Headed North

24 hours of nearly continuous driving left me with road weary eyes and a sense that my truck was actually stationary while the remote British Columbia landscape catapulted by me. It was 10pm and I still had an hour to go. Desperate, I raised my travel mug to my lips and could tell instantly that the remaining coffee was about 800 miles old. It smelled like a rural antique store but I needed the clarity. I hadn’t passed another vehicle in four hours and it was starting to feel like I was in a never-ending highway scene from a David Lynch thriller. With the last swallow of cold caffeinated dregs I felt the sudden urgency of a full bladder that I’d somehow ignored for the last hundred miles. After pulling over I opened the truck door, planted my feet on the chip-seal, unzipped my trousers, and started peeing in the middle of the road just like an indifferent moose. When I was done I zipped everything up, including my parka, and stood there enjoying the late evening solitude. Alpenglow painted the rocky summits of the entire Sentinel Range and on the other side of the road was Muncho Lake, still frozen but for a serpentine sliver of open water that traced its banks for miles. Minutes passed and as the red luminance dissolved I realized that underneath my feet a historic ribbon of road spanned 2,300 miles across a diverse landscape, and at that moment I was completely surrounded by wilderness, but the kind that actually has the wild left in it.

A cold wind and a shiver eventually drove me back into the truck, but I sat there in the cab a while longer, watching the day end in the western sky. When the light was finally gone my sentiment stayed the same. I was headed north, and I was going home.

It was early May, the shoulder season, and the bears, moose, and bison outnumbered the tourists. And I was happy.

 

For the most part the drive up from Seattle to Alaska is like a long, sitting meditation. It’s boring, it’s beautiful, and it’s everything in between. And if you’re normal you’ll talk to yourself a lot, at least in your head. After a thousand miles of obsessive thinking sometimes nirvana happens and you begin to feel the deep rhythm of travel. The stuff that fills your head busts loose and the sharp edges of memories start to soften. The flowing scenery, the harmonics of the engine, and the whir of the tires all becomes a conflation of experience that passes through you like a meandering river. Your thoughts become transient. The weight of everything unfinished in your life is gone. And after a certain period of time you become fully aware how fortunate you are to be surrounded by beauty that most people will never get to experience.

I pulled into Liard Hotsprings around 11pm and rolled out my sleeping back in the back of the truck. My body was exhausted and ready for rest, but for a few moments my mind was still out on the road.