Jeff, Bella, and Cindy at the Canadian Border to Alaska.

Alaska – Day One- Tok, Alaska

We left the Kluane (pronounced “Quanay”) Museum of Natural History in Burwash Landing, YT around 8:45am Thursday morning. Our original plan was to drive to Beaver Creek, YT about 2 hours away and right on the Canadian side of the border before U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. We had heard on our various Facebook groups how badly damaged the road was between Destruction Bay, YT and Tok, Alaska so we wanted to take our time and see how bad the road was in person. We thought we would just boondock on the side of the road in a pullout in Beaver Creek and then cross the border and drive to Tok, Alaska on Friday.

The first 20 kilometers or so actually weren’t too bad, but it wouldn’t stay that way. However, the thing that was better during this part was that we saw a huge Grizzly bear on the driver’s side of the road, munching away on some berries. I stopped and rolled my window down to get some closer shots of it and when I did he looked up, sniffed his nose toward me, and got a look in his eyes that said “Meat” and even though there was an 8 foot wide lane between us, I still rolled my window back up and hit the gas!

It ended up being a slow drive from Burwash Landing to Beaver Creek, taking us about 3 1/2 hours due to the super-abundance of potholes and “Frost Heaves”, conditions where the permafrost beneath the road has thawed, allowing the road material (and, of course, that section of the road) to sink down. But not usually in a pothole-type of situation (like slamming into surfaces at two or three different heights/levels), instead in a wavy-type that turns the roadway into a rollercoaster where your vehicle (and whatever you’re towing) bounce up and down over the “waves” of roadway.

Visions of a broken axel or blown tires kept me going no more than 45 mph, with most of the trip being at 30 mph. Even at that speed, you have to give your full concentration to the road conditions ahead as you try to drive around or thread your way through potholes that seem to be strategically placed to make it impossible to do so. There were times when I had no choice but to drive into the pothole(s), much to Cindy’s displeasure. I didn’t blame her, I didn’t like it either.

About an hour after our first Grizzly sighting, we had another one. This time it was a much younger, smaller looking one that was slowly crossing from the passenger side of the road to the driver’s side as we approached. As soon as it heard the truck, it turned around and ran back across the road to the same trees it had come out of a few seconds before. We stopped and waiting to see if it would come out, but it just stayed in the cover of the trees. I assume the trees cover there represented safety to it, which is why it bolted back across and remained there while we were in the area. But we were excited to have seen two Grizzlies relatively close-up and from the safety of Voyager that morning.

So we arrived at Beaver Creek around 12:05pm, fueled up Voyager and found a pullout and pulled in to assess.

Mosquitos were SO bad that we could not have spent the nice, clear, sunshiny day sitting outside, meaning we’d be stuck in Nomad all day and night until we left the following day. We both had had quite enough of that with all the cold, rainy days we had endured during most of our trip through Canada. If we left Beaver Creek then we should (using the previous portion of the trip as a guide) arrive around 3:30 to 4pm in Tok. It would mean tossing out 2 eggs, a few grape tomatoes, some strawberries, a small quart of milk and a similar size of creamer (since you couldn’t cross into Alaska with any of those items if they had been purchased in Canada) but as we weighed the options it seemed best to go ahead and get this worst part of the trip over and done with.

So, we dumped those items in the bear-proof garbage cans at the pullout, got our passports and Bella’s health information out and into Voyager, and off we went.

Before you arrive at the border crossing, there is a “Welcome to Alaska” sign so we pulled over and took a few selfies. I felt bad that we hadn’t remembered to get Bella out for our photos at the Mile 0 Post in Dawson Creek, so we made sure to get her in these photos. 🙂

We arrived at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol crossing at 12:25pm and there were 7 other RVs in front of us, as well as two gents or motorcycles. Cindy watched from the passenger side as a Border Patrol Officer walked up to 3 of the RVs in front of us and directed them to pull over to the right for inspection. As we ran through the possible inspection process in our minds we remembered we still had 2 small servings of Bella’s dry dog food we forgot to toss. I figured we would be thrown under the jail for trying to sneak that through and we’d never get into Alaska…if they decided to inspect us.

Fortunately, they did not. We pulled up when our turn came, handed the officer our passports, answered the standard questions truthfully and we were pulling out of there at 12:45pm. He never asked about Bella’s Health Inspection documents that we took great pains (and expense) to get in Redmond, WA before leaving the U.S., and in fact never even inquired if we had a pet. But, better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

As expected, the road (even on the U.S. side of the border) was pure $h1t! Between the crappy road and construction delays (so yes, they were out repairing portions of the road) we finally arrived in Tok it was approximately 3:30 pm. If I only had this portion of the road to judge this trip by, I would not feel like it was worth it. I can only assume that they have not done any repairs during the past 2 years due to lack of visitors because of COVID-19, so I’m hopeful that when we return this way in a month more repairs will have been made, on BOTH sides of the border. Anyway, we were both a bit cranky and hungry by the time we got to Tok, so we took the advice of many people in our Facebook groups and stopped at Fast Eddy’s Restaurant for lunch/dinner. It was a great choice and the food was delicious and we both felt MUCH better after a good meal.

We gassed up Voyager, picked up a couple of days worth of groceries and then drove further down the road to a nice pullout where we could spend the night. I say “night” but the truth is it was daylight until after midnight and the sun was back “up” around 3:45am.

But, we were finally in Alaska!

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