Signpost Forest | Alaska Highway | 2018
We are very fond of long Roadtrips. Last year (Aug 2017), we drove to Alaska on the famous Alaska Highway towing our self built trailer. Check out our trailer build video here. Signpost forest in Watson lake is one of the must-stop spots along the Alcan Highway that you shouldn’t miss at any cost if you are a travel addict like us. It is an ever growing forest full of signs put up by fellow travelers from all over the world. When we visited this place in 2017, we did not know that this spot was so vast and interesting. Since we didn’t come prepared with a sign post, we made a quick one and hung it! We know that it wouldn’t last long in the extreme weather conditions, but still wanted to leave our mark here.
Read about our 2017 visit here – Watson Lake Signpost Forest – Alaska Highway.
This year (Aug 2018) we drove the Alaska highway again, our final destination being Tuktoyaktuk at the end of Dempster highway. This meant passing through Watson Lake again and how can we not resist to check out our old sign? But, we had an unexpected hiccup before reaching Watson lake.
Obstacle before reaching Watson lake
We were planning to reach Watson lake by late evening and spend the night boondocking at the Watson Lake Airport. At Liard Provincial park, we came to know that the Alaska Highway was closed at Coal River, 100 miles south of Watson Lake. The reason was the massive wild fire which had reached closer to the roads and the officials were left with no other option other than to shutdown the highway.
Liard campground was already overflowing with travelers waiting for the road to open. We were confused and disappointed. Taking a chance, we drove the next 35 miles amid thick smog and ash debris to Coal River. There were only a few trucks queued in front of us. The road was blocked with no information sign, so there was no real way of knowing when the road will be open again. All we could predict that it did not look good and the road will not open anytime soon.
We could smell light smoke in the air and see tiny particle of debris flying through our headlight. Since we needed a place to sleep somewhere for the night, we turned back to boon dock in a turnout that was 4 miles away. Next morning when we woke up, we couldn’t believe our own eyes. It looked like we were in the middle of an apocalypse! The atmosphere was yellow with thick smoke, ashes were flying around and falling everywhere.
The pictures below does not do the justice for what it really looked like. Cameras were able to see through the fog much better, but it gives an idea how bad it was.
We quickly got ready and were back on the road. The road was still closed with lots of vehicles lined up before us. It was a very bizarre experience. It looked like the ones we see in movies. People queued up in their vehicles with no clue of what really happened and when it will be over. The thick smoke around us made it impossible to see the sky or sun or even the road. Insects were swarming around making it difficult to walk around to stretch our legs. We were waiting in our vehicle for more than 5 hours.
Finally, by 2.30 pm the road was open. Vehicles began to move slowly. After driving about 50 miles we crossed the source of wildfire that was still burning. The atmosphere there was not yellow as we experienced. The heavy winds pushed the smoke and ash away 100 miles from the source. It felt a great relief to cross the wildfire zone.
The small town was flooded with desperate travelers like us who had lost a day due to the highway closure. Every gas station had a big queue. We stopped at the visitor center to get information on the road conditions ahead. We also learned from them that the fires jumped highways and was still spreading at over 500 places, BC being the most affected one. Having gathered the information we needed for our travel, we quickly rushed into the sign post forest looking for our sign we hung last year.
Check out the Video below!
Signpost Forest – Alaska Highway
The forest had grown a lot than since our last visit. Its like a big maze with creative signs leading to no where. It took a while for us to find our sign. We were charged up and running around as if we were on a treasure hunt. After getting clues from our prior year photo/video, we finally found it! Since our sign was not weather proofed, all that remained was the wooden plank with subtle traces of text. We burst out laughing with excitement and same time felt proud to mark our sign in a place like this. Never mind if our sign was ruined. We have got a new one people!!!
We removed the old sign and mounted it on a new post along with our new sign. We did not take a proper video as we were so excitedly involved in finding our old sign. But during our return journey, we visited here again and took a video. This way we could easily identify the location if at all we visit again. Hope we do!