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When Matt first invited me on this trip back in February, I was faced with the decision of taking a required math class or going to Alaska. I decided I didn’t want to do school forever, so I told Matt I wasn’t going to be able to go. It was kind of disappointing, because it was the trip of a lifetime. Ben and Matt are both good friends, and they were doing this road trip to Alaska to visit friends, fish, hike, and just have a good time. I had always wanted to go to Alaska but hadn’t had the chance yet.
Needless to say, I was very happy when Ben and Matt rescheduled the trip to June after the final for my math class. There were lots of logistics to work out…would we drive, fly, ride the ferry, rent a car? What would we want to do? Where would we stay?
After a couple meetings for planning, we had things pretty well laid out. Since none of us had a good three-person vehicle, Mom and Dad generously loaned us the x-forest-service green Jeep (which we had gotten in an online auction) for the trip. Matt had friends he wanted to visit in Fairbanks, and I had friends in Palmer. We mainly wanted to see Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and possibly Prudhoe Bay and the Dalton Highway. Ben and I wanted to get some fishing in as well, and we all were looking forward to some hiking and great photo ops.
A couple days ahead we met and tried packing all our stuff in the Jeep to make sure it would fit. Ben didn’t show up, but Matt and I decided we could fit everything after looking at our stuff loaded. David loaned us a platform we could put in the trailer hitch, and Matt had a nice plastic bin, so we decided to carry food, chairs, and cooking stuff on that platform. It would also work well for a table on the trip.
Matt and I decided we should meet at his house at 7 a.m. on Saturday to begin the trip. Matt would feed us oatmeal for breakfast before heading out. We knew that Ben had a tendency to be late, so we decided to meet at 7 with the goal of being out of town by 8 a.m.
Sure enough, Matt and I were eating oatmeal alone Saturday morning. While we were waiting, we decided we had a quorum, so we made and voted on a few rules for the trip as a joke for Ben. Things like…Matt drives from 8am-2pm, Matthew drives from 2pm-8pm, and Ben drives from 8pm-8am. Ben finally showed up about 7:40. We showed him our list of rules and explained how we had a quorum and all. The rules got more and more crazy as you went down the list, so Ben figured out it was a joke after a minute. It was a funny way to start the trip, and I think Ben took it OK.
Christina was going to school in Langly, B.C., so she had talked us into delivering a bunch of food and a bike to her. Apparently food is super expensive in Canada. Like $15 for a block of cheese…
I took the first shift driving. Our first challenge was the border crossing. Matt had decided to bring a rifle for self defense from animals and people in AK, so he had the papers all filled out and ready to go. The lady at the border saw it was some kind of “.44” and assumed it was a hand gun.
Lady: “You can’t take handguns into Canada, sir.”
Matt: “It’s not a handgun.”
Lady: “They’ll sort that out inside.”
She made us pull over and go inside.
Once inside we showed our passports and then stood around while they called immigration to check on us or something. Finally one of the ladies took us into another room one at a time to ask us questions like, “What do you do for a living?”, “Where do you live?”, etc. Not sure why we had to go in another room for such simple questions, but whatever. After about 45 minutes they let us go with no problems.
Our next challenge was finding Trinity Western where Christina was. We got highway 1 confused with 1A, and had to stop and ask directions a couple times. We finally arrived and delivered her stuff.
We stayed at Christina’s for dinner, and met some of her friends. Ben’s glasses broken during this time, and he can’t see much without them, so we decided to go to Wal-Mart to get stuff to solder them together. Back at Christina’s, Ben started working on his glasses, but soon found that the miniature soldering gun he had bought did not have any fuel in it. What a rip off, and the box didn’t even say that it didn’t come with fuel.
I had the idea of using a cigarette lighter, and that worked just fine. It took a few tries with three of us working to get the glasses soldered back together in a usable way. We now had the tools to do soldering wherever we happened to be in the Alaskan wilderness, should the need arise.
About 9 p.m. we set out again. Matt was concerned about how much time we had lost, so he decided to drive all night and encouraged Ben and I to get some sleep so we could take over driving later on. I discovered that I could curl up in the back seat quite comfortably.
I took over driving about 6 a.m. We were nearing Prince George, and the countryside was beautiful as the sun came up. Lots of fields with fog drifting across them. We stopped in Prince George for gas and continued on. Breakfast was cereal with rice milk on the side of the road…mosquitoes were bad.
We were in Dawson Creek by 11:00 and stopped at a little church there for the Sunday service. We were late, but were able to slip in after the music, when the children were dismissed for children’s church. It was Father’s Day, and it was a pretty good sermon, but the service was kind of weird.
We went to the visitor’s center next, ate lunch, and were on the road again with Ben driving by 2 p.m. About dinner time we saw our first grizzlies on the side of the road. They were a ways off the road, so we got out to take pictures. There was another photographer there with a HUGE lens. He kept looking around, so I think we was worried about the mother grizz.
About 8:30 we started seeing a ton of wildlife. We saw four caribou, which was a first for all of us – even Matt who had lived in Alaska for a few years. A couple corners later we saw mountain goats crossing the road. This area was amazing with lots of beautiful mountains. We drove by Muncho Lake just as the sun was setting. It was so awesome that we decided to maybe try to camp in this area on the way home.
I took over driving again about 10 p.m. It was still twilight out, and there were lots of animals active. It was so awesome. Ben and Matt were both snoozing, but I saw a cow moose and her baby walking down the road. I also saw a couple bears with their cubs. Traffic was almost zero.
We made it to Watson Lake around midnight with almost no gas. We finally found a gas station that was open and filled up. The guy at the station told us we could camp out in the back of an RV park in back, so we did that. Matt and I laid out the tarp to sleep on, and Ben settled in the back seat of the Jeep. The stars were out.
About 4 a.m. or so, it started pouring. I noticed after a couple drops and jumped up and got in the Jeep with my down sleeping bag. Matt was in a Gore-Tex bivy sack, so he just looked up and went back to sleep. I mean to tell you it poured. In the morning, the tarp had big puddles of water on it. Matt was still pretty dry, so those bivy sacks really do work!
To be continued…
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