We awake early on day two, relieved to discover we’d made it through the night without a bear investigating our cat food soaked tent. We disassemble the tent like a pit crew. If we learned one thing from New Zealand, it was how to get our beloved little tent stuffed back into it’s bag in just a couple of minutes. We throw everything back into the car and leave Teslin Lake, a million mosquito’s, and a quart of blood behind by nine o’clock.
Fifty miles down the road leads to gas stop number one. Being the OCD type that I am I’d mapped out our feel stops in a meticulous and embarrassing way weeks in advance. Fueling in Canada is a giant tease. You glance at the price and your heart leaps. Here we are, in the middle of nowhere, and gas is just a buck fifty-three! What riches! We’ve budgeted for nothing. Honey! Run in and buy the finest box of wine this gas station has to offer!
But than reality returns, you’ve been fooled by America, it’s damn stubbornness, and the Imperial system. There are 3.79 liters in a gallon. $1.53 x 3.79 = $5.80/gallon. There is weeping, gnashing of teeth and you stand there, pump in hand, begging the numbers to stop ticking up.
The weather is fantastic with just enough clouds punctuating the sky to keep the sun from baking us as we make our way south along the Alaska highway. Whomever is riding shotgun has one primary objective, keeping Prince Porter happy. He continues to bounce back and forth between driver and passenger and occasionally makes a bid to crawl under the wheel toward the gas and break pedal, just to make sure we’re paying attention.
When I was one, my parents and I moved to Alaska and we spent ten days driving the Alaskan highway with me strapped firmly in my car seat. As I grab Porter after his fifth attempt to control the gas pedal I solemnly vow to never attempt that with my hypothetical children. One hyperactive kitty was enough. At least we could scruff him if we had to. For Penny the rabbit, life had not changed in the slightest. She lounged comfortably right behind the driver’s seat. Food, water, and litter box less than half a jump away. Every time I glanced back I was met by two big brown eyes staring intently into the back of my seat.
The biggest battle though was the CD player. The 1996 Pathfinder had been welded long before the reign of MP3s, bluetooth, and FM transmitters. Our phones and iPods sat helplessly in our backpacks. So we went old school, burning CD after CD and cranking the volume out of the one good speaker on the passenger side. Tragically, she must have been built before anti-skip technology as well, and every jolt or bumpy road would cause the CD to skip so maddeningly one of us would angrily punch the power button. We turned off the Alaskan highway and onto highway 37, the Cassiar highway and began to head south. This was so entertaining we almost didn’t need music anymore. The road narrowed, the concrete cracked, and the dividing lane disappeared. Two miles in we rounded a corner sending gravel into the trees. I looked ahead to see a miniscule red square crudely propped up on sticks next to the road, maybe six inches high. By the time I opened my mouth to ask Brittney’s opinion we’d flown past it and into the hidden pothole it was “marking.” Thus was our introduction into Canadian caution signs.
We spent the day navigating the highway, constantly watching for red caution squares. We reached Kinaskan Lake campground that evening and were greeted by a gorgeous lake reflecting the sun, clouds, and mountains. We “splurged” on wood for a campfire. When gas is $5.78/gallon, five bucks for wood feels like a steal. Porter promptly dove into the woods attempting to hunt squirrels and failing terribly. A feeling of peace began to fill me. The stress and doubt of the day before slowly being replaced with excitement. We were living the life that we had talked of since we’d returned from New Zealand. We had to be the oddest vegabonds the campsite had ever seen with the prowling kitty and curious bunny that kept sticking her head out of the tent. But as the fire crackled and the evening light made the lake glow, I knew we wouldn’t have it any other way.