Every year, dozens of people fail to really understand this sign at Haines Junction, Yukon Territory. Either way leads to Alaska, but unless you take a right turn at this crossroads, you’ll end up in the coastal community of Haines, Alaska, which dead-ends on Lynn Canal. Not what you had in mind if you thought you were progressing toward Fairbanks. We turned right, and drove onward to Kluane Lake and pulled into a campground at Burwash Landing late at night.
Yesterday, we pushed onward toward the border and the giant “Welcome to Alaska” sign, where we found another gathering place–a pair of bicyclers from Germany who’ve been traveling for two years, a couple from Alabama who claimed their camper was held together with duct tape, and a mob of Kiwanis members who were reinstalling a plaque at the border. People handed cameras off to each other to be included in their own photos. They exchanged road stories, and they drove onward a few hundred feet and waiting in line for processing at the border corssing.
Today we toured around our old hometown of Fairbanks. Summer in the Far North can’t be beat. It was 75 degrees and sunny most of the day. As I write, it’s 11:35 p.m., and bright enough to read the ingredients on a cereal box. Perry keeps reminding me to imagine myself in a down parka and bunny boots, standing in the dark. Okay, I remember those days, too, but moving through the sweet, well-lit landscape that is Fairbanks this time of year, I’m not ready to crawl back into the freezer, even in my memory.
The “end of the road” milepost along the banks of the Chena River in Fairbanks is yet another gathering place to mark a finish. And yet the real finish line lies in Delta Junction, Alaska, 98 miles away, where a nearly identical milepost stands outside the visitors’ center. We paused at both places for photos, feeling pretty satisfied. And yet we’re not done driving! Tomorrow, we’re going south. No, no, only to Anchorage, not yet back to the Lower 48. We have a few more days yet. Loving’ it!