Anything would have been a let down after yesterday's high, but today tried to deliver a few highlights to let us know this trip isn't quite over yet. We arrived back at Eagle Plains around 11:30 to find Ross and Dave had made their way up. It was a brief reunion as we needed to sleep to be ready for the epic drive today. Of course with my roomies, "need sleep" equated to stay up chatting till 2:30. That was about when we realized we needed to wake up in 2 hours. Crap.
But up we were at 4:45, and ready to go. I took my turn driving down the Dempster in the dark. Clearly the road crews had been busy, as it was MUCH clearer than on our drive up. By this point, I'm starting to get used to driving on ice and snow, and was easily doing 70 around the bends. There were even some snow drifts to plow through that were a lot of fun. As we motored down the road, the sun began its slow rise, arriving as a pink beacon shooting into the sky. We made excellent time back, and continued on to Stewart Crossing.
Sadly, this is where our splinter group got even smaller. Steve and Bill decided they were going to head to Valdez and try to catch up with the group. We had no interest in going that far, nor in participating in the ice races tomorrow, and elected to go as far as Tok, where the group stayed last night. We said our goodbyes and the remaining two cars continued on. It was a bit of a downer after we'd stuck together through so much.
It was an uneventful border crossing, and we noted that the roads immediately became clear as soon as we were back in the US. Take that, Canada! It was 100 miles to Tok, but it was dark, so we kept a moderate pace. We pulled into town at 9 and got a room. Tomorrow will be a much shorter day and we'll be reunited with the group in time for the banquet. We were pretty quiet tonight, I think the sadness of such an epic journey coming to a close is setting in. It truly was an experience I never wanted to end, especially surrounded by the people I was with.