The Adventure of A Lifetime: 24 Years in Alaska
We woke up early and excited. It is June 1st and we have been on the road since May 15th. In the back of our minds always lurks “Oh God! What have we done”. All our hopes and fears of “someday” are here. Our house is sold; all the money we have is with us. Everything that is left is in the truck and trailer. The only direction we can go from here is up, and we have never been happier. After my quite reflection of the past, I realize that today we will see our new, if temporary home. Jo Jurgeliet has found us a place to rent. It’s an A-frame about 20’x24’. It was high up at mile 8.5 out of town. No need to worry about the utilities; there weren’t any to speak of. A propane bottle ran the stove, refrigerator and water heater. A fuel oil stove kept it warm, and running water was a series of hoses going up the mountain behind the place and it was gravity flow from a stream up there. There was no electricity or phone. I finally decided that what didn’t kill me would make me stronger and it did.
We were an awful sight that morning. After some coffee and cereal we are headed “home”. We are headed west from Whitehorse, Yukon to Haines Junction. It is 100 miles and the Milepost told us there are no gas stations in that stretch so we make sure the tank is full. It took about 3 hours. It was so quite you could imagine what it was like 100 years ago. I think we were all reflecting on what the day would bring. I am sure our poor cat “Kitty Poo” had decided he was going to spend the rest of his life in the back of the pickup truck. We had never seen an extended cab in 1974 and with 4 of us in that front seat there was no room for the cat.
In all our travels in Alaska I have never seen a place more naturally beautiful that that stretch from Haines Junction going into Haines. The only thing that compares to it is topping Baycrest Hill going into Homer, so keep reading. Our jobs and fits of exploring took us from Juneau, Haines, Homer, Kodiak, the Aleutian Islands to Fairbanks, and south to Valdez and many other places in between so believe me this is spectacular. The first major body of water is Kathleen Lake. There are mountains of the St. Elias and Wrangell ranges, all snow covered and glowing in the sun. There appears to be a lot of places set aside for camping. About 15 miles south there is Dezadeash Lake and the Dezadeash Mountain Range. Over the years the lodge and the German family running it were important to us. Katie and Heinz ran the lodge, bar, gas station and garage with only a generator for power and the food could put many 4 Star restaurants to shame.
The road in front of us looks like a long, winding snake. On this June 1st. there are still walls of snow on both sides of the road. I insist we stop so I can take some pictures and I am glad we did. In all the years and many more trips since I have never seen the walls of snow and ice we saw that day. The wind is howling and we are climbing. That poor truck is struggling with the load. On we went and finally made the summit of Chilkat Pass, over 6,000 feet; the higest on the road. The wind blows constantly and it did not take long to figure out the 12’ poles along the road were markers so the snow equipment knew where the road was. There are a lot of closures in winter. As you travel along toward Haines, in a short distance you see :The Three Guardsmen” and it is a sight to behold. The mountains, all white in the sun are directly behind the lake. About 10 miles south of there is the old US Army pipeline. For years it pumped oil from Haines over the St. Elias Mountains to the Alaska Highway at Haines Junction in the Yukon. We crossed the border from the Yukon into British Columbia about 40 miles ago. Here we are at last at Pleasant Camp. It is the Canadian Custom checkpoint and we are about to cross over into Alaska at last. It’s the only road into Haines and is 42 more miles of mountains
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Abe and Nowyta Alaska Alaska Highway Alaska Railroad Anchorage arrived asked beautiful boat bought cabin called camp camper campground Christmas coffee cold Cold Bay cooked couple Dawn and Jim Dawn’s decided Dennis Dennis Johnson didn’t Dillingham dinner door drive drove everything Fairbanks Fairhope ferry finished fishing flew flight Florida friends garden Haines Haines Junction halibut headed Highway Homer Homer Spit Juneau Kenai Kenai River kids knew Lake learned lived looked loved lunch Martin Buser miles months moose morning mountains needed never night Park Phil Phil’s picked pickup plane pulled River road salmon Sears Sears store Seattle Skagway sleeping snow sockeye salmon Soldotna spent started stayed stopped summer sure things tires Titusville told took town trailer trip truck walked wanted Wasilla week Whitehorse winter Yukon