Friday, July 3, 2009

The Drive to Anchorage (or, why I'm glad to live in Alaska)

This happened a few weeks ago, but I have not found the time to blog it until now.

When we left Pelican we had to take a somewhat roundabout route to Anchorage.
First there is the ferry into Juneau. There is only one, and it only comes once (or sometimes twice) in a month, so you make your schedule work with it, since it won't work with you.
Then there is the ferry from Juneau to Haines...you see, Juneau may be the capital city of Alaska, but it has no roads connecting it to the outside world. While much larger than Pelican, it is just as literally cut off--mountains on one side, ocean on the other, and one little road from one end of town to the other. It's true, Pelican's road is a half mile and Juneau's road is about 30 miles...but it dead ends all the same. So from Juneau one has to catch another ferry to someplace that has a road--in this case, Haines. Unfortunately, that ferry route is only run a few days a week, and only on one day a week is it a car-carrying ferry. So we had to put our lives on hold for 5 days as we sat around in Juneau between ferries.
Once arriving in Haines it's only about 400 miles to Anchorage...if you're a bird. But if you want to drive on a road, there's a little obstacle. Actually, a really massive obstacle called the Wrangall-St Elias National Park and Preserve (there's a coordinating chunk of National Park on the Canadian side as well). So rather than being 400ish miles, the drive is nearly 800 miles.



So the ferry arrived in Haines around noon, and we started driving...cross the border into Canada (yes we are carrying a hunting rifle, no we are not carrying ammunition, yes we have the paperwork, yes we have passports, yes we have a marriage license in there too because my passport is in my maiden name, yes we have birth certificates for both the kids, yes we have a dog, yes we have her health certificate...*phew* got that whole process down to a science!) and then drive and drive and drive and drive...

We have developed a method for handling these long drives. It involves Hubby driving as late as he can (usually around 1 or 2 am) and then pulling over someplace to sleep...meanwhile I go to sleep earlier in the evening (as do the kids) and whenever I wake up (usually around 5 or 6 am, and usually with an urgent need for a potty) then I wake Hubby enough to trade me seats and I start driving. We are able to cover a lot of distance, the kids sleep through a lot of it, and we each get enough sleep to make it through the day as well.
Things started off well enough. Hubby drove until around 1 or 1:30 then pulled over. I woke up in the early dawn light and thought hey, it's probably around 5. So I woke Hubby, traded him seats, and as he settled in I started the car and saw the clock.
It was 3am.
I had forgotten just how light it stays in the north...we were several hundred miles north of Pelican, and yes, at 3am it was pretty darn light. As I pulled onto the road I promptly pulled back off to take a picture of the first thing I saw:
Yes, that's a photo (no special filters) taken at 3am somewhere just past the point where the road turns and starts heading southish again.

A half hour of driving revealed this vista:


Honestly, can anyone say that it's not worth being awake at 3 am to see something like that?
And how could I not love my home when it looks like this (note the new banner at the top here...). All you lower 48-ers, eat your hearts out. ☺

5 comments:

Janeen said...

It's beautiful but I think the isolation would drive me to insanity.

Cynthia said...

This time of year when the temps hit 100 here in Utah, my husband says DAILY that we should "move to Alaska". Those views are beautiful but I'm way too wussy to live there in order to see them live.

Do you sleep in the car and is it warm enough? My cousin lives in Fairbanks and was in a major auto accident in March. He had to wait in -30 temps for the emergency personnel so they could extract him. Is it warmer at night now?

Mallory said...

Wow, it is so beautiful!!

Mommy Bee said...

Cynthia--yes, we sleep in the car when we do long-haul drives like that. The only time I can remember getting cold was in Idaho in November (the cold woke Hubby and me, so we drove a little while, warmed up, pulled over again and went back to sleep...)
I'm sure that we'd have gotten cold had it been winter or had we been farther north...but we were still several hundred miles south of Fairbanks, and it was the end of May--which means temperatures in the 70s during the day and not too terribly cold at night either. :)

Amy Jo Madsen said...

My parents took an anniversary trip to Alaska 2 or 3 years ago; they flew up and rented an RV to drive around in. They would just drive around birding until they were tired, and would suddenly realize that it was midnight and they hadn't even had dinner yet; they just didn't realize it was late because it was so light. They second your opinion (and I do, too, from their pictures)--Alaska has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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