Early birds

We thought that we would have a nice uncrowded trip down the Alcan by starting in early May.  We did not anticipate that only a minuscule number of campgrounds open before mid-May and the Alaska state and Yukon governmental campgrounds are firmly gated, so there is no access at all.  It’s taken a bit of research to find camping spots, but so far, so good.

After our first night at a nearly empty private RV park in Palmer, we had a leisurely drive up the Glenn Highway to Sheep Mountain Lodge.  It is not fully open for the season, but they let us dry camp without any hookups.  The drive took us from full-blown spring in Palmer to just-barely spring at Sheep Mountain, with the willows in catkin stage and no leaves budding at all.

Mountain chiaroscuro

Spring on the Glenn

Catkins at Sheep Mountain

Catkins at Sheep Mountain

The drive was a good test for the truck and trailer.  Steep grades, tight curves–many without guardrails–and precipitous drops to the river way, way below–typical white-knuckle terrain.  The trailer (and George, of course) handled it beautifully and the scenery was so distracting that I hardly noticed the drop-offs, even from the suicide seat.


Matanuska glacier from the road

Matanuska glacier from the road

The evening at Sheep Mountain was sunny and warm and we sat by the fire doing nothing but soaking in the sun and the views.

View to the South from our camping spot

View to the South from our camping spot

Shifting colors on Sheep Mountain -- there were sheep, too

Shifting colors on the mountains behind the lodge cabins — there were sheep, too

Dog houses used to block the driveway--only in Alaska

Dog houses used to block the driveway–only in Alaska

But clear skies make for cold nights and it dropped to 30 degrees in the early morning hours.  Quite a swing from the evening warmth.

On Saturday, we headed for Tok–the crossroads for those driving in and out of the state. The road from the Glenn Highway to Tok–appropriately named the Tok Cutoff–was not in good shape.  It alternated between short stretches of paved road undulating with frost heaves, to short stretches of gravel with pot-holed ruts at the the transitions.  It was slow going.  But again, the weather and mountain views were superb, so we’re not complaining. Also, the pavement breaks were well-marked and there was plenty of time to slow down. Actually, they were so frequent, we never got going very fast.

There were quite a few early season RVs heading South from Tok, mostly with Texas plates.  Full timers using Texas for residency or true Texans?  Who knows, but a lot are heading toward Anchorage.

Spectacular views of the Wrangell-St. Elias range

Spectacular views of the Wrangell-St. Elias Range


The clouds below the summit highlighted the rocky crags in front.

The clouds below the summit highlighted the rocky crags in front.

Tok is a balmy seventy degrees tonight, sunny, with only a few sluggish mosquitoes. Pretty nice.  Happy Mother’s Day all.

5 thoughts on “Early birds

  1. Your photos bring back happy memories of our Alaska journey last year. We traveled the Glenn Highway in August and it was in bad shape then, too! Looking forward to following you along on the rest of your adventure south.

  2. Brenda, just finally found your blog (I was typing in the wrong address.) Funny, I went to high school with the owner of Sheep Mountain Lodge, Zak Steer. Good guy!

    • I’m glad you finally found it. Funny, you know everyone, including my son-in-law! I really love Sheep Mountain Lodge and was grateful that they let us stay even though it wasn’t officially open. Hope things are going okay up there.

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