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The 2CV Alaska Challenge

Bulletin No.17

Bulletin No.17 WILD THING
Watson Lake, Yukon. Monday 23rd August 1999. MILE 4201 (6827Km) of the 2CV Alaska Challenge, from Quebec City.

On the drive up from Dawson Creek to Watson Lake - the first 600 miles of the 1500 mile Alaska Highway - it began to strike us just how remote this part of the world is. The forests and mountains went on for ever and signs of humanity became scarce. We became aware that we were now uninvited guests in the wilderness, but the residents didn't seem to mind our presence and were pretty laid back when we stopped to photograph them. We saw cariboo, elk, deer, mountain sheep, beavers, eagles and hippies, but we didn't get close to the lead actor in the Rocky Mountain drama: the bear.

We'd had a brief glimpse of a bear when we first hit the Rockies, west of Calgary. We were driving down a long hill. At the bottom of the hill was a bend, where we saw a very large brown shape walking casually across the road. By the time we reached the bend the bear had disapeared into the tree line. We didn't stop to investigate further.

But we did stop at Laird Hot Springs, on the way to the Yukon and Watson Lake. The water in the springs comes from a volcanic fissure and is 32 degrees. Tropical plants grow there. Strange fish swim in the waters. This, in a region where winter lasts for six months of the year and temperatures regularly hit 40 below zero. A few years ago at Laird Springs 2 people were killed by a bear. This was a brown bear that was sick, weighing just a few hundred pounds, half its normal body weight. The bear went for a mother and her child. Two people tried to help. The child and one of the rescuers were killed. The others were badly mauled. This was a rare event, but you should never mess with bears.

A bear can outrun a human, but can it outrun a Citroen 2CV? Luckily we never had to put this to the test and we reached Watson Lake without incident. Watson Lake is famous for its 'Signpost Forest'. A homesick US Army GI working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 erected the first group of signposts. Travellers from around the world have added others each year, increasing the number to over 20,000. We didn't bring a signpost along with us, but we had a spare gearbox, just in case we came across a Gearbox Forest further along the highway.


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These Bulletins originally appeared on The 2CV Alaska Challenge web site and remain the copyright of Rob Godfrey.