The night temperatures have been in the low to mid 40’s for most of our trip, so when we have hookups it’s nice to use the small electric space heater to keep things cozy. Last night the winds blew a lot but it never rained. I took my time and read blogs and wrote some more while Mo cooked a good breakfast. The nearly empty park was almost full this morning when we woke. I’m glad that we have managed to do this trip so far with no reservations, but we usually get off the road by 3 or 4 in the afternoon and that seems to be the magic time for getting a site.
The route to Haines through Haines Junction is more than 400 miles so we knew that we would choose to find another boondock site for tonight somewhere along the way. We also knew there was a border crossing into the Yukon and it would be time to turn the phones to airplane mode to avoid lots of hefty charges. It’s been great having the iPhone available for email when I don’t have full internet on the computer in addition to Google Maps since our GPS charger won’t connect. Once back in Canada, I’ll have to rely on paper maps again. Whew! I surely do like my satellite imagery of where I am traveling.
With a stop for groceries at the Tok Three Bear Market, a propane fill-up at the Chevron station next door, and a gas up stop at the Three Bears station at 4.06 per gallon, we were ready to roll. The skies were cloudy, but not so bad that we couldn’t see at least part of the landscape where we traveled.
Within a few miles we came to the junction with the Taylor Highway, our route a couple of weeks ago when we first came into Alaska. What a difference some traveling makes. My perception of Alaska now is very much different than it was on that previous cloudy day when we passed through Tok. Someone recently mentioned in a blog that Tok is the place we all have to visit at least twice, one entering Alaska and once leaving. It’s the only way through from Canada if you are driving into Alaska.
Not far past the junction is the new bridge across the mighty Tanana River. “Mighty” seems to be the word of the day when describing these broad, braided, glacial rivers with their heavy load of silt and debris roaring to the Bering Sea. The Tanana is a mighty river, and the new information rest area on the east side of the river did it justice. Since the new bridge was only completed in 2010, the center was new, and had informative signs with natural and human history of the river and the bridge and the world the river travels. The highway was quiet this morning, and we had the entire area to ourselves while I took photos and marveled at the river.
I am really enjoying all the interpretive signs that are along the roadways, both in Alaska and in the Yukon. People have developed some beautiful art and told wonderful stories. Somewhere I am sure there are glossy brochures with the same information, but I really love having the photo record of those stories right with my photos. I take a lot of photos of those signs, a habit I just developed in the last couple of years. In fact, sometimes if an information area is too crowded, I’ll photograph the signs and read the information later in the photo at my leisure. It works for me anyway.
I was in charge of reading the Milepost and deciding which areas needed our attention. There were so many rest stops and interpretive areas along the way that we weren’t making very much progress toward our destination. I almost skipped the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Information Center. What a sad loss that would have been. We stopped in at the beautifully crafted spruce log building and enjoyed every part of this beautiful place, including the native people there telling stories and showing their craftsmanship.
The center had signs everywhere saying, “Touch Gently”, something I really loved since I always want to touch things to “see” them. I felt the incredible softness of a lynx pelt, the hollow haired warmth of a caribou coat, the smelly stiffness of dried fish, and played like a kid with the molded animal feet making prints in the sand to identify. Then we watched the 15 minute movie about the Great Migration of the Tetlin Valley. This movie was so beautiful it made me cry. In fact, writing about it right now I feel that sting behind my eyes of emotion. The native music and voices that narrated the story of the refuge were haunting. They told of the birds that rest and nest here, the history of the place, and the beauty of the fall migration and the winter snows. I’m so grateful that we stopped instead of saying, “Do we really need to see another Information Center?” as we almost did.
Not long after Tetlin, we arrived at the Canadian border, but the actual customs entry site is about 27 more miles down the road. We slid quickly through the check station: “7 bottles of beer, 1/2 a bottle of wine, we will be in Canada one night on our way to Haines, and no we don’t have any guns or weapons.” “Welcome to Canada”. They didn’t even ask for the pet papers this time.
Somehow we managed to get behind 3 rigs, all pulling fifth wheels and trailers, and the gravel and frost heaves were starting in earnest. Mo followed the slower rigs for a lot of miles and I felt like I was in an RV train. Somehow this was my bad expectation for this trip come to life as I watched the rear end of a huge Montana fifth wheel bounce around in front of me.
We were in a wild part of the Yukon in a cluster of rigs and no one was giving up their space, including Mo! The only thing that saved me at last was a triad of beautiful trumpeter swans below the road on a small lake. Finally we had to pull over to the side and let the two rigs we had passed go by. I got the photos, and the nice part was that it was a long time before we caught up the the train again.
As the afternoon progressed, we decided that with nearly 200 miles behind us it was time to look for a boondock site of our own. There are some rest stops near Kluane Lake that are signed and fairly well known as stopovers, but I wasn’t really excited about the idea of 7 or 8 rigs joining me for the night. A few miles past Discovery Bay, we saw a big gravel pit on the west side of the highway, and then found the road leading back in to a perfect site all our own. We are off the road a quarter mile or so, with plenty of space when Mo turned around to face the sliver of Kluane Lake that is visible from here.
The skies are almost clear, the wind is blowing but we are protected by the forest on the west side of the rig. I cooked some tender and tasty boneless chicken breasts on the weberQ and they turned out juicy and perfect. I sure do like that little bbq. Funny thing is that while it is small enough to pack around, the grill itself weighs more than the entire bbq!
Tomorrow we will travel back into Alaska to Haines where we plan to spend a couple of days exploring and hopefully at last seeing the big brown bears fishing for salmon.
Road condition: Good until we entered the Yukon, then it got very rough with lots of frost heaves and gravel and some construction
The rest of the photos for this day are linked here