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Taking the Long Way Home From Alaska

Within months of the Pearl Harbor bombing on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States, in cooperation with the Canadian authorities, set out to build a highway from British Columbia to Alaska, then a territory and viewed as vulnerable to attack by Japan. The original 1,685-mile road took more than 10,000 soldiers less than nine months to complete.

An upgraded version opened in 1948 and has been continually resurfaced and rerouted; It now measures just shy of 1,400 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction in Alaska, according to “The Milepost,” a guidebook to the drive.

The highway formed the heart of a family road trip I took last September from Alaska to Idaho, passing through the Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta, in Canada, along the way.

Relying on Google Maps won’t get you far on this drive, where cellphone service is sparse. In preparation, my son found a 1972 road map of western Canada and eastern Alaska that has remained fairly accurate.

The route, which takes motorists through some of the most stunning landscapes in North America, lends itself to a budget trip. We spent about $300 on fuel for the whole trip in a medium-size S.U.V. We often camped and ate picnic meals, starting in coastal Valdez, Alaska, where we overnighted on a 32-foot powerboat listed on Airbnb ($68 a night) with a great blue heron and a harbor seal as neighbors.

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