Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chitina to Tok July 30-August 2, 2016

Chitina to Tok  July 30-August 2, 2016

We made this 280 mile section a three night 4 day trip.  Not exactly rushing along.


The first day we took our time leaving our Copper River camping area near Chitina.  We took advantage of Verizon cell signal to take care of some online stuff.  Some of the time was spent texting and talking with our son in Oregon to discuss our plans to visit with them and taking each of our grandsons for a couple of weekends in September.

We just had a short drive of about 64 miles with about a 2 hour stop at the Wrangle St Elias National Park visitor center at Copper Center along the way.  If you go to or from Valdez make sure you stop here to learn about the NP. 

Our overnight stop for the night was a pullout about 4 miles south of Glennallen.  We stopped here on our way to Valdez, and parked on a dirt/muddy area with nice views.  This time we stayed on the paved area with trees blocking our view.  In the morning I did walk a couple hundred yards or so to take a couple of pictures of the mountains in Wrangle St Elias NP.

The second day was another short drive of about 74 miles from Glennallen to MM 55.2 on the Tok Cutoff Hwy, very near Nebesna  Rd which we will take tomorrow to explore what we can of the eastern part of Wrangle St Elias NP.  

We did stop for breakfast at the Fireweed Café in downtown Glennallen. We both had the basic: 2 eggs, sausage, hashbrowns & toast. Very good. 

We also added abut 15 gallons of gas to the MH to insure we had plenty of fuel to get to Tok, where gas is about 20 cents a gallon cheaper.  Thank you

It was a pretty drive today, the sun was mostly out and just a few clouds.  The Tok Cutoff highway was not fun.  Lots of frost heaves.  Later when we got to Tok I asked in the visitor center about the hwy.  They said the 7.9 magnitude 2002 Denali earthquake really did a number on the hwy and it has never been the same since the earthquake.

Our overnight stop was at a pullout on the Tok Cutoff Hwy at MM 55.2.   GPS  62.718132 -144.091681

A picture of our O/N parking place from Google Earth

We had a quiet night here.  Very little traffic on the hwy after about 6-7pm

The third day we moved to Nabesna road a gravel/dirt road which goes about 42 miles to a dead end.  The NPS has a very good road guide available. 

Be sure to stop at the visitor center about 1/2 from the start of the Nabesna Rd for road conditions and other info.  Nabesna Rd is paved to MM 15.2.  After that the road was in good condition, but sections of it will be slippery when wet.  There is a nice maintained campground at MM 27.8, Kendesnii Campground. Ten campsites, picnic tables, fire rings, and two vault toilets provide a nice spot for camping. Some of the campsite are larger enough for 35'-40' rigs.   Note: if the road is wet parts of it becomes slippery.

Not far after the CG there are some stream crossings which could be difficult for RV’s or low clearance vehicles.

Todays drive was only 22 miles.  We made a quick stop at the visitor center about 8am and picked up a printed copy of the road guide.  We found a very nice camping site at MM 16, the Kettle Lake Wayside primitive camping area.  We had nice views of kettle lake and the mountains in the distance.  We had a good Verizon signal from the campsite.

Here is view of the camping area with a picnic table.  There is room for 2 RV’s one on either side of the single picnic table.

Views from the camping area the next morning. 


We quickly got the RV setup and started our drive toward the end of Nabesna RD.  Other than to drive the road, I wanted to hike Skookum Volcano Trail   I wasn’t sure just how far I would go on this trail.  It is a 5 mile round trip, with an elevation gain of 2000’.  

The first mile was easy walking through the woods and some open country.

At about the one mile mark you turn to the left and start hiking up a creek.  No trail here, just rock cairns to help guide your way.  The going gets rough here.  You are hopping from rock to rock, and there are several stream crossings.  You either get your feet wet or search for some rocks to hop on to get across.  I turned around at at about mile 1.7.  I could see the “trail” was just going to follow this rough stream for as I could see.  It was an enjoyable, but tiring hike.  Also my energy level wasn’t very high today.

Carin marking the trail

Difficult hiking:

Pretty valley

Looking back toward the road in the bottom of the valley in the distance

We drove to the end of the road. Not much to say about the rest of the road other than a nice drive. 
There was one more hike which sounded interesting, the 2 mile round trip Rambler Mine Trail at the end of the road.  The trail leads towards the remains of the abandoned Rambler Mine, an area that was active after WWII. There are supposed to be The one-mile trail is steep, but the effort rewards you with superlative views of the Nabesna River and Nutzotin Mountains.

However I didn’t take the hike.  By the time we got to the end of the road, it was getting to be early/mid afternoon and with an hour drive to get back to camp I didn’t want to spend a couple of hours on the Rambler Mine trail and get back to the RV in the late afternoon. 

The fourth day we drove the rest of the Tok Cutoff Hwy to Tok, AK and then on to about MM28 on the Taylor Hwy toward Chicken AK.   for gas and propane along with lunch from a Thai food truck next to the visitor center.  A very good lunch. 

The Tok Cutoff Hwy from Gakona to Tok was the bumpiest road we drove on, on the entire trip.  Lots of nasty frost heaves.  The road surface was good, so it was easy to drive 50-55 mph, but the frost heaves made you hit your brakes pretty hard if you didn’t keep a close eye out for the bumps. 

I forgot to take pictures of the scenery, but I here is a typical view copied from Google Earth

In Tok we needed a dump station as well as gas and propane.  We tried the Shell station very near the junction of the Tok Cutoff Hwy and the Alaskan Hwy.  No dump station and not much help on where to go to dump. 

We did find the best place in Tok for a dump and fuel, as well as a free vehicle wash with fill up.  The Tesoro gas and truck stop about 0.6 miles west of the junction of Tok Cutoff Hwy and the Alaskan Hwy.  Friendly folks.  It doesn’t look like much, but they have everything you could need and it is all easy to access.  The vehicle wash isn’t much to look at, just an open spot with the high pressure washing wand, but if you need to get the dirt off, it works fine. 

While filling the RV with gas, another RV’er in a Class C came over and started complaining about the Ford Chassis and how the engine would downshift on up hill climbs and was very loud with the high RPM’s.  Well, I told him, that was the nature of the Ford V10 engine.  A small bore engine developing its power with higher RPM’s.  Then once he found out we were going to go across the TOTW (Top Of The World) Hwy he started telling me all the horror stories of the TOTW Hwy.  No guard rails, people driving off the road, etc, etc.  Once that didn’t get a rise out of me (I guess he expected me to get scared of the drive) he left me alone. 

We stopped by the visitor center for info about the Taylor Hwy and the TOTW (Top Of The World) Hwy.  The road is reported to be in good condition.  While parked at the visitor center we noticed a Thai  food truck across the side street.  Lunch!  We had a very good lunch.  It was a little bit of a wait as they pretty much cook one meal at a time. 

From Tok it was on to the Taylor Hwy and our overnight stop at large and fairly level pullout at about MM28 on the Taylor Hwy.

View of the rain clouds in the distance from our overnight parking spot.

From here our plans are to go up the Taylor Hwy to Chicken and Eagle, AK and then across Top of the World Hwy to Dawson, YT.

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