Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Getting Away

We just got back from driving 3,000 miles from Seattle to Kodiak. Of course, the last 250 miles are not in that count since we were "ferried" across them. We took about ten days to do it spending a couple of extra days in Anchorage and Homer. The first few days we drove about 6 hours covering 250 to 300 miles. Then, we realized this was starting to feel like the trip was going to take forever so we beefed up the mileage to more like 500 to 600 miles a day and 10 to 12 hours of driving. Once you get past Prince George, BC there is not all that much to see. Except, of course, for wildlife and mountains and gorgeous lakes not surrounded by any commercial interests. We kept a tally of the wildlife we saw: bears, bison, moose, elk, caribou and a couple sheep. I thought about Lewis and Clark who noted in their journals fields covered with bison whose thundering hooves could be heard miles away and seeing the sun blotted out for several minutes as flocks of geese flew overhead and rafting through a river of white feathers only to come around the bend and discover hundreds of molting pelicans. There is not that kind of abundant wildlife left in our country today so it is a thrill to count wildlife sightings in the tens even if not the hundreds. It is awesome to drive through mountain passes as a Spring snowstorm makes it look more like January than June and find glacier fed lakes that no one is making a dime off of. They are just there to look at and enjoy. That is the beauty of this trip. Traffic is light. Must see artificial tourist stops are few. In the midst of the blizzard we saw signs announcing the best cinnamon buns on the highway so we stopped and in a shack we joined other fellow travelers who were already eating the buns and drinking the coffee as fast as the owners could make it. We stopped in Watson Lake for the night after a long day of driving. A German man had refurbished a 1940s pilots headquarters into a more modern lodge with 14 clean rooms. And that was about all you got. But, after some other roadhouses clean is a very welcome amenity. This man talked about making big money in Germany and driving his Mercedes in the rat race. He loves his life now in this remote outpost of the Yukon and he could talk about his love for it for hours. As we left the deserted downtowns of Williams Lake and Prince George and the bustling mining towns of Ft St John and Ft Nelson, we were glad to get to what our German friend found he liked so much: space for wilderness and wildlife. Hours spent driving a two lane highway alone with our thoughts and time for conversation with the person in the other seat. There was no connectivity. No Iphone to check. No internet wifi at the next stop. No franchise restaurants or hotels. No restrooms except the occasional pit toilet. There are lots of ways to "get away" and lots of opinions about what vacations are supposed to be but for my money it's hard to beat a trip up the Alcan.