In the beginning… There was Dawson Creek … and beavers

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, there was a very real fear that the Japanese would invade North America through Alaska. Since there were no roads to Alaska from the lower 48, there was no way to reinforce troops stationed there other than by ship or plane.

Ladd Air Field in Fairbanks was especially strategic for the U.S. and its allies. It was here that Lend-Lease aircraft were turned over to Russian pilots who took them across the Bering Strait for attacks on the invading Germans. To get the planes to Fairbanks, shuttle pilots (many of whom were women) had to leapfrog a series of tiny airstrips up the west coast of Canada. This was not only dangerous but slow. Despite the issues, over 8,000 fighters, bombers and cargo planes were flown along this route.

In March, 1942, Canada and the U.S. entered into an agreement to have a road built linking the U.S. to Alaska. The U.S. would provide the manpower in the form of U.S. military members and Canada would provide the materials. After the war, the portion in Canadian territory would be given to Canada forever.

To speed up the building, construction started at both the northern and southern ends – to meet in the middle like continental railroads had done in the Old West. That meeting occurred on September 25, 1942 and, a month later, the road was completely joined and operational. Total time to construct the 1,523 mile road: 7 months. Cost: $140 million.

Civilians weren’t allowed to use the highway until 1948 and much of the road was only passable by jeeps and other four-wheel drive vehicles. Through the years, the road has been upgraded until, today, it is fully paved with adequate facilities to service the length of the highway.

Today, I stood at mile marker ‘0’ in Dawson Creek, the official start of the Alaska Highway:

In the center of town is a sign letting you know you were about to begin a sacred journey:

And the Canadian government makes it official:

I spent the day walking around the downtown area. Pics are posted in the photo album for day 17.

So, did Japan ever invade the U.S. through Alaska? Was the outlay of manpower and money necessary?

Sort of.

In June, 1942, the Japanese landed troops at Kiska and Attu in the Aleutian Islands where they battled locals and took those they captured back to Japan as prisoners of war. The Japanese didn’t pursue the invasion (which historians believe was done to divert attention and resources away from Pacific island targets).

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On the way from Whitecourt to Dawson Creek, I stopped in at Beaverlodge to see their resident guardian:

World's Largest Beaver

HELLO!!!

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I also passed through the town of Pouce Coupe …

and had to find out how it got its name. Maybe after the song, My Little Pouce Coupe, by the Beach Boys?

Sorry – the best anyone can tell me is that it is a mispronunciation of the local Beaver Tribe’s Chief Pooscapee although there are those who believe it was named because a French guy cut his thumb (pouce de coup in French) or because it means (in Beaver Tribe) an abandoned chief’s cabin near a deserted beaver dam.

I think I’d go with the Pooscapee thing – who would want to name their town because a guy cut himself? What’s next – OWWOWWOWWMYROIDSAREKILLINGME, British Columbia?

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Gas prices – best in the U.S.: Fargo – $3.52. Worst in the U.S.: Downtown Chicago – $4.59

Gas today in Dawson Creek:  $4.89

I say to all those people who didn’t seem to mind the increase in gas prices because “it’s been so cheap for us all these years. Look at what the Europeans pay!”: 

We’re there.  Rejoice.

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Wildly popular Canadian treats:

Poutines – French Fries covered in cheese curds covered in brown gravy

Mmmmmmm!!

Donair – a variation on a “Doner Kebab” using meat cooked on a vertical spit:

Often, it is lamb or beef and it can also be prepared like a traditional meatloaf. Regardless of the meat or preparation, it is served in a flatbread or pita bread.

Gimme two...

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Today’s Travel:  321 miles

Total Travel To Date:  4369 miles

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One response to “In the beginning… There was Dawson Creek … and beavers

  1. I am folowing you all along the way. What a trip and what memories you are creating. Stay safe and keep going with the pictures and comments.

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