I cringed and reminded Jim of that warning when he 1) got out of the
truck to 2) take pictures of the long line of vehicles building up
behind us as we patiently crept forward toward customs. Although we were
still about six vehicles back in the line at the time, he was clearly violating two
of the Milepost's admonitions.
Of course, I'd already been busy taking pictures of the line in
front of us and the customs building well before this! We be bad
-- not bent on mayhem, just tourists who are still pretty new at
this crossing-the-border thing in an RV.
The eastern approach to U.S.
customs at Port Alcan is around a curve and up the hill. The sign
indicates we're entering the
Alaska Time Zone, which is four hours "behind" Eastern Time.
Jim took this photo behind us after we'd been in
line about 30 minutes. Vehicles were
lined up all the way down the hill to the welcome
sign; Jim couldn't see the last one.
The border patrol probably had surveillance cameras trained on us as
we waited almost an hour this time. Only one border patrol agent handled
the sudden crowd at lunchtime. There were about ten RVs and
passenger vehicles ahead of us when we arrived at the border.
Within half an hour Jim couldn't even see the end of the long line of
vehicles down the hill behind us. We're glad we got there when we did or
the wait would have been much longer.
As we waited there were very few vehicles going the other way (into
Canada from Alaska).
We crept forward every 4 to 5 minutes as each vehicle
ahead of us moved.
Jim had a bright idea after we saw how long each vehicle was taking
to clear customs. He quickly went back to the camper to get bread, fresh
egg salad, and a dinner knife. With that we made
sandwiches in the truck. Eating lunch while we inched toward customs
saved us time later and made us feel better.
A hungry camper is not a happy camper.
We caught up to the end of the line about 11:30 AM Pacific Time, waited for 51 minutes
until it was our turn, and cleared customs in just two or three minutes. We figured
the time "lost" was a wash because we "gained" an hour by entering Alaska
Time at the border.
Hooray! Not only are we now in Alaska, we're two-for-two for easy
Now we can see the border
station. We couldn't see if any vehicles got pulled over for
I was much less concerned about this one than when we crossed the
border into Canada on June 2. We knew the drill and we were prepared
with prompt answers and the necessary documents. The customs agent asked
fewer questions, but some different ones, than the Canadian one did.
We expected all but one of the
questions we were asked and our answers didn't raise any red flags --
passports, why entering Alaska and for how long, whether we had more
than $5,000 cash with us (do people actually carry that much cash????),
if we had any firearms, whether we had any pets and if Cody is vaccinated (didn't ask for
proof). He didn't ask about proof of registration or insurance or
whether we had any alcohol or prescription drugs.
The only time we hesitated was answering what food we purchased in
Canada. Jim turned to me for that one.
I had trouble remembering exactly what was left! We were able to get so little
fresh food in Whitehorse that we
didn't have nearly as much chicken or produce as usual. After I reeled
off a short list of items I knew were a concern -- poultry,
dairy, and produce -- the only thing the
agent asked about specifically was citrus, and we didn't have any of that.
(Strawberries and kiwi aren't citrus, are they??)
Anyway, all that took a mere two or three minutes and we were on our way to Tok
BACK IN THE USA
There is a small visitor center and lovely sign welcoming folks to
Alaska at the bottom of a long hill going up to the Alcan customs station.
We had planned to stop and get our pictures taken at the sign but we
came around the curve too fast to see it in time to stop. Maybe we can do
that on the way back into Canada and I'll insert the photo here! This is
all I could get today from the truck as we rounded the curve and started
uphill to the customs station:
"Welcome to Alaska!"
It's a good thing we didn't stop, however, or we would have been in
line longer than we were. We saw so little traffic from Kluane Lake to
the border that we were surprised so many vehicles got backed up so
Because each vehicle was detained at customs for several minutes it
took a while for anyone to catch up with us as we headed west from
Yesterday we drove 269 miles from the Congdon Creek Provincial Park
campground at Kluane Lake, YT to a rest area on the Tok Cutoff several
miles south of Tok. Today we continued another 231 miles to Valdez, a
scenic little port city at the north end of Prince William Sound.
In this entry I'll describe the trip from the Alaska border to
Valdez, which involved several different highways:
- From the border we continued driving northwest on the Alaska Hwy. for another 93
miles to Tok. The Alaska Highway (AK 2) continues west and north for another 101
miles from Tok to Delta Junction, where it officially ends.
The total length of the highway from Dawson Creek, BC to Delta
Junction is 1,387 miles.
Many travelers continue from there another 95 miles on AK 2 to
Fairbanks and go in a clockwise direction to visit the popular tourist
destinations in the state.
- Since we're doing a counter-clockwise loop through Alaska this
headed south from Tok on the Tok Cutoff/Glenn Highway (AK 1) this afternoon. This
is the main access route from the Alaska Highway west and south to
- The Tok Cutoff/Glenn Hwy. runs 124 miles to Gakona Junction, where
it coincides with the Richardson
Hwy. (AK 4) for 14 miles. At Glennallen the Glenn Hwy. goes west to
Anchorage. We took the Richardson Hwy. south to Valdez, our first
destination town in Alaska.
After our bumpy roller-coaster ride yesterday morning through the
remaining miles of the Alaska Hwy. in the Yukon we hoped the U.S. is better
at repairing road damage every spring from permafrost heaves.
Sunshine and brand new pavement
as we enter Alaska . . . how great is that??
This section of the Alaska
Highway is also designated as a Purple Heart Highway.
Our hopes were high as we left customs at the border and sailed over the first 14 miles of
repaved roadway . . . and then the road was almost as bad the
rest of the way to Tok as it was in the Yukon!
Long story short, we had
to be just as vigilant for potholes, wavy pavement, and gravel breaks in
Alaska as we did in the Yukon.
Most of the stretch of the Alaska Hwy. west from the border to Tok passes
through broad valleys on the north boundary of the Tetlin National
Wildlife Refuge, with the Nutzotin, Mentasta, and Wrangell Mountain
Ranges forming the backdrop to the south and other lower mountains to
We passed a lot of wetlands
and lakes and followed the Tanana River for several miles. This is a
major migratory route for birds.
Although we saw lots of warning signs for caribou, elk, bears, and
moose we didn't see any of those critters between the Alaska border and
Tok. We did see some nesting trumpeter swans in the lakes.
As in the Yukon most everywhere it was very GREEN, indicating this
area has gotten plenty of precipitation.
Colorful wildflowers were
abundant along the road. We passed through an area with volcanic ash and
sand dunes that was completely out of character with the surrounding
valleys and forests of spruce, lodgepole pine, birch, aspen, poplar, and
I noted at one point where we were at only 1,875 feet elevation that
the new leaves on the deciduous trees were just coming out. In other
places the leaves have been mature enough to look like summer.
We're definitely going north! Tok is at 63+ degrees latitude, the
farthest north we've been so far on this trip.
We have passed through several burn areas along the Alaska Hwy. the
past two weeks. One of the worst wildfires occurred near Tok in 1990. It
shut down the Alaska Hwy. for a couple of days. A "miracle wind"
diverted the 100,000-acre fire from the town at the last minute.
Small deciduous trees and shrubs define the burn area
east of town. Life goes on.
TOK, THE "GATEWAY TO ALASKA"
This town of about 1,400 people is the first major town in Alaska
that travelers reach from the eastern routes. It has several campgrounds
and other services -- and we could finally use our Verizon phones
and MiFi card again.
We stopped in Tok long enough to make
some phone calls, get online, and check out the very nice visitor
Lobby of the Tok Visitor Center,
which has information for all areas of the state
Some examples of Native Alaskan art
I picked up all kinds of brochures about Alaska that will keep us
busy reading for a while. One of the four state Public Lands Information
Centers is located next door but we didn't go there.
We also got diesel at the least expensive station we found in Tok. It
was still a whopping $4.65/gallon but less than we'd been paying in the
TOK CUTOFF/GLENN HWY.
We continued south on the Tok Cutoff/Glenn Hwy, starting at MP 124. The mileposts are
numbered from its intersection with the Richardson Highway at Gakona Junction, so for the first time since we began using our Milepost
guidebook I had to read the information backwards.
It's also confusing because the Glenn Hwy. has a different numbering
system from Anchorage to Glennallen, where we continued south on the
Richardson Hwy. Reading backwards was tricky at
first and I missed some things as Jim drove.
It was still raining off and on as we drove south
Next on our agenda yesterday afternoon was finding a place to spend
We'd seen so many parking areas along the road on the Alaska Hwy.
that we assumed we could find a suitable one between Tok and Glennallen. Milepost lists every turnoff there
is but we never know how big or how far off the road they are until we
eyeball them. That means driving a little slower when we're trying to
find a place to stop.
We also knew there were several private and public campgrounds
between Tok and Glennallen.
One we considered was the Eagle Trail State Recreation Site at MP
109. It's a nice campground and costs just $15/night. No one was there
so we had our pick of 35 sites. Unfortunately they were all too small
for our rig so we continued on.
The Tok Cutoff is a straight shot south of Tok for the first 15
miles. Then it gets hilly as it winds through the Alaska Range. Although
it was raining off and on and clouds obscured most of the peaks it was
very scenic and green, with lots of wildflowers along the road.
Traffic was still very light.
We found a nice gravel parking area at MP 100 and spent the night
No other RVs joined us.
A moderate amount of traffic, most of it trucks, passed by as we spent
the evening relaxing in the camper. The sun finally came back out in the
evening and it was bright when we went to bed at 9 PM Alaska Time. Our
bodies were still on Pacific Time, which was 10 PM.
One SUV on its way north stopped briefly about 100 feet behind us. I watched as a father and his
young son got out. Within full view of our back window the little boy
dropped his pants and both proceeded to pee behind their vehicle!
course I had to take a butt-shot:
When ya gotta go, ya gotta go.
That little scene amused us.
I was dismayed to see the amount of trash people left behind at this
rest area. We're obviously back in the USA. We rarely saw that in
A little grassy road went off into the forest next to the parking
area but I didn't take Cody for a walk there. The "no hunting" signs
drove home the message that bears probably inhabit the area.
Continued on the next page.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil