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|Audi Alaska Adventure|
|Written by Rich Truesdell|
|Friday, 31 January 1997 18:00|
It’s amazing the things we forget. Like beginnings. When you produce more than 100 magazine articles a year, for 10 years, you’re bound to forget a few. In the fall of 1996 I had contracted with the editor of a major lifestyle magazine to write a feature on driving to Alaska’s North Slope, on the Alcan Highway, in the wintertime. Now that’s a ROAD test! But it would also be a great travel adventure to boot. This story would become the genesis of Automotive Traveler.
At the time I was living in Albuquerque and working as a contributing editor for Motor Trend. Every month I produced a 4-page section focused on the budding category of in-car entertainment called Autotronics. The real experience of a great sound system in a car is the way the music, the road and the car all come together. Or not. So reviewing the gear was best done at 65MPH on an interesting road. At the time I am not sure that I had fully grasped the concept, but I knew that you couldn’t really experience what a car was about without understanding the context of where and how it was being driven.
During this period I became very friendly with the team at Bose, who did their best to send my way cars equipped with their premium-branded audio systems. At the time Bose used an outstanding public relations firm in the capable hands of Lisa Borman. It just so happened that Audi was one of Bose’s customers and she was able to get me an A6 Quattro Avant for the trip. It was the perfect car for the trip, extremely competent in all weather conditions and supremely comfortable.
Except for the sunroof shattering early in the trip, the trip was about as uneventful as any 8,500-mile road trip could be in sub-zero conditions. All I can say is that when we returned the car to Audi’s representatives in Denver, it looked as if it had been in a drive-by shooting, its windshield, pock-marked as if we had driven it to Baghdad and back.
In spite of the fact that I returned home to find that my house had been broken into and extensively vandalized, I assembled the images and text and submitted it to the assigning editor, who in my eight-week absence had left the magazine. The new editor wasn’t interested in the feature as he was busy putting his own stamp on the magazine. Undaunted, I posted a narrative of the adventure on the web under my personal AOL account. Three months later I was hired as the editor of Car Audio and Electronics and forgot about the pages until recently when during an unrelated Google search of "Alaska + Audi," up popped the link to the pages from more than 10 years ago. (When you read the pages, things like a gallon of gas at $1.29 will seem like an anachronism. And turn-of-the-century Alaska, refers to the 1890s, not the 1990s. In addition, many of the websites attached to the embedded links have long since disappeared.)
I looked it over and realized that this virtually unpublished story was the beginning of the idea that would become Automotive Traveler. While I would like to think that in the 11 years since my writing, editing, and photography skills have improved, I believe the story remains an enjoyable read. If any road trip I’ve taken over the past 20 years meets the Automotive Traveler tagline of “Where every trip is an adventure” this one certainly meets that criteria and I’m happy to share it with a wider audience.
Audi Alaska Adventure
Organized adventure drives present extraordinary challenges, a gauntlet to measure one's character. For freelancer writer Richard Truesdell, this journey of self-discovery traversed 8,000 miles over some of the roughest roads and conditions in North America. With Mark Turner and Jeff Burkholder, two photographers met via the Internet, he learned first hand that the call of the north was powerful. Much more so than he ever imagined.
What is the motivation to drive more than 8000 miles, from Seattle to Denver via Prudoe Bay, Alaska, in late fall when the mercury can plunge to more than 40 below? A sense of adventure or ingrained masochistic tendencies? Desire to explore unfamiliar geography or a feeling of release that driving great distances through unfamiliar territory brings? Planning every detail or having the flexibility to make changes, not constrained by a set schedule?
The seduction of Alaska was strong. Two spectacular roads, the celebrated Alaska and Dalton Highways were the enticement. In an age with six-lane Interstates running from coast to coast, each holds an antediluvian charm for the intrepid, overland adventurer.
The Alaska Highway , or the Alcan as it was known in its early days, connects Dawson Creek, British Columbia and Fairbanks, Alaska. Following Pearl Harbor, it was constructed in less than eight months in 1942, testimony to American and Canadian resourcefulness.
The Dalton Highway , also known as the Haul Road, runs from a point seventy-three miles north of Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Alaska on the Arctic Ocean. Named for Arctic oil engineer James Dalton, this utilitarian road was constructed in five months in 1974. It was the primary means of moving men, machine and supplies during the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
Planning and Logistics
What vehicle is most suited? Luxury sedan with traction control? Sport utility vehicle (SUV) with high clearance? Or is there a hybrid that offers the best of both worlds? Based on extensive evaluations of possible vehicle choices, the decision was made to secure an Audi A6 Wagon with their famed quattro all wheel drive system . This proved to be an outstanding choice to tackle the rigors of the Arctic.
The A6 offered several major benefits over any SUV; the wagon version offers the space attributes of a SUV combined with the road manners of a sport sedan. In a region where open service stations could be 200 miles apart, the 19.8 gallon fuel tank, combined with exceptional fuel economy, added up to a cruising range in excess of 400 miles.
The first thing to remember about planning an overland trip to Alaska is that there are no Ritz-Carltons or Club Meds along the Alcan. With few exceptions, luxury accommodations are almost non-existent in Western Canada and Alaska. Most roadside accommodations bear a close kinship to motor courts holding fond memories from road trips during undergraduate years.
Absolutely the best way to overnight, especially during the off-season, is to stay in bed and breakfast (B&B) establishments along the way. Going the B&B route will put you in personal contact with the innkeepers, all who will be willing to fill you in on local folklore and places worth visiting.
The most indispensable resource for planning your own Alaska Adventure is The Milepost (Vernon Publications, Inc. Bellevue, WA - $19.95 at most bookstores). Every highway traversing the region is detailed in-depth, from scenic highlights to lodging and service stations, each referenced to mileposts from the start and ending points of each highway.
WEEK 1 - Seattle, Washington to Fairbanks, Alaska
The favored approach to Dawson Creek from the west coast begins in Bellingham (Seattle), Washington, picking up the Trans Canada Highway at Abbotsford to Route 97 at Hope, British Columbia . From Hope, Route 97 runs north through Cache Creek and Prince George, British Columbia until it reaches Dawson Creek. There it morphs into the first section of the Alaska Highway.
Fifty-five paces south of Alaska Highway milepost 0, in the heart of downtown Dawson Creek, is the Alaska Hotel, a fixture in Dawson Creek since 1930 when it was known as the Dew Drop Inn. In 1972, Hungarian emigrants Charles and Heidi Kux-Kardos bought the Alaska Cafe, adjacent to the hotel, for a grand total of $308. In 1989, they added the hotel to their holdings. Since then, they have endeavored to continually change and upgrade the rooms, which are furnished with a variety of antiques from the Kux-Kardos collection. Before leaving Dawson Creek, like countless drivers before, the A6 was photographed at milepost 0 as fresh, wet snow fell from the leaden sky. In many ways it was the official start of the journey northward.
For most of the first week, thick low clouds dumped ever-growing layers of snow on the highway and the dense spruce forest stretching to the horizon. Caribou, seeking salt, pawed through the snow on the road, reacting only to the blare of a trucker's air horn. Southeast of Haines Junction, we encountered two coyotes on the side of the road. They walked up almost to the car door, looking hungry. Appearing almost like ordinary house pets, there was the temptation to get out of the car to get a better angle. DON'T even think about it.
At historic milepost 1069 is one of the most famous points on the entire length of the Alaskan Highway, Soldier's Summit. On November 20, 1942 the Alcan Highway, was formally dedicated here. Soldier's Summit is not one of the two separate points where construction crews met. Those points include Contact Creek, British Columbia, historic milepost 590 and Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory historic milepost 1202. Construction crews worked north and south from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, meeting workers from the Dawson Creek and Fairbanks. When completed, the road was not much more than a primitive trail through the wilderness.
Soldier's Summit overlooks beautiful Kluane Lake , the largest lake in the Yukon Territory , and a choice spot for sportsmen the world over. Between May and the end of September, it is a favorite spot for fishing, camping, boating and other summertime activities. Under low October clouds the deep aquamarine tint of the lake, from suspended glacial deposits, made the view from Soldier's Summit supernatural.
In Tok, Alaska, 205 miles southeast of Fairbanks, we overnighted at The Cleft of the Rock , our first stay in a B&B. Hosts Jill and John Rusyniak waited up late for our arrival. In doing so, they started what was to become a tradition during the remainder of the trip, late night computer sessions exchanging tips, links and information. In the far north, especially Alaska, Internet communications has become a mainstay, allowing people to communicate over vast distances. John, who is the Director of Technology Education for the 50,000 square mile Tok Regional School District, is establishing Internet links throughout his district.
WEEK 2 - Fairbanks to Talkeetna via Deadhorse
Twenty-eight miles north of Fairbanks, on the Elliot Highway, the luxury of pavement ended. From that point, the road would be a combination of sharp gravel and hard packed ice. The next major milepost was the junction of the Dalton Highway, seventy-three miles north of Fairbanks. A simple green sign denoted 175 miles to Coldfoot and 414 miles to Deadhorse. The air seemed exceptionally dry as the thermometer hovered around 20 below. It felt both pure and wonderfully invigorating. Proceeding northbound, not long afterwards we noticed a southbound tanker that had run off the road on our right. We were glad we were not in its path. It served as a wake-up call to the dangers lying in wait if attention behind the wheel should waver.
The icy Dalton Highway requires a special technique, especially at this time of the year. Although the road is broad and well-graded in most parts, recent snow left only a single pair of tracks straddling the crown of the roadbed. The reason for this became obvious. The truckers who drive it every day believe that it is their God-given right to drive right down the center of the road. To keep one's windshield intact, it is a good idea to yield a bit to the right in case a trucker is somewhat inattentive going in the opposite direction.
At 6:15 PM, in the Arctic twilight, the A6 pushed across an imaginary line in the snow at 66 degrees, 33 minutes north, the Arctic Circle, the second major landmark of the journey.
Fifteen minutes later, after cresting a rise in the road the first moonrise above the Arctic Circle spread out over the tundra. Against a striking dark violet-black sky, the almost-full moon cast an iridescent light copper glow over the landscape.
Nighttime driving, over an unfamiliar icy road at 30 degrees below zero requires a great deal of concentration, even in a vehicle equipped with all-wheel-drive. Darkness and fatigue compound the problem, especially with the rolling road placing a black hole 200 feet ahead of the car, a great place for moose, caribou or reindeer to surprise the unwary.
The last 15 miles to Coldfoot the airport beacon drew us inexorably towards our destination. The A6's dash continually displayed the outside temperature, now 30 below zero, making it seem that we were driving a $40,000 thermometer. More than once the thought crossed my mind that all there was between us and an off-road excursion were four handprint-sized patches of rubber. They are the difference between arriving safely and spending the night freezing in the car, waiting for help to arrive.
Coldfoot, the northernmost "resort" in the United States, is home to the Arctic Acres Inn. Furnished in early pipeline provincial, the best that could be said about the accommodations were that they were functional and warm. Having read accounts of trips up the Dalton in countless magazines, there was the eerie feeling of having been here before.
The Arctic Acres Inn also boasts that it is the northernmost saloon on the continent. Using the pool hall as an icebreaker, we talked with several pipeline workers. Half expecting to encounter rough, redneck types, I was pleasantly surprised by everyone's outgoing nature. Sensing the protocols, I put two quarters down on the table and waited my turn to play.
Initially I was mistaken as a new rigger. Conversation flowed, as well as more than a few beers. The talk quickly turned to cars and our Audi, which was idling overnight in the parking lot with 20 pickups, insuring that it would not freeze up.
Starting out the following morning, nothing prepared us for what was to come. The first 75 miles could best be described in terms of the decreasing vegetation. At milepost 235.3 the northernmost spruce is noted by a roadside marker. By this time the last natural barrier, the Brooks Range, dominated the forward view as we approach Atigun Pass, the highest roadway pass in Alaska.
Rapidly descending from 4,800 feet, the road and pipeline run like two ribbons north across the tundra. Simultaneously, the sun broke out and displayed a striking sight, the vast North Slope stretching like a rolling white blanket to the sea. No vegetation, no signs of civilization, nothing except snow, road, and pipeline. Lunar is the word that first comes to mind, except that there were no craters.
Deadhorse, like Coldfoot, was everything and less, than was expected, an outpost of semi-civilization built to service the adjacent oil fields. Checking in at the Prudoe Bay Hotel, plans were simple; overnight and turn right around and head back south to Fairbanks. We had called ARCO in Anchorage to gain access to their facility but heard back nothing in reply.
The following morning the mercury began a rise to 10 below, but this was a bad omen as a front was blowing in from Barrow. Winds whipped up to over 30 MPH, a conspiring to make conditions more hazardous, especially at Atigun Pass. A suggestion was made to contact the trucking firms. After calling around one was found, leaving in twenty minutes.
Locating the trucker, he suggested in the strongest possible terms, that it would be best to wait out the storm at least a day. Conditions were severe and expected to worsen. Contemplation took less than a minute; the decision was made to return to the hotel. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision on two separate levels.
At the hotel, we were met by a light green pick-up truck. The driver, from ARCO's security company asked who I was and if I had requested a tour of the oil field. Thirty miles later, driving through a hellacious blizzard, we arrived at ARCO's East Dock facility, seven miles north of the main gate. Normally, outside of the summer months when commercial operators conduct pubic tours, there is no access to the facility or the Arctic Ocean.
The quest to reach the frozen ocean fell 100 yards short as four feet of drifting snow prohibited further passage. Even the guide's F-350 4WD pickup was unable to break through. 40 MPH gusts, providing a 50 degree below zero wind chill factor, made even a 100 yard hike seem like a silly proposition.
The site was documented with photos and videos. After spending just 15 minutes out in the Arctic cold, I knew that it would be a long time before I would again complain about paying a $1.29 for a gallon of 86 octane back in Albuquerque.
A lighter touch was provided by a couple of gas pumps across from the private ARCO airfield, topped off with a signpost with distances to major world cities. Above the pumps was a sign reading "Future site of an AM/PM Mini Mart" the name given to ARCO's convenience stores. Before leaving the facility, members of ARCO's security team gave us a tour of the Main Base Camp facility and proudly demonstrated ARCO's corporate WWW page. That night at dinner we learned that Atigun Pass was closed. Thinking about the prospect of camping out at 30 below made dinner taste especially good.
Driving south, through Fairbanks, our next destination was the Forget Me Not Lodge & Aurora Express . Innkeepers Sue and Mike Wilson not only offer traditional accommodations in their 5000 square foot lodge, but have a full sized restored train, including two Pullman sleepers, on their 15-acre hillside overlooking Fairbanks. The first car can sleep a group of up to seven, recreating The Alaska Railroad experience, circa 1956. The second Pullman offers a more frivolous adventure, suites with queen sized beds decorated in four distinct period motifs; Immaculate Conception, Gay Nineties, Can Can and Bordello.
The caboose suite, "The Golden Nellie" is special in its own right. It features an opulent bedroom combined with a unique sitting room situated in the caboose's cupola, offering a splendid view of the city below. It is easy to imagine curling up with a good book and relaxing on a summer's eve as the sun dips but never sets. In wintertime, the northern lights perform their spectacular show.
Two days later, the sky dawned bright, brilliant blue and crystal clear. If there was to be just one day of perfect weather, this was the day. K2 Aviation , one of the best known air services in the Talkeetna/Mount McKinley/Denali area, were our hosts for a sightseeing flight around Mount McKinley.
K2 offers a variety of daytrips as well as overnight packages. The latter includes the flight, overnight accommodations in a backcountry cabin or lodge, all meals and several different activities such as gold panning, mountain biking, fishing or climbing. For those with a penchant for additional thrills, K2 can custom design an itinerary.
Taking off from the adjacent airstrip, pilot John Pafford took less than twenty minutes to reach 13,000 feet and the point where Mt. McKinley filled up the windscreen of our Cessna 185. He pointed out the various climbing camps, huts and routes up the mountain. Flying over various glaciers, you get the feeling, traveling at about 140 MPH, that it is almost possible to touch the face of the mountain.
John provided an additional dimension to the flight when he took us down to about 500 feet above the terrain, flying through what he called the Star Wars chasm. He replicated the famous Death Star attack scene from Star Wars, the sides of the chasm enveloping the plane, placing it completely within the shadows of the early November noon-time sun.
WEEK 3 - Talkeetna to Prince George
From Talkeetna, the next destinations were the coastal cities of Valdez, Haines and Skagway. They provide a striking contrast to interior Alaska. Having already visited the northern terminus of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, stopping at Valdez, the site of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, seemed natural. Valdez is the home of The World Extreme Skiing Championships, held each spring since 1990.
From Valdez, it is necessary to drive back north to reach the seacoast towns on Alaska's southeastern panhandle. This required a return visit to the crossroads town of Tok where we met Donna Blasor-Bernhardt, the owner of the WinterCabin B&B. Known as the Tent Lady of Tok, Donna is a published author and over the years the WinterCabin has served host to celebrities like Charles Kuralt.
The following day, we arrived at the seacoast town of Haines. We inquired if there was a direct route to Skagway since it was our next stop. Unfortunately, other than the next night's ferry, the only way to cover the 13 miles north to Skagway was to traverse almost 350 miles of road back up and down the peninsula. There were many old logging trails that were great for four-wheeling, but none went all the way through to Skagway.
The next stop, The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, was another of the trip's high points. Also known as The Valley of the Eagles the preserve is located between the 10 and 26 mileposts on the Haines Highway. It provides an unparalleled opportunity to view bald eagles in late fall and early winter.
Hundreds of eagles were perched like bats in the trees. Most seemed intent on lunch, likely a tasty salmon flopping in the Chilkat River below. Viewing these majestic creatures was a breathtaking experience. Using the 30 to 1 digital zoom of a Sharp Digital ViewCam provided an unparalleled opportunity to capture the sights and sounds of the eagles. Getting it on tape justified all the planning and sacrifice that went into making this trip. At one point, 20 feet was all that stood between the lens and a particularly bold eagle before he went after his next meal.
From Haines, we looped north and back south again to arrive in Skagway after 7 PM on Election Day. The Golden North, Skagway's only year-round, full-service hotel was our destination. That night we received a rundown on local history from Teri Whitehead. A true multi-tasker, she not only served as on-duty manager, but staffed the bar, cooked and served dinner as well.
The Golden North, the oldest hotel in Alaska, serves as a time machine, a transporter to the turn of the century Klondike Gold Rush. Similar in concept to the Alaska Hotel in Dawson Creek, each room is uniquely furnished with period items from the days of '98. Most have private baths, except for four rooms on the third floor. Some rooms on this floor have a special history. In the Golden North's cozy bar, local resident Dan Crum, served up a great 4th of July story. It involved a wayward Canadian sailor who got too friendly with another guest. That is until her husband returned. Encouraging her paramour to climb out the window, naked as a jaybird, she convinced him a ledge was just below his feet. Releasing his grasp from the window sill, he fell three stories, rupturing his spleen while knocking himself out cold until he was discovered two hours later by an extremely inebriated local. If you visit Skagway, look up Dan. He will be happy to tell you more and Teri verifies that this story is 100% true.
On day twenty, before leaving Skagway, we visited the White Pass & Yukon Route, one of three remaining narrow gauge railroads in North America. Completed on July 29, 1900, it transported stampeders the first 110-miles to Whitehorse and then to the gold fields in the remote reaches of the Yukon Territory north of Dawson City.
It was noteworthy that Skagway is one of the few Alaskan Gold Rush settlements not to have been ravaged by the scourge of fire. It retains original examples of Gold Rush/Klondike architecture from the turn of the century. Through the efforts of the City of Skagway and the US National Park Service, this slice of Americana has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.
WEEK 4 - Prince George to Coeur d'Alene
The fourth week provided an interesting change of pace as it allowed us to sample two outstanding hotels, The Chateau Lake Louise and the Banff Springs Inn. Both were originally constructed during the Canadian railroad boom at the end of the last century and were among the few true luxury hotels encountered along the route.
Of the two, The Chateau Lake Louise is smaller but hardly intimate. The original chateau was built in 1890, two years after the Banff Springs Hotel. Situated right on the lake, it burned to the ground in 1893, was rebuilt and reopened in 1894.
Various expansions over the years have expanded the Chateau Lake Louise to 511 rooms with a variety of shops. With its imposing lobby, the Chateau Lake Louise is everything one would expect in a classic luxury hotel.
With the surrounding mountains blanketed with snow, it was time to hit the slopes of the Lake Louise Ski Area. Covering more than eleven square miles, the Lake Louise ski season runs from early November through the first week in May. You can expect excellent conditions by the end of November when the full mountain is opened and covered with dry, champagne powder and Lake Louise hosts the Women's World Cup. Snowboarders are welcome and the Evian Snowboard Park, at the base of Summit platter, is a haven for those who prefer boarding to skiing. Staying at the Chateau while skiing at Lake Louise can be a luxurious challenge, the opportunity to savor one of North America's finest mountains. When visiting Lake Louise Ski Area, be sure to take advantage of the renowned SkiFriends program.
After skiing, the next stop was an hour to the south, the famed 825 room Banff Springs Hotel, also known as the Castle in the Rockies. It is a treat that must be experienced to fully appreciate the tradition and history of this region. Like the Chateau Lake Louise, the Banff Springs Hotel has undergone several major renovations since it was first constructed on the hillside overlooking Banff in 1888.
The Banff Springs Hotel, an architectural blend of Scottish Baronial and French Chateau elements, is also the home to the Stanley Thompson-designed 27-hole Banff Springs Golf course. It is one of the finest championship courses in Western Canada. The more than 800 rooms provide a stunning view of either the valley or in the case of our two-room suite, a spectacular vista of the mountains surrounding the Banff Valley.
The last day in Banff provided an opportunity to sample the amenities of the world renowned Solace Spa. It offers a full complement of services including whirlpools, a multi-tiered mineral bath, private solariums and an extensive selection of body treatments. The Solace Spa is a wonderful way to soothe the body and soul after a day on the slopes, golf links or on one of the hotel's tennis courts.
WEEK 5 - Coeur d'Alene to Denver
The southbound trip through Idaho afforded a last opportunity to take advantage of unique accommodations along the route. In Coeur d'Alene, courtesy of a listing in the AAA Tourbook, we located The Roosevelt Inn B&B, a converted turn of the century schoolhouse.
Innkeeper John Marias described how the two-story, four-room school house ended up as a three-story, twenty-room B&B. John, an engineer by trade, first gutted the interior, replacing the 14-foot ceilings to add the third floor. In its first incarnation, the building served as an office complex. This was not a financial success and led to the decision to renovate a second time into a B&B. Located, on a quiet, tree lined residential street, just a short walk from the downtown plaza, and the 20 richly furnished rooms include a sumptuous bridal suite. It is very popular with both honeymooners and those celebrating a special anniversary. Call to reserve early as it is booked between 30 and 40 weekends a year.
Butte was next and for once, clear weather offered a golden opportunity to explore Montana's reasonable and prudent speed limits. After passing over the Continental Divide yet another time, long flat sections of I-90 were utilized to explore the A6's top speed capabilities. At 6,000 feet, it was unreasonable to expect the A6 to pull all the way up to the 128 MPH specified by Audi, but it got close.
Above 110, the laws of physics conspired to keep the A6 from reaching terminal velocity. Finally, on a long, straight stretch, the speedo punched through 120. Given that there were two people on board with several hundred pounds of gear, there was no doubt that with a lighter load, closer to sea level, the A6 would easily run out against its rev limiter.
Soon afterwards, red and amber flashing lights were spotted along the right shoulder about two miles ahead. The natural reaction was to immediately slow down. Leveling out at 95, the trooper quickly became a speck in the rear view mirror. There was the expectation that he would take off in pursuit or possibly call ahead to have someone else haul us over but it never happened. What a great feeling!
The last week's travel brought us through Jackson, Wyoming and three days in Steamboat Springs , where it was easy to take advantage of Colorado's early snowfall. Packing the car one last time, there was a measured feeling of emptiness. On the last day, the route would cover a southeast run on US 40 and Colorado 9 before intersecting with Interstate 70. The trip east to Denver included the final two traverses of the Continental Divide.
Arriving in Denver, thoughts ran to what would make a great photographic bookend, something both noteworthy and unique? It was an easy choice, Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. With its stately, classic architecture, deep hued red brick facade, it was the perfect backdrop, contrasting with the equally classic lines of the silver A6 wagon.
For 8,531 miles, from Seattle, to Prudoe Bay, to Denver, this adventure ran a wild and woolly course. The real attraction went far beyond the magnificent scenery; it was meeting the all wonderfully unique individualists along the way. It is unfortunate that so many could not be documented here. (For detailed profiles, look at the on-line journal of the Alaska Adventure.
In retrospect, no amount of planning can fully prepare one for a trip to Alaska. The land and distance are so vast that it dwarfs any vision that one's imagination might create. It did provide an opportunity for self-evaluation, a solution to a mid-life crisis compacted into five glorious weeks. To paraphrase a recent television commercial, "Life's a Journey, I know I enjoyed the ride."