We arrived in the most western town in Canada, Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory. If biking goes as planned tomorrow, I will depart Canada after 2,284 miles peddling through Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory.
Why do you think today’s ride on the Alaska Highway had the most construction and patched spots?
If you guessed “lack of effort or money”, you would be wrong.
The correct answer is permafrost.
It costs about four times as much to maintain a highway overlaying permafrost as other highways.
After taking today’s photo of an international highway research project over permafrost, I inquired at the Beaver Creek Infomation Center. This town, with a population of 112, has one of the best information centers I have seen. For the last twenty five years, the manager has run the place and has a wall dedicated to permafrost.
After three years of highway permafrost research on a mile stretch outside of Beaver Creek, all solution attempts were considered failures. Why?
Although permafrost is defined as ground frozen for two or more years, permafrost underlying this part of the Yukon is buried layers of ice from the last glacial period—likely thousands of years old. When trees, vegetation, dirt and rock are cleared to put in a highway, the buried layers of ancient glacial ice melt randomly as the ground warms over time from lack of permanent insulation.
For those with fancy cars, motorcycles, million dollar RVs, and pulling monstourous campers over this part of the Alaska Highway, I hope they take some of the time they saved speeding in good spots to stop into the Beaver Creek Information Center and learn about highways over permafrost. Or, next time they should bicycle across the Yukon and enjoy it.