|An old army truck used to build the Alaska Highway during WWII. The 1500 mile highway was built in eight months by over 30,000 military men and civilians.|
I immediately started getting into smoke, and before long, it was so thick I couldn't see any of the countryside. I drove through this for over 60 miles, wondering if just ahead the highway would be closed.
I kept thinking I would soon see flames jumping through the sky, but the smoke lifted a little after Delta Junction. At the time of this writing, Alaska has over 240 wildfires burning.
|Budget police presence in the town of Teslin, Yukon, home of the Tlingit people. I wonder if this guy is related to Lucky the Dumb Cop in Lakeside, Montana.|
I had intended to drive the Top of the World Highway, then go on up the Dempster to Inuvik (site of the Ice Truckers show), but I was told by a station attendant that the smoke was thick that way.
No point in driving a long ways to see nothing but smoke—it seemed I was already doing that. I decided to continue down the Alaska Highway.
I stopped to let the dogs out for awhile, and it was then that I realized we were all getting road weary (I ended up putting over 8,000 miles on my car).
I was missing the desert, and I'll be the first to admit that camping alone in the vast and truly wild country of Alaska and Canada wasn't quite as carefree as camping in the deserts of Utah in my regular hangouts.
I decided it was time to head home. I could come back anytime I wanted, but I suspected I would fly next time.
|A young black bear keeps an eye on two scary and possibly very dangerous sandhill cranes near Fort Nelson.|
It took five days to reach the U.S. Border, and I was quite surprised when I saw the sign that said "You'll soon reach the U.S. Border" (or something like that—I was pretty tired).
|Muncho Lake in B.C.|
I had cut from Calgary over Crowsnest Pass to the ski town of Fernie and had no idea where the border actually was, having never come that way.
|Crowsnest Mountain at the top of Crowsnest Pass.|
I went that way because I wanted to see the Frank Slide, which wiped out an entire town in 1903 and was Alberta's worst landslide in history. It was a grim sight, seeing all the massive rock.
I was feeling sleep deprived again, and I have to admit that I felt a sense of relief when I saw that the border was a mere 20 or so miles away.
When one visits the Nuxalt people of Bella Coola, they'll remind you that the entire earth is our shared home. They say, "Coming here as you have, you've found yet another piece of your home."
|RVs at Dawson Creek, B.C., the start of the Alaska Highway.|
Even though we all share one planet, most of us feel more at home in some places than in others, and for me, it's where I was born and raised—the high desert of the Colorado Plateau.
As much as I love Canada, and as similar as the culture there is to ours, the comfort and familiarity of being in your own home country can't really be described. I had seen many pieces of my home, but I was ready to go back to the desert.
|What started it all, near Calgary.|
|Failing to find a suitable camp spot in Kalispell, Montana, I bent the rules and drove down this road across from Costco, finding peace and quiet.|
I spent the night in Kalispell, marveling at the lack of mosquitoes. The next day, I drove to Lakeshore State Park on Flathead Lake, one of my favorite campsites.
I set up my tent and slept the afternoon away, the dogs snuggled up to me on my cot. They seemed happy to take a break from driving. When we left and I took down the tent, the main pole broke, making me feel grateful it hadn't happened in the Land of the Midnight Mosquitoes.
|In Bigfork, Montana|
We would spend several days at the state park, resting up and revisiting some of my favorite haunts around the lake, then continue south.
We were only a mere 1,000 miles from home, but I was getting a second wind and decided to go see Yellowstone, the Tetons, and drive over Beartooth Pass.
But as the novels say—alas, it was not to be.