Monday, July 13, 2015

Tok, Alaska!

Wednesday we pulled out of Destruction Bay and finally made it into Alaska, spending the night in Tok.  We have had a wonderful time exploring BC and the Yukon along the way, but we were all excited to actually cross into Alaska!!  On the way out we passed the Burwash Landing Museum, which claims to have the world's largest pan for gold!

One of the challenges to driving the Alcan Highway is dealing with frost heaves.  Frost heaves happen when the upper levels of the permafrost thaws, then freezes again forming layers of ice that push up on the soil above, creating pressure that can then cause parts of the road to rise, leaving a series of hills and valleys in the pavement.  Though it can ultimately rupture the pavement and leave lots of cracks and bumps, I think the trickier thing to deal with is the sudden hills and valleys sections.  If you're going fast, you can suddenly find yourself bouncing up and down pretty dramatically.  This is particularly dangerous driving a big RV, since you have so much more weight to deal with.  Fortunately our wagonmaster and tailgunner had really warned everyone to take it easy.  We found it helpful to really watch the white lines on the side of the road in the distance to see better when bumps were coming up, but sometimes the bumps can be different at the same spot, from lane to lane so you just have to be really careful.  In addition to the frost heaves, on this leg of our journey we had probably the roughest part of the Alcan we'd seen up to this point.  We encountered lots of construction where they are trying to repair the damage frost heaving has done, so that meant we were in single lane driving lots of times, sometimes with a pilot car, sometimes not.  There were long stretches where it was all gravel, and lots of washboard places, where we had to drive no more than 10 or 15 mph.  but we survived with no damage to the RV.  Several folks have had rocks flying from other vehicles, primarily the big trucks, crack their windshields, but so far we've managed to escape this.

Stopped at Buckshot Betty's for a coffee break with several others and then back on the road!  Stopped at Tetlin Wildlife Reserve visitor center in Alaska, passed some areas where fires had wiped out much of the forest, and ultimately made it to Tok.  At the RV park, it's sort of a Fantasy RV Tours tradition for everyone to get in line at their RV wash and communally wash all the rigs--though the next day we just got them dirty again!!  But it was exciting to be in Alaska!  How the town of Tok got its name is the subject of much lively debate.  It actually began as Tokyo Camp, a base camp for those constructing the Alcan in 1942.  Some say anti-Japanese sentiment caused people to change it to Tok.  Others say the named derived from the nearby Tokai River, which was listed on an early survey as the Tok River, which is how it is known today.  Others say it was named after an Alaskan Husky pup that belonged to the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for building this section of the highway.

Early morning driving out of the campground in Destruction Bay

Loved how the rising sun was playing over the mountains!

The sky, the sky, wow, what a sky, with the mountain ranges in front of us
And the glorious carpets of fireweed warming us from either side!!

Here's the so called world's largest gold pan!

Interesting story board at one of our rest stops
Gunner, Chuck and Sally's faithful miniature Alaskan husky, at the rest stop

Here's how the speedometer read for much of the day!

Sophie got a little tired of the bumpy ride on the floorboard at Trisha's feet, so we put her carrier up on the dash and she liked that better!

This was a rental RV, and the driver was going so fast when he passed us, we could hardly believe it! Guess he didn't care whether he damaged the rig since it was a rental
Beautiful sunlight patterns

You can see the gravel road here, but not the rough washboards so much--trust me, we could feel them!

From a distance, we thought this might be a moose or some other wildlife on the road, so we were all over the radio talking to the folks in the rig in front of us and in back of us, but once we got close enough we could see that it was just a wild bicycle rider!!

Cute little church along the way

Here we come Alaska!!

Lining up at the customs inspection station at the border.

Here is where we first learned what these log structures high up on stilts were--the caches, where the native people kept their food and treasures safe from the reach of bears

Sandhill Cranes
Fire devastation

Once we got to Tok, Trisha and Sophie were glad to be finished with all the rough driving for the day, just taking it easy on the couch.

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