Greg's 2007 Odyssey travel blog

Sitka spruce growing on the permafrost

Frost heave road damage - note wavy white line and road surface...

Mountain and lake vista

Miles of "repaired" roadbed (loose gravel w/o painted lines)

Accumulated gravel on trailer

Both fog lamp lenses broken; car front end, hood and windshield damaged...

Tail lights knocked out; only open sockets left


SATURDAY, JULY 14 - DAY 12 - TRAVEL DAY

KLUANE LAKE TO TOK - 229 miles

CAMPGROUND DESTINATION TONIGHT: TOK RV VILLAGE

Directions -- Northbound: Alaska Milepost 1313.4. Right side.

Milepost guide page 207

Travel day.

Dinner.

Our campground tonight, Tok RV Village, can be found at Mile 1313.4 on the Alaska Highway. Tonight we'll be treated to a Salmon Bake, Alaska style. Our salmon will be cooked over a wood flame grill. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. so bring your appetite and let's eat!

Tok, "Main street, Alaska," serves as a friendly stop on your Alaskan trip. Tok was the site of one of the largest construction camps during the building of the Alcan Highway in 1942, and so much money was spent on it that it earned the nickname "Million-Dollar Camp." The actual name of the tent settlement was "Tokyo Camp" and the nearby river was called the Tokyo River. During World War II, however, due to the war, sentiments against the Japanese caused the names to be simply shortened to "Tok."

Tok has a population of 1,300 and is located at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and the Tok Cutoff, which leads to the town of Glenallen and the Glenn Highway. You might also be interested to know that this is the "Sled Dog Capital of Alaska," serving as a center for breeding and training. Today, many of the town's buildings are rustic log cabins with sod roofs sporting wildflowers. Local shops feature their birch baskets, beaded moccasins, boots, mukluks and necklaces.

Tok is a welcome sight for motorists traveling along the Alaska Highway. This friendly community greets travelers with fresh enthusiasm, information, and entertainment. Dog sled racing is a popular winter activity along Tok's world-class mushing trails. The Taylor Highway starts just 15 miles east of Tok and leads to the famous "Forty Mile" and "Klondike" gold fields, the historic communities of Chicken and Eagle, and ultimately the Yukon rive. It crosses the Canadian boarder at Boundary and continues on to the gold rush town of Dawson City, Yukon Territory.

Paglagiusi

"We welcome you." Inupiak Eskimo, Barrow

ALASKA

Somewhere between the soul-stirring story of "White Fang" and the sitcom misadventures of "Northern Exposure," lies the "real" Alaska. It is a land of mystery, excitement, and breathtaking natural beauty, where people remain pioneers and share real life adventures with their guests.

No one knows exactly when people first found the land that would be called Alaska but those who make Alaska their permanent home make up the state's four major anthropological groups: Eskimos, Aleuts, Athabascans, and Northwest Coast Indians. While sharing basic similarities -- they developed distinctive cultures and sets of skills.

STATE SYMBOLS:

Tree: Sitka Spruce

Fish: King Salmon

Gem: Jade

Mineral: Gold

Sport: Dog Mushing

Bird: Willow Ptarmigan

Flower: Forget-Me-Not

Insect: Four-Spot Skimmer Dragonfly

Motto: North to the Future

Song: The Alaska Flag Song

Nickname: The Great Land

Highest Point: Mt. McKinley, 20,320 ft.

Capital: Juneau

State Flag: Eight stars of gold on a field of blue, representing the Big Dipper and the North Star.

History

Russian whalers and fur traders established the first white settlement in Alaska in 1784 on Kodiak Island and later on Sitka. Much of the Russian influence still remains in Southwest and Inside Passage communities today. In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward offered Russian $7,200,000, or two cents per acre, for Alaska. Many Americans called the purchase "Seward's Folly" and considered it a waste of money. But it wasn't long before gold was discovered, triggering several prospector stampedes north.

After the gold rush and during the depression era, most of America was preoccupied and thought very little of the vast Alaska territory. But during World War II, Alaska again became a valuable asset as a strategic staging area in the North Pacific. On June 3, 1942, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor and proceeded to occupy the islands of Attu and Kiska. The yearlong war on American soil was just as much a war against the harsh weather as it was against the enemy. During this time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Alaska Highway in only eight months to supply a land route for military equipment and supplies.

Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, creating the largest state in the union (more than twice the size of Texas). The nation again recognized the assets in this young state when oil was discovered and confirmed in 1968 at Prudhoe Bay, North America's largest oil field. Today, Alaska is treasured for it's breathtaking beauty and vast supply of natural resources.

FUN ALASKA FACTS

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Alaska's 570,373 square miles is one-fifth the size of the continental U.S. and over twice the size of Texas.

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Of the nation's 20 highest peaks, 17 are in Alaska. That includes the legendary Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet.

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Alaska has an estimated 100,000 glaciers, which cover almost five percent of the state. There are more active glaciers in Alaska than in the rest of the inhabited world.

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The Trans-Alaska Pipeline transports approximately 1.8 million barrels of oil a day from the North Slope to the port of Valdez in Prince William Sound. Oil moves at a rate of five to seven miles per hour and takes under six days to travel the 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to tankers in the port of Valdez.

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Alaska has its own time zone, which is one hour earlier than Pacific Time. The westernmost Aleutian Islands are on Hawaii-Aleutian Time, two hours earlier than Pacific Time.

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Alaskan ferries travel a route covering 3,500 miles and serving 30 Alaskan ports.

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The largest known concentration of bald eagles, over 3,000, converges near Haines from October through January to feed on late run salmon in the Chilkat River.

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Alaska has 3 million lakes, over 3,000 rivers and more coastline (47,300 miles) than the entire contiguous United States.

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Alaska has 15 National Parks, Preserves and Monuments, and 3.2 million acres of State Park lands. 17

After breakfast, we got the coach ready to travel and then headed out. The drive today was unbelievable. It started out well enough. But halfway to Tok we started to see the frost heaves. They were along the last 150 mile of highway. You could see them coming as the center stripe and the right edge strip were waving up & down and left & right. They place a sign at the start of a section of road that is rough and then plant orange flags at the side of the road at the rough/heave locations. In addition to the roller coaster ride there are sections of the road that are breaking apart along the middle of your driving lane. There were also sections that had been "repaired" with loose gravel. So we went from one type of road hazard to another for 150 miles. I had to drop speed from the posted 55 MPH to as low as 25 MPH. I took a few unmarked heaves and went airborne. So to round things out, I pulled into a photo op pull out. Unfortunately, it was downhill and was barely large enough to turn around. But there were others in my way so I pulled to the left and dropped into a permafrost hole and high centered my hitch. A couple of the group, who also stopped, helped me dig out and we were on our way again.

When I pulled off for a lunch break, I noticed that I had no tail lights on my trailer and my fog lamps on the SUV were shattered. Apparently, the trailer and coach mud flaps did not stop the loose gravel from getting to the SUV. I suppose that when I bottomed out on some of the frost heaves, the lights were bounced out of their rubber ring holders and a second grounding probably sheared off the wires and that was the last of the lights.

We finally arrived at Tok about 2:30 PM. I have to admit that I was exhausted. I parked the coach, off-loaded the car and went into town to NAPA to buy new tail lights. We also went to the grocery store to pick up some items.

We had our usual evening briefing about tomorrow's drive to Valdez. We will be there 3 days. After the briefing, we all walked to a nearby restaurant for a salmon bake dinner. We had salmon chowder, salad, a piece of salmon, halibut and a reindeer sausage link.

Ann made strawberry pie but we are too full to eat any. Maybe when we wake up in the middle of the night, we'll try it then.

BTW - Tok was shortened from Tokyo in 1942 when the Japanese invaded several of the Aleutian Islands and sentiment changed toward them.



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