Last of three parts.
It was day four of our trip from Alaska to the Lower 48 on the Alaska Highway, even though my friend Bailey and I had entered that endless stretch that sometimes happens on road trips or vacations when who can say what day it is or how long ago. We knew for sure it had been colder than expected because we camped out of the back of my truck every night – except for two nights at a motel outside of Chicago just before Bailey’s flight home.
With few options to choose from on the Alcan near Dawson Creek, Canada, we felt lucky to have found a place to spend the night via Hipcamp, an Airbnb-esque app that lists private properties available for camping for a fixed fee.
As the truck got stuck in fresh snow trying to find a flat place to sleep, then took off again, then finally backed up permanently to a spot our host graciously and patiently cleared away, Bailey cooked dinner for us.
We ate said dinner in the giant and warm barn that our hosts gave us. Although it was weird – when I turned on the overhead lights inside, one of the guys hesitated.
“Oh – do you need lights?”
“Nope!” Bailey and I responded quickly. She added: “We have headlamps, that’s fine.” I turned off the light and admired the darkness, once again cavernous, filled with strange bric-a-brac. There were leftover balloons and signs from what must have been a party, several large pieces of sectional sofa and other living room furniture, a small white picnic table, a foosball table and a pool table and several arcade machines.
He turned on the light. “No, no – it’s okay, if you’re going to hang out here, you’ll need lights! It’s just that I’m going to have to turn off the power at home. We have a bitcoin server here and it takes a lot of power .
Bailey and I both turned to where he was looking, to the source of what was now obviously a loud mechanical hum coming from an orange machine in the far corner of the barn.
He casually continued, “It’s just something we’re trying. That’s what makes this place so warm! OK, I’ll go take care of things at home. Let me know if you need anything!”
Bailey and I turned to look at each other with wide eyes. Then we refocused: we were hungry. We brought our soup-filled bowls with sausages to the indoor picnic table, lit by overhead light and – apparently – warmed by the bitcoin server. That night, we drank the red wine Bailey had brought, applauded our very strange but comfortable situation, and dreamed aloud of spending the night at a bitcoin farm.
We went to bed with the snow still swirling all around us and slept soundly through the night.
[Part 1: Smooth sailing on the first leg of an open-road adventure on the Alaska Highway]
[Part 2: Holed up with Hipcamp, navigating snow and sleet on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia]
When I woke up, it was because of the accumulated snow outside the windows of the truck bed. I briefly considered sleeping in until spring, but finally convinced myself to face the music. The tailgate hatch was difficult to lift because there was so much fresh snow on it, and when I pulled my boots all the way up and jumped out of the car, there was nothing to show where we were. parked had never been plowed. The snow got more than halfway up the truck tires and in places almost spilled over the top of my Xtratufs. And, he was still going down.
This is a good time to remind you that Bailey didn’t bring snow boots because I didn’t think she would need them. She spent time in the coming days drying her socks.
We made coffee – first – in the bitcoin-heated barn, and made a rational plan: we would wait for the guys to get up and clear the driveway. I wouldn’t consider driving out of my own driveway in that much snow, and I’d been pretty stuck the night before, even with four-wheel drive.
We waited. And waited. There was no sign of life from the main house.
Bailey decided to try using the bathroom in the house. After all, that’s what they asked us to do. We hadn’t approached them yet – there were plenty of places to pee in the yard – but maybe as they headed inside and rummaged they were fidgeting. We named it because I’m allergic to dogs and there were about 1 million inside that we had encountered the night before.
She came back outside five minutes later, scampering around the yard in her inappropriate shoes, shaking her head and giving a thumbs up before she even got back to the car. Jumping into the passenger seat, she said, “They’re not up. I couldn’t find the bathroom. I think it was upstairs. I looked for it, but didn’t want to open too many doors – but one of the rooms I peeked into was full of guns. Just, guns everywhere. Let’s go.”
So our perfectly rational decision to wait for them to get up was overridden by emotion, and we decided to try to leave. I lit the car and my nerves, thinking about the strategy.
I remember seeing our host deftly rocking the truck back and forth, first in reverse and then in drive, to get it out of the deep snow. Bailey had already swept snow in front of each of the tires, so I started to mimic what I had seen. Drive, pause, back up, repeat. After a few laps, I took a breath and kept going, slow and steady.
We cleared where we had parked for the night. We emptied the house. We emptied the assortment of vehicles. We have cleared the gate and the main part of the driveway leading to the road. We cleared the foot of the driveway and drove to the road that was also unploughed but at least tire rutted.
During those 20 seconds of uncertain driving, we were the quietest on the whole trip.
And when we came out onto the country road, we immediately and very loudly clapped and shouted. My heart was pounding.
From there we found amazing national parks. We found the sun. We found 60 degrees, places to run and very long walks. In the end, we arrived at the Lower 48 in one piece and in excellent spirits, with nothing but great memories and stories to tell.
The next time? I would say to Bailey yes, get your snow boots ready. But otherwise, I’m so grateful for the adventure we had, in its entirety, including my life lesson on how to get out of deep snow.