Chitna, AK, to Whitehorse, YT, CA

Chitna to Tok, AK

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bright sunshine, 55 – 75 degrees

We got up this morning and got underway early. We followed the Edgerton and Richardson Highways to the Tok Cutoff.

One-Lane Cut Marks Beginning of Road from Chitna to McCarthy and Kennecott
One-Lane Cut Marks Beginning of Road from Chitna to McCarthy and Kennecott
Hotel Chitna is Social Center of Town
Hotel Chitna is Social Center of Town

We stopped at the Copper River Princess Lodge because Sandy wanted to look for a specific pair of earrings. The Princess Cruise folks operate it as one of a series of lodges they use to offer combination sea-land tours. We walked around the grounds; pretty nice. Sandy found her earrings.

Lunch was at a food wagon kind of place along the Tok Cutoff. Bill had an “Indian Taco” (substitutes fry-bread for the taco) and Sandy had a fresh salmon salad. Both portions were huge and very good.

We then headed to Nebesna Rd, the only other public road, besides Edgerton, to penetrate Wrangell-St Elias National Park. We stopped at the park’s visitor center, dropped the camper, picked up a audio tour CD and started the drive along the long gravel road. We followed the road 27 miles to the Jack Lake Campground. The campground is actually very nice. It appears to be new and is not mentioned in park literature. We would like to have hiked a trail or two but we were tired and, frankly, pretty bored. Were it not for the audio CD, we’d have turned back earlier.

"Our Lady of the Way" Catholic Church in Haines Junction is Repurposed Quonset Hut
“Our Lady of the Way” Catholic Church in Haines Junction is Repurposed Quonset Hut

Returning to the Cutoff, we headed for Tok. Along the way we got back into permafrost areas. Here, spindly black spruce, the only kind of tree that survives on permafrost, dominated the landscape for miles at a time. White spruce and aspen occurred, too, but only in well drained areas. About 25 miles from our destination we began to encounter smoke from wildfires. It got thick enough to smell and it obliterated long views.

Black Spruce Forest Survives in Permafrost Areas
Black Spruce Forest Survives in Permafrost Areas

Arriving in Tok, we returned to Tok RV Village where we’d stayed on our way north. For dinner we had salmon burgers that we’d purchased in Valdez, leftover risotto and salad left over from Sandy’s lunch.

Tok to Whitehorse, YT, CA

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sunny, smoky, 54 to mid 70s

We left the campground about 7:45 and stopped less than a mile away for breakfast at Fast Eddies. Today we’d pick up the Alaskan Highway and head for Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. Along the way we’d leave Alaska, returning to Canada. We’d not driven this portion of the highway on our way north, taking the route north through the Klondike, instead.

The smoky conditions continued for another 150 miles. As with most Alaskan wildfires, they are mostly remote and allowed to burn out naturally. We never saw any actual fire and the only evidence of fire fighting was a single helicopter carrying a water bag.

We didn’t see many other vehicles along this road. In fact, we passed only 26 vehicles between Tetlin Junction and the Canadian border. Doing the math, that works out to an average of six miles between vehicles or just one vehicle passed about every three minutes. That makes if a fairly lonely section of road!

The 90 mile section of the Alaskan Highway between the Canadian border and the Donjek River is notorious for bad frost heaves. Surveys reveal that traffic is 85% US citizens along this stretch so the US has taken responsibility for rebuilding the road. The problem is dealing with the permafrost and the permafrost problem here is more difficult than in other areas. That’s because the stuff that’s frozen in unconsolidated rounded till that turns to jelly when it melts. So, they are researching better ways to help preserve the ground frozen state by allowing winter cold to better penetrate the soil using specially constructed vent pipes. Meanwhile, motorists pulling trailers simply have to drive slowly and carefully or risk serious damage to their rigs.

A pleasant surprise for us was Kluane Lake. A beautiful turquoise color, at 154 square miles, it is the largest lake inside the Yukon Territory. The highway follows most of the southern border of the lake and offers a long series of beautiful views. What was most remarkable, to us, was that no one was there! Yeah, there are a few boat launches and a few campgrounds and other facilities but they were almost completely empty.

Turquoise Waters of Klaune Lake Framed by Fireweed Going to Seed
Turquoise Waters of Klaune Lake Framed by Fireweed Going to Seed

Arriving in Whitehorse, we set up camp at Hi Country RV Campground. It’s a really nice place where we stayed on our way north. It had been a 385 mile day, long by our standards.

Dinner was a veggie stir-fry with Italian chicken sausage. It was a nice, warm evening, fine for sitting out and reading.

Whitehorse, YT, CA

Friday, August 16, 2013

Cloudy and cool with a few light sprinkles

This would be a work and catch-up day. Sandy did some shopping. We both worked on the website, on Sandy’s celiac newsletter and on other website updates.

Dinner was grilled burgers, roasted potatoes and string beans.