It all began when construction crews for the Alaska Highway posted signs in their camps naming their hometowns and the direction and distance to them. Then a soldier named Carl Lindley posted a sign with his hometown name, Danville, Illinois here in the town of Watson Lake. Soon others joined and the signpost forest grew.
Later, people began to steal road signs from their towns and posting them here. Then some people started to post signs with their names, the year, and other messages. As of the last count in 2013, there were 73,000+ signs here.
So many people have left an indelible mark and you can almost hear their stories. Aside from the pilfered official road signs, there is a large variety of homemade signs from the totally rustic to the fancy artistic ones. Wood planks, metal tins that people punched letters into, we even saw a couple of shoe soles.
We knew we wanted a homemade sign and not a manufactured one so we brought our own piece of wood and some clear lacquer spray to seal it. But we did borrow the visitor center’s kit and used some of their markers. And we are quite happy with our highly artistic sign.
In case anyone should want to see this fabulous work of art in person, here are directions. Walk in through the official Signpost Forest arch and go down the steps. Look for a lamppost on your right. Just past the lamppost look for a row of posts where the first post has the cross streets of White Tail Deer Rd and Hatch Gravel Rd at the very top. Our sign is in that row on the 14th post, just above a large green “La Crete, Alberta 993 miles” sign and a Florida license plate. Enjoy! 🙂
While in Watson Lake, we also visited the Northern Lights Center, a planetarium that shows a film about the Northern Lights. They were showing a film about black holes as well, and the two films together were 50 minutes long.
It was nice to learn a little bit about the auroras because they are common here from September until April, but the film was just ok. But the most amazing fact that we learned was that the auroras that form near the North and South Poles are mirror images of each other, proven by two aircraft that filmed them simultaneously.
Afterwards, we returned to the Signpost Forest to bid farewell to our sign, and bumped into other forest dwellers, Nikki and Jason of Gone with the Wynns fame. We had read their blog, but had never met them. They are very sweet. They are headed in the same general direction as us, so we hope to bump into them again.
There isn’t too much else to the town of Watson Lake. Our campground was across from pretty Wye Lake with a short hiking trail that goes around it. But we skipped the hike since it was raining.
During WWII it was also known as the ALSIB or Alaska Siberia route used to ferry almost 8000 military aircraft and supplies to our then ally Russia. Often these planes were flown by Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron.
Road Name (s): Yukon Highway 1
Road Type: 2-lane
Road Conditions: Excellent with a few gravel breaks
Miles Today: 75
Miles driven from Canadian border: 1416
Miles on the Alaska Highway: 687.2
Driving Time: 1:25
This was glorious country, more pine forest and green mountains on two sides. There were more stunning views of river and wetlands. There were no wildlife sightings, which was ok, since the views were so spectacular. At one point, without thinking, I asked Hector “When does it stop being beautiful?”.
They have an RV park that we planned to stay in, but after we ate dinner at the roadhouse we asked if we could just park at the edge of their lot for the night and the nice people said yes. They also had free WiFi which worked pretty well, so we were able to catch up a bit more on our blog and social media.
Tip of the day: When you patronize a business such as a restaurant or gas station in a remote area, they may allow you to stay overnight if you ask nicely.
Another great plus about this place is that they have resident moose that feed in their pond. More on that later.