The Alcan Highway offers a thrilling ride with beautiful scenery along a road which is a marvel of engineering. Ny traveling along the road, which was built under the stress of war, one can go from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Y. T., a distance of 620 miles.
The trip takes two days to complete, with a night stopover at Burwash landing in the Yukon. The O'Harra Bus Lines, which also serve Anchorage, Valdez, Circle City and other centers with road connections, operate three runs weekly over this stretch of the Alcan. The British Yukon Navigation company runs connecting buses which make the 900 mile run over the rest of the highway to Dawson Creek, Alta., twice a week.
Dawson Creek is the southern terminus, with road and rail links to
Edmonton, and from there to eastern Canada and the United States. It was over this route that vast quantities of war materials from American production plants in the midwest flowed directly into Alaska after the highway was opened late in 1942.
On the Fairbanks-Whitehorse route, the first day's ride takes fourteen and a half hours, covering 440 miles. The second day is shorter with only 180 miles to go. A more equal division of the journey is prevented by lack of way stations. The Whitehorse bus leaves Fairbanks at 8 o'clock, pausing briefly for breakfast at 10 o'clock at a small roadhouse. Just three hours later the bus stops for lunch at Tok junction in the Tanana river valley. Once a woman remonstrated that she had just eaten breakfast and thought she would wait for dinner. The driver then informed her that the next stop would be at 10:30 that night.
Two drivers alternate the first day on the long tedious drive, and the passengers change buses at Burwash landing, at a picturesque hunting lodge operated by the Jacquot brothers. A night's lodging in the bunkhouse and two meals costs $5. In the country surrounding this lodge are bear, moose, caribou, sheep and mountain goat.
The trip on the second day begins between 9 and 10 o'clock, with arrival at Whitehorse scheduled for mid-afternoon. The fare to Whitehorse is $36.80, including taxes, and with meals and other expenses, it comes to $45.80. The high cost of gasoline, which has been as high as 85 cents a gallon along the highway, is reflected in this price.
The scenery along the Fairbanks-Whitehorse route is reputed to be the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world. The road is driven through one of the harshest wildernesses on this hemisphere, and the vast frontier land was once known only to Indians and a few Klondikers.
The Tanana river valley and the foothills of the St. Elias range are now a riot of autumn colors, though natives declare that the colors will be more brilliant after the first frost. The green spruces are in sharp contrast to the deep gold of the birch and poplars standing behind them. At the road's edge are willows, ragweed, and wild grass, which disappear into the forests, which are tangled masses of impenetrable underbrush.
Along the highway, travelers go for hours without seeing another human being, though the sight of bear or moose is not uncommon. The singular solitude which pervades the entire country is the most impressive phenomenon. Traffic on the road is noticeable for its absence, and frequently the bus passengers see less than a dozen vehicles on the entire trip, with the exception of road graders and other equipment operated by the highway maintenance crews.
Hundreds of miles separate stopping points where gasoline and food are available, and gasoline is most costly, as it must be hauled into the interior by rail and distributed by truck. As nearly as possible, motorists are required to be self-sustaining for the entire journey before being allowed to venture on the highway.