Towards the last Frontier – Roads and Permafrost

In the last days we made our way up going further north and north. With no problems we got into Canada and decided to take the more scenic but also more difficult route via Banff, Jasper, the Cassier Highway towards Whitehorse and finally into Alaska.  Although the roads sometimes reminded me slightly to African roads we weren’t disappointed: 16 black bears, 1 grizzly bear, a caribou and a grey wolf in addition to an amazing scenery!

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The Cassier Highway finally meets the Alaska Highway and on some historic mileposts you can read about how the Alaska Highway was built and finished in 1942 and what difficulties they had to face. There is a phenomenon called “permafrost”:  The permanently frozen earth is underlying much of the northern landscape. When the builder scraped off the insulating layer of overburden, they exposed the permafrost to sun. This melted the permafrost and formed and ice-bottomed mud bog. Yukon sunshine in summer could produce as much mud as rain produces in other part of the world! Finally the frost in fall only made the road passible again. But the following spring the same happened again. The highway engineers finally had to learn that the best way to build a road over permafrost was to leave the insulating of dirt and vegetation in place and build the road on top of it. The underlying logs and timbers still underlie much of the road from today!

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Every winter frost and ice still damages most of Alaska’s and Canada’s roads which we could feel driving Atka around many potholes.  Luckily she did a great job and only lost her coolant water tank cab which we temporarily fixed with a dry bag and some zip ties.

We made it into Alaska over the border again and Atka had to pass a thorough inspection by Alaska’s DOT officials… and she did great! We can proudly announce that she has an Alaskan number plate now!

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In a few days the first trip will start and we are having a few days in Anchorage where the sun never goes down at the moment which means temperatures are very pleasant! By the way: Did you know that Anchorage is almost at the same latitude like Oslo in Norway?

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2 Responses to Towards the last Frontier – Roads and Permafrost

  1. Paul Thompson says:

    Let me know when you are in Anchorage! I was just in the Yukon last week! 🙂 Paul Thompson (Tour Director)–drpaultravel@yahoo.com

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