A Chronicle Of Alaska Highway: 1942 To The Present
In 1941, a roadless wilderness lay unbroken for 1500 miles between Alberta in Canada and Fairbanks, Alaska. A Japanese attack on Alaska seeming imminent, the Canadian and American Governments felt compelled to build an emergency highway to Alaska in the summer of 1942.
Rare film footage allows us to witness that struggle, ripping out a ribbon of road from some of the wildest forests on the North American continent. We join men and machines as they create a 1500 mile path of highway completed in a mere 8 months. Set to the urgency of World War in Europe and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaims it A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN INFAMY.
We share the reminisces of early civilian adventurers in the 1950's, an early hunting expedition with packhorses, camp fires and exquisite vistas, washed out sections of highway and delays that prompt unique and humorous methods to tame the shifting roadbed.
At Mile Zero in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, we begin our journey, meeting some of the residents along the highway - loggers, stone sheep, porcupine, water fowl and fox.
Muncho Lake delights us with a boat tour, while cliff swallows carry mud in their beaks back to their nests at Liard River and Liard Hotsprings. We take a dip and relax in the 125-degree water. In winter, moose will replace human visitors in this thermal park... a park where soldiers also bathed, back in 1942.
In Watson Lake, the Sign Post Forest has grown to more than 10,000 names of cities, states and places since being started by a lonely soldier in 1942. We also see comical road signs along the highway, even one being scrutinized by a moose!
Along the road, lies the world's smallest desert, surprising to see so far north. Canadian road crews constantly maintain the roadbed, and autumn color overtakes us on our journey. We find wildlife, but only through constant watching.
At White Horse, we join in the Sour Dough Reunion, a midwinter celebration in the streets, with contests and the general craziness of cabin fever released in raucous contests.
On the Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race, drivers will mush over 1200 miles through the lonely winter nights.
Another kind of craziness hit this area in 1898 - the race for gold! We return to those days and times, reliving the struggle as prospectors climbed the treacherous ice covered rocks of Chilcoot Pass, carrying 2,000 lbs. of supplies on their way to the Yukon gold fields.
In Dawson City, thousands gambled everything they had, including their lives, hoping to strike it rich. We relive those days and explore the town, which still has with dirt streets, gambling halls and 100-year-old buildings.
A local grocer shows off his Yukon farm where precious fresh vegetables are grown to generous sizes.
We also join a modern-day trapper in his dogsled for a run of his trap lines through the deep snow.
Farther up the road, otters romp in winter, then summer flowers emerge, so people gather rose hips for tea, joining giant machines engaged in straightening the highway.
Kluckshu Village is an isolated salmon-fishing camp used by the Tuchone Indians for over 400 years. We join a Tuchone family in an adventure of trekking into the wilderness to gaff for salmon in an isolated stream.
Up the road, we stop to watch the miracle of a gigantic log house being erected - all in one day. We meet the men of the construction, and watch the huge logs being fitted, looking like a giant tinker-toy project.
Leaving the highway, we join in the family life of an enterprising rancher, and watch the harvesting of crops of oats and hay, the gardening of vegetables, and other hard work that makes up the life of these independent Yukon men and women.
The ice fields and glaciers of Kluani National Park are a special wonder, and we see its majesty, by aerials and close-up. Viewing Mt. Logan, Canada's highest mountain, the Lowell Glacier, watching ice cliffs sheering off into the water hundreds of feet below along with a rare opportunity to observe the wildlife so few visitors ever experience;birds, otters, and Dall sheep rams, banging horns together in their ritual of rutting.
The poetry of Robert Service, the best-known poet of the Yukon, comes alive as we meet a Scottish actor, who lives each summer in the old Robert Service cabin and re-enacts the life of the author who wrote The Ballad of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew.