When we arrived at the border, the officials told us the only way we could cross the border was if they sealed the back of the truck from being opened while in Canada. All our clothing, suitcases, etc., were in the back of the truck and we had a good long haul ahead of us and would need access to the back of the truck. After much negotiation, the Canadian border officials finally relented but only if we wrote a complete inventory of the contents of the U-Haul. So we sat at the border and tried to remember every article packed on the truck. Hours later, we were finally allowed to cross the border.
I will never forget how beautiful Lethbridge Alberta was. Golden fields of wheat shimmering in the sun. I remember thinking to myself it was so beautiful I thought I might be able to live there.
The anticipation of crossing the Alaska Canada highway was ever present. We anticipated it would require five days to traverse. Advice from The Milepost magazine led us to expect we would encounter some level of difficulty along the way. The addition of screens to protect radiators from rocks, spare engine parts, tool boxes, and emergency flares were often suggested as well as emergency food supplies. There were not an abundant supply of mechanics or service stations along the route. Lodging was rustic and in short supply.
The long range vistas on this drive are spectacular. We saw bison, elk, caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose and even a few Musk ox. At the time, the entire highway was not paved so dusty roads and flying gravel was not unusual. Things were going well until they were not.
Road construction required major machinery. It was around 4:30 pm when we hit a section of the road that had been graded and sprayed with water to minimize the dust. This resulted in a lot of disturbed soil and – you guessed it – mud. The truck was stuck!
There was not a huge amount of traffic on the highway but even if there had been, dislodging a fully packed U-Haul truck was a big ask. Thankfully, the universe aligned and one of the heavy equipment operators was still on location. In a dark cloud of swarming mosquitos, a bulldozer driver was able to push us free and we were again on our way. We could have been stuck there overnight. Another stressful moment for sure!
A day or so later as we approached the Yukon Territory, the sky began to darken and the sun was like a red ball of fire hanging in the darkness. There was a forest fire. We could see helicopters dotting the sky and emergency vehicles on the highway. We stopped at a little town called Fireside. They assured us this happened from time to time and they were not unsettled by it. We drove on until we reached a roadblock. We were one of the last vehicles they allowed to pass before they closed the road.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We tried to find a place to sleep overnight, but with no locks on the doors and the idea we would need to sleep separately, we continued on.
The landscapes were awe inspiring. I can still remember well places like Watson Lake and Muncho Lake. They were stunning.
When we arrived in Anchorage, we were tired but glad to have arrived. I remember well the Anchorage newspaper headlines:
TOWN OF FIRESIDE BURNS TO THE GROUND
We definitely had some angels watching over us.