Saturday, July 30, 2011

Back on the Alaska Highway

Thursday, we pulled out of our campground in Tok and were soon back on the Alaska Highway.  But we weren’t in a big rush, that’s for sure.

Our first stop was at the Chevron station on the corner of Tok Cutoff and Alaska Highway.  We wanted to wish Cool Judy, Luke, Frank, and Gloria safe travels.  They were heading toward Canada, as well.  They all pulled out ahead of us.  Gene went in the Chevron to get a cup of coffee, so we didn’t see them again.  Perhaps our paths will cross again on down the highway before they turn south and head for the US border.  It was sure nice getting to know them.

The first few miles of the road out of Tok was fine, but it wasn’t long before we ran into some rough patches which lasted almost to the Canadian border.

We stopped for the night at a scenic pullout overlooking Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.  I still had some fresh vegetables, fruit, milk, and cheese.  Call me stingy, but I didn’t want to relinquish those things to the border patrol.  Thursday was a big fruit and vegetable day and we washed it all down with milk, so that by Friday morning after breakfast just about all was gone.  What was left, I wasn’t going to worry about.  As it turned out, the only thing we would have lost would have been the apples.

The list of restricted items, when you can find one, is very vague.  I’ve seen more than one list and the items are different.  What’s up with that?  At every border crossing, they’ve always asked us about fresh fruit and vegetables, so I knew that was a problem.  However, today, when we started listing all the stuff we had, the guard asked specifically for anything with a pit or a core.  Now, that’s a real guideline.  Why don’t they just say that to start with and print it on the lists?

Friday morning, before crossing into Yukon, we stopped at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.  This is a very nice facility with displays, a small gift shop, a movie, and free coffee.  We wandered around there for about 30 minutes before heading back onto the highway.

We had heard the section of road in the Yukon to Haines Junction was in very bad shape.  We hadn’t looked forward to driving it.  We missed this portion of the highway on our inbound trip because we went to Dawson City from Whitehorse.  There was no going around this time.  We rolled off the pavement at the Alaska/Yukon border onto dirt road that was nearly as bad as Top of the World Highway.  Then there was the sign announcing road construction for the next 186 km.  We were both dismayed.  However, the dirt didn’t last long.  We were soon back on pavement, but I’m not so sure it was much of an improvement over the dirt.  The pavement had some pretty bad frost heaves and pot holes.  The “improved” areas were gravel and were some better than the pavement, but the seams where the gravel met the pavement were very rough.  It was a long, slow 100 miles.  Our average speed was 35 mph.

Shortly after the border crossing we stopped at Beaver Creek, the westernmost community in Canada.  We stopped in the Yukon Visitor Center and asked about the road conditions.  To our surprise, the gentleman said that most of the construction had been completed.  That was good news.  As bad as it was today, I hate to think how bad it was at the beginning of summer.  No wonder we heard such horror stories.

While in Beaver Creek, we walked over to Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.  This is one of the three or four Quonsit hut churches along the Alaska Highway.  After the road was built, the Quonset huts and most everything else used during construction was abandon.  Locals used what they could for various things and the rest is still sitting along the highway, especially old jeeps and army trucks.  Our Lady of Grace is still being used for services twice a month.

Another stop today was at Burwash Landing.  Gene wanted a cup of coffee, but the building he went into turned out to be a museum.  He had to make his own coffee in the rig.

After a long day of hard driving, although not so many miles, we finally parked by Kluane Lake at Cottonwood RV Park.  We stayed here in 2004 and liked it so much we had to come back.  It’s expensive, but a very nice campground and the sites on the water are just gorgeous.  We’re in a site without any hook-ups, on the water for $32.

GAS REPORT:  Before crossing the border into Canada, we filled up the gas tank.  Gas at Border City was 4.34 and diesel was 4.72.

CRITTER COUNT:  We saw a black bear today.  I was so excited.  That was the first bear we’ve seen since Denali.  We’re back on the Alcan in Canada.  That’s where we saw them all before.  We also saw 7 swans.

That’s it for today.  Hoping to post this in Whitehorse.  Thanks for tagging along.

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