Leaving Beaver Creek, we stopped at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Mission. It is one of three Catholic churches on the Alaska Highway, this one built from a discarded Quonset Hut. The woman at the Visitor Center told us the door was kept locked, because it sometimes blows open, but the key could be found in a tray next to the door. Inside was a collection plate with some money in it. Again, the trusting nature of the locals surprised us. She also warned us of the ghost. Several years ago a woman was murdered and her body was left on the alter, the murderer was never found.
Navigation in Alaska is very straightforward, due to the fact that there are only a few highways.
We passed through the US/Canada border with no questions and no incidents. We were even able to maintain custody of our two limes.
From the border we headed westward toward Tok (rhymes with Poke), where Stephen was looking forward to meeting Rose. Rose Jernigan and her husband, Jerry, built Tok RV Village and she continues to work as receptionist and reservations taker. We have reservations in this park for three separate visits, and Stephen called three separate times to make the reservations, as we were not overly organized. During those calls he really came to like Rose, so he looked forward to meeting her. He found her exactly as he had pictured her. At age 85, she is beginning to think about retirement, but she’s not sure what she wants to do in retirement.
Tok RV Village has two RV washing bays, and we headed for one of them. Washing rigs after the very dusty transit across Yukon Territory seems very popular. The facility was busy all afternoon.
As we all know, sometimes one is the windshield, and sometimes one is the bug. This was our bug day. As we prepared to leave for the laundry, we heard a crack, followed by a thump and went outside to find a tree had blown down and crashed on the cab of our truck. This will remind Chris Taberner and Michael Hughes of our visit to Colter Bay where we watched trees fall on vehicles and RV’s all around us. Fortunately the damage to our truck was small, and we can continue with our trip. One of our fellow campers said, “Well, it’s a RAM, after all!” which precipitated a vigorous discussion among the Dodge/Ford/GM owners, who are always looking for a reason to support whatever brand each owns.
Our next stop was Tolsona Wilderness RV Park where we arrived after having driven along the edge of Wrangle-St. Elias National Park (the largest National Park in the USA) and spent 45 minutes waiting to buy fuel in Glennallen. Tolsona Wilderness RV Park has sites located along the Tolsona River, and the area is gorgeous. Stephen had invested in a fishing license in Tok, so as soon as he could get his gear assembled, he was fishing. He caught a few very small Arctic Graylings and had a great time doing it. As he closed one fish in his fist to remove the hook, the head and tail barely extended beyond his hand. One of his new friends told him that graylings are not worth eating anyway, so he just enjoyed catching and releasing the little dears. He heard many stories about salmon fishing in Soldatna, where we will be in a few days. There are already stories on the news about the “combat fishing” and the efforts of local authorities to maintain control.
On Sunday we drove from Tolsona to Palmer along the Chugach Mountain Range. There are a number of glaciers along these mountains, and we were on the back side of the mountains we saw from the cruise three years ago. Photographers who have limited time capture images at the will of nature. Sometimes there is fog. Sometimes the sun and the vista being photographed are not in ideal relationships. The photos of the glaciers were taken looking into the sun and are not perfect. The combination of the human eye and brain is much more efficient at filtering what is seen, so our memories are of more imposing images than our cameras captured.
One of the miscellaneous bits of information we received while in Tolsona is that the Athabascans measure summer by how far up the raceme the blossoms of the fireweed extend. When the blossoms are half-way up, summer is half over. When the blossoms reach the top, summer is over and the first cold weather will occur in two weeks. From our observation, it appears that summer is half over.