Hitchhikers in every corner of the planet understand the trials and tribulations of getting a ride from within a city, and luckily for us, Elle sympathized with our plight. She drove us to the outskirts of town near a gas station on the main Highway 17 where we could more easily find a ride. About an hour and a half later, a small red car stuffed to the brim with things with Colorado plates pulled over. A young energetic woman stepped out of the car, introduced herself as Ty, and offered to give us a ride if we could squeeze ourselves in among all the things in the car. We happily accepted.
She was headed to Prince Rupert, which was perfect for us since it would bring us all the way to Highway 37 towards Whitehorse. We opted for this route because it was shorter according to Google Maps, although part of this route included the infamous Highway of Tears, where many indigenous women had disappeared. We saw signs along the way telling women to not hitchhike. Driving with Ty meant that we wouldn’t have to stand along any parts of this route, although we had been reassured many times that whoever out there that did this hadn’t been active in the last few years and did not target couples. Nevertheless, we were quite grateful to have a ride straight through. Part of the way through the drive, Ty asked Emily to drive because she was feeling sleepy, and she did. On the way to the junction at Kitwanga, we stopped by the wonderfully odd town of Houston, BC. Its claim to fame is that it has the world’s largest fly fishing rod. We stopped for some pictures and coffee at A&W, picked up some tourism information at the very well stocked office, and got on our way.
The drive towards Kitwanga was absolutely stunning, and offered fantastic views over the mountains. Although it was probably more spectacular if we continued onto Prince Rupert, we needed to switch routes and go north. We said bye to Ty as she continued on Highway 17 towards Prince Rupert, and quickly made lunch/dinner on the side of the road at the Kitwanga Junction. There wasn’t too much traffic headed this way, so we were quite grateful when two Quebecois women with a pet rat in the front seat pulled over and drove us a few kilometers north. They were headed to a lake one of the roads off the main stretch, and dropped us off in the middle of nowhere on the highway. Knowing that this was prime bear territory, we had our bear spray always on hand as we paced on the side of the road as few cars went by. Finally, someone pulled over in his Jeep, and brought us to Meziadin Junction. Along the way, we spotted 4 black bears, and thanked our lucky stars that we were inside a vehicle and didn’t have to encounter one while we waited.
It was close to 6pm when we got to Meziadin Junction. After getting some snacks at the very beautiful rest stop at the intersection, we waited. 5 cars went by in the two hours we stood there, and we almost gave up hope that we would be able to find a ride that would go towards Whitehorse at this late hour. We scouted out a place to put up our tent, and a few minutes before we decided to put it up, a massive long haul truck stopped in front of us. A friendly Russian-American delivering cargo from Seattle to Alaska told us to hop in, and we made ourselves at home in his very comfortable cabin. Truck drivers aren’t supposed to take passengers and will be asked awkward questions by officials if caught. However, the long stretch of the road that is Highway 37 does not have any cell reception and there would be little traffic in the night. Usually he is on the phone with his friends all the time while driving, but that is not possible on this stretch of the road, so we would be his surrogate friends. He offered to drive us all the way to Watson Lake before where the weigh station was. As the night went on, he offered us his cabin bed to sleep on, which we gratefully accepted since we were quite tired. This offer notwithstanding, Laurent did not go to sleep before midnight, having finished his discussion on Russian literature vs. American literature, the Russian economy vs. the American economy, and Russian politics vs. American politics. The parting consensus was that in the first case the former beats the latter, in the second case the latter beats the former, and in the third case that both are depressing and corrupt. Talks like this is why we love hitchhiking.
At 5am, we arrived at the junction of Highway 37 and the Alaskan highway headed towards Whitehorse. He dropped us off at Nugget City and continued on his way to a weigh station to catch some sleep. At this time of day, there was very little traffic headed to Whitehorse, so we made some coffee and waited. Before we knew it, a large van driven by a mushroom picker from Quebec picked us up and drove us to Whitehorse. On the way, he introduced us a little bit to the world of picking morel mushrooms. He pointed out areas where forest fires were recently active and speculated out loud to us that there were probably great mushrooms there (someone death is another one’s bread). He brought us to the Whitehorse airport where he delivered a load of freshly picked mushrooms for shipping to Montreal that day. It seemed like really tough work.
Over the course of about 30 hours, we managed to get all the way from Prince George to Whitehorse, and covered around 1,620 kilometers on some pretty desolate roads. This was our new record for the trip.