June 21 – Whitehorse to Toke – This is the absolute worst part of the Alaska Highway, but it is much better than it was on our previous two trips. The key to surviving this section of the highway is to take it slow and really look ahead in anticipation of the orange flags that mark rough sections. If the flags are on the right side of the road and there is no oncoming traffic, the smart thing to do is to move over to the left and then take whatever angle is dictated by the dip or hump or hole in the road. In other words, you drive all over the road and end up feeling like you are riding a roller coaster. If the flags are on both sides of the road, you better really slow down. This road condition is caused by the constant freezing and thawing of the road and the bumps and dips are known as frost heaves.
Also, you have to be aware of what is going on behind you. There are still long sections of the road that are gravel or are under repair. You have to be especially careful in these areas where you can sustain major windshield damage. If there is a fast moving vehicle coming from the back or there is oncoming traffic, you try to find a pull off to the side so that your vehicle will not suffer windshield damage from flying rocks. This is especially true with large trucks or the big RVs. If they are moving fast, they really throw the rocks.
All in all, we did OK with the exception of a couple of screws coming out in various places in the trailer. Once you get into Tok, you make an assessment of the tow and the camper to find damage. We had a part come loose on the refrigerator and had to find the screw to put it back together. Other than that, we survived.
In Tok, we stayed at the same campground that we have used before. After the previous two nights boondocking at the Walmart in Whitehorse, it was nice to be in a full service place with WIFI and showers.
Something that you see in Tok is huge RVs, cars, trucks, trailers, etc that are covered in dust/dirt. This is from having driven the "Top of the World" highway which is paved for part way, but is mostly a dirt/gravel road. You cannot imagine how dirty these vehicles are. There is a carwash (costly) at the campground and vehicles were lined up 4-5 deep waiting their turn to get a bath. We heard that earlier in the day a large RV had gone up the side of the road and ended up on its side.
June 22- Tok to Wasilla - On our previous two trips we drove this road from West to East and on both times it was rainy. This time we drove East to West and I have to say that this is right up there with the most beautiful drives I have ever taken and since I have driven in 49 states, I guess that says a lot.
The drive began with a bit more excitement I would have liked. About 30 miles out of Tok, where the road is quite narrow with slopes and vegetation on either side, A large female moose crossed the road right in front of us. We narrowly missed it! It’s a good thing we had electric brakes on the trailer. After that scare, the rest of the trip was very enjoyable.
We knew that there were large nests of trumpeter swans in lakes along the way and sure enough, we found a lake where we counted 14 adult swans and over 100 young.
Soon, we began to approach very high snowy peaks, the tallest of which was Mount Sanford that is a dormant and at 16,237 is the 6th highest peak in Alaska. Adjacent to Mt Sanford were other peaks that were 8000 to 13000 feet.
Soon, the Matanuska Glacier came into view. This glacier’s average width is 2 miles, but at its terminus, it is 4 miles wide. It is 27 miles long. The glacier meltwater drains into a stream that flows into the Matanuska river. It is the one of the few glaciers that can be driven to by car. We choose not to do that. Along this section of the highway, we saw hundreds of people camping and riding four wheelers on surrounding trails.
June 22 & 23 – Wasilla- We have previously stayed in Wasilla at the Walmart and knew that the town had lots of stores such as Target, etc which we had not seen in a very long time. We needed to get tires for our truck and the only place that had them was a Costco in Anchorage. So, we stayed the night in Wasilla, drove into to Anchorage and got the tires. While in Anchorage, when we got ready to work out, it was raining so we went to a Y. We did not spend much time in Anchorage; It is so much like any other large city and they do not allow overnight RV parking so we headed back to Wasilla.
That night I suffered from some intestinal issues which continued into the morning. Once that settled down, we went to Wasilla High School where I did my first track (speed) workout in several months. I want to do a 5K race in about 3 weeks so I need to try to get a bit faster. After the workout, we went to an city owned ice skating arena where I got permission to use their showers. That was a hoot! The small dressing room was really cold (as was the entire building---think ice rink) and when I turned on the shower, the water did not ever get hot. I finally figured out that the temperature control knob was exactly reversed. I then made quick work of getting in and out of the shower. As I was getting dressed, in came a group of young girls who were putting on all their hockey equipment. The goalie had a huge bag that was twice as big as her size. Interesting stuff.
Tomorrow, we will drive to Denali National Park where we have reservations at Savage River campground which is at the end of the paved road at about mile 14 of the road that goes 80 some miles into the park. From our campground, you must travel by shuttle bus if you want to go further into the park. If the weather cooperates, we will have clear view of Mt Denali (McKinley) from this area.