A day-by-day description of the route to be traveled and places visited on the 1996 Alcan Winter Rally
Participants will have already arrived from their home states or countries and finished preparing their vehicle for the trip. The afternoon will be filled with event registration and a cold weather survival class by the Mountain Rescue Council. Those with the morning to spare might catch some last minute shopping in Seattle, The Emerald City, a quick lunch nearby at Redhook or Cafe Veloce, or a cruise past Bill Gates House, Lake Washington's most popular construction site.
From the Clarion Inn at Kirkland, the rally will start north on Interstate 405. Soon leaving the Interstate behind, rallyists will wind their way through the Cascade mountain foothills before crossing into British Columbia, Virtually Yours! Canada, near Abbotsford. With a long drive ahead, we download the free Super, Natural British Columbia Screen Saver and check out some of the scenery to come.
Joining Canadian Highway 1, the route winds north through the rugged Frasier River Canyon. At Cache Creek the rally finally joins Highway 97 North and the rolling prairie of BC's Cariboo Country. Temperatures begin to drop swiftly, and as evening falls we enter Quesnel .
This first day has covered 540 miles in about 12 hours. The outside temperature is 0 F.
Rallyists are up early to make last minute adjustments and prepare for the day. The day begins clear, cold, and bright, and the first slalom event is nearby at Gold Pan Raceway. In this event cars will run one at a time on a snowy oval track normally used for summer stock car racing. A great photo opportunity, and each vehicle is allowed two runs for each driver just to share the embarrassment.
Departing Quesnel, we take an alternate route on the Old Prince George Highway for another TSD section, then rejoin Highway 97 North. Time for a quick burger and gas in Prince George, then we push on quickly while checking the Central Interior of British Columbia Weather Forecast, since we're now heading into the Hart range of the Canadian Rockies and road closure is a possibility. In the late afternoon we again stop for gas in Dawson Creek, BC, and a mayor's reception and photo opportunity at the Alaska Highway's Mile 0 marker. Another two hours of TSD route on secondary roads and we finally stop for the evening at Fort Saint John, about mile 47 on the Highway.
This second day covered 510 miles (total mileage here is 1050). The outside temperature tonight will be -20F.
An early start, opening with a TSD through the Kansas-like rolling hills of this Peace River Region. Quickly back on the Alaska Highway we head north again with some lasting impressions of this northern farmland Scenes from the Peace Region. A late lunch in Fort Nelson, and time for a second track competion. From here we head into the highest and most rugged part of the Alaska Highway, past Summit Lake, Muncho Lake and the Liard River. Dinner tonight is at Watson Lake, just after we enter the Yukon at Contact Creek. As the road straightens and flattens, we push on late into the evening. This will be our first good opportunity to see the Northern Lights, and we finally stop in Whitehorse at the Regina Hotel - the Regina is significant to us both as headquarters for the Yukon Quest and because it has a heated parking garage!
Day three has covered 850 miles (total to here is 1900). The temperature is again -20F.
A short day, and a chance to sleep in a bit. We will begin with a TSD near town, then proceed immediately to a Solo II on the Yukon River very close to our hotel. The 3-mile course here is maintained by the Whiteout Snowmobile Club, and we'll use a 1 1/2 mile portion that affords good safety and visibility as each car loops down the river and back along the other shore. After this, time for lunch and some sightseeing (Yukon Picture Library) or shopping (Yukon Artist Jim Robb) before the trip north to Dawson City. After checking in at the Eldorado Hotel, we have another TSD nearby and an evening to rest up for the long drive to come.
Day four has covered 320 miles, the total to here is 2230. The temperature is -40F tonight...
This section will proceed 1400 miles from Dawson City to Prudhoe Bay, the Alcan's longest driving stretch. Teams will have two options and may either leave very early from Dawson to allow for a short night's sleep in Fairbanks, or wait for a scheduled Dog Mushing photo opportunity and depart in the late morning to drive through the night. In either case, teams will regroup for a scheduled departure from Fairbanks (checking the current Fairbanks weather) very early Thursday morning and start up the infamous Dalton Highway (the north slope "haul road"). (For Northern Lights odds, see the U of Alaska at Fairbanks Geophysical Institute's Auroral Activity Forecast). Arriving at Prudhoe in the afternoon, we take a guided side trip across the private Kuparic oilfield to visit the shore of the Arctic Ocean at Ilicktak Point (Xerox PARC Map Viewer: Prudhoe Bay area), and see how an oil field coexists in this sensitive area (Environmental Record at Prudhoe Bay).
The total mileage is about 3,700. It's windy and at least -50F here tonight.
This will again be a relatively short day, with a 400 mile trip back to Fairbanks and civilization (welcome to the End of the Road). Another TSD then we'll rest and regroup here for the night before a final push to the finish in Anchorage. Fairbanks is also a popular dog mushing center (see Mushing Magazine Online), and a place to learn more about the sport.
One more early departure, south on the Parks Highway toward Anchorage (current Anchorage weather ). This last day will include one or two more TSD's, and a final slalom event on the course at Big Lake near Wasilla. The 1996 Iditarod Race started in Anchorage this morning, so we'll also stop to see the action at the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla. The "official finish" location for one last photo op, then on to the Regal Alaskan Hotel for the night. Sponsor Isuzu will host the awards banquet here, starting about 8pm. The total event distance was 4,750 miles, or about double the shortest road distance from Seattle to Anchorage...
For the 6th year the Regal Alaskan is also the Iditarod host hotel, and the lobby has tables full of souvenirs. The bar has a great view of small planes on skis coming and going on Lake Spenard, and is a good argument for a Monday flight home! For more to do here check the Anchorage Convention And Visitors Bureau Home Page, or Alaskan Tour Guide - ImagiNet, Inc.
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