There is only one way in and out of Haines by car, so getting back to the Alaska Highway at Haines Junction, YT after our glorious five-day stay required about 145 miles of backtracking. The first few miles out of Haines is a bit rough and dippy, but once we crossed the border into Canada, the road was as smooth as butter. Seriously, one of the best ones on our trip so far.
The weather was overcast, which made everything seem gray and dreary. Still, it's a beautiful drive. We saw a nesting pair of Trumpeter swans, a Golden Eagle and a Willow Ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska! In Haines Junction, we filled up with diesel and got ourselves back on the Alcan Highway. Our goal for the day was Congdon Campground on Kluane Lake just outside Destruction Bay, YT. Some friends of Bill and Kelly had recommended it and had posted a photo. It looked beautiful.
When we arrived at the campground and made the loop, we realized all of the waterfront sites were taken. We drove into the wooded loop and immediately found a pull-thru and a back-in site across the way. There were folks already in sites and more coming in, still, we thought there might be something better, so Kelly and I drove Toadie further around the loop and came upon two larger pull-thrus, and that's where we ended up. We took a little hike over to the lake and it was then we met some folks from Whitehorse who told us the Canadian holiday (Victoria Day) weekend was upon us. Damn. We had known about this forever, yet we had actually forgotten. In any case, it's the only place we've stayed where we didn't get our first choice of spots, but we were happy nonetheless. It was, after all, just an overnight.
The drive from Destruction Bay, YT to Tok, AK is the part of the road that gives the Alaska Highway it's fierce reputation. But considering that it is a relatively short stretch of the entire highway, I don't see why it should stop anyone from making the drive to Alaska. It is a nasty section, though. Steven and I made the decision when we left Destruction Bay that we would drive separately. We had all kinds of yoga mats and hardware cloth that we could have used to fashion Toadie Hopper a protective shroud, but in the end, it just seems easier to drive separately. It was a long and lonely drive, let me tell you. The armrest on my driver's seat likes to creep down from the up position and lightly tap me on the shoulder. It makes me jump every single time, but this time I let out a little squeal!
The worst parts of the road were actually "paved", but I use that term loosely. The torn up asphalt made the road even more bumpy and uncomfortable. The easier parts were dirt and gravel. Except believe me when I tell you that the dust kicked up will find it's way into your RV and tow car. Poor Steven was driving behind me and he really got engulfed. We still have a bunch of grit inside, and probably will until we settle down with hookups and do a big clean.
What I find most amazing is that Scoopy and Toadie stayed relatively clean. They were dusty, sure, but fairly clean! I did give Toadie a little spit bath while we were at Muncho Lake, using a half gallon of water and some elbow grease, but other than that, we haven't had to wash massive amounts of caked on dirt off them. Overall, we've just had really nice travel weather, so not a lot of mud to go through. I know I am going to jinx us by saying this, but oh well.
By the time we hit the US Border in Alaska, I was really surprised to see Bill and Kelly still there. They usually travel ahead of us, then find an interesting pullout to stop and wait for us to catch up. Either I am a super pokey driver or 5th wheels just handle the roads differently than a Class A, because we were always a good bit behind them. The worst part for me was the dips. Scoopy just loooooves to start bouncing and if I don't slow down, she gets going like a lowrider.
Anyway, while Steven drove Toadie through the regular auto lane, I pulled up behind Queenie. I could see some activity, but really couldn't figure out what was going on until I saw the border agent come sailing around the front of Bill & Kelly's truck with a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Uh oh. Most of it was wood Bill had just picked up at the Congdon campground the night before, so it was no big loss really. The agent pointed out a nasty pine beetle and said this is why they confiscate wood. Ew!
Steven had made it through and now it was my turn. The border agent asked me a few questions and asked for Scoopy's registration. This was the first time we had been asked for that, but I had it at the ready. The agents don't have booths and computers right at the lane, so they have to go inside to check your story of where you've been and how long against what the computer shows. (I guess that's what he was doing - he could be going in to take a swig of his latte for all I know.) When he returned, the agent asked me to open the side door. At first I didn't understand what he meant, because we call it the "front" door, not the side door, but it finally dawned on me that he was coming aboard.
I happened to have on my favorite driving footwear, fuzzy socks with flipflops, which makes my feet look like goat hooves. That is the first thing the agent saw when I opened the door. Bill said he's surprised the guard didn't let me go right then and there, because he can never unsee my goat feet. :) But he didn't, he just came right on in, unfazed. He's probably seen it all.
Now there is not a lot of room for the two of us to be maneuvering around, so I basically stood back and let him in. He asked about fresh veggies and I sung like a canary about our tomatoes. When we travel, we secure doors and cabinets with all manner of contraptions, a 26 lbs. kettlebell, a huge fan, rope to tie the fridge doors shut, and our favorite being the tension curtain rod. We use two of those. So to be honest, it might look a little sketchy to a border guard. He said, "What's all this?" Then he just laughed and tried to open the fridge. I said, "Pull that string." Considering the rough and bumpy roads I had just been over, I realized as soon as I said that the contents of my fridge could end up all over him. But all's well that ends well. He did offer to let me eat all my tomatoes. That made me LOL. Really, the whole thing was kind of comical and the guy was actually super nice.
Finally back in Alaska, the roads did improve somewhat as we made our way to Tok. We topped off with diesel so that we could avail of the "free" parking behind the service station. I was so tired I couldn't be bothered to back in. Happy Hour was short and sweet, which worked out well for everyone. Tracy & Lee, friends of B&K finally caught up with us and they had a nice reunion while Steven and I retreated to Scoopy to recover from the long, intense driving day.
The next morning we were now a caravan of three as we all made our way to the Northern Nights RV Park in Glennallen. This is where Tracy & Lee will be working for the summer. We met up with Hank and Shirleen from RVillage, and the eight of us had a lovely Happy Hour. We enjoyed getting to know Tracy & Lee over dinner and we stayed outside for hours in spite of the buzzing mosquitos.
The next morning, we said our goodbyes to Bill & Kelly. We had been together since we met in Bellingham on May 2nd. We were all a bit sad, yet excited to continue our adventures. Our destination for the day was the beautiful port town of Valdez where we will be staying for an entire week. Here is a sneak preview: we are currently camping at Allison Point across the bay from the town. Our view is spectacular.