since been paved, flattened and straightened over the years. Today the road is a modern two-lane paved highway with many turnouts and passing lanes. But the rugged landscape and incredible views remain. Here we can see the Canadian Rocky Mountains in the distance.
Construction, frost-heaves and flooded roads are a constant reality on the Alaska Highway. Due to the extreme weather, crews work year-round to repair the highway, clear debris and reroute flooding, as in this case that caused about a 10-minute delay. In spite of heavy snow and ice in winter, the Alaska Highway is kept open year-round, as it’s a critical land transportation artery between the continental USA, Canada and Alaska.
On May 14, 1942, during the construction of the Alaska Highway, 17 men boarded a pontoon boat on Charlie Lake to deliver supplies to the other end of the lake. When the pontoon had reached the middle of the lake, a storm had whipped up and smashed the boat with two successive waves, swamping the boat. Local trader Gustaf Hedin was nearby and managed to save five of the men, but 12 perished. Both the Canadian and U.S. Military honored Hedin for his bravery. The Charlie Lake Monument honors the 12 lives lost.
We spotted a momma bear and three cubs north of Fort Nelson along the Alaska Highway.
When they are on our lawn, dandelions are weeds. When they are in an open field, dandelions are beautiful golden flowers that brighten our day.
This awkward young moose kept walking from one side of the Alaska Highway to the other. We hoped that he would eventually make up his mind so he wouldn’t be hit by the many trucks barreling along the highway.
We saw two porcupines along the Alaska Highway just outside of Stone Mountain Provincial Park. These were the first porcupines we had seen in the wild in all of our travels.
The Alaska Highway originally followed the cliff line above the beautiful blue waters of Muncho Lake. This was one of the most difficult sections of the highway to build. The Army in 1942 had to excavate tons of rock and carry it away using horses. This also turned out to be one of the most dangerous stretches to drive, and many military trucks careened off the cliff into the lake. So the Army eventually relocated the road by cutting a bench into the cliffs just above the shoreline.
Stone sheep are named after the American explorer, Andrew J. Stone. Stone sheep are a subspecies of the pure white Dall sheep common in the Yukon and Alaska. These are sometimes called “thinhorn” because their horns are thinner than those of the bighorn sheep found in the Canadian Rockies and northern USA. Stone sheep eat grass, shrub leaves and wildflowers, and are often seen licking salt off roads.
A massive flood and landslide closed the Alaska Highway near Watson Lake, about 200 miles north of Muncho Lake. The slide was so severe that the highway was closed for 5 days, which locals told us was very unusual (typically road crews would have the Alaska Highway reopened no more than one day after a flood, fire, landslide, avalanche or snowstorm). As a result, there was an 8-hour backup line of commercial trucks waiting to get through. Trucks and RVers had overwhelmed the small town of Watson Lake, filling campgrounds and motels to capacity, so people ended up sleeping in their vehicles along the side of the road. This had a ripple effect all up and down the Alaska Highway, causing campgrounds to fill up in both directions. Fortunately we arrived early in Muncho Lake and got a great campsite right on the shore of the beautiful lake. The blockade also had the side effect of turning the normally-busy Alaska Highway into a ghost road, such that we were able to hike down the middle of the road and never once saw a vehicle.