The City of Signs

A 60 year tradition

Watson Lake, Yukon Ter, Canada

August 26-27, 2002

Pulling out of Whitehorse we began our easterly meandering toward Watson Lake. The road was good for the most part, but speed had to be moderated to accommodate the various wildlife that abounded along the roadside. Mile after mile we would get up to normal speed only to encounter a caribou or goat, right at the edge of the road. They appeared to be eating the gravel that collected along the berm, right at the edge of the pavement. It was really a strange looking sight. Most of the creatures didn't even recognize that a vehicle was passing but, considering their size, I was not going to whiz by in the belief that they would not dart out in front of me, destroying what had been a great adventure. This was not particularly to the liking of the locals following me, who I'm sure have come to consider the animals as much a nuisance as the tourists. The not to friendly blast of a car horn behind me was a reminder of their impatience. Still it was a marvelous sight and we took our time, periodically pulling over and letting the working class pass by. Laura kept trying to take pictures of the Caribou as I slowed down to pass them. Unfortunately, just as she started to take the picture they were in the process of turning away and going down over the hill. Laura said she thinks she could get a job specializing in Caribou "butt" pictures. Now, if we can just find a market. We had decided to spend one day in Watson Lake to see one of Canada's most famous attractions. Pulling into the city, we were caught in a summer shower that created quite a downpour for a few minutes. By the time we got to the campground we had selected, the rain was gone. In its place was a beautiful bright rainbow. The next day we visited the most recognized attraction in the area. The famous Sign Post Forest, located along the main street in this little town. It was started in 1942 by a homesick Army GI, Carl K. Lindsey of Danville IL. Company D, 341st Engineers. While working on the Alaska Highway he erected a sign here pointing the way and stating the mileage to his hometown. Others soon followed his lead and are still doing so to this day. On July 20th of 1990 Olen and Anita Walker of Bryan, Ohio, reportedly erected the 10,000th sign. Carl and his wife came back to visit in 1992, 50 years after his first post was erected. Today, the town maintains the site, erecting more posts as they are needed through the Adopt-A-P0st Program. An old-timer who was sitting nearby offered this insight, "The signs are not maintained, once fallen through age and weather, they are not returned to the post by the city. So make your sign of good material and fasten it with sturdy nails if you wish to come back years later to find what you have left." In the rear of the forest we found several shops making signs of wood, for those who wanted to leave a sign but didn't have time or material necessary make one that would last. Many resorted to one of the most durable signs ever constructed by mankind. The good old expired vehicle license plate. Thousands of them are nailed to the posts in hodgepodge order. Finding a Cincinnati sign was like looking for a needle in a haystack. After several hours of wandering, not only had we found the sign we were looking for but also for a small suburb village of Glendale with a population of under 5000. We also found a number of City and/or street signs that we wondered if the city knew were missing.
That evening we wandered across the street to a Planetarium, which was giving a presentation on the Northern Lights. In the morning, we were off and running again but we will always remember that funny little town with all those signs.

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