ALCAN Highway-Adventure Road to Alaska
In 1941, a roadless wilderness lay unbroken for 1500 miles between Alberta in Canada and Fairbanks Alaska. A Japanese attack on Alaska seeming eminent, the Canadian and American Governments felt compelled to build an emergency highway to Alaska in the summer of 1942. Rare film footage from that year allows us to witness that struggle - ripping out a ribbon of road from some of the wildest forests of the North American continent. We join men and machines as they tear, bulldoze, plow down and grade the earth to create a 1500 mile path of highway completed in a mere 8 months - a military Olympiad to rival any other in history.
Set to the urgency of WWII happenings in Europe and Pearl Harbor and the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaiming it “A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY.
What was built to serve as a temporary military access to a strategic geographic location was opened to the public in 1949. The highway saw its share of strange sights in the 1950’s; the reminisces and nostalgia of those early civilian adventurers - an early hunting expedition with packhorses, camp fires and exquisite vistas, washed out sections of road, and long delays to tame the shifting roadbed.
Today the road is still of major importance to thousands. Though paved and much straighter, the Alcan Highway still provides adventure to those traveling to the northern wilderness of Western Canada and Alaska The Road still a lifeline to the hardy souls that depend on it for livelihood and even survival.
Starting at Mile Zero in Dawson Creek there are the highway’s residents, loggers, dall sheep, porcupine, water fowl and fox, amid ever-changing scenes and seasons.
Jade colored Muncho Lake, is surrounded by geological formations of Folded Mountain that tower above the road. Tectonic deformations with a unique folded shape dominate the view. Nearby is Liard River and Liard Hotsprings where you can have a warm bath in the springs, even in winter.
At Watson Lake the Sign Post Forest has grown to over 10,000 names of Cities, States and places since being started by a lonely soldier back in 1942. Wondering through, we watch the addition of a new hometown sign going up, and even one sign being read by a moose!
Down the road lies the worlds smallest desert. A real desert in northern Canada, and virtually unknown to almost all visitors.
Still a part of traveling the ALCAN Highway, road crews have to maintain the roadbed, so delays are still part of the travel experience.
At White Horse, we’re just in time for the Sour Dough Reunion. It’s a midwinter celebration in the streets with contests, races and general craziness of cabin fever released. Another kind of craziness hit this area in 1898 - the race for gold! We return to those days and times, reliving the struggle as prospectors climbed the treacherous ice covered rocks of Chilcoot Pass, carrying 2,000 lbs of supples on their way to the Yukon gold fields - and Dawson City - mecca for thousands who gambled everything they had, including their lives, hoping to strike it rich. We can relive those days through rare photos of the time, and explore the town today, still with dirt streets, gambling halls and 100 year old buildings. A local grocer here shows off his Yukon farm where precious fresh food is grown to generous sizes.
Remembering the early trappers who played a important part of Yukon life in the past, a modern day trapper allows us to join him on his dog sled for a run of his trap lines through the snow. He doesn’t use a compass, even in the night. He knows that the dogs will take him home.
Farther up the road otters romp in winter, spring flowers appear, rose hips are gathered for tea, and giant machines are still straightening the highway. Near Klucksho Village, an isolated salmon fishing camp used by the Tuchone Indians for over 400 years, a Tuchone family gaff salmon in an isolated stream…collecting their winter food supply.
Up the road a gigantic log house is being erected - all in one day. The huge logs are fitted together like some giant tinker toy project.
On the border with Alaska, the ice fields and glaciers of Kluani National Park are a special wonder. Mt. Logan is found here, Canada’s highest mountain. And Lowell Glacier too, where ice cliffs sheer off into the water hundreds of feet below, in a process called calving. The wildlife that not many visitors experience are captured in this film - birds, foxes, otters, and dall sheep rams, banging horns together in their ritual of rutting, and lambs, displaying the joy of new life.
Our journey ends at milepost 1500 - Fairbanks, Alaska.