Date: September 13, 2013
Tonight’s Location: Tok, AK
Mileage: End - 23136
Start - 22925
Total Miles for the day: 213
Weather: mostly sunny
Temperature: start 41º
Wildlife count: Pine Squirrel, Arctic Ground Squirrel
Year List: 270
Birds: Black-billed Magpie, Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, American Robins, Black-eyed Junco, Gray Jay
We were in no hurry to leave this morning, as we were only going to Tok, so it was a relaxing morning, even if we HAD been awake a few times during the night to check for the Aurora Borealis. Most of our day was a drive through boreal forest – very short dark spruce trees peppered with golden aspen, poplar and birch. The reason the spruce trees are so short (15'), many of which are over 100 years old, is that they are growing over permafrost. The top several inches/feet of soil thaws during the summer, but the underlying strata are permanently frozen. That causes several issues: roots cannot penetrate the permafrost, so upward growth is stunted; the soil that does thaw is perpetually soggy in the warm months, as the water that thawed has no place to go, so the land is a bog; and the growing season is so short here – perhaps 3 – 4 months, that the trees don’t grow well. And, since they grow in a boggy land, when the wind blows in the summer, many of the trees lean with the wind. It all makes for a very strange landscape.
As we drove, we were accompanied by flock after flock of Sandhill Cranes and Canada Geese – not much road traffic, but LOTS of birds flying very high in formation. Lunch was a sandwich in the car at a pullout, while we watched a group of hunters load up their 3 four-wheelers, 2 small trailers (which attached to the 4-wheelers to haul out the moose). It was a very interesting diversion – they were really well planned. The only thing we did not see was the moose, but one truck had really tall sides!
Our RV park tonight is Tok Village, where we were SO happy to get hot showers on the way up. At that time, there was 2’ of snow everywhere – now it is green, with lots of yellow aspen leaves littering the ground. It will be very close to freezing tonight. Dinner was salad, with left-over Shepherd’s Pie. We walked the park twice, enjoying the edges of the boreal forest – Tok perhaps has 500 residents – all scattered over 30 miles, so there is not much to town other than a few RV parks, a grocery, a restaurant, and a post office. Oh, yes, there is a hotel for the cruise travelers.