Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alcan Roadtrip Day 4: Grizzly Bear Day! Teslin, Yukon Territory to Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory

The highlight of Day 4 of our trip was definitely spotting a grizzly bear in Kluane National Park (a Canadian national park), but in keeping with chronological order, I'll start with the morning of Day 4. We woke up and spent some time enjoying our little lakeside cabin - Dad went down to the lake to take some photos while I sat on the porch and read (reading for fun has been one of my main occupations since finishing the bar exam - on our trip I was finishing up the Stieg Larsson trilogy, which was very entertaining).
After we packed up, we had breakfast at the adorable Dawson Peaks resort restaurant, where I had a piece of rhubarb pie a la mode for breakfast. Rhubarb pie looks a little funny, but it is oh so delicious, and it was the specialty of the owners of the resort.

At breakfast, the owners also informed us (knowing we were Americans headed to Alaska) of the plane crash that killed Senator Ted Stevens (although at that point he wasn't confirmed dead). As I write this, I am watching the memorial service that is being broadcast on just about every Alaskan television station. It's hard not to be touched by the outpouring of love and gratitude for Senator Stevens by almost everyone in Alaska, Republican and Democrat alike. Old campaign signs have reappeared in yards and windows, billboards everywhere offer thanks and prayers for the Senator and the other victims, and hundreds if not thousands of people lined up in the rain yesterday to view his coffin. In full disclosure, I interned for the section of the Department of Justice that (unsuccessfully) prosecuted Senator Stevens for failing to disclose gifts on his financial statements, but I never worked on the case and don't know anything more about it than what anyone could read in the papers. Regardless, it's obvious that he loved Alaska, devoted his life to it, and did a hell of a lot for the state. And he had a hilarious, hilarious temper (I always found him somewhat reminiscent of Yosemite Sam).

That said, I find it unsettling how the Alaskan press has romanticized plane crashes as "the way real Alaskans die." If that's the case, I am grateful for my status as a temporary Alaskan, thank you very much.

Our favorite stop of Day 4 was the city of Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory. The old downtown area is so cute, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. I definitely wouldn't mind returning to Whitehorse and the surrounding area someday.


Later that day, we had lunch in Haines Junction, where I had a "bison smoky" (a bison sausage wrapped in sourdough bread with cheese baked on top). It's always a sign of a good lunch when the grease quickly soaks through the wrapper...
As you probably know if you had afternoon classes with me in law school, I tend to get a bit sleepy after lunch, so I dozed off while my dad drove as we entered the Kluane area. Before I went to sleep, Dad jokingly said, "Don't worry, I'll wake you up if I see a grizzly bear." I hadn't been asleep for very long when all of a sudden I heard him say "Tiffany! Tiffany! Wake up! It's a grizzly bear!" I scrambled for my glasses, not quite sure he was serious, but there he was!
If you haven't figured this out already, I love animals, and having never seen a grizzly in the wild before, I was incredibly excited. We took a ton of pictures as he walked alongside a ridge on the other side of the road.

Luckily we were in a good mood from the bear sighting, because once I started driving about an hour later, we went through 100 miles of road like this:

The pictures don't really do it justice, but due to the occurrence of frost heaves (where ice grows under the surface of the soil), it was basically like driving over one speed bump after another.  For 100 miles. Now, mostly the Alaskan Highway made me really appreciate the fact that there is even a paved road up there, and for most of the trip the road conditions were impressive. But this was undoubtedly one of the most unpleasant driving experiences of my life.

Finally, we arrived at Beaver Creek, our stop for the evening. As we checked into the hotel, I turned around to see a man in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform enter the lobby. I was really excited for about 5 seconds, until I realized that his mustache was too hilarious to be serious, and that he was not a real Mountie but instead a cast member in the "Rendezvous at Beaver Creek" dinner show, a musical history of the Yukon targeted towards the retired bus tourist crowd. Dad and I politely declined to buy tickets to the show, but as we were eating dinner in the hotel restaurant, in walked the Mountie, with a pianist to accompany him, and burst into song: "Three-hundred-one, miles from nowhere..."

Despite my best efforts at self control, I started giggling. I knew if I looked at my dad I would burst out laughing, so I concentrated very hard on my giant garden salad (I felt the need to eat a big pile of vegetables after having pie and a bison smoky for my other two meals). It's really hard to describe how funny this was without being there, but if you've seen "Waiting for Guffman," you have a good idea. The Mountie even looked like Christopher Guest. I was sure that at any moment Eugene Levy was going to enter in a fur-trapper costume. But the old retired bus tourists seemed to love it, so what do I know?