While I rode across Watson Lake on my way to the rodeo grounds where the horses would rest, I saw the Sign Post Forest for the first time.
Boasting 80,000 signs from all over the world, the “forest” is Watson Lake’s most famous attraction.
It all started during the building of the Alaska Highway in 1942 with an American soldier named Carl K. Lindley. While recuperating in Watson Lake from an injury, he was asked by his commanding officer to repair and erect the directional signposts in town. As he was doing so, Lindley added his own sign indicating the direction and mileage to his hometown of Danville, Illinois.
Soon other soldiers were adding signs similar to Lindley’s and the forest was born. It became a tradition and travelers from all corners of the globe still put up signs from their home countries and towns.
“Wow, look at this one from China,” Clara said pointing at a blue rectangular sign with Chinese writing.
It’s an amazing experience to wander through the forest and see all the different signs and where they are from! Some are real signs from cities and states/provinces while others are homemade. My favorites were: A toilet seat, a bra, and a canoe paddle—all with messages.
Obviously we had to leave our mark in the forest. Clara and I used the back of a license plate we found on the side of the road weeks earlier to write this message:
“#JourneyAmerica – Alaska to Argentina on Horseback. 2012–2020. 27,000 kms. 12 countries. 564 horseshoes.”
We used horseshoe nails to fasten it to a thick pole. We also included a used horseshoe from the journey and a feather I found in the northern part of the Yukon territory.
“Looks good,” I announced as we proudly gazed the forest’s new addition.
After two days resting in Watson Lake, eating too much greasy food and taking several showers, we were ready to continue trekking south.
I was excited to enter British Columbia but knew this would be the hardest stretch of the entire ride. South of Watson Lake we would cross a 200 kilometer stretch of the Alaska Highway with several herds of massive wood bison, the northern Rocky Mountains, and one of the largest populations of black bears in the world.