Sunday, July 8, 2012

Thursday, July 5: Another cloudy, cool day. As we head for Tok the sky breaks and the sun comes shining through; it makes the Matanuska Valley, so green and lush, even more beautiful. Soon we’re climbing through the mountains again with their snowy peaks; we round a bend and there’s the huge Matanuska Glacier, source of the mighty Matanuska River! We’re stunned! We make another stop at Sheep Mountain; the Dall sheep come here to lick the gypsum, deposited by hot springs that also oxidize the iron in the rocks and color the mountain orange. It reminds me of those beautiful Panorama Mountains in Denali Park. People have been writing here in the banks with light colored rocks; we leave our mark, “SISU!” We reach a high, flat area between the ranges; there are airstrips here and four-wheeler trails. As we pass the halfway point between Anchorage and Tok, we can see the snow-capped peaks of the Wangell Mountains. We will skirt them on the North side as we head to Tok. We passed the 5000-mile mark on our trip today! Not much for wildlife, just a suicidal black mink and a young fox. As we near Tok, the Mentasta Mountains crowd in along the road, all 6000’ of them, great Dall sheep habitat. Then they drop back and we are following the Tok River through the Alaska Range; we are in its permafrost valley, with the stunted black spruce. Some of them have bunches of short sticks and needles called witches’ brooms, caused by a fungus that attacks trees in poor drainage areas. Ron spots a beautiful trumpeter swan in a little bog pond there. We arrive at Sourdough Campground (famous for their pancakes), set up our tent and head to town for a few groceries. Ron picks up the yummy spring rolls we had last time in Tok to have with the soup I made—great supper. We take a drive down to investigate the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, take a flier with some suggestions for stops for tomorrow, then take a walk. We get back just as the rain starts. It’s a good sound to doze off to—the rain on the tent when we’re cozy and dry inside.

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