Monday, July 25, 2011

Denali to Tok, Alaska to Kluane Lake and then Rancheria, Yukon

Monday, July 25

We left Denali National Park, on Friday morning, and 915 miles later we are camped along the Rancheria River in the Yukon. It's on a little stretch of the Alaska Highway that runs through the Yukon before and after it dips down into British Columbia.

We made it to Tok, Alaska, on Friday, going through Fairbanks. The highway was in good condition all the way, so we made good time.

The Tanana River is one of the largest rivers in Alaska, and runs alongside the highway east of Fairbanks for a while.

We stopped for the night at Tok Village RV Park, which is a very large campground on the east side of Tok which caters to people driving the Alaska Highway. We were the 6th or 7th to check in, and within 3 hours, the place was nearly full. We did our laundry ($3.50 a load in the washer, and $1.50 for 45 minutes in the dryer.). Dinner was barbecued chicken thighs, cole slaw, and corn. We had cable TV that night, so we watched news and some reruns of Law & Order that we hadn't seen before.

Saturday morning we were up early (5:30) and after a breakfast of egg and bacon burritos, left around 7:00. This time, the road was NOT in good shape. We had heard the stories from many people about how it was under construction and full of frost heaves around Burwash Landing. Here's the scoop: it's that way from Beaver Creek all the way to Destruction Bay. We rocked and rolled and bounced for hours, and welcomed the chance to stop in Destruction Bay so Don could get a fishing license.

16 miles south of Destruction Bay we pulled into Cottonwood Campground, a unique but lovely campground right on Kluane Lake. Kluane Lake is the largest lake in the Yukon, and its waters are a deep royal blue. It's just beautiful. Don knew he wanted to fish there, so we opted to stay for 2 nights. We were given our choice of campsites - one with electricity and water in the interior of the park, or one with electricity only right on the water. Since our fresh water tank was 2/3 full, we opted for the lakeside site.

Looks beautiful, doesn't it?!

Let me tell you about the idiosyncrasies of this campground. First, all the electricity in the park is provided by generator. Therefore, it's 15 amp power. You're given a list when you check in of what 15 amps will and will not run. Then you're shown how to reset the breakers if you happen to pop one. Second, the generators have to go off every day (I'm assuming they need to be refueled and/or cooled and/or switched out), so there's no power at all from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. I can deal with that. Third, since the campground is so close to the Kluane Wildlife Refuge, they have a grizzly bear problem. Or at least, they used to have a bigger problem than the one they have now. They have no trash cans. You are asked to take your trash with you when you leave. Fourth, there's a lot of wind. It doesn't blow all the time, but when it does the waves really crash up against the shoreline. The good thing about a light wind, though, is it keeps the bugs away. They weren't bad here at all.

If you can handle those idiosyncrasies, and we can, then you will love this place. We sure did.

There were some lovely times when we sat out behind the trailer on the shore.

How's this for a place to read?

One more thing about that site--the bathroom in our trailer is in the rear, so it looked out over the lake. We were so close to the water that it appeared as if we were on a cruise ship.

Don did go fishing in the lake several times, and caught a grayling. That's all. But he had a nice time trying (they don't call it catching, just fishing).

This morning we were up again at 5:30, but hit the road a little earlier since I had made a coffee cake the day before. We made it to Whitehorse around 10:15; the highway was in much better condition than the previous day's stretch was. I was completely out of anything green, as well as eggs, so we stopped at the WalMart in Whitehorse. I've shopped at the Supercenter (a Canadian grocery store similar to Food 4 Less back home) and knew it would be extremely crowded, and I knew that the WalMart had ample parking for RVs. I was able to pick up canned peas and green beans, eggs, coffee creamer, bread, and some frozen spinach.

Back on the highway by 11:30, we decided to stop for lunch around 12:30. That was at a rest area just past Jake's Crossing. We reached Teslin around 1:30 or so (I really wasn't paying attention) and I was able to get lettuce and tomatoes at the Nisutlin Trading Post. We looked at the maps and the Milepost book and decided to go on to Rancheria.

Rancheria Lodge is right on the Rancheria River--and since it originates in British Columbia, Don can use his BC fishing license here. It's a pretty rustic place--derelict cars are strewn along the edge of he campground, but there are electric hookups (30 amp), a sani-dump, water fill-up, and clean shower/toilet facility. I can also go over to the lodge to use the WiFi, which is what I'll do in a few minutes.

We took the only electric hookup site on the river. The rest are in the woods a few hundred yards away.

This is the view from our big window. Not bad, huh!

And of course, since this is a good river for Dolly Varden (a kind of fish related to trout) and grayling, Don is out there and will be out there until almost dark.

We'll stay here for 2 nights.
Wednesday: Toad River Lodge and Campground

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