OK, the departure is late today, but we had to make up for lost time of sleep.
In the Chilkat Bakery we find a breakfast to our taste: cold cereals and an omelette with bacon, cheddar cheese and a sandwich.
It’s worth mentioning, because for once in a while we don’t have to consume the donuts, pancakes or other sweets.
We leave Haines via the Haines Highway. Little original, maybe, but very appropriate: it’s the only road by land from Haines to the rest of the world. We follow the Chilkat River upstream through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Although the high season for eagle observation lies between October and January, we also discover at this time of the year some fine specimen turning around above the valley.
The scenery is (again) breathtakingly
We drive at the right side of the valley, so we have a magnificent view on the the Takhinsha Mountains on the left. The peaks probably aren’t that high (about 2500 meters) but the snowfield in-between reflecting the sun in a deep blue sky is immense.
Strange that no travel guide mentions something about it.
Al kinds of flowers embellish the roadside, mainly wild roses and lupines. Now and then a rust-coloured bird flies by, as big as a starling. It must be a ‘Crossbill’ as mentioned in the ‘Alaska’s Birds’ guide.
We are back at the Canadian border and again another time zone; it’s 12h55 now.
The customs officer asks the usual questions: do we have firearms, or fur coats, and how long we plan to stay in Canada? The dark Ray-Ban sunglasses, a stony face and the starched uniform with the matching cap reminds me of some road-movie.
After checking the mess on the backseat of the car, he puts another stamp in our passport and we may continue our journey.
We’re in British Columbia now, at the Three Guardsmen Pass, 980 meter above sea level and passed the timberline. The landscape consists merely of snowfields, low shrubs, rock formations and sand plains.
The Chilkat Pass, 1065 meters. A large plain bordered by snowy peaks. Backcountry skiing must be great over here. According to the travel guide snow is very common until the end of May. It must have snowed recently, looking at the white veil on the hillsides.
We turn off to Klukshu Village, a small gravel road. It should be a typical native Alaskan village on the Dalton Trail, the precursor of the Haines Highway. Besides some cabins and a few strange-staring natives there is not much to talk about.
During a little while we drive along a big blue-green coloured lake, Dezadeash Lake. The woods around clearly have problems with dryness.
We take time to consume our (almost) daily hamburger in the Katleen Lake Lodge. “A clean restaurant with good home cooking”, according to The Milepost. Apart from the chips, we agree on it. Cut potato-sticks, mostly un-peeled and then turned around in a greasy pan is certainly not our definition of French fries.
But is remains fast food of coarse, and that is inseparably related to the Americans as a fish to water, even for those with Eskimo ancestors like the one in this lodge.
Arriving in Haines Junction, situated in a large plain, next to the St. Elias Mountains and the Kluane National Park Reserve, we take left to Fairbanks on the Alaska Highway.
It’s no use to make a stop over here. We have seen enough Visitor Centers by now and can afford to skip this one. Sorry for the certainly friendly people of this town, but we can hardly imagine that there is more to discover here than the junction of those two highways.
We drive in a plain covered with spruce, shrubs, willow trees and cottonwood. On the roadside we find a lot of purple flowers, the so-called fireweed. To the right the Dawson Range rises up.
The “Fire Condition” indicates “Moderate”. We consider it as “very dry”.
On the radio the weather forecast for Beaver Creek predicts frost for tonight and 16°C for tomorrow. Meanwhile in Dawson they ‘suffer’ with 22°C !
Bear Creek Summit, altitude 1004 meters. It is the highest point on the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Fairbanks.
Kluane Lake, the biggest lake in the Yukon Territory. At the delta of Slims River ‘dry’ seems to be the only suitable word. The bed is about 300 meters wide and reshaped into a desert, complete with fata morganas and swirls of sand.
On the original mileposts (or are they replicas?) of the Alaska Highway, we note ‘1076’.
We come to a standstill in front of a “Road Construction”. The flagman, again a woman, tells us she can’t stand the weather. Only two weeks ago, Kluane Lake was still frozen over, now there is this oppressive heat, mosquitoes included.
The cure against the mosquitoes is the “Yukon wave”, a sweep with the hand in front of the face to chase off those annoying insects form.
Ten minutes later we may continue, but not for long.
The Chakwack Project makes us drive on a “loose gravel” again. A temporary radio-station broadcasts a looping-tape with information about the project. Since a couple of years now the Alaska Highway is being renewed piece by piece. The battle against the permafrost goes on ... up to 12 hours a day, and we are just in the middle of it.
To the left we observe the St. Elias Mountains, with snowy peaks : this beautiful weather makes us perceive Mt. Logan, 5951 meters.
We drive across Donjek River, which is almost dry. On the bridge we have a splendid view on the Icefield Ranges.
“Road Construction” again in full decoration : flagman, pilot car, a variety of traffic signs (“FLAGMAN AHEAD”, “BE PREPARED TO STOP”) and a huge cloud of dust.
“Enjoy the scenery”, proposes the flagman while we wait for the pilot car.
Again, “Road Construction”, we lost count ...
De road signs succeed each other with the meanwhile well-known inscriptions:
“LOOSE GRAVEL”, “ROUGH ROAD”, “ROAD CONSTRUCTION”, “BUMP”, “DIP”, “SLIDE AREA”, and so on.
It’s becoming really late now. We are hungry and running out of gas. A large spruce plain with permafrost problems is the only thing we encounter.
Finally, Beaver Creek. We did 336 miles today and I’m exhausted. Fortunately, we don’t have to drive in the dark, the sun sets at 23h45.