It always happens eventually. We just never know how long it will take. Well, today was the day “The Itinerary” went out the window!
This morning in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory (YT) we toured the world famous Sign Post Forest. The “forest” was begun in 1942 by a homesick U.S. army G.I. who, while working on Alaska Highway construction, erected a sign pointing the way and stating the mileage to his hometown in Danville, Illinois. Others followed his lead and are still doing so today. The forest occupies about an acre of land and now has over 69,000 signs from all around the world. The Town of Watson Lake maintains the site, erecting more posts for additional signs as needed. We stopped at the Visitors Center to collect maps and booklets, and watched a 30-minutemovie about construction of the Alaska Highway, built over 8 months in 1942 in order to provide a land route from the U.S. lower 48 to Alaska following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in order to strengthen the U.S. defensive capability in the Pacific.
On leaving Watson Lake we headed for Whitehorse, the largest city in the YT, our destination for the night. After getting gas at Johnson’s Crossing, we discussed an email we received recently from our new friend Gene Shea who is doing Camp Host duty on the Kenai Peninsula this summer. He mentioned the upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the biggest of the whole summer, and their campground will have 100+ RVs in it, instead of the usual 6-12 they’ve had the past week. Apparently “all of Anchorage” empties out for the long weekend, and most head for the Kenai to enjoy the 19+ hours of daylight now available. We quickly calculated that “The Itinerary” would have us on the Kenai for Memorial Day weekend, and we didn’t want to be there until just after, because of the crowds. Twenty minutes later, following a rushed study of our maps and books, we veered off the Alaska Highway to head south to Atlin, a place we’d never heard of before. This took us on a 40-mile gravel, but extremely well graded, road that meandered across the Yukon boundary back into British Columbia. The geography in this vicinity is confusing at times, as we’ve criss-crossed in and out of Alaska, British Columbia and The Yukon Territory more times than we can count in the past 3 days – the highways simply aren’t constrained by provincial or national boundaries.
We arrived at the tiny town of Atlin on the shores of Lake Atlin at 4:00, and hadn’t even finished parking our truck and trailer when a couple from South Dakota two sites away mentioned they’d been hoping to take an air tour of the nearby glaciers, but the cost was prohibitive for only two people, and by any chance were we interested in splitting the cost? We enthusiastically agreed we’d love to, then learned they were leaving for Skagway at 7am tomorrow! Jillian jumped up and called the air tour pilot on the payphone at the campground, and he arrived 20 minutes later to take us flying!
Chris, the pilot, has a tiny office and floating dock for his seaplane immediately adjacent to the Norseman Adventures RV Park where we’re staying. Chris, Jillian, Larry, Bob and I climbed into Chris’s 8-passenger de Havilland Beaver, donned headphones to allow us to talk over the noise of the seaplane, and took off under sunny, blue skies over the turquoise waters of the lake. The next hour and 15 minutes was spent cruising southwest over the lake, adjacent mountains, and Llewellyn Glacier. We reached 7,000’ elevation to top the mountains and flew as low as 30 feet above the glacier and its’ many crevasses. The Llewellyn snowfield, according to Chris, is about the size of Switzerland, one of the largest snowfields in the world. We saw a dozen mountain goats on the rocky slopes of the mountain, many brilliant turquoise lakes, and deep blue crevasses. The weather could not have been more perfect, and the flight was truly spectacular. We couldn’t believe we lucked into such an experience!
After the flight we sat outside with Jillian and Larry, as well as our only other neighbors here at the campground, Alexsander and Galine, who emigrated from Russia to Canada in 1992 and now live in Whitehorse, YT. Alexsander was a cardiac surgeon in Russia and worked as an ultrasound tech after arriving here. He and Galline now own a bridal shop in Whitehorse. Not surprisingly, we had interesting conversations about geo-politics, emigration and immigration, and the importance of world citizens knowing languages beyond the one they learned from birth. All 4 of these neighbors will pull up stakes and leave tomorrow, leaving us as solo campers here at Atlin unless there are new arrivals, less likely on a Monday.
After so many long days of driving, we’re ready for a break, so plan to stay here at Atlin all of tomorrow and a second night. Our campsite only 30 feet from the water has exquisite mountain views, and electric and water hook-ups, but no cell coverage or internet anywhere in town. Our itinerary is now up in the air, and we’ll sort that out tomorrow.
Wildlife count for the day: 1 red fox, 1 black bear, 2 moose, 12 mountain goats.