Once upon a time on a trip to Alaska, day 32

Sourdough Campground, Tok, Alaska

Tuesday, July 17, 1973

This was another let’s-drive-partway-down-a-road-and-back day.  The main roads in Alaska (which really only cover about a third of the southeastern part of the main part of the state) create sort of a lopsided triangle, with Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Tok Junction (see Day 11) at the points.  Two more roads cross the triangle, one from north to south about 100 miles west of Tok, which continues on to the south to Valdez, and one west from the middle of that highway to Denali National Park, which is not quite equidistant between Fairbanks and Anchorage on the westernmost leg.

Our campground the previous night was near the junction of those last two roads, so that morning we drove west from the junction to where, as I wrote, the pavement ran out.  Which at the time I think wasn’t more than fifty miles in.  This day was also the first, last, and only time I mention the frost heaves that make paved roads in Alaska such an adventure.  When roads are paved over permafrost, which melts and refreezes every year at the surface, it causes the asphalt to bow and buckle, and the result is a journey that’s almost as much up and down as it is horizontal.  Wikipedia has a more scientific explanation.  All I remember is that “the road makes you seasick.”

Frost heaves on the Tok Cutoff road.

After we turned around at the end of the pavement, we backtracked to the Tok Cutoff road and headed on to Tok, where we spent our last night in mainland Alaska at a much better campground than the one we’d stayed at the last time we were there.

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