Category Archives: Yukon Territory

AK2FL One Year Later: Yukon

Nisutlin Bay at Teslin, Yukon. 02 June 2011.

Five photographs from Yukon one-year-after the cross-continent summer trip of 2011. These photographs were originally processed with Apple’s Aperture application and have been heavily edited with Snapseed on the iPad for this post. Original live-blog posts from summer 2011 can be accessed here

Yukon: Miles 0707-1314 (607 miles total in Yukon). The Yukon is a massive swath of isolate land. This is where the Alaska Highway is roughest and loneliest. Though it arguably doesn’t have the epic grandeur of the Icefields Parkway in Alberta or the Stone Mountain/Muncho Lake run in British Columbia, the Yukon Alaska Highway is still enshrouded by deep mystery and atmospheric beauty. During my trip through the Yukon, the weather was mostly against me. Regardless, the otherwise-detrimental weather merely served to further enhance the ethereal ethos of the Yukon Territory and its hidden beauties.

A marginal Lake Creek pond in the Shakwak Trench, Yukon. 01 June 2011.

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A knoll at Kluane Lake, Yukon. 02 June 2011.

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The Shakwak Trench and the Kluane Range, Yukon. 01 June 2011.

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Sphinx Mountain in the Cassiar Range, Yukon. 02 June 2011.

Wednesday 01 June 2011 (Day 02):

Thursday 02 June 2011 (Day 03):

Friday 03 June 2011 (Day 04):

The June 2011 Drive from Alaska to Florida

20110624-103522.jpgIn June of 2011, I drove solo from Anchorage, Alaska to Mt. Dora, Florida, taking the long way and cutting south through Utah and Arizona before finally heading east. I drove 7221 miles in 15 days in my beloved 1998 Jeep Cherokee. Lady Cherokee, bless her heart, performed beautifully — though the 100+ degree temperatures beginning in Oklahoma eventually began to unravel her four-year acclimation to the chilly Alaskan climate. With disintegrating lining and an exhausted water pump and belt, she eventually stalled and died fourteen miles from the finish line: my parents’ home in Mt. Dora.

My wife and daughter had flown directly to Mt. Dora, leaving me with two and a half weeks to explore North America as I made my way southeast. I camped in a tent or out of the Jeep all but two nights along the way and ventured into innumerable parks and preserves. Among these hiking/photo stops were (to name a few): Denali National Park, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Muncho Lake Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Petrified Forest National Park, the Painted Desert, Meteor Crater, Red Rock Canyon State Park, and the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. By the time I reached Oklahoma, the trip accelerated as I found myself closer to home and with an obviously heat-stroked vehicle.

Despite frequent difficulties with attaining decent 3G coverage, I photographed and live-blogged the entire trip with my Nikon D90 and iPad 2. Forcing myself to stop and write about what I was experiencing in real time provided me with a kind of internal rhythm by which I could better soak in these experiences. Indeed, it was ultimately more experience than my tiny hominid mind could handle and now, looking back, I’m grateful to have these on-location notes and testimonials for reference. Otherwise it would all be an incredible blur.

In general, I strove to not box myself in with a rigid timeline or concrete plan — other than to arrive home no later than Sunday the 19th on Father’s Day. Still, my modernistic ways kept pushing me to calculate and to box myself into itineraries. In hindsight, breaking free of my own self-mandated scheduling proved more difficult than the drive itself. It took great effort to break myself from “The Plan” from time to time, to follow an unknown road or to veer slightly off course.

In the end I consider the trip an astounding success and an absolute gift of experience. While others dream of exploring other continents, I find myself constantly in awe of my own home continent. North America is vast, dynamic, and extremely diverse in the beauties it affords. For everything I have seen of this continent in my life, I know there is still so much more to discover and to experience. I did some damage to my bucket list on this trip and fulfilled several life goals in travel, but I still feel like I’ve only begun — says the man in his late thirties.

Below you will find a chronological listing of liveblog posts written during this trip, with shortcut links to each and every post. Also mote that all posts on this blog are categorically tagged by state or province. These tags can be accessed via the main “black bar” menu at the top of this page under “Locations.”

Special props and gratitude to all those who read and commented along the way, either directly on the blog or via email. You helped make the trip feel much less lonely — and there were indeed some very lonely nights.

If you have any questions about this trip or any of the photos or information provided within, p,ease feel free to contact me via the blog or my email (jansonjones -at- me -dot- com). Also note that the photographs featured during the trip itself (beginning 31 May 2011) were taken with a Nikon D90 in RAW format and processed solely on the iPad 2. I did not have any laptop available during this time. I was strictly mobile in the true sense of the term.

UPDATE: Images in these posts have since been upgraded (in May and June of 2012). During the trip, I had no computer. Just the Nikon D90 and my iPad 2. All images were originally imported directly to and processed with the iPad 2. I was somewhat limited in what I could upload and usually only posted one or two images per post. Since then, I’ve fully processed the photos and revised these posts with the higher grade images in full.

THE DRIVE FROM ALASKA TO FLORIDA:
INDEX TO THE ORIGINAL LIVE-BLOG POSTS

Pre-Trip Posts:


Tuesday 31 May 2011 (Day 01):
ALASKA 

  

Wednesday 01 June 2011 (Day 02):
ALASKA, YUKON TERRITORY 

  

Thursday 02 June 2011 (Day 03):
YUKON TERRITORY 

    

Friday 03 June 2011 (Day 04):
YUKON TERRITORY, BRITISH COLUMBIA 

    

Saturday 04 June 2011 (Day 05):
BRITISH COLUMBIA, ALBERTA 

Sunday 05 June 2011 (Day 06):
ALBERTA 

  

Monday 06 June 2011 (Day 07):
ALBERTA, MONTANA 

    

Tuesday 07 June 2011 (Day 08):
MONTANA, IDAHO 

  

Wednesday 08 June 2011 (Day 09):
IDAHO, UTAH 

    

Thursday 09 June 2011 (Day 10):
UTAH 

  

Friday 10 June 2011 (Day 11):
UTAH 

  

Saturday 11 June 2011 (Day 12):
UTAH, ARIZONA 

  

Sunday 12 June 2011 (Day 13):
ARIZONA, NEW MEXICO 

  

Monday 13 June 2011 (Day 14):
NEW MEXICO, TEXAS, OKLAHOMA 

  

Tuesday 14 June 2011 (Day 15):
OKLAHOMA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI 

  

Wednesday 15 June 2011 (Day 16):
MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, FLORIDA 

  

Post-Trip Posts:

Alternatively, you can also view a thumbnailed archive list of all posts listed above here: http://dusttracks.com/category/series/summer-2011-the-drive-from-alaska-to-florida/.

~ janson.

NOTE: This post was substantially revised and completed on 11 August 2011.

Day 04 Begins, Mile 1290.3: To British Columbia Go We!

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03 June 2011 @ 8:54 pm PDT (1290.3 miles). Good morning and welcome to Day 04 of the drive from Alaska to Florida. According to the weather machine thing, it’s thirty-six degrees here in Watson Lake, Yukon, this morning. I don’t believe it. Feels more like the mid-40s. Either way, BLEH. Bring on the heat.

It’s overcast and rained much of last night. The sky is currently that dreaded blanket of soul-sucking, monotonous gray. Just about the worst kind of light imaginable for photography. At least, for me. I’ve seen some real photographers do wonders with this kind of light, but I’m not one of them. I need help with contrast and figure-ground contrast — thus, sunshine and texture in the clouds are most appreciated. Right now, I’ve got none. Just that color-sucking, void of bland light. I’d like to think it’s going to get better, but I’m afraid it may not. The projection for this whole region today is basically “Hopelessly Overcast, Dreadful Light With A Splash Of Rain Just To Make It Sting.”

Of course I’m paraphrasing.

So, the plan today is to shoot down toward Fort Nelson in British Columbia. It’s going to be a long day and one I suspect that won’t offer me any Wifi or Cellular connections. Along the way I’ll pass through the wildlife-thick corridors of Liard River, Muncho Lake, and Stone Mountain Provincial Parks. Today should be a day dominated by the wildlife of British Columbia. Just hope I can manage to take some decent photos.

On Saturday I should reach Dawson Creek and the end of the Alaska Highway. I should also hit Grande Prairie. If memory serves, both of these towns are a bit active and have a little scale — so I’m hoping to be able to get online somewhere on Saturday, if today’s locks me out.

Alright, time to head on out and get muddy. Let’s go find some wood bison, stone sheep, black bear, elk, mule deer, wild horses, moose, porcupine, red foxes, gray wolves, and whatever the hell else may be out there! Good light or bad, it should be a lovely (and long) drive.

- janson

Day 03, Mile 1290.3: Watson Lake, Yukon Territory

02 June 2011 @ 7:00 pm PDT (1290.3 miles). I am in Watson Lake, Yukon for the night. It’s just north of the border from British Columbia and sets me up for the Liard River, Muncho Lake, and Stone Mountain Provincial Parks run tomorrow. I can only hope it stops raining.

Raining?

Yes, raining. Cold, bitter tears from the winter gods, it seems. I got a little wet late this afternoon. And muddy. So, I’m in a hotel tonight. Doing laundry, charging batteries, catching up on the online smack, and what-not. Oh yeah, and showering. Also, drinking more coffee. But hell, I do that anytime, anywhere, and anyway.

So here I am in Watson Lake, crashing in a hotel, doing laundry. So what, you ask, is going on with these photos? It’s a fine question and I’m absolutely delighted you asked.

These are shots from the Sign Post Forest, the top tourist attraction of Watson Lake. I have no idea why it’s here or who built it. Like the tree in the forest, or whatever, it’s just there. I could probably look up the answer, but it might take me an hour to crack through Google to find the answer. The WiFi here is… functional, and we’ll leave it at that. More like original Blob than remake Blob.

So, yeah. There’s a sign post forest. It’s called “Sign Post Forest.” And it’s for real. There are more license tags than you can fathom. Undoubtedly stolen (or possibly “borrowed”) sign posts dominate the park. A few folks even put up custom burned, etched and/or printed signs. “Marge and Hank of Red’s Canyon Was Here”! I made that up, but you’re picking up what I’m putting down, aren’cha?

I have to admit, this Sign Post Forest is awesome. It transcends The Normal and dives head first into waters even David Lynch may fear to paddle. It’s glorious. And it’s here. Right next to me.

Remember that crazy old sweet guy who built Salvation Mountain (as featured in the shoulda-been-a-hit motion picture Into the Wild)? It’s like that, only with license plates and sign posts. Who built this thing!?!?!? It’s awesome!

So, I’m down for the night. Regrouping. Working on my neck strain. Doing laundry. Drinking coffee. Catching up on email. Drinking more coffee. Bathing. And sleeping. The next few days are going to be furiously active. We’re talking wood bison, moose, wild horses, black bears… The whole nine yards. And then some. I only pray that the clouds will move on and we’ll have a sunny day tomorrow. And I also pray I didn’t just curse myself with over-confidence of overwhelming awesomeness.

As far as the internet is concerned with live blogging — who the hell knows. I have no idea when I’ll have solid access again. Whenever I do, expect a flurry of activity. It’s going to be a busy couple of days.

~ janson

Day 03, Mile 1225.5: Sphinx Mountain

02 June 2011 @ 3:56 pm PDT (1225.5 miles). At one point, I was going to hit the U.S. and then turn east, then turn south toward Florida. Later it became a go-south and then turn east thing. The lure of Utah and Arches ultimately won out over the lure of Wyoming and Devil’s Tower. So, to this day, I still have not been to Devil’s Tower. And I am sad about that.

But less sad as of today.

Today I discovered Sphinx Mountain. Located in the Cassiar range, Sphinx Mountain helps ease the gaping hole of having never experienced Devil’s Tower. I mean, look at that thing. It’s a friggin’… tower! It looks like it could be Devil’s Tower’s stockier brother. The big, drunken one who picks bar fights. It’s an awesome mount, for sure. And it casts a long, long shadow.

This, of course, means something.

On the bummer side, it’s starting to rain. Bleh.

- janson

Day 03, Mile 1219.4: Rancheria River and the Cassiar Mountains

02 June 2011 @ 3:25 pm PDT (1219.4 miles). I’m about 120 kilometers from Watson Lake (a “kilometer” is what Canadians use to measure road distance instead of miles, as do all those other fancy-pantsy Western nations — whatevs).

Going to try to find a hotel. I’m seriously muddy and I need to find a place to shower and do laundry. Plus, internet would be nice so I can catch up with the family and blogosphere.

The light is quite nice right now. The clouds are again starting to take more and more depth and texture. You can do a lot with that kind of light — as long as it’s not that bland carpet of soul-sucking gray. Not there yet, but getting there. Maybe.

This is a photograph of the Rancheria River running through the Cassiar Mountains. At some point I’m going to have to pull out some topographic maps and figure out just how many ranges and mountain lines I’ll pass through on this trip… It’s mind-numbing.

- janson

Day 03, Mile 1129.1: Nisutlin Bay at Teslin, Yukon

2 June 2011 @ 1:25 pm PDT (1129.1 miles). Ah, yes. Now I remember. Teslin is the tiny town we stayed in back in 2007, not Watson Lake. Watson Lake is the place with the license plate garden… And what does that mean? Well, it means I’m going to be photographing license tags a bit later… Har har har. For real.

Meanwhile in the here and now, these are a photographs of the Teslin bridge running over Nisutlin Bay, which itself is connected to Teslin Lake. On the other side of the water is a strange resort compound… complete with tiny museum, tiny gas station, and tiny hotel rooms. We stayed here back in 2007 on the way to Alaska and had a great time. The sunrise from those grounds (over the bay) is phenomenal.

But alas, it’s not even two o’clock yet. I must press on — to Watson Lake, yes? Prepare to have your mind blown by a garden composed entirely of wood and license plates… Yukon, home of the unusual & extraordinary ordinary.

~ janson

Day 03, Mile 1095.9: Johnson’s Crossing at Teslin River

02 June 2011 @ 12:19 pm PDT (1095.9.4 miles). The drive is going well, though I haven’t had much luck with light until now. The sky’s still overcast, but it’s lightening up a bit. Starting to see some contrast and variation in the clouds — and brighter light on the ground. That’s change I can believe in.

Had to stop at Johnson’s Crossing where it crosses over Teslin River. I remember this area from the drive up in 2007. I love these tough bridges in the Canadian interior. They can kick some serious ass. They have to, right? You gotta be tough to survive this place in the winter, even if you’re all like, hey, I’m made out of steel . . . and brawn. You gotta be Burgundy Tough.

Also, for the record, the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Johnson’s Crossing was smooth. A smooth, fine ride. At Johnson’s Crossing, however, It’s turned back into the slap-happy, bash-your-spine festival I drove through earlier. Okay, it’s not *that* bad… but it ain’t that great either. Gravel, bumps, holes. Almost like off-roading . . . on the highway. Almost.

- janson

Day 03, Mile 1011.4: Whitehorse, Starbucks, and the Joy of Connection

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2 June 2011 @ 09:22 am PDT (219.4 miles). So, this post will actually go live right when I finish composing it. This is just after I uploaded the past six posts or so, catching up. Indeed, a few observations on the Yukon Territory.

1. Ain’t no internet, ain’t no cell phone. Not till Whitehorse, the capital, which is waaaay down south. Good luck with “roaming”. The only thing that roams up in the Yukon are the bear and the moose (I saw two each and they were beautiful, RAH!)

2. Ain’t no flat thing we call a “road”. The roads in the Yukon are awesomely destructive and violent. It’s almost as if they’re designed to hurt your shocks, your ties, and your own back and neck. Lots of construction, lots of incompletion. In a way, I see the Alaska Highway in the Yukon as a physical metaphor for Palin’s political thoughtfulness. Lots of construction, lots of signs, lots on incompletion and failure.

3. Ain’t no thing as Yukon sunshine, at least not when I’m there. Once again, as before, the Yukon has been dominated by clouds and light rain during my trip. I look at some of these places and try to imagine what they’d look like in bright sunlight. It must be tremendous. I wouldn’t know. Both times I’ve been in the Yukon it’s been a soupy syrup of ICK and BLEH.

4. Bears and Moose! (Refer back to first observation)

5. It is still very, very, very lovely — and lonely. Very lonely.

Seriously, yesterday afternoon and evening were tough. My wife and daughter were in a plane headed to Florida. The dog and cat were already in Florida. I had no phone, no internet, no Facebook network, Twitterverse, blogosphere. Social Nada, Social Nothing. Just me and the Yukon. Hell, there weren’t even very many people on the road. It was incredible: Loneliness. I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time: loneliness.

Still, with that in mind, Yukon is beautiful — despite the terrible roads, unmerciful clouds, communication breakdown, and on and on.

And so I’m going to head on. I hope to get close to Watson Lake today, which about wraps up my time in the Yukon. Tomorrow the Alaska Highway will break into British Columbia — and that means Muncho Lake and Stone Mountain Provincial Parks. I pray, pray, pray for sunshine. Not necessarily for today. I think that’s a lost cause. But sunshine tomorrow would be nice.

As for updates? Well… I have no idea. Whitehorse is literally the first time I’ve had any access to anything. I suspect Dawson Creek should have access somewhere, most likely… So, if I can’t post tomorrow, I’d be surprised if I couldn’t catch up the day after. As before I’ll keep writing in real time and then upload them when I have the access.

On comments and emails, rockin’ thanks. Sorry I’m not replying — the clock is ticking and I roll onward! But I am reading them and appreciate the thoughts.

Now, back into the rain go I. The South beckons.

To wrap up, here’s a terrible photograph of a North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) I spotted earlier today off the highway. Rah!

- janson

Day 03, Mile 868.9: The Kluane Lake Knoll

02 June 2011 @ 5:14 am PDT (868.9 miles). The Knoll! That didn’t take too long, did it?

So, this little “island” is on the extreme southern end of Kluane Lake, just to the side of the Kluane National Park and Reserve. I don’t know why, but that little swirl of land has held my curiosity for years. I don’t see any local postings about it, but now that I definitively know where it is, maybe I can find something online. Once, of course, I’m back online.

Still off the grid. Feels strange.

Also: still lightly raining little shards of ice. Must keep moving south.

~ janson

Day 03, Mile 861.5 Kluane Lake, Day Three Begins

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02 June 2011 @ 4:58 am PDT (861.5 miles). Good morning! It’s 47 degrees outside and raining little specks of ice! I’m pressing forward after getting a few hours of sleep. Today’s goal is to cover distance — and lots of it. If I make good time today, I’ll be primed for Liard River, Muncho Lake, and Stone Mountain Provincial Parks.

In fact, other than covering distance, I have only a few goals for today. First, I want to find “The Knoll” — as I call it. A strange little island caught between grass flats and water. I’m pretty sure it’s on Kluane Lake and remember it vividly from the 2007 drive. Hoping to see it soon, though if it’s this morning, the light just blows… Second, I need to find wifi/3G/cellular connectivity. I really, really, really want to talk to Mumpower and hear about her and Kid A’s flight and arrival in Florida. I also need to upload the increasing swell of backlogged posts sitting on my iPad.

So, there we go — and here we go.

- janson

Day 02, Mile 855.8: Congdon Creek Camping

02 June 2011 @ 1:33 am PDT (855.8 miles). Technically it’s Day 03, but this is the endcap for Day 02. After pulling over for a little nap earlier, I kept pressing on, looking for a park or camp site. Finally came across Congdon Creek. It looks pretty nice, situated right on the edge of the epic Kluane Lake. Thick trees, the Kluane shore, a couple of signs politely reminding you in French and English that you’re in bear country!

And that brings us to the Day 02 Yukon Count: Two American black bears and two moose. A handful of birds, but not much else. Granted, the last few hours it’s been dim and I’ve mainly just trudging forward, not really looking closely for the critters. And hey, when you’ve got two moose and two bears on the map, you can’t complain. Just wish I’d managed to get better photos. Curse these overcast skies!

Still no wifi/3G/cellular connectivity. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the grid — and damn, I’ve got a ton of posts to publish now…

~ janson

Day 02, Mile 746.1: Shakwak Trench and the Kluane Range

01 June 2011 @ 9:01 pm PDT (746.1 miles). Okay, so customs took longer than expected. Not for me, though. Whoever was three cars ahead of me took about fifteen minutes. I took only about three. It was super easy. And the Canadian Border Guard? Probably the sweetest, most professional and kind border guard you can imagine. Awesome. I’m amazed I found this surprising. It shows how low we’ve sunk in the United States. I now dread all border guards, TSA employees, and other national/state security staff. Anyhow, I cleared just fine.

Stopped at a rest stop to stretch and make some coffee. To my west is a fantastic view of Shakwak Trench –a vast lowland potted with lakes– and the distant Kluane Mountain Range(s). I just wish the light was better, the the overcast ambiance is cool in its own right. I’m going to push on tonight and I do hope to get some decent shots of the Kluane region. This place entrances me for some reason.

Still no wifi/3G opportunities. No idea when I will find a place. It’s getting late to find a wifi cafe and if I can’t find a cellular connection on my ipad, there’s just no way for me to upload this and the previous two posts… just waiting to go. Hopefully y’all don’t think I’m dead. And sorry for the hurricane of posts that will inevitably publish once I *do* finally get back online. At some point. Maybe in Montana.

More later; I push on.

~ janson

Day 02, Mile 707.3: The Yukon Border

01 June 2011 @ 7:45 pm PDT (707.3 miles). Aha, 6:45 just magically became 7:45! Why? Because I’m in the Yukon, baby — and that means Pacific Daylight Time!

I’m currently in some kind of DMZ between the U.S. and Canada. There’s a great deal of road between U.S. Customs and Canada Customs. I’ve passed the U.S. Customs and am technically *in* Canada, but haven’t cleared the country yet. It’s a netherland, I tell you. Also, I don’t see any borders up here. Aren’t there supposed to be reinforced concrete barriers with guard dogs every ten yards or so? I thought that was the plan a while back. Or am I thinking of Mexico? And is there a difference?

Anyhow, here’s the final stats count for Alaska:
– Road Work Stops: 3 (total delay of only twenty-one minutes combined. Impressive.)
– Arctic Ground Squirrels: 3
– Arctic Hare: 2
– Coyote: 1
– Dall Sheep: 15
– Moose: 6

I already saw a moose in the Yukon, before even clearing customs… The new count has begun.

Still no wifi/phone connection, but on the bright side I accidentally found my Nikon battery charger. I had it with me the whole time. The one in Anchorage must’ve been either my old one or Mumpower’s (she’d told me she found the Nikon charger!). So, I’m good to go on the battery front, hoo-RAH.

Speaking of Mumpower, I hope she’s doing alright with Kid A on the flight. I wish them much sleep and comfort — as much as possible on a plane, at least. Tomorrow night will hopefully be beautiful for both of them.

~ janson

June 2011: The Plan

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On 01 June 2011, I leave Anchorage and begin my two and a half week road trip to Florida, where I’ll meet up with Mumpower and Kid A at my folks’ house in Lake County. They’re flying separately to Florida, leaving me to do the drive solo –well, just me and my camera, at least– in the Jeep. Undoubtedly it’s going to be a remarkable trip.

In general, though I have an itinerary planned, this won’t be a trip regulated by rigid and firm deadlines. I fully expect for the “plan” to change and adjust in real-time, in response to what may come. Hell, the plan has changed already…

What follows in this post is the general plan so far for the June 2011 drive from Alaska to Florida.

Admittedly, this post also serves to allow me to pre-structure the new blog with categorical tags for each of these regions… as I do plan on live-blogging the trip as much as possible… You’ll also find a menu option below the banner image for “series”. This option will let you sort collected batches of posts by related by series-content. For example, all “Alaska-to-Florida” Summer 2011 posts will be collected together as one series. Organization is swell!

Alright, here’s the plan so far:

ALASKA. The trip begins, obviously, in southcentral Alaska. I’ll be shooting east for the border and plan on stopping at a few favorite haunts on the way out. Eagle River Valley, Hatcher Pass, and Matanuska Glacier are likely stops on my way to Tok. From Tok, I’ll then bolt east to the Yukon border, cruising the infamous Alaska (“Alcan”) Highway.

YUKON. There aren’t any formal parks I plan to spend much time at in the Yukon, though I do remember some areas from the 2007 drive I want to explore more of, namely the Kluane Lake area around Destruction Bay. I’ve got room to explore here.

BRITISH COLUMBIA. Highlight stops in British Columbia include Liard River Hot Springs, Stone Mountain Provincial Park, and Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Plenty of time is allotted for random wanderings, as this stretch of the Alaska Highway is packed with roaming bison, stone sheep, wild horses, and black bears.

ALBERTA. Alberta is home to the Icefields Parkway, a spectacular drive from Jasper south to Banff. Athabasca Glacier is located here, as are Banff and Yoho National Parks on the southern end (though Yoho is technically just over the B.C. border to the west). Also in this area, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Amazing region. I thank my Nikon in advance.

MONTANA. Glacier National Park, baby. I loved it in 2007 and I hope I love it again in 2011. After Glacier, this is where my route will break from the one in 2007. Instead of heading east toward the Lewis & Clark National Forest, I’ll be heading south toward Utah. I might stay the night near Lewis & Clark Caverns before skirting the edge of:

WYOMING. My time in Wyoming will be short. I plan on checking out Yellowstone National Park in the extreme northwest corner of Wyoming before continuing south. If it’s too crowded, however (which it is likely to be), I’ll probably save time and continue southward. As much as I’d love to see Yellowstone, I don’t like massive crowds… And I don’t have time on this trip to do much backcountry hiking/camping. So, Wyoming’s up in the air. I’ll play it by ear.

IDAHO. I’ll actually hit Idaho before and after Wyoming. I may check out Targhee National Forest after Yellowstone, but for the most part I’ll just be seeing Idaho from the pavement. Another blending of borders is Fossil Butte National Monument. Technically it’s in Wyoming, just over the border, south of Yellowstone — and it looks like a good place to stay the night on my way to Utah.

UTAH. This is the main goal of the trip, short of actually arriving in the southeast alive. Utah. I’ve never been and always wanted to… Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park beckon. I plan on spending several days in this area, soaking up the canyons and arid climate. I will also strive to not become pinned by a boulder in a narrow canyon.

ARIZONA. From Arches and Canyonlands I continue south to and through Arizona. The main objective is to get to the arid region east of Flagstaff, namely Meteor Crater — a mile-wide impact crater formed during the Pleistocene (about 50,000 years ago). I briefly visited Meteor Crater in January 1998 with a dear friend in college and can’t wait to return again. The region is immaculate. It’s a bit out of my way, but completely worth it. (Also note that I’m skipping the Grand Canyon northwest of Flagstaff — there just isn’t enough time!)

NEW MEXICO. Continuing east I hit New Mexico. The goal: the Very Large Array near Socorro. This is another spot I visited in 1998. The VLA is a part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. It’s comprised of three massive (y-shaped) tracks of 82 foot dishes (twenty seven in total). The dishes can be adjusted on these tracks depending on what’s being studied. The array can span about twenty-two miles when fully extended. The region around the VLA is quite beautiful and one I look forward to seeing again.

TEXAS. Texas is but a speed bump on the drive. No offense, Texans. I’ll pass through the panhandle between New Mexico and Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA. Destination: Tulsa. Purpose: Party. I’m meeting up with a group of old and dear friends in Tulsa for a party. If there was more time, I’d do the Wichita Mountains (one of my favorite regions on earth) and visit Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma. But alas, from the angle I’m coming in from, that would add two days to the trip to do each place justice… So, straight to Tulsa it shall be.

ARKANSAS. This is the part of the drive where distance and making-time starts taking priority over exploring and photography. Having said that, I do hope to be able to spend a little bit of time in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas. Lost Valley is a particular highlight. A favorite place of mine from years past. I miss the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas dearly.

TENNESSEE. I’ll pass through Memphis in the extreme southwest corner of Tennessee, but that’s about it.

MISSISSIPPI. Passing through Mississippi mainly to make time, it might be nice to find a few hours in Holly Springs National Forest. Maybe?

ALABAMA. My time in Alabama is constrained because of my arrival-deadline. I’ll be coming down Interstate 22 and then hopping on 65 at Birmingham (and then highway 82 east from Montgomery). I’ve got some dear friends in north Alabama I hope to meet up with for lunch, but the rest of Alabama-Time will be spend burning tread.

GEORGIA. I’m meeting Mumpower and Kid A in Florida, so humorously I’ll only be blowing through south Georgia, driving right past Valdosta. We won’t actually move to Valdosta until July, after we spend some time with family in Florida and later in South Carolina.

FLORIDA. And then, BAM! FLORIDA!

And that’s the plan.

Again, the “plan” is malleable and I fully expect it to change quite a bit. I’ve mapped out driving distances and times, but absolutely don’t want to regiment myself to any clock (other than arriving in Tulsa in time for the party and arriving in Mt. Dora on the right day). There are a lot of unknown variables in a trip like this. Automobile Health. Weather. Sleep. And on and on. So, who knows how it will actually pan out?

It’s certainly a lot of driving — and, mercifully, I do have quite a bit of time reserved for hiking and photography. Much of the trip I’ll be camping at night, sometimes in a tent, other times in the back of the Jeep. I plan on doing a hotel once every three or four days, maybe, so I can recharge batteries, shower, shave, and do the other things normal human beings do to make themselves tolerable to others.

It’s also going to be the grand test of the iPad. How well will this thing connect to the internet while on the road? Where will my blackouts be? And so on.

Crazy. This trip is going to be crazy. And that’s the plan. So far. As of now. (I’m a little bit excited.)

~ janson

NOTE: The photograph was taken in late 2007 from the window of an airplane somewhere over North America, between Anchorage and Tulsa…