Michael and Veronica Schulze, Germany
6 December 2016
In June 2013 my husband Michael and I finished our end-to-end between Albany and Kalamunda, from where we took the bus to Bridgetown, hitchhiked into Donnelly River Village and walked back another 300 km to Walpole—we loved the Bibbulmun Track that much!
Before returning to Germany we visited the BTF office in Perth and bought, among other souvenirs, a Waugal marker. It seemed impossible to have followed the Waugal for such a long time and not become emotionally attached to it.
But this Waugal was not destined to stay at home in Germany, but to become The Northernmost Waugal!
During our trek we had made plans to drive the Pan-American Highway, going all the way from Canada to Tierra del Fuego in South America. So in June 2014 we shipped our Toyota Land cruiser from Hamburg to Halifax, eastern Canada. From Halifax we drove north-west through Canada to the northernmost point of the Panamericana—Inuvik, a small town in the Northwest Territories, far beyond the Arctic Circle.
However, although this was the northernmost point for us, we had decided to leave the Waugal a little further south , in Watson Lake (pop. 1,700), a town just inside the Yukon border.
Watson Lake began as a humble trading post in the late 1890s, named after Frank Watson, who trapped and prospected in the area. Now Watson Lake is situated on the Alaska Highway and is the key transportation, communications and distribution centre for mining and logging activities in southern Yukon, northern British Columbia and a portion of the Northwest Territories, and it is home to the Signpost Forest.
The history of the Signpost Forest goes back to the construction of the Alaska Highway during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor the USA realized the importance of a road to Alaska—and so the 1,500-mile long Alaska Highway was built in 1942 in incredibly short eight months and twelve days.
The Signpost Forest in Watson Lake was started by a homesick US soldier, who nailed a sign with the name of his hometown on an official signpost. Through the years, the Signpost Forest has grown as tourists from around the world have continued to erect signs from their hometowns or, as in our case, from places which are special to them. At present there are about 80,000 signs.
So now the Signpost Forest boasts a Waugal, nailed appropriately to a tree and proudly representing The Bibbulmun Track in the Yukon.
This must be the northernmost Waugal, on the 60th parallel!