A Summer in the North

Words & Photos: Michael Overbeck

I’ve been planning this trip for as long as I can remember. In the third grade, I had to write an essay about my favourite place. Having never even left BC or Alberta, I decided to write about Alaska. My reasoning to choose Alaska as my favourite place is as follows (note – I was eight years old): “I choose Alaska, because it has many mountains and lakes. I wish to spend a lot of my life in these places because they seem very peaceful and have a lot of nature. I already know my favourite place will be in nature, I love nature.

Seeing this excerpt from that essay, from fourteen years ago, really rings true to what my passions are and how I strive to stay true to them. Nowadays, with such a fast-paced society, it feels easier to move away from nature than ever. For me – this two-month road trip was about bringing life back to its basics: sleeping in my truck, running & hiking everyday, taking photos, and meeting new people on the road.

On a much too early morning, I loaded up my truck in Whistler then started the long drive up to Dawson Creek where the start of the trip really begins… Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. I loaded up on gas, got a couple photos at Mile 0, then drove North.

Kilometre 1034 – After leaving Dawson Creek and driving up the Alaska Highway, you immediately notice your surroundings start to change. On the first day, I saw twenty-four Bears, a Coyote with a Bird in its mouth, over fifty Bison, and had a few birds hit my windshield (sorry). The feeling that you were in a much wilder land was immediately apparent.

Kilometre 2544 – After rolling into Haines Junction with clear skies, warm weather and a good twenty hours of daylight, I went for a run up Kings Throne above Kathleen Lake.

Kilometre 2698 – Before heading further West to Alaska, I decided to drive South towards Haines, AK. Just between the borders Yukon & Alaska, there’s a small sliver of BC, home to the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park. After meeting an older couple in a dirt lot, they told me about an old mining road that takes you up to the Samuel Glacier. Without much of an idea as to what this area was like, I ran the 11km in and to my surprise, it is one of my favourite places I’ve ever been. Lush meadows, small streams, glaciers and tall peaks in every direction. I told myself I’d start running back at 8:00pm so I’d have plenty of light, but at 10:00pm I was no closer to leaving. You know a place is special when months later, you still find your mind drifting into that landscape daily.

Kilometre 3373 – Made it to Alaska. Nothing but open wilderness, mountains, glaciers and a whole lot of rain.

Kilometre 3582 – The Raven Glacier. My first run in Alaska. It did not disappoint.

Kilometre 3723 – After a few days around Anchorage, I went South to Seward. Home of the Harding Icefield. After being stuck in rain & clouds for the entirety of my time in Alaska so far, I wasn’t the most hopeful that I’d be able to see much. After running up the 8km trail to the Icefield lookout, I was greeted with clouds & the odd patch of blue. After a successful run, I drove back towards Seward to find a good spot to camp for the night. A couple minutes down the road, I stumbled upon a small 4×4 trail that takes you out on to a dried-up river bed. After a minute or two of driving, I noticed a Grizzly in the distance, after it had stopped and looked at me, it immediately bolted into the trees. One thing I’ve noticed up here, unlike home, is most of the wildlife wants nothing to do with people.

Kilometre 4065 – The last place I had planned on visiting in Alaska was Hatchers Pass in the Talkeetna’s, just North of Anchorage. I had heard it was a bit less busy up here than a lot of other nearby spots. I was completely blown away by this area. Rolling green hills, roads taking you into the alpine, and empty trails all around you. Other than the relentless rain, this place was perfect.

Kilometre 4711 – Canada. Home. After two months driving North, South, East & West. Running, hiking & camping every day. This was a welcome sight. The 4000km drive home begins.

As I wrote when I was eight, “I choose Alaska, because it has many mountains and lakes. I wish to spend a lot of my life in these places because they seem very peaceful and have a lot of nature. I already know my favourite place will be in nature, I love nature.”

After two months immersed in the Alaskan & Yukon landscape, this excerpt could never mean more than it does to me now. I spent my days in the mountains, swimming in glacial lakes, running & hiking all the trails I could find. The appreciation I have for nature & how peaceful it is, is stronger than ever.

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