Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back in Tok

If you drive to or from Alaska, you have to pass through Tok.  So here we are--again.

We had an unusual experience last night--sad, really.  We had parked at a small roadside park near Glennallen.  We got ourselves settled in for the night and were relaxing after dinner.  We had noticed there were several teenagers hanging around one of the picnic tables down by the river, but really thought nothing of them except to notice they had evidently walked there because there wasn’t a car in the parking lot.  They stayed over by themselves until about 8 PM when we noticed two of them were almost carrying one of the girls to the restroom.  The closer they got the clearer it became that she could hardly walk on her own.  As they were assisting her across the parking lot, the whiskey bottle was making its rounds from hand to hand.  We decided it wasn’t the place for us, especially for the night.  We moved on up the road a couple miles to another pullout.  Here we found an older couple traveling in a small Class C relaxing after dinner.  Ahh, our kind of people.  We had a very peaceful and restful night.

For today’s drive, we continued north on Richardson Highway for a few miles to Tok Cut-Off Highway.  We had high hopes for Tok Cut-Off, but soon discovered it was going to be another bad road day.  Unlike yesterday, the road surface was bad plus you really had to watch for frost heaves.  During the first few miles, we had small areas that had been resurfaced with gravel.  It wasn’t long before we came to the sign announcing 24 miles of road construction.  For that 24 miles, the road surface had been completely removed and the road crew was preparing to repave.  We got to follow the Pilot Car again after a wait of about 15 minutes.

After we were back on pavement again, the road surface was rough almost all the way to Tok. The posted speed limit was 45, but we felt we were better off at around 35 mph. The last 30 miles or so was good road with a short portion being brand new.

Mt Drum with her head in the clouds
The road may have been rough, but the scenery was beautiful.  Tok Cut-Off follows the edge of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park for most of the distance to Tok.  Again today, there were plenty of ponds, lakes, and rivers with the Wrangell Mountains towering above.  It was a beautiful drive.

Gakona Lodge built in 1929
We made a couple stops along the way.  Our first stop was at Gakona Lodge and Trading Post.  The building which is still in use today was built in 1929 to replace the original roadhouse built in 1904.  Today, in addition to the lodge, there is a restaurant which serves dinner only, a tavern, and a couple small cabins.  Gakona was just one of several roadhouses spaced about 20 miles apart along the Valdez Trail which offered shelter and supplies for the miners.

Our second stop was at the Wrangell-St. Elias Slana Ranger Station.  This is located just off the Tok Cut-Off on the gravel road that leads about 50 miles into the interior of the park.  There is a small gift shop with mostly books for sale, but otherwise it’s just a station to provide information and registration for folks accessing the backcountry in the park.

We had given some consideration to driving down this road a short way to see what we could see, but then decided not to primarily because the bad road conditions on Tok Cut-Off were taking much more time than we expected today.  When we got to the Ranger Station we found we had to unhitch the car to get turned around.  It’s not an unpleasant job and it doesn’t take too much time, but it was a dirty job today because of the road grime that was all over everything.

We often say this lifestyle requires flexibility and today we wobbled back and forth trying to decide where to spend the night.  Originally, we planned to stop in Tok only briefly, then head on down the road another 50 miles or so for the night.  It took so long to get here we were tired of being on the road.  Cool Judy and her gang are supposed to be in Tok tonight and we pulled into the place where they would be staying.  Ultimately, we decided to just go to a campground instead of dry camping.  Since this will be our last night in Alaska, we needed to make phone calls and send out e-mails before crossing into the Yukon where we’ll have no cell service.  Being in a campground would allow us to recharge our computers afterwards.  Plus, it’s just easier after a hard day on the road and a shower always helps lift our spirits.

Speaking of no cell service, there won’t be any in the Yukon which really means no more MiFi.  No more MiFi until we get back to the US--sometime after Winnipeg.  Oh my!!  I’ll be posting the blog as I can at coffee shops, McDonalds, libraries, etc.  Hopefully, not too many days will pass between posts.

GAS REPORT:  This morning we filled up the motor home in Glennallen at the Tesoro. Gas was $4.29 and diesel was $4.66.

CRITTER COUNT:  After all these ponds and lakes, we finally saw a moose today and she had a calf with her.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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