Day 6: October 24
Whitehorse, Yukon to Tok, Alaska
by Richard Truesdell
As it had over the past days, we started out with overcast skies, obscuring much of the beauty of the Whitehorse area. Before hitting the road, we stopped one last time at Hypertech North in an effort to find the secret of uploading the images stored in our Epson PhotoPC.
Unfortunately we were not able to resolve the problem, even with direct tech support from Epson. Maybe we will find the answer when we get to Fairbanks. Thanks to Andrew Roblack, Tanya Doherty, Clay Perreault, Cindy Sippel, Lee Stevens, Chris Herbert, John Meyer and Bill Macleod at Hypertech North. They all tried their best to get our problem solved.
Although the skies threatened, road conditions remained good as we made our way northwest out of Whitehorse after photographng the Klondike riverboat anchored on the western edge of town. It should be noted that Whitehorse is the home of an exceptional bookstore, Mac’s Fireweed Books, which had a number of volumes available on the building of the Alaskan Highway. The Trail of ’42, by Stan Cohen, was added to my collection.
At mile marker 965.7, we took a few moments to check out the Canyon Creek bridge. Originally constructed about 1920, it was reconstructed in 1942 by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Alaskan Highway. The government of the Yukon Territory restored the bridge in 1987. It stands as a monument to both the Jacqot Brothers who built originally to move freight northwest to Silver City on Lake Kluane but to the thousands of men who helped to build the highway in the dark days of 1942.
Socked in as we were by low cloud cover, there was not much to see until some point between Champagne and Haines Junction when we encountered two coyotes on the side of the road. They walked up to almost withing three feet of our car and were photographed extensively. Looking almost like an ordinary house pet, I started to get out of he car when Mark warned me to stay put. After all, they were wild and therefore unpredictable. Hopefully the photos will come out well.
At milepost 1030.7 we encountered one of the most famous points on the entire length of the Alaskan Highway, Soldiers Summit. Here, on November 20, 1942, the Alcan Highway, as it was called then, was dedicated. Crews working from both the northwest and the southeast met, usuring in the use of the highway as a means of connecting the Alaskan Territory to the lower 48 states. The point overlooks beautiful Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon Territor, and a favorite spot for sportsmen the world over. Between May and the end of September, it is a Mecca for fishing, camping and other summertime activities.
North of Burwash Landing (milepost 1061.5), the road was under construction almost to Beaver Creek on the Yukon-Alaska border. Although the surface was gravel, it was being upgraded and made wider. At this point, it is probably the widest two lane road we have encountered.
At milepost 1308.5, next to the three 700 foot loran-C signal towers, we had our first roadside conversation with the law enforcement community, an Alaska Highway Patrol officer who clocked the Audi at 75 mph coming down the long, straight, gradual grade into Tok. Using my best "be nice and respectful" attitude, I got off with a friendly but stern warning. The officer noted that in his previous encounter, a motorist from Arizona copped an attitude and got the full citation treatment. I know that with the men in blue, it pays to be nice. They have a job to do and he realized that we were near our destination for the evening and were not driving excessively. He took the time to warn us about roadside wildlife as well as a comprehensive rundown of road conditions and traffic regulations.
Arriving in Tok, we used the Milepost to stop at the Lodge in Tok for dinner. The owner Pam Johnson served us and we inquired on the availability of B&Bs in the area. She suggested the Cleft of the Rock and we called ahead to see if we could spend the night there. No problem and after thanking Pam, we took up three miles north.
Overnight at the Cleft of the Rock B&B.
This turned out to be a really lucky break as John Rusyniak is the director of technology education for the 50,000 square mile Tok Regional School District. John is an AOLer and he allowed me to use his MAC to log on and catch up on three days worth of E-mail. John’s wife Jill was very gracious as we talked computer-geek talk and John’s other passion, extreme mountain biking.
Being the marketing maven I am, John and I discussed ways to promote his extreme cold weather bike tours, Alaska Biking Adventures. Additional details can be obtained at their web site. On the following morning of our visit, he told us that he will ride the four miles into town to the main Tok school, even if it is up to 40 below zero. He says that when it goes to 50 below zero, that he’ll drive his pickup.
Link updates in 2008: both Cleft of the Rock B&B and Alaska Biking Adventures now appear to be operated by different people than they were in 1996.