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A backward migration

CNN's Jack Hamann heads into the wilds (and winter) of Alaska

Hamann and his wife, Leslie, in front of Waterton Lake in Canada. The couple is sending regular dispatches, as they drive north toward the Arctic Circle.  

November 23, 1999
Web posted at: 11:29 a.m. EST (1629 GMT)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Seattle-based correspondent Jack Hamann is headed on another adventure, this one to just to the south of the Arctic Circle. He'll be driving through the Canadian Rockies, across the windswept northern plains, up the Inside Passage and along the northernmost section of the Alaska Highway. Follow along here for regular dispatches on his journey.

By Jack Hamann and Leslie Hamann

Journal date: November 18
Installment #1

(CNN) -- What were we thinking? It's November. Northern weather can be nasty. Birds understand: they head south.

Not us. We're heading north. To Alaska.

Are you kidding me? Strange? Perhaps. Unusual? Well ... not for us. After all, it was just last year when we used two weeks of family vacation to go camping ... in the Deep South ... in the middle of summer. Humidity in Alabama. Thunderstorms in Mississippi. Mosquitoes in Georgia. Mosquitoes in Louisiana. Mosquitoes in Florida.

At least there are no mosquitoes this time of year in the Yukon. (We're told a researcher guessed that in an Arctic summer, swarms of mosquitoes can suck a pint of blood a day from an adult caribou. The wildlife must dance with joy at the first Autumn frost.) But if there are no bugs, what about blizzards? How about ice and avalanches, frostbite and frozen radiators? Does the summertime "Land of Midnight Sun" become the wintertime "Land of Midday Dark?" Can we drive more than 3,000 miles in two-and-a-half weeks and have fun?

We sure hope to.


Share your observations and questions about the trip. Jack and Leslie will periodically post their responses.

In the next fortnight-and-change, we intend to ski the Rockies and tour the tundra. We plan to mush a team of huskies under the Northern Lights, and gawk at the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world. We'll join First Nation artists along the majestic Inside Passage, and take a snow-dusted dirt road to one of the most remote big towns in North America. Along the way, we'll visit the cities, hamlets and villages that line the route through Western Canada on the spectacular road north to Alaska. We plan to travel the way we like it best ... off-season, when the roads are less crowded, the accommodations less packed and the locals more willing to sit and chat.

On the other hand, many roads are closed and lots of accommodations are boarded shut. We might find ourselves on the verge of being stranded. It's part of the appeal. Long roads lined with guaranteed food, gas & lodging are easy to find. But adventure behind the wheel of a Ford Expedition at the end of the millennium requires finding either remote roads in summer, or more common highways in winter.

So, we're off. We'll glance skyward from time to time to look for those migrating birds headed the other way.

Jack Hamann is a correspondent with CNN's Environmental Unit and CNN NewsStand.

Day 2 Day 2:
Heading to Banff: There's a certain feel to fancy ski towns. As a general rule, the more money in town, the more entertaining the show.


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