Saturday, June 8th
Fairbanks - Tok

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Forest fires out of nowhere.

It’s sunny today, with some clouds and it doesn’t look warm outside.
We try to send a fax to Belgium but it doesn’t work.  The home front will have to believe that everything is OK.  No news is good news !

We did some shopping in Fairbanks, and we now drive southwards on the Richardson Highway.
It’s getting warmer now, 68°F/20°C, with some fleecy clouds.  What more can you wish for ? It’s getting summery in Alaska !  Flowers along the road are in blossom and create a colourful scenery in this endless landscape.

North Pole, “The home of Santa Claus”.
It’s a strange affair over here.  I suppose this small village had nothing to offer, so they chose this revealing name.  Every possilbe way is good to attract tourists, they must have thought.
Christmas decorations in the streets and a Santa Claus Gift Shop on St. Nicholas Drive aren’t that fascinating.  So, we continue our way.

Delta Junction, the end of the Alaska Highway15h30
We pass Birch Lake, direction Delta Junction. At the right-hand side of the road, the 
Tanana River keeps following us.
It’s getting misty, is it from the fires that are still 150 miles away from us ?
ons verwijderd zijn ?

We stop at a viewpoint on the Tanana River.  The sun is high in the sky, so the view isn’t that good.  The river looks impressive, with a lot of branches.  Some courageous adventurers don’t have an easy time on finding their way in this crisscross of streams. 

We cross the Tanana River, together with the Alaska Pipeline.

Delta Junction, the end of the Alaska Highway.
Apart from an enormous milepost, this village isn’t up to much.
We visit the Alaska Highway Visitor Information Center.
An elderly lady, that made from this center her personal lifework, tells us that all hotels and motels are full.  A lot of firemen working for the fires near Tok, have to stay in Delta Junction for the night.
She can’t inform us about the situation in Tok.  So, we will have to check ourselves.

We are at 90 miles from Tok on the Alaska Highway.  
The horizon on our left is covered with a light gray smoke.  A plane is circling around and observes the situation.
Forest fires near TokOn the other side of the road we see the snowy peaks of the Rainbow Mountains.  In front of it, a forest had his part of the fires some years ago, only burnt tree-trunks remain.  It can take 50 up to 200 years before we have again a fully-developed forest.  Nature renews itself.

We pass across Gerstle River.  The bridge spans a wide riverbed of more than 100 meters, while the river itself is now no more than an brook, a few meters wide.

We drive through the Tanana Valley State Forest.  There is no lack of rivers, if they only had some water in it.  Like this Johnson River, the banks are covered with ice and snow, but the bed is almost dry.
Ahead of us, other mountains with snowfields arise.  The peaks reach the clouds.

Once again, the radio gives no sound.  Each notable village has its own radio station (like in ‘Northern Exposure’) that doesn’t reach further than its own town centre.  Once that limit passed, we have radio silence again.

The scenery lets us go from one surprise to the next.
Robertson RiverWe pass Robertson River. Parts of the surface are covered with ice. The reflection of the sunlight provides a silver glitter that reaches the horizon.

Again some noise on the radio.  Some religious program broadcasts an absurd radio play.  I wonder if there is a moose somewhere in the bush that is interested in such a kind of program.

10 miles before Tok.
We see enormous clouds of smoke that arise on the horizon beyond the village.  It is difficult to imagine the proportions of these fires.  By the height of the plume we suppose that this is not just a campfire.

Since Delta Junction we also entered in buffalo country.  Beside the stuffed specimenin the Visitor Center, we haven’t had the opportunity yet to see one for real.

We arrive at the Golden Bear Motel in Tok.
“Did you came through the fires”, the old lady asks at the desk, curious to hear about the latest situation.
“No, that’s where we are going tomorrow”, I say, “we are coming from Fairbanks.”
We drove 220 miles today, a good average.

Late in the evening a pick-up truck arrives at the motel.  Five firemen, visibly tired, jump off the truck.  Their shift is finished for today, they need a shower and a well-deserved good night’s sleep.

Before I go to bed, I switch on the television.  CNN gives pictures of the fires near Anchorage, Big Lake.  It doesn’t look nice over there.  Even around Fairbanks fires are spotted.
Anyway, we can sleep sweet dreams. Tok is plenty of firemen who wil start up by the slightest smell of smoke…

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