Tok, Alaska to Destruction Bay, Yukon
June 1st – 2nd
The Taylor Highway ends at Tetlin Junction where we are on a real highway – the Alaska Highway! We were headed to the Tok RV Village. We check in around 3:15 and find our assigned spot. The RV park is nicely wooded with coniferous trees. Then we head out again. Tok is a number of motels, gas stations, souvenir and outfitter shops strung out along the highway. It is still raining and so we head to the Visitor Centre to find out what there might be to do. The Visitor Center is a big, bright log structure and inside there is all kinds of information about wildlife, gold panning and the construction of the Alaska Highway so we spend some time looking at the taxidermy animals and displays on minerals.
However, there were no suggestions on where to hike near-by and in any case it is cool and raining. We decide to eat dinner at Fast Eddie’s, a combination restaurant, motel, music theatre and most important it has free WI-F so we are able to send out some e-mails.
It was a cold night and the morning temperature was just above zero. Luckily the shower room was heated – it was so nice and warm that I would have liked to stay there under the hot shower all morning. But by 8:25 (Alaska time) we are off again back to the Yukon and the Kluane area. We see a blue FIAT 500 pass by in the other direction a rarity when the majority of the traffic is huge campers and pick-up trucks. This is a big change form the roads we have been on since Whitehorse as we see mail boxes occasionally along the highway and there are power lines. Here we are not alone on the road.
It was a beautiful sunny day which allowed us a great view of the Wrangell Mountain Range. Most of the drive on the US side of the border is along the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. We did a short walk along the interpretive trail at Sweetwater Creek where we saw two trumpeter swans serenely gliding in the small pond. We then stopped at the Refuge Interpretive Centre with a stunning view of the mountains. Again a wood structure with lots of information and interestingly, a row of animal pelts instead of taxidermy animals on display. The women working there offered us coffee, tea and we chatted for awhile. The swallows have just returned and are swooping overhead intent on rebuilding their nests in the eaves of the roof.
We admire the view of the bright green wetlands with the background of snow-capped mountains although the mountains were somewhat obscured by light cloud cover.
Just past the Interpretive Centre is a large area with what looked like rusty colored skeletons of spruce trees. This is from what we read on one of the interpretive panels.
“Unless a forest fire threatens a populated area, it is left to burn. After 100-200 years, the spruce trees dominate the forest, choking off other vegetation. Lightning strikes and starts a fire, burning the trees but often leaving a clump at the very top of the tree. This clump contains the cones, which fall to the ground and start new trees. Before the new trees take hold, other vegetation sprouts up, and attracts voles and other small animals. These, in turn, attract predators like foxes and wolves. And on it goes, the food chain developing as the forested area regrows. So a forest fire is seen as a good thing.”
80 miles later, we are at the Alaska-Yukon border. A few questions about what we have purchased and we cross no problem.
We stop at the Beaver Creek Government Visitor Centre, again a very nice building with friendly people working there. The woman was originally from Quebec and had been in the Yukon for 15 years. We had bought a good loaf of home-made bread at Buckshot Betty’s. It feels like someone’s summer cottage with pinewood on the walls and ceiling and long tables that people share. It was 2:10 because we lost an hour crossing the border and we ate our lunch, Chunky Campbell Soup and fresh bread, in the parking lot of the Visitor Centre.
The Whitehorse Visitor Centre had warned us that the road from Beaver Creek to Burwash Landing was really bad. Yes, the road was under construction for almost 40 km. and it was rough, loose gravel for about 115km. However, it is all relative. After the hair-raising drive along the Taylor Highway yesterday, the drive felt fairly easy. By now we are veteran gravel road drivers!
After Burwash Landing we are on paved road again. We see some movement on the side of the road and slow down. Sure enough there is a light brown colored bear in the long dry grasses. The bear is quite active. His head is moving up and then disappears down again into the grasses. After a few minutes we can tell that the bear is digging away at something probably feeding on the roots of small shrub. We are thinking that it is a grizzly but it does not match the image that we have of grizzlies paddling around in a river and fishing salmon. We stay and watch for probably ten minutes and then head out again. Not five minutes later on the same side of the road as us is a black bear just strolling nonchalantly alongside the grassy road shoulder and occasionally stopping to tug at a flower with his mouth. We are very excited – two bear sightings within five minutes of each other.
We stop at the Kluane Museum and enjoy the display of taxidermy animals with very life like stances and expressions. They are also placed with realistic painted backgrounds of their habitats. We talk to the women that gives our ticket and tell her that we think we have just seen a grizzly. She asked if we had taken any pictures – of course we had! And she answered – Yes that’s a grizz. Then she pulls out her Ipad to show us some pictures of a grizzly she had taken this week – we think it is likely the same bear!
We reach Destruction Bay and stop at the motel-restaurant and ask for directions to the Cottonwood RV Park. I am told – just down the road on your left. 40 km later we see the sign for the entrance of the RV park! We laugh and both agree that this really exemplifies the vastness of this territory. To people living here – a forty km distance is just down the road.
We go down the gravel road to the entrance of the Cottonwood RV Park and the view is stunning. Ahead of us is Kluane Lake – a bright green blue.
It is now 7:00 p.m. We have travelled 396 km today. From the first look of the Park and the lake we knew we would be staying here for a few days! Our spot is right on the waterfront. We get the RV plugged in and make dinner. Tonight it is tortellini with a tomato sauce and kale salad. Then off for a walk along the rocky lakeshore.