Dawson Creek, British Columbia
We've been driving three days down the Alcan Highway and we are about 1,000 miles south from our campground in Carmacks.
The Alcan didn't exist before Pearl Harbor, but on December 7, 1941, construction priorities were changed. Within 60 days the construction of a highway to Alaska was approved and heavy construction equipment was moved by priority train to Dawson Creek.
Watson Lake was an important stop on the Alcan. Here is a picture I took on my walk this morning of the signpost forest that has become a tradition for travellers.
The long highway was completed by September, 1942. The route was dictated by the airfields along the Northwest Delivery Route, which were used to deliver 8,000 lend-lease aircraft to the Soviet Union. The road became impassible again in the summer of 1943. The removal of protective vegetation turned 100 miles of the road to muck after the permafrost melted.
The primary aircraft delivered to the Soviet Union was the P-39 Airacobra. Russian pilots took delivery in Fairbanks and flew on to Nome and Siberia. The mid-engine design was very unusual. The P-39 tended toward flat spins unless the nose was properly loaded with ammunition. It also lacked a turbocharger limiting its effective altitude to about 17,000 feet. The engine drive shaft ran between the pilots feet to the propeller. A 37 MM synchronized nose cannon made this a very effective ground support aircraft.
Aleksandr Pokryshkin flew the P-39 from late 1942 until the end of the war. His unofficial score in the Airacobra stands at nearly 60 Luftwaffe aircraft. His wingman, Grigori Rechkalov, scored 57 victories with the P-39. These are the highest score ever claimed by any pilot with a US-made aircraft. The Russian nickname for the Airacobra was Kobrusha, "dear little cobra".
“Frost heaves” are still common on the highway where sections are uplifted in winter. Axles break and windshields and headlights are shattered by flying gravel. We got a three windshield holes from flying gravel over the last weeks...also our awning frame warped and won't extend.
We stop at Watson Lake, sleep in a wild place on the side of the road at Kilometer 683 and end up today at mile zero in Dawson creek....it's still a long way to the Montana border...I want to stop in the Edmonton mall and buy new designer jeans that fit my body which is now 43 pounds lighter than it was in February...
We see some bear...they are more exciting when we meet them on foot in the woods...parts of the Alcan are very beautiful...mountains, lakes. rivers, mists, rainbows...we also see lots of bison and caribou....
Cooking hash and eggs on the side of the road...