Home in Tok Alaska
We finally made it home to Tok last night around 5:30 PM. It was quite the trip. Boy did relief ever wash over us once we pulled into our friends Buddy and Pam's yard and started unhooking the 5th wheel. We are parking at our friends house until we can get to work on the land... we cleared it two years ago for the truck camper, not for a 40 foot 5th wheel, so we can't get in with the machine yet.
We went out to dinner at Fast Eddies (the best restaurant on the Alcan) with our friend Dale, and then had a few drinks with our friends Bill and Nancy who own the Burnt Paw in Tok, and Barb who runs the Tundra Lodge and campground. We ended up staying late (it never gets dark so it's hard to tell!) and talking to a young solider who's served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was on his way to Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks. He had some interesting stories to share and a lot of weight to carry on his shoulders.
The washout that held us up was pretty bad. There were over 2,000 people stuck at Watson lake which has limited supplies and services, and we were so glad we decided to stop back at Coal River Lodge and not continue on to Watson. Heavy snow pack melting and more rain than usual combined to make a real mess, causing water to go over the road in several places and actually taking a piece of the road out.
Here is a link to pictures of the mess where the road was flooded and damaged, and here is a more recent story on the road reopening
We were pretty grateful we had the 5th wheel and not the truck camper - being stuck in the 5th wheel is not a big deal, we've got everything we need here. Everyone stuck at the lodge, most of us were there for days together, kind of became one big family and it was interesting meeting people under the circumstances. However some people did start to panic when rumor went around it would be a week until the road opened, and then that they might close more bridges... the poor people in Whitehorse were running out of food and the shelves were bare - I knew they'd get that road open just as fast as they could, and that they did. Some people actually turned around, which was crazy. Life up here is never predictable, and although the highway is much better than ever before, certainly like a freeway compared to when they first built the Alcan, it's still an adventure and it's still rough in places, and mother nature does rule out here. She doesn't care about our vacations, deadlines, travel plans, or if she might be inconveniencing us.
I've got a lot of pictures to share, so I'll pause here and go back to the start of this years journey up the Alaska Highway...
What the first part of the Alcan looks like, up around Fort St. John B.C.
Moose! We saw about 7 this trip, which is more than usual
one of the coyotes we saw
black bear at the old Steamboat mountain lodge (it's been closed a long time)
he put on quite a show for us playing with the tree, yawning, walking around...
Then he climbed in the dumpster... someone has been throwing garbage in it, which is not a good idea. Wait until some tourist stops to throw garbage away and the bear pops out!
Indian head mountain
rocks sliding because everything is so saturated with water (better than fires though)
Coming into sheep country, the sign says, don't run over the sheep.
At one of my favorite spots, Summit Lake British Columbia
We tried to camp in our favorite spot looking out over Summit lake but we couldn't get the 5th wheel in, we made a good effort but it was just too big. It was pouring rain up there anyway so I wasn't too upset. It's the highest point on the Alcan.
it's raining, it's pouring, it's washing the roads away.....
the first Stone sheep we saw at Stone Mountain Provincial Park, through the mist
coming into the Toad River valley which is one of the most beautiful parts of the Alcan, it's an amazing spot.
Starting to see the snow in the mountains
at Muncho lake, the road winds around between the mountain and the lake... there was a lot of water coming off the mountain and onto the road and the workers were busy trying to stop it from getting any worse... this was our first sign there was a bit too much water.
going around Muncho lake B.C.
Muncho lake is a gorgeous spot and a place worth stopping, there is great fishing there, you can go on a plane ride over the rockies, and it's just a beautiful spot. The lake is a jade green color is caused by the presence of copper oxide leached from the bedrock underneath.
We stayed an extra day to rest at Muncho, Kevin wasn't feeling great and needed a break. I sat outside and read most of the morning while the weather was warm and good. I looked on the mountains for sheep or goats, which you can sometimes find, but didn't have any luck until I brought my binoculars down to the water, across the lake, and found a Moose swimming and walking along in the water... I watched her for about 20 minutes until she decided to get out and go into the trees because there was a boat coming.
There were not as many sheep out as usual this time on the way through, we usually see a dozen or more... they come down onto the road to lick the salt of it, and you always see them grazing or lying on the mountains. This ewe stopped to look back at us before wandering off. They are absolutely stunning animals, and it never gets old getting to see them up close. We have many pictures of them from our various trips which I plan on sharing separately in another post.
coming into buffalo country
Stone sheep ewe licking up the salt
We happened to catch these two black bears having a lovers quarrel
Whoa buddy, don't get so upset!
it's pretty amazing to be this close to the bears, of course, safely. But it still makes your heart skip a beat being that close to such a wild and majestic (and strong) animal. Especially when they happen to look at you and maybe lock eyes, just for a second. I managed to get a short video of these bears too.
We saw a lot of bears this trip - and every single one of them was fat and healthy this year.
Buffalo deciding whether he should let us pass or not...
most of the Alcan is just stunning view after view....
water coming up along the sides of the roads
this guy was coming out where the workers were mowing the grass along the sides of the Alcan so you can see wildlife easier ahead of time, before they are in the middle of the road... he was out there to get all the dandelions they missed with their mower.
He came right over, looked around, lied down and started stuffing his face with dandelions...
these are delicious...
Coming out of Coal River and heading towards Watson lake when we got word the road was open.
Watson Lake, Yukon
They were having some pretty bad flooding there too, a couple of people had their property and buildings under water.
This guy was huge, one the biggest bears we saw on the trip - if not the biggest. He is a brown black bear... We didn't see any Grizz on the way up surprisingly.
Caribou sauntering across the road, they are so silly
part of the road damage North of Watson lake where they closed the road
the temporary road they built where the highway got washed away
It was a pretty big mess they were dealing with...
The bridge at Teslin, in the Yukon
Elk crossing the road just outside of Teslin
Starting to see the big mountains
and that there was quite a bit of snow still up on the big mountains!
By the time we got to Haines Junction it was about 9:30 PM and the clouds were down covering up most of the mountains... we were planning to stay in Whitehorse, but we drove straight through and carried on the extra 100 miles to Haines Junction, where we camped for the night. It's not like it gets dark so we could have kept driving, but we didn't want to over do it.
This is where the second bad spot on the road was at Destruction Bay, it was closed for a bit too but they got it open... the water came rushing over the road
you could see the debris they were pushing off the road from the surge of water
It was pretty foggy at Kluane
then when the clouds lifted up a bit, we saw there was fresh snow on the mountains.
This was the first time we've been through Kluane this time of year, when there was actually still spots of snow on the side of the road. It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit going through....
It took us an hour and a half to get through the border into Alaska at Beaver Creek... it was backed up so badly because so many people hit the border at once because of the road closure and also because they only had one agent working, which was amazing. But there were no other hold ups there, and we got through and gained our last hour when we crossed the border. There is a 4 hour time difference from our home in Ontario on Eastern daylight time to Alaska time.
It feels good to be back in Tok, at home. We were going to drive over to our property today so we could say hello to it, but it's pouring rain and pretty miserable outside, not walking around weather. So we are just going to stay warm and dry and maybe make a run to the store to get some groceries.
I have news from the farm to share too, and pictures, which I will later on.
We lost our tail pipe on the truck at Coal River - that's why we stopped and when we found out the road was closed so we decided to stay. The cafe there is called "Donna's cafe" so I felt at home. We were there long enough we actually started considering buying the place since it's for sale.
We cracked the hard shell of the 5th wheel, busted the ladder off it, and crushed one of the tail skids, and lost our license plates on the trailer. It was a pretty rough ride.
But we are here and that's the main thing!