Tok to Glennallen
With a Visit to Tolsona

all the above

July 19th to 21st, 2002

Tok (rhymes with smoke) considers itself the gateway to Alaska. That is because it sits at the intersection of the roads that run to either Anchorage or Fairbanks; Alaska's two most prominent cities. The Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok loop is a common tour for visitors and takes in most of central and southern Alaska. It is also the main road leading out of Alaska, either east into the Yukon and Dawson City or south back to Haines and the Inside Passage of the Alaskan Ferry system. Unfortunately, the town doesn't hold much interest other than that. We stayed for two days while we cleaned up the rig and made ready for the remainder of the trip. Pulling out of Tok, we headed southwest toward Anchorage. Not wishing to drive the entire 300+ miles, we elected to spend a few nights outside Glennallen where the road to Valdez intersects with the one to Anchorage. It was along this route that we received our second Alaskan gift, another bulls-eye buttonhole in the windshield. This one was low on the driver's side. We were going to get the other one fixed in Beaver Creak but some of the locals advised to pour either crazy glue or epoxy in the hole and it would prevent cracks from running. This would allow us to wait until we had received our last one before expending funds for repairs. As we had enough to go around we tried both glues. So far the epoxy seems to be working. Time will tell. Laura had selected a delightful campground called Tolsona Wilderness RV Park, deep in the woods in a small community some 14 miles outside Glennallen. After a bumpy 3/4 mile ride down a gravel road and through Spruce woods we came upon a delightful campground with a bubbly brook running through it. I backed right up against the bank of the stream right at a bend, where we could see down the creek in both directions. Other than a large supply of pesky mosquitoes, the campsite had everything one could desire in a primitive setting (no sewer). Sitting at the back of the trailer, casting a line over the bank to the waiting graylings swimming by is a pretty neat thing to do. This was not specifically the reason we were on the bank of a river in the middle of Alaska. One of the intended accomplishments of this trip was to find a creek or steam somewhere in Alaska, lined with willows and to pick through them until I had found one of those elusive diamond willow branches, of sufficient quality and shape that had the makings of a great walking stick. This famous hiker's assistant is found in most of North America but never in such quantity as in Alaska. You won't find it listed in any dendrology book as there is no such tree. The delightfully colored diamond shaped indentations are a result of a combination of insect infestation and disease, which has worked its way into an unhealthy willow tree. These are most commonly found along riverbanks or in wetlands. I am proud to say that I am now in possession of not only one but two exceptionally shaped and beautifully diamonded pieces of willow. We did take time out from our sleepy riverside hideaway to make a run up to a place called McCarthy.  On the way we stopped by the Glennallen visitor's center. This uniquely Alaskan structure  is quite an eye stopper.  It is built along the lines of an old miner's cabin, designed to protect miners during those really cold winters. The uniqueness comes at the top of the building, that is the roof.  The roof is covered with dirt for insulation.  To prevent the dirt from washing off, grass is added.  The roots of the grass hold the dirt in place.  Beside the information center was an intriguing device. According to local lore, the first fishwheels utilized in the Copper River area were built around 1912.  Currently fishwheels may be used in the Copper River by Alaskan residents only and special personal use or subsistence permits are required. Anchored to the shore by sturdy guy wires, the fishwheel floats on its log rail and creaks rhythmically as the muddy current turns it.  The wire baskets scoop up the unsuspecting salmon swimming upstream and deposit them via the chute into the box close to shore. On the way up to McCarthy we crossed over the Copper River and found several of these interesting contraptions.  They really do work.  The rest of the trip was a failure.  The road was so bad that we finally turned back.

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