Friday, 1 July 2011

North to Alaska Way Up North the Rush is On

Long before leaving home I had given some serious consideration to doing some 'hitch hiking' in the States, not because of need but for the extra adventure. A little incentive arrived as I discovered there was no onward bus service to Alaska for 4 days, and after making a few enquiries as to the viability of such a venture decided to give it a go.

The first stage of the plan would be to get back onto the Alaska Highway then, leaning on a wealth of past experience back in the 60's, a prime position would need to be sought. To this end I quizzed a local taxi driver who said he would take me to the top of 2 Mile Hill where I looked around for a spot where a potential lift might be able to stop. This proved a lot more difficult than had been thought, as 'thumbing' at a lay-by with the Union Flag on display proved to be less than favourable for anyone to stop. After half an hour, Plan B was brought into play, crossing the road and stationing myself on the edge of a garage fore-court. From here I could watch customers approaching from the south pulling in for gas, then cocking my thumb as the pulled out heading north.

As one small camper van pulled in to 'bunker', I caught the attention of the driver who like most people out here was intrigued by the dialect, and asked if he was heading north. "Only as far as Fairbanks" he said, raising my moral to bursting point. David Scott, his wife Lani and mother in law Ruby (the ladies being Hawaiian) had already driven the 2092 miles from Blackfoot, Idaho but were well kitted out for such a mammoth journey. David had no qualms about taking me along and Ruby was of the same mind, but Lani had her reservations but fell in with the others, so off we went.

There was a long haul before us, but after juggling some of their luggage, they had offered me the front seat which was of airline pilot comfort and within the hour Lani was far more relaxed and was offering me a turkey and salad roll. There was much to talk about en-route, with plenty of time (12 hours) to cover many subjects, and during the 600 mile run they both fed and watered me, despite my offers to buy lunch or dinner.

We were now destined to travel through some of the most spectacular scenery on the sub-continent, and there was no knowing what 'goodies' might be thrown up.

First up was a very shy Timber Wolf followed by

a mother Black Bear and

her 2 cubs.

Most of the mountain range was part of the Northern Rockies

and for all the spectacle it cannot be truly transposed via a photograph.

On the last trip in 2007, we stayed at the small but comfortable motel here,

but this time in the good company of Lani, Ruby and David it was best I continued with the lift!

Soon after our brief stop

we encountered a small flock of

Big Horned Sheep

but there was no sign of the more common Stone Mountain or Dall Sheep (collectively known as White Sheep).

The Scott's certainly had their vehicle fitted out for comfort, and I think we were all now loving the ride,

as Lani set about preparing a most refreshing fruit salad.

Wild Horses also featured on the way,

but far more predictable were Canada's 2 highest peaks nestling between the closer mountains.

Through a distant illusion the 2 snow covered peaks in the distance look smaller than those in the fore-ground, but are in fact 50% higher. Mount Kennedy (left) stands at 13,007 feet, while the daddy of them all is Mount Hubbard at 1500 feet, a fantastic sight!

A loan Caribou put in a brief appearance, and just think it was only a couple of nights ago I was eating one.

Beaver Creek also held a few memories from the past, but again no time to stop. Just 6 miles north of here is the Canadian Border, followed by about 30 miles of 'No Man's Land' before entering

and by definition the United States of America again. There was no stop at the Canada end, while at the USA crossing we were met by a most jovial official who quickly checked out passports and waved us through.

The Rockies continue well into the State, and

after a further 100 miles we caught our first sight of the Alaska Oil Pipeline.

Signs directing to some of the major towns, but for us there was only one destination.

Crossing the bridge over the Tanana River Bridge

we were surprised to see Pack Ice still heading downstream.

Catching sight of the Eileson US Air Force Base (the third choice for landing the US Space Shuttle in the event of Canaveral and Houston being unavailable) was sign that our trek was nearly over, while David

was able to give us some detail on the 2 aircraft we spotted. This is a KC-135 ('in-flight' refueling aircraft).

F16 Fighter / Bomber.

By now my hosts had contacted David's mother who they were going to holiday with for the next 10 days, who in turn invited me to dinner. How could I refuse having spent a full 12 hours with these wonderful people.

Believe you me, Carol Scott (right, with Lani) was equally charming, and while I have enjoyed some wonderful welcomes already this trip, this was yet another.

Popping out to get some wine, we all then enjoyed a light supper on my return, where Carol possed the argument that it would be foolish for me to leave and find a hotel when I was welcome to stay here.

It was now rapidly approaching mid-night, with this shot being taken out of the lounge window at 23:30 with the sun still quite high in the sky. Finally, and as if I hadn't already received the very best of hospitality, Carol stuck my dhobying in the machine. I'm glad I stayed!

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