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Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 22: We're At The Top Of The World

Long drive today, probably the longest I've ever done. Including a few short stops it took about fourteen hours to get from Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska in the USA. While it wasn't the roughest road I've ever driven, it was probably the longest stretch of rough road I've ever driven. From a little west of Whitehorse to a little west of the border vast sections of the road was gravel, and the paved sections had potholes and ditches big enough to snap an axel.

There were a lot of astounding sights, though. Fireweed in the height of bloom grew in brilliant bunches along the entire stretch we drove today. Near Haines Junction the road ran parallel to the most impressive mountain range I've seen yet, the St. Elias Mountains. At one point a young grizzly bear crossed right in front of us, and we also saw a huge bull moose in a lake. We passed Kluane Lake, a massive shining diamond in the rough of high desert mountains. It was by far the most challenging, interesting, and beautiful section of the Alaska Highway.

I finally felt a small sense of achievement when I got to take my picture with the Alaska welcome sign. And, it felt good to get back to USA soil where my phone and credit card work with little to no restrictions and fees, which makes traveling considerably easier. I expect in hindsight I will look back at today with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction, but right now I'm too tired to revel in a dream achieved.

We were unable to meet up with our couchsurf host in Fairbanks until very late. Luckily, we've finally reached a point so far north that the sun never really sets around the summer solstice. The days are long enough for all my adventures, and the locals don't seem to bother with sleeping much. It feels like we're at the top of the world. Like C.S. Lewis' Dawn Treader, we have voyaged beyond the seas of the utter East.

Dave, our host is a biology and Japanese student, who is house sitting two cabins and a garden for the summer about thirty minutes outside of town. There's no running water, limited electricity, and only a propane burner to cook on, but it is a wonderfully secluded retreat. The smaller cabin is for storage, and it is also our bedroom for the night. The logs are so freshly cut, I am yet surrounded by the smell of white pine as I lie here in my sleeping bag.
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