We jammed north, breaking up long driving days with brief visits to friends and family in Portland OR and Vancouver BC. We camped for a few days at a former airstrip on the side of a mountain (below) near Whistler Village with a glacier view, allowing us to dine with Steven’s lovely neice Samantha, who resides there now, after a childhood in Greece and early adult years in Australia.
Whistler is very “well coiffed”, and feels a bit like a tasteful retail version of Disneyland in the mountains…until you see the throngs of muddy, trashed mountain bikers careening down the slopes. We more sedately enjoyed 3 hike-in waterfalls on the Sea to Sky Highway (Nairns Falls below) before reaching the AlCan Highway 97 again (we touched its’ Southern Terminus in Weed, CA).
With many delays for road repair (we’re told to get used to it in the North as summer is the only time to repair a year’s worth of winter snow/ice damage) and having a front row seat watching a tow truck try to maneuver a big rig that went over the edge (he gave up and let us through while he got more tow trucks), we finally got to Chetwynd on the first day of the International Chainsaw Carving Contest.
You can hear the competition from all over town as competitors from Japan, Germany, Australia, the US and Canada hack massive wood stumps with 6 different sizes of chainsaws and weed wacker looking machines on long wands. The Japanese competitor has won 3 first places here in years past and is working on something very tall with lots of soaring eagles.
Observers eat picnics in the viewing stands or don safety glasses and get close…and covered with wood chips and sawdust, like us.
The 13 winners leave their sculptures each year for the town to exhibit in indoor and outdoor public spaces. There are 130 sculptures around town.
We are fine-tuning our trip North balancing the need to get to the START of the 300 mile gravel road to the Great Northern Arts Festival by July 1st, but not wanting to travel too fast so that we arrive before the ice has broken up, and before the ferry service on the rivers begins. As it just snowed last week in Dawson City, YT arriving immediately is too early. We were in a local restaurant discussing the wisdom of taking a long gravel road as an alternative route north. Two different tables near us overheard our conversation (do you think Steven and I might just be a little LOUD?) and jumped in to tell us how stupid we would be to take that route (truck drivers), especially as it is not that pretty (locals). The truckers drive the ice roads to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean all winter. Apparently there is a TV reality show called, “Ice Truckers” that features guys like him. Without four-wheel drive, we must take the more conservative route and opt for more of the (paved) Alaska Highway. I am sure that it is a lot more pleasurable to watch a tow truck haul someone else’s flipped over rig out of a tricky situation than your own…