By Rick Palsgrove
“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…”
That old song lyric by the Five Man Electrical Band sums up what visitors to Watson Lake (located in the Yukon on the Alaska Highway near the British Columbia border) see at the town’s famous Sign Post Forest.
According to yukoninfo.com, people from all over the world have brought “signposts from their hometowns to the Sign Post Forest since 1942.”
The Sign Post Forest traces its roots to the Alaska Highway Project when a U.S. soldier, who was repairing and erecting the town’s directional signposts, added a sign indicating the direction and mileage to his hometown of Danville, Ill., according to yukoninfo.com.
Over time, people added more such signs and it became popular to continue to add signs to the collection. It’s estimated there are now around 88,000 of the signs attached to posts in the Sign Post Forest
Two recent visitors to Watson Lake were Groveport’s Wayne and Becky Cassidy, who posted a sign representing Groveport, provided by Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp, to the Sign Post Forest.
“I heard about their trip and I bought them a Groveport sign for $50,” said Westcamp. “It means something for our community to be represented at this internationally famous place. Our sign and our town name are now there to be recognized and for all the world to see.”
The Cassidys visited the Sign Post Forest in July 2019 as part of a larger road trip they took to Alaska.
“Going to Alaska has been on our bucket list for awhile,” said Wayne Cassidy. “I retired in May and said, ‘Let’s go!’”
Wayne said they found out about the Sign Post Forest after Becky researched points of interest along their route and he said the place did not disappoint.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be so big and spread out,” said Wayne. “It was just, ‘Wow.’”
Wayne said they saw signs with names of towns and countries from South America, Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world.
“One posted sign showed the route of someone’s 12,213 kilometer trip from Argentina to the Yukon,” said Wayne.
He said in addition to the Groveport sign, Ohio is well represented in the Sign Post Forest as they saw signs from the Ohio towns of Strongsville, Minster, Anna, and New Bremen.
Beyond the Sign Post Forest
Wayne said Alaska is impressive with spectacular scenery, noting that Denali National Park is especially beautiful.
“It’s vast and relatively unspoiled there. I’d be tempted to stay there if we didn’t have grandkids in Ohio,” joked Cassidy. “But, while it’s nice there in the summertime, I don’t think I want to be there when it’s 30 degrees below zero in the winter.”
The Cassidys saw abundant wildlife during their travels along the Alaskan roads.
“We saw bears, buffalo grazing along the road, caribou, and foxes,” said Wayne. “We saw a mother moose and her two calves walking around in the city of Anchorage. I saw my first bald eagle in the wild there.”
He said Alaskans are friendly and he saw people from all over the world during their travels on the road, which included a trip above the Arctic Circle to the town of Wiseman, which has a year-round population of 12. He noted the hardy people in Wiseman know how to take care of themselves in the often harsh environment, but they still take advantage of familiar modern delivery systems.
“Once a week Amazon Prime would make deliveries there,” said Wayne.
The Cassidys also tried their hand at a traditional Alaskan sport – sled dog racing.
“We visited a kennel operated by a four-time Iditarod champion,” said Wayne. “I got to drive a wheeled cart pulled by four sled dogs. They moved fast for four dogs. Usually a sled dog team is much larger. I’m going to watch the Iditarod differently this year after this.”
Wayne said if anyone is thinking about taking such a trip themselves they should do it and enjoy the experience.
“It’s well worth it,” he said.