2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged Alaska Road Trip: The Alaska Highway
September 21, 2012
It's about a 2,300 mile drive from Santa Monica to Fort Nelson, BC. 2,300 miles of long, straight, relatively boring roads. And until about Dawson Creek, BC (281 miles from Fort Nelson), things are pretty much normal. There are name brand gas stations, places to eat on the side of road, real hotels and civilization in general.
Then things change. The landscape changes. The trees change, Farmland is replaced by mountains while the low shrubbery has been replaced by birch and evergreen trees. This change happens almost exactly at Mile 0 of the Alaska highway.
And once you hit Fort Nelson, things get fun.
The Alaska highway from Fort Nelson, BC to the Alaska border is possibly the best road I've ever driven. If we section out only the section between Whitehorse and Beaver Creek, a 270ish mile drive, there's no doubt.
Leaving Fort Nelson, the road climbs into the Northern Rockies and, as you'd expect from a mountain road, gets nice and twisty. Thanks to the massive scale of Canada and the relative lack of steepness on this grade, though, there are very few switchbacks. Instead, the road features mile-after-mile of relatively new, grippy pavement laid out like a loose ribbon. It's all long sweepers, MASSIVE lakes, off-camber turns and elevation changes.
And, because this was the height of construction season, random three-foot long, road-wide patches of gravel where the pavement had been removed. Whee!
Canada is nice enough to give you appropriate warning before the gravel patches which almost all occur directly at the apex of the turn. It wasn't quite a rally stage, but it was close. The Jag likes gravel-induced oversteer. Whee!
Our policy during this drive was to swap drivers every time we got gas. Period. After my few hundred miles of gravel, moose, lake-views, and empty pavement, Kurt took the wheel around Watson Lake...just as the road got wide, boring and completely full of (mostly logging) trucks, bison, moose that wouldn't get off the road, and bears.
We swapped drivers again in Whitehorse-- a town full of seasonal workers and criminals avoiding extradition to the US according to a local -- when, miraculously for me, the road got fun again and the scenery turned truly epic. This route skirts Kluane National Park and follows the shoreline of the 43-mile long Kluane Lake through towns like Destruction Bay.
Like most glacial lakes, Kluane is an odd toothpastey blue (Kurt's term) that fades to green and black depending on the light and, even at these there's-not-a-speed-trap-within-1,000-miles speeds, it seems endless. We could have stopped for pictures at every turn. We nearly hit some Dall Sheep. We nearly pulled off the road to start building a cabin.
At one point, we went more than 2 hours without seeing another person/car. This is why we brought extra gas and an extra mounted tire.
Unfortunately, all good things have to end and, as the sun finally set sometime after 10pm, and finally far away from the world that there was no ambient/road lighting, two of the Jag's shortcomings were illuminated.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 7,381 miles