When we woke up, it was a nice 20℉ (-7°C). Snow blanketed the Jeep overnight, and the only visible footprints were ours.
We lazily packed up our things and headed back over to Fast Eddie’s for breakfast before we hit the road. By the end of the day, we should be in Canada!
Once the clouds cleared, the sky was the color of a robin’s egg shell and blue cotton candy. The sun peeked over the tops of mountains. This was the first time I’d seen the sun since I had arrived in Alaska four days ago
The Canadian Border:
The border is about 3 hours from Tok, but the drive felt much longer as our anxiety heightened. We still hadn’t received our COVID test results. We knew we would need them to cross over into Canada. And before leaving, we never really got a straight answer on whether or not I would even be allowed into the country because I wasn’t listed on J.T.’s orders.
As we continued to drive on icy roads, we passed the motel we had originally planned on staying at before we stopped at Tok. It was closed, so I was thankful we hadn’t tried to push forward there last night. That would have really caused some unneeded stress!
It’s desolate out here. Service is spotty at best, and our signal was weak. By the time we arrived at the border, we had never gotten enough service to be able to check our email for our COVID results. Hopefully, the border agent will be understanding, and they have service for us to check.
She was not understanding…
I understand that being a border agent must be a terrible job, but I don’t feel like that gives someone permission to be rude.
The woman we spoke to was adamant that J.T. needed his passport or his birth certificate, even though he had been told by military personnel his military orders, military ID, and driver’s license was all he needed. Since we didn’t have it and still lacked our COVID results, we politely told the lady okay and accepted the fact that we would have to go back to the US.
“Um, no I’m not letting you leave,” she snapped.
Now, we were really confused.
We couldn’t go into Canada, but we also couldn’t go back to the US? Instead, she directed us to a parking lot and told us to come inside once we had our results.
So, we sat in this state of limbo as we willed our results to appear. We contacted the COVID testing company, and they said that it could take up to 48 hours which was another 40 minutes based on the time we tested.
After a while, the border agent came to the car and asked if we had gotten our results yet. We said no.
“Well, you can’t stay here all day. You can wait another five minutes and then come inside,” she stated rudely once again. Apparently, she was having a bad day too.
As she walked away, J.T. got a message saying the COVID testing portal was down, so they were unable to upload results at this time. We walked inside, tails tucked, knowing we were about to be sent back to the US.
The lady told us we would have to go back and once we had our results, we could try again. Mind you, she had already told me I wasn’t essential and J.T. needed another type of proof stating he was a US citizen, so we weren’t even sure why we would come back at this point. My stomach dropped. If they don’t let me in, we’ll have to go all the way back to Anchorage, I’ll have to fly home, and J.T. would have to make the journey alone.
Thankfully, we spoke to a much kinder gentleman who gave us the paperwork we needed to go back to the US. He was a saint compared to the women we had been dealing with.
I tried not to cry as we headed back to Alaska.
J.T. and I went back and forth on what to do. Should we drive the 3 hours back to Tok where we knew we’d have service and access to wifi? Should we camp out at the abandoned motel, guess when our results might be uploaded, and try for the border again?
After a few heated moments and talking to our mom over the satellite phone, we came up with a plan.
Alaska has these little areas on the side of the road about every mile, so we went back to one we had passed on our way to the border. We gave our mom our login information, and she was going to tell us when our results were finally uploaded.
As we waited, I decided to make some coffee. Seems like the logical thing to do when there’s nothing else you can do, right?
We pulled out our camping gear, set up our propane stove, and started to boil some water. As I went to pour the coffee grounds into my french press, whole coffee beans spilt out. Well, now what?
J.T. grabbed a hammer and proceeded to crack the beans with the butt of the handle. I laughed. Today was one of those days. I sipped on my coffee, enjoyed the view, and tried to ignore that I couldn’t feel my feet.
About an hour and a half later, my mom messaged saying that our results were posted. We looked through all the papers J.T. had in hopes of finding his birth certificate but no such luck. My mom saved the day again and sent us a picture of the copy she had at home. We loaded up everything, hopped back into the Jeep, and headed back to the Canadian border.
The Canadian Border… Take 2:
We nervously gathered all our paperwork again and hoped they would accept the photo of J.T.‘s birth certificate and would let me into Canada. The idea of going through all of this, only to be told I couldn’t go any further was nauseating.
As we pulled up to customs, my stomach was in knots.
“Did you get your results yet?” The kind gentleman from earlier recognized us immediately. I’m not going to lie, we were both relieved to see him instead of the other women.
We showed him our test results, gave him my passport and J.T.‘s orders, and crossed our fingers.
The man never asked for J.T.’s birth certificate and didn’t ask me any questions. Instead, he handed us an at home COVID test and told us we had 5 days to get to the US border.
You could hear the smile under our masks as we said, “Yes, sir.”
We had finally made it!
We had to stop to get gas at the first town, Beaver Creek. Can you guess how much it cost? $66 for half a tank… Yikes!
The roads cleared up a lot as we went further into the Yukon. The landscape opened up as well. In Alaska, it felt like you were always in a valley, but this is more like being in the middle of a huge bowl. Mountains fill the horizon in every direction, but the middle is a mixture of open plains and oceans of trees. But these mountains don’t have peaks. Instead, they slowly morphed into rolling mounds with the occasional massive cliff.
We saw a linx! We saw a black silhouette lumbering across the road and quickly slowed down. We watched the carefree cat finish it’s trek across the road and up the ditch. It would occasionally look back as if it was just as curious of us as we were of it.
We pulled into Talbot Arm Motel at about 7pm for the night. We were lucky enough to find another clean motel, even if the wifi was terrible.
It was a relief to be done with the day, and I was thankful to be falling asleep under the Canadian sky.
Sometime in the middle of the night:
I woke up randomly in the middle of the night, and I thought I’d try my luck and look out the window.
There it was.
It looked like faint green smoke stripped across the sky.
I hurriedly put on my camping boots and a sweatshirt and rushed into the parking lot.
I couldn’t believe I was standing under the Northern Lights!
It was fainter than I expected, but I blamed the motel lights. I contemplated driving outside of town to get a better picture, but fatigue got the better of me.
It was still magical!