July 09, 2004 GMT
The Alaska Highway

Dawson Creek – the beginning of the Alaska Highway. Built in 1942, this road 2,450 km highway through the northern territories of Canada and Alaska was completed in just 8 months and provided an essential transportation link to the northwest of North Armerica during WW II, and has since remained a major transportation artery.


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From here it was strictly north. Accommodation and shopping facilities and gas stations tend to become scarce and call for some careful planning. My first major stop was at Watson Lake, probably best known for the local signpost forest. Started by a lonely worker on the Alaskan Highway in 1942, this has grown into arguable the biggest tourist attraction of this location.

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Next was Whitehorse in the Yukon. I had intended this to be a sort of “base camp” before going to Alaska. After three enjoyable days at the “Hide-on-Jeckel” hostel hide-on-jeckell.com, I set course for Dawson City, made famous by the Yukon Goldrush and the adventure stories of Jack London.

It was not until I arrived at the ferry on the shores of the Yukon in Dawson City, that I learnt that the passage to Fairbanks, Alaska via the Top-of-the-World Highway had been closed due to forest fires shortly after the border. The high pressure weather system was stable (temps of 30 C) and no change was likely for the next few days. This meant a trip back to Whitehorse - some 500 plus kilometres.

This time I stayed at the Beez Kneez Hostel bzkneez.com , before I moved north again, towards Anchorage. The BMW needed new tires and an oil change, and the local BMW dealer had been mentioned and recommended by several people whom I had met.

It took me two days to get there. The ride would probably have been pleasant, I am told, but the large-scale wildfires in Alaska caused a smoke haze which obscured any view. It was like fog in autumn, but smelled burnt. I missed the Manatuska Glacier, but the winding road, especially the last stretch between Glennallen and Palmer was a great ride.

The tow day stay in Anchorage was eventless (another big city) but the staff at the local BMW dealership were helpful, trying to give travellers a special treatment, whenever possible. Equipped with a new set of tires I continued to move north to Fairbanks, the start of the “real” adventure, the Dalton Highway, a 800 kilometre (500 mile) gravel road along the Alaskan gas pipeline, to the oilfields near Prudhoe Bay. To be covered in the next Trip report

It is time for a general observation on “accommodation”: I found that quite a number of hostels, motels, campgrounds in Canada are run by fellow countrymen (or women as the case may be). These places tend to be well kept, but I could not avoid a certain element of required “orderly behaviour”, in most cases communicated orally and/or by written “orders” (Do not do this, Do that, Such and such is forbidden etc.). Dawson City, River Hostel yukonhostels.com is unrivalled in this respect. Rightfully self-described as “rustic” it was a bit too rustic for me. If management would use a fraction of the cost for “do and don’t” sings for sanitary infrastructure, the place would probably receive a star in international hotel rankings. The owner/manager Dieter Reinmuth, in particular struck me as somewhat authoritarian. My roommate for the day, Rolf, was publicly reprimanded misusing a washing basin. This is not something to do with a paying guest, and if really deemeed necessary then there are other, quieter way. – Altogether the Dawson City River Hostel was a depressing experience.


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An expample of the “order culture” in the Dawson City River Hostel


Click here for an impression of the rustic setting – the kitchen

People Met On The Road – III

Steve and Charles from Pennsylvania on two BMWs R 1150GS. They are on a 6 week tour through Canada and Alaska. I met them for the first time in Watson Lake. We briefly talked about our resp. trips. Steve and Charles were very helpful in providing info about the BMW dealers in Alaska. Subsequently we met by chance twice in Whitehorse, both times over dinner in a restaurant next to the hostel I was staying in. Steve and Charles were also forced to chance their travel plans due to the wildfires in Alaska, across the border from from Dawson City


Click for picture of Steve and Charles

Lieselotte (“Lotti”) Stein-Finder (left) – before leaving on this trip, people had mentioned that they had met their next door neighbours by chance, travelling far from home. Well this happened to me, too. Imagine my surprise, when I realized that I had just met a former colleague of some twenty years ago. I had not met Lotti for some years and we spent a lot of time talking about “the good old times” in the financial community of Frankfurt. Lotti is off an canoeing/rafting tour in northern Canada. – By they way: the halibut filet in mustard sauce she prepared in the hostel kitchen in Whitehorse should have made it into this Food Feature, but I forgot to make a photo. This meal, complemented by a simple, but good Californian Chablis from the local liquor store deserves to be specially mentioned, however.

Click for picture of Lotti Stein-Finder (left)

Rolf from Denmark, travelling Canada by bike. My roommate in the Dawson City River hostel and sufferer of the owner’s public “wrath” for misusing a washing basin. See his homepage.mac.com/rolfsw

Click for picture of Rolf from Denmark

Petra & Arno from Switzerland. I first met them in Watson Lake, where we stayed in the same motel. Petra and Arno are from the western part of Switzerland and have taken a leave of absence from their job to travel Canada for 3 months. We seemed to on the same general route and met coincidentally for several times, either at scenic view points, on the road or at motels. – Thanks for the cold beer in Beaver Creek (!).

Click for picture of Petra and Arno from Switzerland

Renate & John Ferguson, from Victoria, Canada on a trip to the western/northern provinces. First met at the hostel in Whitehorse and later in Dawson City. Renate has a German background and I very much enjoyed our discussion about the Canadian/German cultural differences, based on the examples of how some of the places we stayed in were run.

Click for picture of Renate & John Ferguson

Dave Hinks from Chicago on the way back home coming form Prudoe Bay. I met Dave having breakfast in Whitehorse. He was waiting for his Kawasaki to get new tires and provided a “real time” impression of the condition on the haul road from Fairbanks to Prudoe Bay.

Click for picture of Dave Hinks from Chicago

Food Feature IV:

When in Dawson City, hostel roommate Rolf suggested that I try Klondike Kate’s restaurant in downtown Dawson City for breakfast. The “Special” for $4,99 was a classic: has browns, eggs, and a choice of bacon or sausages. It formed a solid basis for a 320 mile (530 km) trip back to Whitehorse.


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Click here for a view of the restaurant

Posted by Heiko Neumann at July 09, 2004 09:37 PM GMT
 


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