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Hitch-hiking to Alaska in 1952

Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

History of the Alaska Highway

The Whitehorse Star (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory) - Monday, September 19, 1952

The Whitehorse Star - Just Whitlin' column by Pack Rat, 1952

    Ever have yearning to go hitch-hiking, girls? Travel far and wide? Visit here and there and get back safe and sound? If you wish the low-down then by all means get in touch with Fern Woods, who is hitching rides somewhere on the Alaska Highway.

    Last week we had quite a chat with Mrs. Woods who stopped in at Whitehorse on her way to Anchorage. She started out in San Diego a couple of years ago and headed for the Yukon and Alaska via Mexico and Eastern Canada. And quite a time she has had.

    But just in case any of you gals want to take off for "outside" before winter, here is a description of Fern Woods' outfit. This consists of a sixteen-inch suitcase mounted on small wheels, a fairly large gadget bag for her cameras, and a "Trapper Nelson" pack board. Equipment is stowed away as follows:

    Into the suitcase goes a one- burner coleman stove and camper's utensils, shirts, undergarments and what-nots, extra socks, and anything else that is of comfort and joy to the hitch-hiker. The gadget bag receives a Polaroid land camera and a 16mm. Bell and Howell movie camera and any extra film that may be needed.

    The Trapper Nelson board accommodates a Woods Three Star Sleeping Robe (purchased in Whitehorse 'cause it's cold here, Maw) and anything else that can be strapped, hung or tied on.

    That's about the outfit that Mrs. Woods travels with. No, she doesn't require two small boys to help with the load. In fact, it's quite compact, considering . ' .

    And you don't have to be an "amazon" to handle all this either. Fern Woods is slight as far as height goes though she admits she is "pleasantly plump." Her exact age she would not admit, though she states she is just "under sixty." She is the mother of an even dozen and the grandmother of twenty-seven at last count. It would appear that Mrs. Woods is an all-round venturesome type.

    With her cart and pack she travels about 400 to 600 miles a day by car, truck, rail, bus and even has hitch-hiked by air! Here, incidently, she has found Canadian men polite and helpful.

    Asked about her experiences on the road she reminisced about her travels to Chicago. One bitterly cold day Mrs. Woods was standing on the side of a road when along came one of those souped-up Greyhound busses. She waved it on, not wishing to fork any pence for a ride and spoil her good record, but stop it would and did. The door opened and out stepped a priest. He reached out his hand to her, said "Bless you" and boarded the bus. Mrs. Woods was dumbfounded but managed to get out the words, "Bless YOU Father," as she stared at the two dollars he had pressed into her hand.

    She had quite a time on the Alaska Highway, too. Requiring a place to camp one dark and dreary day she was directed by a road gang to an abandoned shack near the highway. Early in the evening she was curled up nice and warmly when suddely there was a noise at the rusty screen door. At this Mrs. Woods stated definitely and firmly that the cabin was occupied and she wished no visitors whatsoever. No answer, but still a noise. She rose to investigate and defend herself. There at the door was old Momma bear and two cubs. A moment's panic and then Mrs. Woods had the beam of her flashlight in the old bear's eyes. She kept it there until Mom called it quits, and wandered off. That night Fern Woods turned into a light sleeper.

    She doesn't know when she will get back home to California but it has to be before next spring because that is when her book "Experiences of a Lady Hitch-hiker" is to hit the market.

    And besides that she wants to see those grandchildren of hers, all twenty-seven of them.

    Our hats are off to you, Fern Woods.