Thursday, June 23, 2011

Onward, Ho!!

The question of the year, and on everyone’s mind is… Where did Tok (pronounced toke) get its name?  I have a special prize that I will send to anyone that can give me a definitive answer…

After about an hour stay in Tok we hit the highway again on our way to the Alaska / Yukon border.  It is about a 2 hour drive through some beautiful country with ample opportunity to see some wildlife.  So far on my journeys I have come across Bears, Beavers, Eagles, Porcupines, Moose, Trumpeter Swans, and a myriad of other critters.  Pictures to follow…  Just before reaching the border we pass through the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge described beautifully below, thanks to

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge is a dynamic landscape made up of forests, wetlands, tundra, lakes, mountains and glacial rivers bounded by the snowy peaks of the Alaska Range. This upper Tanana River valley has been called the "Tetlin Passage," because it serves as a major migratory route for birds traveling to and from Canada, the lower 48 and both Central and South America. Many of these birds breed and nest on the refuge. Others pass through on their way to breeding and nesting grounds elsewhere in the state. Migrants, including ducks, geese, swans, cranes, raptors and songbirds, begin arriving in the valley in April, and continue into early June. An estimated 116 species breed on Tetlin during the short summer, when long days and warm temperatures accelerate the growth of plants, insects and other invertebrates, providing a ready source of rich foods for nesting birds.

Tetlin Refuge also supports a variety of large mammals. Dall sheep dot the higher slopes while moose feed upon the tender new growth that springs up in the wake of frequent lightning caused fires. Wolves, grizzly and black bears and members of three different caribou herds range over the refuge.

Two of the six known humpback whitefish spawning areas in the Yukon River drainage are located within the refuge. Along with caribou and moose, these fish are important subsistence resources for area residents. Arctic grayling, northern pike and burbot are also found in the refuge's many streams and lakes.

The refuge has a surface area of 700,058.54 acres, and is one of the larger (currently #18) National Wildlife Refuges in the United States, although, perhaps surprisingly, also the second-smallest of the sixteen in Alaska.

This brings us to the border crossing… At the Alaska / Yukon border there is a 20 foot wide swath of land that is cleared in a straight line that disappears into the horizon.  This is maintained by either the Canadian or the U.S. government.  My understanding is that responsibility changes every 8 years between the countries, but I will have to double check that info the next time I run through.

Clearing customs is usually a simple straight-forward affair that involves me running inside the customs office with my manifest and any non-U.S./Canadian passports.  On rare occasion customs will ask the foreign guests to enter the building for processing, but most times they just let us pass through or maybe a quick walk-through on the coach.  I have not had any major issues yet getting into Canada.  Coming the opposite way, however, is a little more of a hassle.  We are first subjected to a Radiation scan as I drive the coach through columns that subject us to who knows what fun invasion of self.  I once had a person on the coach that made mention that the scanners were so sensitive that they would pick up eminations from someone that had just gone through a medical procedure involving the dye and x-ray thingies.  I am glad I am done with kids… but what about cancer?  Of course the government says that they are perfectly safe… oh yeah!  That makes me feel MUCH better.  After a little more harassment, we are usually let through with only a couple random probes.

Don’t get me wrong… I am very grateful for those that are willing to spend their lives protecting our borders.  They actually live year round in a small community there at the border with their families, or alone if single.  The nearest other communities are two hours away in Tok, AK or about 45 minutes across the border at Beaver Creek, YT.

Ah yes… Beaver Creek… tune in next time for the fun!  I have to be up in about six hours to start a 16 hour day so I am going to call it a night.

Love Y’all!

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