June 9, 2023

Part V: Hitch-hiking the twisty old gravel Alaska Highway of the early 1970’s – a Five-Part Series

An old original section of the Alaska Highway

Hitch-hiking the twisty old gravel Alaska Highway of the early 1970’s had resulted in being witness to someone else’s broken and shattered dreams.

Sitting comfortably in the back seat surveying this new Kingdom of my Heart that I’d finally arrived in, I was the only happy one in the vehicle. And all I could say to them after all the miles of argument about it was a quiet comment of “I tried to tell you guys, but you wouldn’t listen. Well here you are – this is the reality. Deal with it.”

Dealing with reality in this form hadn’t found a life yet though in their lexicon of human understanding, and with their visions of grandeur shattered and burned to black ash in their hearts these boys just couldn’t come to grips with what they’d discovered Whitehorse to still be like in 1971.

Bitter, angry, disillusioned and swearing with frustration the boys decided to take a motel room for the night and invited me to join them in it. I gratefully accepted because I had few enough dollars in my pocket to spare as it was, and had been fully prepared to find a tree to sleep under for the night. All those boys took into the room with them for the night was their toothpaste and toothbrushes, because it appeared their decision had already been made about their stay in Whitehorse.

I woke in the morning to find them dressed and already brushing their teeth, anxious to make tracks. Another invitation to join them for some breakfast was again gratefully accepted and we left the room to find a nearby café to have it together.

And that was that as far as these boys were concerned – after breakfast they were heading right back down that same dusty Alaska Highway to go home to Victoria and get a ‘real life’ as they described it to me.

I just smiled quietly at their comments and thanked them for the ride that got me there, before they ducked out the door and practically ran back to their vehicle. They couldn’t wait to show their heels to Whitehorse and to everything it no longer represented to them. Their vehicle passed me by in a cloud of dust accompanying their final waves of farewell and faded quickly into the distance.

Personally I was glad they left, because they were in no way suited to either the lifestyle or the rigors of northern life as it still was back in those days. Scared out of their wits by the realities lying open before them, it’s undoubtedly a good thing their fears drove them back down the road and out of the sphere of northern living. I doubt they’d have survived long in it if they had tried to stay, because even the reality of the situation hadn’t kick-started any veins of common sense in them that could have helped them overcome their fears and preconceptions.

Like I said earlier, the North Land has its own way of dealing with these kinds of folks too – and to me it was already clear that such an action had been taken by it where these boys were concerned; and had by that action preserved itself from their kind who were so clearly unsuited to understand and live within its many-hued and rampant splendors.

I on the other hand was to discover the full range of those hues and splendors over the years to come. It’s a decision of travel I’ve never regretted and never will because of all the wonderful things I’ve learned and experienced in the Land of the Midnight Sun since my first arrival in a cloud of dust.

Hitch-hiking the twisty old gravel Alaska Highway of the early 1970’s had turned into one of the best decisions of my life.


  1. Matilda Simon says

    Hi! I hitched all the way down in 1973, from Whitehorse to Dawson Creek, in a single lift of 1,500 miles. It was one of the most memorable trips of my three months in USA/Canada! It’s only come back to me recently because our local school here in Stockport, UK has linked up with one in Fairbanks.
    I remember the highway in summer as three deep ruts in the gravel, of which trucks would occupy two. Meeting other vehicles was often hazardous… There were signs saying “Don’t take your half in the middle of the road”. There were graders from time to time, occupied in maintaining the surface. People said it couldn’t be tarred, as the frost would break it up. It’s a bit sad that it’s just like any other road now.
    I must look out my old photos.
    I’ve been back to BC since, but not so far north – I did the rail trip from Calgary to Vancouver.
    All the best.

    • Hi Matilda! Thanks for your comment back to me about your own journey up here to what is still a Land of Magic and Mystery to my own heart. I’ve spent over half my (increasing) lifetime up here now and my heart remains filled
      with it wonders and majesty every single day I live to view it all around me here. I’ve got a favorite saying I use when people ask me if I’ll ever leave here and move back down south. My response is normally…”They’ll have to
      bury me here to get rid of me” LOL! But it’s certainly true as well, because no other place on earth has so captured my heart as this place. Being married into as well as having been adopted into our local First Nation is obviously
      the other compelling reason for me to remain here to the end of my days, and I will happily and gratefully do so.
      It’s wonderful that your memories of your trip hitching down the old gravel Alaska Highway in ’73 are still so memorable to you – and quite accurate in their description of it! I remember it well myself too. If you read my five part series on my website about that trip you’ll recall it took me only 2 rides to get up here from Dawson Creek in ’71. I stayed here till August ’74 before returning south for 12 years (during which I missed every damm day I was gone from here), before heading north again in ’86 to feed the ache in my soul, finding my second wife, and reestablishing life in the land of my own dreams. Haven’t looked back since and don’t intend to. As the saying goes…”Home is where the heart is”…and the phrase fits my life to a T.
      Enjoy your trip down memory lane when you dig out your old photos. It’ll be worth the effort, and special once again in memory when you do. Sounds like you’ve been a bit of a traveler in your life, and quite enjoyed the experiences gained. You’re fortunate to have had them.
      Take care. All the best back at you as well.

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