Chapter 13. Eastern Alaska
(Bert) A rather uneventful drive back on the Richardson Highway and then the Tok Cutoff, we see no large mammals, few birds – except for at least six Trumpeter Swans, including young that now seem full size – but I do take notice of the first hint of fall colors. A sprinkling of yellow branches scatters among the green aspen and fireweed and other roadside plants have taken on the dark red colors of fall. In Tok I refuel both vehicles and top off the propane tank, again spending a small fortune for fuel. I also wash the RV and car, a task that may be meaningless for the dirty days ahead.
(Bert) The rest of the caravan precedes us out of the campground, with Jim and Donna taking the lead. Shari and I stay back for some legal matters. Throughout the summer we have been in E-mail contact with our realtor over the sale of an office building we own. While it would have been easy to take care of the legal paperwork when in the Anchorage or Fairbanks area, the closing has been delayed until we are right down to the wire of leaving Alaska for the boonies. Even here in Tok, the most populated town in eastern Alaska, finding a notary public and an overnight courier has been a challenge. After multiple misfires with wrong directions, moved offices, closed hours, discontinued services and misinformation, we eventually obtain notary services from a pleasant clerk at the borough District Court office and, in the absence of Fed Ex or UPS, we mail the package at the post office for the fastest service they offer, 3-day air express.
We travel the Taylor Highway, a dirt road we took in 1996, again in 1998 when it was in the process of being paved, traveled again on subsequent years when the forests were on fire and later when it was resplendent if pink-flowered fireweed. Today the road has deteriorated and we move gently at 25-30 mph, enjoying the long-distance scenery viewed mostly from atop the mountain ridges. The season is later than other years we traveled and now the fireweed is in recession, mostly just red stalks deplete of flowers or green leaves, transforming the mountain slopes to a red sea poked through by black burnt trunks of defoliated spruce.
Arriving in plenty of time for the afternoon and evenings activities, I count highlights as my presentation on “How Auroras Form”, John M’s reading of Robert Service as we gather around a campfire and an early evening successful search for a pair of fledged Great Horned Owls born this year. We agree to wake each other should anyone spot the Aurora Borealis tonight, but no one does and we sleep peacefully in the quiet world of a tiny village without evening electricity.
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