In March – 1992, nearly 25 years ago – I dropped down from a narrow mountain pass, swung my laboring 1980 Ford Tempo gently to the east and pulled alongside Kluane Lake and Destruction Bay in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
The name Destruction Bay is remarkable enough to stick in my memory, but the place holds more significance for me than simply a badass name. When the sweeping climb of the Kluane Mountains and the lake’s still waters came into view, I truly felt like I had left Alaska. I was a 21-year old bumpkin from a town of 7,000 people. I was wearing faded blue jeans, well-worn Raichle hiking boots and a sweater that my parents made; Mom with the knitting and Dad carving the buttons from the antlers of a caribou he killed.
Everything I owned was packed into that little blue sedan. Too much, probably. I bottomed out on an ice heave-induced eruption of buckled pavement. Four days and multiple thousands of dollars later, I had a new gas tank and a tale of woe to take with me to music school in Hollywood.
While that’s a story well worth telling, it’s probably best kept for some other time.
I was talking how reaching Destruction Bay feels like crossing a threshold. Specifically, the feeling of being out of Alaska and in another place.
It was the same when I left California after music school. Two and a half years and a whole lot of growing up later, I pulled into the gas station in Destruction Bay on a two-day, break-neck marathon from California to Alaska. I remember pausing just long enough to use the restroom and top off the tank. I was back on the road in minutes and rattling my way past all the slow-moving traffic that I’d already passed once before stopping.
I was pulling around a little Nissan pickup truck with a small boat in tow when I noticed the driver was Paul Converse, my high school classmate and soon-to-be coworker and roommate in Anchorage.
Once again, Destruction Bay signaled something more than a simple physical or geographical demarkation. It gave me – again – a sense of transitioning ‘home’ from somewhere ‘other.’
So it seems fitting that Destruction Bay was the target for our first night on the road. The Rogers’ family 2016 tour of the western U.S. states and national parks had begun.
Leaving… this time for reals
We rolled out from my parents’ little ranch home just outside the city limits in Palmer, Alaska. We were as packed as we were going to be.
Given that we were a four-day drive from Seattle, and anything we forgot to pack would probably arrive from Seattle after 4+ days of shipping (God bless Amazon Prime!), we probably stressed about packing more than we needed to. I’m sure Zuzi will read this and give me a very stern look, but anything we didn’t remember to bring would have to be purchased on the road.
We’d emptied the house fridge and freezer into the smaller RV-ed versions on the Beluga, so we were heavy on fresh food. We had books, workbooks and games for the kids. We had cameras and travel guides. Everyone was excited to be on the road.
This blog is our way to share this excitement with you. To our family and friends, we’re looking forward to seeing some of you on our travels. To those at home in Alaska, we’ll rejoin you for garden parties and camping adventures when the Alaskan summer is in full swing.
And for those of you we’ve yet to meet. Welcome aboard The Beluga. We hope you enjoy the ride!
Sounds like you’re already having a wonderful time! The best part is spending so much time with your family. Great post, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your adventures.
It “greens up” in the latter part of May in the North, and the leaves begin to turn as early as August in the Interior. Expect cold nights (freezing and below) by early September in parts of Yukon and Interior Alaska. Keep in mind that some attractions and businesses in the North operate seasonally, opening around Memorial Day weekend and closing after Labor Day weekend.