July 29 – Drive from Valdez to Tok

With a long drive and a couple of planned stops ahead of us, we left our campground around 7AM.  After retracing our route through Keystone Canyon,

we climbed back up to Thompson Pass where the visibility dropped to as little as about 50’!

Our worry in such situations is both running into something unexpected, including an animal, as well as someone coming up from behind too fast (the locals in the Canadian Northwest and Alaska are known for driving fast, passing over solid double lines and on blind curves) and being unable to stop before imbedding their vehicle in the back of our Jeep (which we tow).

As we descended from the top of the pass, we ducked below the base of the clouds

and the visibility was no problem thereafter.  The next 100 miles was uneventful, although generally remote and very pretty.

Our first stop was at the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and National Preserve Visitor Center.

The Park is the nation’s largest national park, some six times the size of Yellowstone.  Within its boundaries are nine of the North America’s sixteen highest peaks.  Its Malaspina Glacier, bordering the Gulf of Alaska is larger than the State of Rhode Island while the length of the Wrangell Mountains is longer than the width of Connecticut.

The Visitors Center also houses a Native Heritage building.  It was very interesting to meet with one member of the staff, a native Alaskan, whose mother, aunt and mother’s parents are all pictured in one of the exhibits.

We cannot understate how incredibly interesting we have found it to spend time in visitor centers, museums and talking with and local and indigenous people … to complement the visual beauty, fauna and animals we’ve been privileged to see.

Our next stop was only a few miles up the road where we topped off our rig … bringing the total we’ve purchased for our motor home to 998 gallons.  Fifteen miles later, we went over 7,000 miles we’ve driven since leaving home in mid-May.

Leaving the Richardson Highway and we paralleled the Copper River on our way to Tok … which we’d come through on July 1st on our first day in Alaska.  The road wound through more beautiful scenery, and by countless small ponds and lakes.

You may have noticed the float plane in the preceding photo.  These are very common.  What is strange, however, is seeing a plane in a person’s driveway where there are seemingly no runways anywhere in the area.

Then, again, it seems aircraft are still used to deliver the mail to some people.

Again, we had miles of road construction

and frost heaves

to contend with.  Driving on many of the roads in Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia can often be a bit like skiing down a slope, trying to read the bumps and moguls you need to navigate.  In driving a motor home and towing a vehicle, you must always be concerned with not hitting bumps or driving through road dips too fast or you could easily bend your towing bars out of shape, making them unusable.

We also passed five long-distance bikers today.

We are constantly amazed at the strength, endurance and just plain determination these people have to peddle hundreds, or even thousands of miles … often across roads that are a challenge for us in our motor home.

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