Past the frack towns of Grande Prarie and Dawson Creek and Fort Saint John the road turns to two lanes, the double length trucks get less frequent, and the landscape turns to scenic endless northern forests of spruce, birch, and aspen. It is here that the historic Alaska Highway begins, a road built by the Americans during World War II to truck supplies to Alaska to help defend against Japanese invasion and opened to the public in 1948. The Japanese did at one time occupy several islands in the Aluetian Chain during the war, cold windswept craggy islands unoccupied by humans and the Americans feared they would begin to move on to mainland Alaska. I first drove the Alaska Highway in 1982 in my '72 Chevy pickup and Jeff made his first trip in the way back of the family station wagon on summer vacation in 1967. The road is wider now, paved in it's entirety (except for the 10% that seems to always be torn up and under construction), and gas stations are spaced at least every couple hundred miles but the feel and look of the place remains one of vast empty mountainous wild northern country. In one afternoon we saw 10 black bears, two foxes carrying dead rabbits, several stone sheep, a couple herds of woods bison, and mule deer, along with two porcupines (that is counting the one that was dead by the roadside). It is a magical wide open road trip where you can stop on the side of the road to rest and eat and not see a car for 15 minutes of more. Long sweeping views of the road snaking over ridges ahead of you, shaky old steel bridges, classic historic roadhouses, snow on the roadside and ice in some of the lakes, it is a place and a road that seem to draw in and call to the adventure seekers.
Our destination for the night was Laird Hot Springs and a soak in the as-hot-as-you-can-take sulfer springs. It is a favorite spot along the road shared with a mixed lot of other travelers. We lingered in the warm water until nine o'clock and barely made it back over the wooden boardwalk to light the grill and cook up our dinner. It was there in the parking lot that we met a couple from Girdwood Alaska and it was only a little while until we worked out who we knew in common. It was Twirl, who runs a the Great Alaska Tourist Trap on the Seward Highway.
The early start and all day drive and hot springs swim combined to wear us out and I slept well in my sleeping bag thinking that our destination was only 400 miles away, hoping that Jeff would remember that I like to sleep in to at least 5:30. I was in luck, he did.,