I read the history of the Alcan Highway as it was known in 1942, and still is, (short for Alaska and Canadian), and studied the milepost booklet as we drove along.
Ahead of me was the forest of trees, the endless span of highway and the mountains. The more I looked at what lay ahead, the more I thought of the miracle of it all. I was around in 1942 and remember reading and hearing about the construction of the highway. It occurred to me that, at that time, all of this was wilderness. The engineers had to survey this land. There weren't many roads to get from one point to another. No helicopters to fly over and observe the land below. How/where did they start; how did they go about it? The more I thought about it and looked around the more I went back to what life was like in those days.
We look at the projects through eyes of the world today. It slowly occurred to me that I was thinking more deeply about all of this than I would have at age 50 or 60. I thought about the work that went into the building of this highway - looking at the landscape with the forests, lakes, rivers and mountains, and hauling the supplies and equipment in. The steep drop off scared me, wondering how many men lost their lives falling hundreds of feet or miles below with no way out. How did they get medical supplies in and patients out, was there a doctor close at hand. I remember the equipment and machines they had at that time, crude compared to today. No large cranes and bulldozers and Jeeps were just being introduced to travel over rough terrain. The men worked seven days a week with meager meals, poor housing, very little or no mail from home.
Do we glance at things and say, "That's nice," and go on to the next thing or do we appreciate all the labor and planning that went into the projects? Think about all the work that went into the WPA projects like the stone walls and stairways along Lake Avenue, or the park around Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis.
As we were heading home on the ferry, I started to reflect and talk to Neen and Marilyn about the trip and review the things we had done and seen. What a wonderful gift I had experiencing all these things for the first time in my life at the age of 80. Sometimes it's better when I've waited all that time to see things. I was as happy and excited as a 16-year-old about doing and seeing these things. Part of the thrill is the fact that I can remember when they built the road. There are still things in my life that I haven't done or seen. Who knows what more I will do in my journey through life?
I'm so grateful to have a friend like Neen. She makes all the plans, reservation and airline reservation, and all I have to do is write a check and jump on board. As we drove along enjoying the view, I thought how fortunate I am to be experiencing for this for the first time in my life with two experienced travelers and excellent drivers. LIFE IS GOOD.
Muriel Keaveny recently returned from and RV trip to Alaska with her friends, Neen and Marilyn.