Cassiar Hwy to Alaska Hwy to Klondike Hwy

The following are excerpts from my journal, unedited… from the 3-week drive from Seattle to Anchorage. This is Part 2 of 3. Or go back to Part 1

Route, 917 miles

8/13, Tuesday (Terrace, BC to Bob Quinn Lake Area)
“I’ve never felt the intimidation, the weight, of driving through a place ‘til now. All I really needed to do was sit there behind the wheel and endure 25 hours of an Eyegasm, but somehow it felt like I was embarking on something that was going to tax me physically and mentally, or maybe that’s just what I wanted.”

“… it [the Cassiar Highway] felt like being on a hike, a single track trail with your car. The mountains and the forests and the animals had allowed this one tiny corridor through their homes for us lowly humans to pass. There were spots that felt as if the bush wanted its full reign back - grass and trees grew to the very edge, a breakdown here would be hard to manage.”

“As quick as the wilderness was to give us this car trail, we humans were quick to take more. Heavy industry has cut new dirt trails - steep steep ones - all over, obviously to harvest natural resources (must research). A telephone/electrical pole project, with its 50-meter aluminum poles thrust up from scars in the ground, provided a stark, gross contrast to the natural surroundings. It begs the question - when did we decide we needed all these comforts? When did we decide it was a smart idea to cover thousands of miles with wires to bring power and communication to some distant place? Is this progress? That’s what it’s called. Is progress a word designed to cloak the destructive activities that come with it, like how we can justify anything in the name of preventing "terrorism.” Are there certain men who believe that progress of any kind is justified? These are some of the questions that start bubbling up when you’re all alone driving in the rawest country and see that someone sometime made a vastly different decision about the Land than you would’ve.“

"… it started feeling like the great affair of the next 4 or 5 days was just going to be to drive.”

“Every culver is named after some deadly animal like grizzly culver, brown bear culver, wolverine culver, so it’s no wonder when I finally made camp just outside of Bob Quinn Lake, every noise was a bear in my mind.”

8/14, Wednesday (Bob Quinn Lake to Sawmill Point Camp)
“Overcast, just able to see the mountains in the distance. Started writing and drinking my coffee and slurping my porridge - all in my fall/winter clothes - pants, boots, long sleeves… feels right to be back in them after months of waking up and putting on nothing but shorts.”

“I looked around at the characters I shared this road with, these gas stops every 200ish kms are the only place to assess your kin. There didn’t seem to be a single normal one about us, all of us had some sort of look in our eye like we were in the middle of something arduous - don’t stop for too long, don’t make friends, don’t even look friendly… for the road is harsh. There was an edge in everyone’s eyes and we all understood what it meant. It meant, I don’t give a fuck what day it is (what is it Wednesday?) or what the others are doing, this is what I’M doing. Right now I’m playing in this alternate world with these alternate people, and the only game in town is getting to the other side." 

”[at camp] I watched as the older couple next to me parked their 50-foot rig on the beach and pulled out their egg-shaped satellite TV contraption. When I asked him about it, he said “they had spent too many years roughing it.” I laughed, thinking his idea and my idea of roughing it were so different I may as well continue on my run, but I probably should’ve talked to him more, he may have had more interesting things from the Other Side to tell me.“

8/15, Thursday (Sawmill Point to Klondike Hwy Camp)
"Was gonna write, which has become my morning meditation, but I listened to what was going on inside and it said Let’s Go! It’s interesting, even though driving has very little physically to it, the act of getting up each morning and doing it and accomplishing some distance, has the same addictive rhythm of working out or climbing or getting in shape. For the first time on this trip there is a constant - that I must move and the only way to judge my day is if I did. This felt much better than I could’ve predicted, maybe because the whole damn thing [driving] was so objective and I live and work in a subjective world.”

Conversation with gas station attendant woman at 37 junction (where the Cassiar meets the Alaska Highway):
Me: How’s your day going?
Her: You know, I don’t really stop to think about that (laughs).
Me: (awkward laughs)
Her: If I did, I’d spend all that time… and maybe I wouldn’t feel so good 'bout things and I’d be upset.
Me: Yeah.
Her: I’m just busy (motions outside, nothing happening); I’m like the Energizer bunny or something… (laughs).

kept rollin’ into the Yukon, whose tagline is "Larger Than Life.” To me a more accurate tagline would be, “One really giant pine forest with some mountains in the distance,” or as a wrote in my other journal, The Yukon is one giant pine tree (this would change later).“

Donnie and I ran in-n-out of thunderstorms. There was a moment when I moved down an emotional path, thinking back to how far I’d come since April - thinking about the specific people and places and memories… and when I think of all these individual memories together, it makes me realize I’m building a book of memories and I’m so wealthy in experiences, and they also remind me that staying on the road is not easy, it’s a daily choice to be alone - or mostly so - and thinking all these things together makes me start to cry… the most deeply satisfied happy kind of crying. If driving long distances is good for anything, it’s good for helping you appreciate the places you’ve been and wonder about the places you’re going. I looked down at my golden blonde arm hair, nearly gone from all the left-side sun, and wondered what it’d look like in a few months as I change with the seasons, and also thought about how driving to Alaska was a really expensive kind of meditation.“

8/16, Friday (Klondike Hwy Camp to Juneau)
"I started Donnie and he died taking the corner out of camp and I said "you have a right to be tired, just one more bit and you’ll get a break." 

"… the visibility was 20 yards, and the Skagway Customs office fell out of the sky and pretty soon it was my turn for harassment. The blonde, ponytailed woman asked if I had bought any food in Canada and I said of course I bought groceries and she said, irritably, "I’m going to need you to be a little more specific"… and once I was, she stole all my peppers and tomatoes and citrus, though I still snuck a few through. She told me it was because of bugs; I bet it’s some trade protectionist thing they blame on bugs. Either way, my bearded face was in AK!!! and descending into the town of Skagway.”

“I found the Skagway Brewing Co and saddled up to the bar wanting a beer and service - the first of each in about a week. Man this life makes you appreciate the things that are a part of normal life… like the simple act of being served rather than doing everything for yourself.”

“The ferry to Juneau was smooth, slower than expected, and they didn’t allow you to access your cars [I had planned to sleep in Donnie the whole way], some post-9/11 Homeland Security Hocus Pocus rule, so I sat on deck and snapped tons of photos, as the landscape kept impressing and reimpressing with its hanging clouds, raging steep cascades, whales, smooth turquoise water, and an occasional break in the clouds to view a towering peak and glacier. The steepness from Sea to Summit I’ve never seen before, but don’t think I’ll ever get enough of! As we cruised down the Lynn Canal, in and out of storms, I knew this was the place to be and although unsure of its outcome, it was going to be a great adventure.”

A double rainbow on the Alaska Highway, right where I camped in my Volkswagen Vanagon that night
A stretch of the Alaska Highway
A stretch of dead trees along the Alaska Highway
Ripples on the water off a camp in the Yukon Territory, driving the Alaska Highway
A rustic carwash at the highway 37 junction of the Alaska Highway
Made it to Skagway, entrance to Alaska's Southeast
This bug hitchhiked 500 miles with me along the Alaska Highway
My first glimpses of the stunning glaciers of Alaska from the Skagway-Juneau ferry