Northern Exposures

5/30/2018

15.2

Two SRTUSA photographers take an epic Alaskan road trip in a 2018 WRX. 

“To the lover of wilderness,” wrote the naturalist John Muir, “Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” It’s the place where wilderness still reigns supreme, despite the presence of 714,000-odd hardy souls who live there. It’s a place where many people have arrived to find their fortune, find themselves or just get permanently lost.

SRTUSA photographers Lars Gange and Ben Haulenbeek were of the “get lost” variety, but on a temporary basis. From their home base of Vermont, they climbed into Lars’ 2018 Subaru WRX, pointed it at the sunset and made their way across North America to the Alaska Highway, intent on seeing all of it. “The WRX was the ideal car for this drive,” says Haulenbeek. “It handled the twisting mountain roads easily, making the ride that much more exciting.” 

From Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska, the Alaska Highway is actually an assemblage of 14 different provincial and state highways, stretching 1,387 miles. It was originally constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II to act as a supply route between Alaska and the contiguous United States. To be sure, the route isn’t for those who aren’t up for some logistical challenges. “We did a good job of planning gas stops and didn’t run dry,” says Haulenbeek. “At one point, though, around 2-3 a.m. in the Yukon, we did have to stop and camp because there wasn’t going to be one open anywhere.”

Lars and Ben took photos along the way, documenting the entire trip. It’s the kind of adventure that a lot of WRX owners can easily picture themselves doing. Maybe this trip is your inspiration.

We caught up with Ben to hear more about the epic adventure.

Through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, this was the view: flat, straight and surrounded by fields of flowers.

“The first few thousand miles of the sprint across North America were not quite as dynamic as the last thousand. Through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, this was the view: flat, straight and surrounded by fields of flowers.”

This is where the drive really got exciting. We began to twist our way through the Rocky Mountains, one amazing view after another.

“After days of driving across the prairies of central Canada, we got on the Alaska Highway in the town of Dawson Creek. This is where the drive really got exciting. We began to twist our way through the Rocky Mountains, one amazing view after another.”

Canada’s second largest hot springs, Liard Hot Springs, was built by the U.S. Army in 1942.

“About halfway between Dawson Creek and Whitehorse, Yukon, on the Alaska Highway you’ll find the Liard Hot Springs. Since we were already stopping for fuel, we decided a short hike into the woods for a quick dip in the thermal hot springs was a worthwhile detour.”

Lars (left) and Ben at the Top of the World border crossing outside Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory.

“These signs are there to let you know that now’s the time to turn back or make other arrangements if you can’t reach the border before closing time, even though we were nine hours away from the border.”

By the time we made it to the Yukon River, the car was literally crusted in bugs.

“One thing there’s no shortage of during summer in the Great North is bugs. We came prepared with industrial glass cleaner and microfiber towels to clean the windshield, but still had to stop constantly. By the time we made it to the Yukon River, the car was literally crusted in bugs.”

Dawson City in Yukon was built on the Gold Rush during the beginning of the 20th century, and to this day it retains that feel.

“Dawson City in Yukon was built on the Gold Rush during the beginning of the 20th century, and to this day it retains that feel. It’s truly the end of the road for civilization in North America. It’s isolated, with many of the buildings retaining a 19th century look, and attracts people from all walks of life. It’s like nowhere else you’ll ever visit and a real gem in a world where the frontier has become a distant memory.”

Crossing the mighty Yukon River in Dawson City requires ice bridges in the winter and ferries in the summer.

“Crossing the mighty Yukon River in Dawson City requires ice bridges in the winter and ferries in the summer. The Yukon River is a massive waterway that stretches 1,980 miles from British Columbia through the Yukon, and west across all of Alaska, before emptying into the Bering Sea.”

Welcome to Poker Creek, the northernmost land border crossing in North America, population: 3.

“Welcome to Poker Creek, the northernmost land border crossing in North America, population: 3. And what does the border crossing agent, who has to travel hundreds of miles on treacherous Alaskan roads, drive? A Subaru Outback!”  

On the Top of the World Highway, the WRX got out in front of a few RVs as the road turned to gravel, and Lars opened it up in its natural terrain.

 “Despite how remote and rugged it was, the Top of the World Highway was much busier than we’d anticipated. After getting through the Poker Creek Border Crossing, there was a ribbon of flawless tarmac draped across the ridgeline. We got out in front of a few RVs as the road turned to gravel, and Lars opened up the WRX in its natural terrain.”

The Top of the World Highway brings you here – deep in the arctic wilderness.

“The Top of the World Highway brings you here – deep in the arctic wilderness. The highway is a seasonal road that connects the communities of Chicken, Alaska, and Dawson City, Yukon. The remoteness and scale of the arctic north must be experienced in person.”

Road trip total: approximately 5,050 miles! Note: This route is abbreviated and approximate and should not be used to navigate travel.
Road trip total: approximately 5,050 miles! Note: This route is abbreviated and approximate and should not be used to navigate travel.