ALASKAN HIGHWAY (THE AL-CAN)

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A road that was proposed for years became a military necessity due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a road that has been dubbed “a significant feat of time critical engineering and construction” by The American Society of Civil Engineers. In 1995 it was awarded the Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Status” and is a 20th century engineering achievement.

Viewed with by congress as an urgent matte,  it was February 11, 1942 that a Special Committee and President Roosevelt authorized the construction of a joint United States/Canadian effort to build the road north. During it’s construction the Japanese also invaded Attu and Kiska Islands in the Pacific adding to the urgency to protect this state of America and the Pacific shipping lanes.

Even though it was only a dirt/gravel path through the wilderness during the war this historic road was needed as a vital military route to provide supplies, troops and equipment safely to Alaska. An engineering feat to get this 1,390 mile (2,237 km) road completed in such a short amount of time, not just because of it’s length but also for the terrain and environmental restrictions placed by the regions it traversed; then finally that Canada was deeded the access road after the war to gain access into it’s remote northwestern region that was difficult to access at the time.

Construction of the AL/CAN (Alaska-Canadian Highway) officially began on March 9, 1942 with a mobilization of men from the United States. Work along the route was to be provided by American troops and individuals. The Canadian Government provided the right of way through Canada, waived import duties, sales tax, income tax, immigration and provided construction materials along the route. After the war the portion of the highway in Canada was to be turned over to the Canadian Government. America would provide all the manpower and equipment to build this road through the wilderness.

During construction there were numerous rivers to cross. At the time of original construction there were a total of 133 bridges along its route, 64 were more than 100 feet (30.5 m) in length. Pontoon bridges were first constructed to continue work on the road while a timber truss or timber trestle bridge was being constructed. These timber bridges were no match for the winters and the water flows of these untamed waters, so 99 of the 133 bridges were replaced with steel truss bridges, steel I-beam bridges, plate girder bridges, suspension bridges, and reinforced concrete bridges.

More than 10,000 American troops poured into Canada to locate, survey and construct this path north. No formal roads existed north of Dawson Creek, B.C. so the army was instructed to push north from that railhead.

Following winter roads, summer pack trails and winter trap lines a route was surveyed by using local information about the makeup of the topography. With skimpy rations and harsh conditions these individuals completed the road on October 25, 1942 just 8 months and 12 days after the start of construction. Finally opened to the public in 1948 it is one of the iconic adventure road trips for many people.

 

Fort Stevens and Ecola State Parks, Oregon

After a restful nights sleep I make a small breakfast, pack up and head out for the short 1-hour drive across the Columbia River into Oregon for a visit to Fort Stevens State Park. Located in the far northwest tip of the state this park is bordered on 1 side by the mouth of the Columbia River and on  second side by the Graveyard of the Pacific This 4,300 acre (17.4 sq km) park has much to offer to its visitors; walk or drive along the beach, hike coastal and forested paths, bicycle along bike trails, camp, beachcomb, birdwatch, visit a shipwreck, explore an abandoned military installation used during the Civil War and World War II. Or just relax and enjoy the area.

Fort Stevens Park Map

My first stop was to see one of the shipwrecks along this stretch of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Along with approximately 2,000 other ships since 1792, the remains of the Peter Iredale now rests on the sandy beach. Only a portion of this 275 foot (83.8 m) long steel ship remains, grounded where she came to rest in 1906 from a navigation error in dense fog by its Captain due to the areas treacherous weather and storms. It has become an attraction since the day it grounded on the sandbar.

 

Next stop was Fort Stevens. First built in 1863-64 during the Civil War it was in use up until the end of World War II, it was part of a 3-fort system at the mouth of the Columbia River to defend this waterway and ports from attack by sea. The other 2 forts were located in the state of Washington; Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia a few miles up river from Fort Canby. (For my visit to Fort Canby and Cape Disappointment see LINK)

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Fort Stevens installation map

 

 

 

During World War II a Japanese submarine fired upon Fort Stevens in June of 1942, making this fort notable as being the only military base on the Continental United States to be fired upon by an enemy since the War of 1812. 17 rounds were fired at the fort with no real damage being done.

After a full morning of exploring the buildings and small Fort Stevens Visitors Center – Museum I enjoyed a late picnic lunch and continued my journey south on Highway 101 to visit Ecola State Park. This 9 mile (14.5 k) long stretch of beach lets you enjoy hiking, picnicking, tidepooling, surfing and scenic coastal vistas. Located just north of Cannon Beach, OR I leave Highway 101 and travel the13 miles (21 k) of twisty narrow roadway into the north area of the park to see Indian Beach Day Use Area. This secluded beach is a spot frequented by surfers, beachcombers, and tidepool explorers and is reached along a short path down the hillside to the beach. Extending north is a network of trails that will provide a 2 ½ mile (4 k) loop trail to the top of Bald Mountain or continue north to Tillamook Head trailhead which is part of the Oregon Coast Trail. The loop trail is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Tail, walked by Lewis Clark and a band of men from the Corps of Discovery to search for a beached whale in 1806. They were hoping to return to Fort Clatsop with whale blubber as they fought hunger from their time there. They sadly return empty handed.

Day 2 Ecola State Park Map

 

 

 

After this beautiful day of exploring I returned to my car and drove the 2 hours back to my home to plan the next trip in a few weeks, south to visit my family and friends at the home I just moved from.

FORT VANCOUVER NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

This National Historic Site has a long history on the north bank of the Columbia River, starting as a Hudson Bay fur trading post. The Park is a collection of 4 distinct sites, Old Fort Vancouver, The Village, Pearson Air Field and Vancouver Barracks, each having a history of transition, settlement, manufacturing and conflict.

“Old Fort Vancouver”, visited before (LINK) which I will discussed more in a future post, was established around 1825 by the Hudson Bay Company. Serving as the main headquarters of the Company’s interior fur trade from Russian Alaska to Mexican California and everything west of the Rocky Mountains.

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Reconstructed Old Fort Vancouver

“The Village” provided the area for housing the workers and their families who supported Fort Vancouver. Established in 1829 it had a population exceeding 600 and was one of the largest settlements in the west at that time.

“Pearson Air Field” first used the Polo Field of the Vancouver Barracks as a site for aviation enthusiasts to gather and show off their aerobatic skills in the early years of the 20th century. During World War I a Spruce Production Mill was built on the Polo Field to supply aviation grade lumber in the manufacturing of war planes. After the war the Spruce Mill was removed and “Vancouver Barracks Aerodrome” was built, in 1925 it was christened “Pearson Air Field,” after Lt. Alexander Pearson. I will go into more detail of this part of the Park in a future post.

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Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks trip August 2017 Day 4 part 2

A little history lesson

In the first 10 years of Yellowstone’s life as a National Park it was under serious threat from exploitation. Speculators built camps and hotels right next to the hot springs along with bath’s and laundries in the hot springs for the tourists. People took large pieces of geysers and artifacts from the grounds, while hunters poached animals.

With no one to protect the resources Congress, in 1886, sent in the Army to protect these natural resources. For the first 5 years life was harsh in temporary Camp Sheridan. Soldiers lived in temporary wood framed buildings and tents through harsh winters. In 1890 Congress allocated money for a permanent post, Fort Yellowstone, to be built in the Mammoth Hot Springs area seeing no end in site for the Army’s deployment here. In 1910 there were 324 soldiers stationed here patrolling the park on horse back in summer and skis in the winter.

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Fort Yellowstone 1910

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