Airstreaming to Alaska – Chapter 13: Tok to Valdez

Posted January 25, 2023 – Narrated by Carmen
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Airstreaming to Alaska
“It’s from an Aleut word, Alyeska. It means ‘that which the sea breaks against,’ and I love that.”

Alaska, land of myth and mystery.

It’s Shangri–la, Xanadu and Tír na nÓg.

It’s Through the Looking Glass …

Where The Crawdads Sing,

The Fortress of Solitude,

and Beyond The Wall.

Before the cruise ships found it, getting to Alaska was a heroes journey of purpose and destiny – a trek that required talent, experience and superior genes. Even Today, over-landing there and back is like dancing on stairs.

If you don’t pay the AlCan tax (losing an axel or windshield, your pride or your stride) then you are one lucky duck.

Romanticize Alaska and she will break your heart. Idealize her and she will out you as a fool.

Alaska doesn’t play truth-or-dare, because that would imply that your pitiful ego is worth her time.

Truth is, Alaska’d just as soon kill ya as look at ya. She’s crazy-beautiful, but make no mistake, engagement – on her terms – is undeniably coherent, logical and uncomplicated. “Look at me” she says, “Hear me out.”

At first glance, nothing’s there. That’s because there’s so much there, there. Our perception needed time to acclimate.

Alaska is all about layers piled upon layers. Once you begin to see them, it’s like having eyes for the first time.

In the beginning, the free-ranging sun caught us off guard as it moved across the tundra flanked by a Bob Fosse chorus line of long-legged stratus clouds. The show, literally, never stopped because, here, Darkness has been conquered.

Even from the roadside you can identify layers of forest, lava domes, flow deposits, shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes, glacial ice and several different climates.

Alaska’s layers extend into the culture.

We marveled that for thousands of years Alaskans have engineered a fragile truce with this volatile place.

Against all odds, Alaskans joyfully weave a proud legacy into the elements,

charm the land

and reap reward.

We may call it survival, but Alaskans call it joy.


Alaska is layers of soul, mystery and sorrow,

heroism, ambition and long-lost dreams.

The vastness overwhelms. Alaska is bigger than we envisioned. Even while outfitted with GPS and maps, this was a labyrinthine journey.

The Drive

The majority of the 77 mile, 3-hour stretch from Chicken to Tok is on the Taylor Highway.

taylor highway

A combination of pavement and graveled dirt, the 64 miles to the Alaska Highway junction was in slightly better condition than the Top of the World Highway.

Still, legions of pot holes forced us to the wrong side,

and the snow heaves prompted frequent stops to consider our options.


On an Alaska roundtrip, Tok is the only village overlanders will see twice: once upon arrival and again, on the way out. Remote, quiet, and low key, the residents here live the subsistence lifestyle, hunting moose, bear, rabbit grouse, and ptarmigan.

First, we washed the rig.


Then, we pulled into our friendly, clean and hospitable refuge, Tundra RV Park.

tundra rv park

After settling in for a three-night break from the road, we made time for Fast Eddy’s.

Later, we stopped in for a nightcap at The Tundra Bar. How lucky can you get?! Earl, the honorary Mayor of Tok, treated us to a complimentary moose call.


This was one of our favorite fee-free overnight destinations.


As guests of the Ahtna Athabaskan Villagers, we had a glorious Alaska experience on this Wild and Scenic River


We arrived early to ensure a spot on the shore of Gulkana River at the site of Old Gulkana Village in the Copper River Basin.


Between Tok and Gulkana we could have enjoyed the entire season, but we had a five-day reservation on Prince William Sound. So, the next morning we had to pull ourselves away and move on to …

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

The largest National Park in America, Wrangell-St. Elias is 13.2 million acres with several visitor centers.

Due to poor road conditions the rangers didn’t recommend driving into the park. Heavy rain was projected for the next few days, so we attended a ranger talk and watched Crown of The Continent, a film about the park. Then, we took a stroll around the grounds and explored the museum.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Copper Center

We stopped at Copper Center intending to have lunch at the Old Town Copper Center Inn and Restaurant. But, with the virus on the loose again and no open-air dining option, we skipped lunch and took a quick tour of the museum which had recently opened after a two-year closure.

copper center
copper center
copper center
copper center
copper center

It began to rain heavily with patchy fog so we moved on to our first coastal village destination …



We could barely see what we were missing.

In fair weather, the 117 mile drive through the Chugach Mountains on the Richardson Highway into Valdez must be spectacular. We hoped to see some of this area under clear skies on our way back.

The rain never let up but thanks to the LuLu Belle our Valdez experience at Bear Paw RV Park wasn’t a total loss.

lulu belle
lulu belle
lulu belle
lulu belle
lulu belle

Jim had a fascinating (though wet and miserably cold) day on the water.

During a brief break in the rain we took a self-guided walking tour around the village.


Soggy, cold and exhausted from days of mud, fog and travel-fatigue, we drove over to the west side of the bay to fetch dinner like pros.


Jim seasoned our locally sourced salmon with some California sunshine and we closed our eyes and thought of a warm, dry southwest day. The magic worked!

What a happy surprise! Our adventurous San Diego friends, Ben and Ruth, happened to see us drive by. Later, we met up on a heated patio to exchange Alaska stories over cocktails and watch the news about the historic heat wave of 2022.

Here’s to roughing it in The Great North in the good ol’ summertime 🥂


Alaska is from an Aleut word, Alyeska (al-lee-YES-ka) which means, “that which the sea breaks against.” Those words attend to a bundle of conflicted feelings and impressions I gathered about Alaska: Futility and Bliss, Expanse and Limitations and, as Ben puts it, “the Agony and the Ecstasy.”

Alyeska also describes that electric thrill when some indescribable beauty so arrests my heart’s imagination that it ups and tries to muscle past my fear and bone, determined to press on and go before me – lashing against my chest as if it can fly, go aloft, take wing.


Chapters in the “Airstreaming to Alaska” series

  • Chapter 1 – San Diego to Malibu
    • Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay – Chula Vista, California
    • Malibu Beach RV Resort – Malibu, California
  • Chapter 2 – Malibu to Morro Bay
    • Morro Bay State Park – Morro Bay, California
  • Chapter 3 – Morro Bay to Santa Cruz
    • Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park – Santa Cruz, California
  • Chapter 4 – Santa Cruz to San Francisco
    • San Francisco RV Park – Pacifica, California
  • Chapter 5 – San Francisco to Eureka
    • Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream Repair – Wilton, California
    • High Water Brewery (Harvest Host location) – Lodi, California
    • Harmony Wynelands (Harvest Host location) – Lodi, California
    • Van Ruiten Family Vineyards (Harvest Host location) – Lodi, California
    • Four Fools Winery (Harvest Host location) – Rodeo, California
    • Lawson’s Landing – Dillon Beach, California
    • Mia Bea Wines (Harvest Host location) – Redwood Valley, California
    • Johnny’s at the  Beach – Eureka, California
  • Chapter 6 – The Oregon Coast
    • Harris Beach State Park – Brookings, Oregon
    • Bay Point Landing Resort – Coos Bay, Oregon
    • Blue Herron French Cheese (Harvest Host location) – Tillimook, Oregon
    • Seaside RV Resort – Seaside, Oregon
  • Chapter 7 – The Strait of Juan de Fuca
    • Washington Land Yacht Harbor Airstream Park – Olympia, Washington
    • Salt Creek Recreation Area – Port Angeles, Washington
  • Chapter 8 – Victoria, British Columbia
    • Weir’s Beach RV Resort – Victoria, British Columbia
  • Chapter 9 – Victoria to Mackenzie
    • Riverside RV Resort – Whistler, British Columbia
    • Big Bar Rest Area – Clinton, British Columbia
    • Walmart Parking Lot – Prince George, British Columbia
    • Alexander MacKenzie Landing – Mackenzie, British Columbia
  • Chapter 10 – The Alaska Highway
    • Northern Lights RV Park – Dawson Creek, British Columbia
    • Former Prophet River State Park – Peace River, British Columbia
    • Hay Lake – Fort Liard, Northwest Territories
    • Northern Rockies Lodge and RV Park – Muncho Lake, British Columbia
    • Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park – Liard River, British Columbia
  • Chapter 11 – Yukon
    • Watson Lake Visitors Center Parking Lot – Watson Lake, Yukon
    • Teslin Rest Area – Teslin, Yukon
    • Norsemen RV Park – Atlin, British Columbia
    • Hot Springs Campground – Whitehorse, Yukon
    • Real Canadian Superstore Parking Lot, Whitehorse, Yukon
    • Gold Rush Campground – Dawson City, Yukon
  • Chapter 12 – Top of the World Highway to Chicken, Alaska
    • Downtown Chicken Cafe and Saloon
  • Chapter 13 – Tok to Valdez
    • Tundra RV Park – Tok, Alaska
    • Gulkana River Rest Stop – Gulkana, Alaska
    • Bear Paw RV Park – Valdez, Alaska
  • Chapter 14 – Glacier View to Anchorage
    • Grand View Cafe and RV Park – Glacier View, Alaska
    • Alaska Raceway Park (Harvest Host location) – Palmer, Alaska
    • Ship Creek RV Park – Anchorage, Alaska
  • Chapter 15 – Kenai Peninsula
    • Heritage RV Park – Homer Spit, Alaska
    • Marathon RV Campground – Seward, Alaska
  • Chapter 16 – Whittier to Talkeetna
    • Williwaw Campground – Whittier, Alaska
    • Talkeenta Camper Park – Talkeetna, Alaska
  • Chapter 17 – Denali
    • Riley Creek Campground – Denali National Park, Alaska
  • Chapter 18 – North Pole to Chena Hot Springs
    • Riverview RV Park – North Pole, Alaska
    • Chena Hot Springs Campground – Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Chapter 19 – Tok to Haines
    • Fast Eddy’s Restaurant Parking Lot – Tok, Alaska
    • Gravel Turnout – Beaver Creek, Yukon
    • Gravel Turnout – Destruction Bay, Yukon
    • Haines Hitch-UP RV Park – Haines, Alaska
  • Chapter 20 – South to the Lower 48
    • Gravel Turnout – Haines Junction, Yukon
    • Teslin Rest Area – Teslin, Yukon
    • Jade City Parking Lot – Jade City, British Columbia
    • Mehan Lake Rest Area – Bell II, British Columbia
    • Fort Telkwa Riverfront RV Park – Telkwa, British Columbia
    • Walmart Parking Lot – Prince George, British Columbia
    • 100 Mile House Municipal Campground – 100 Mile House, British Columbia
    • Mt. Paul Golf Course (Harvest Host location) – Kamloops, British Columbia
    • Crowsnest Vineyards (Harvest Host location) – Cawston, British Columbia
  • Final Chapter – Lessons Learned
    • Philosophy
    • Preparation
    • Planning
    • Mileposts (the book)
    • Roads
    • Weather
    • Camping
    • Cash and Currency
    • Clothing
    • Food
    • Wildlife
    • Bugs
    • Fuel
    • Dump Stations and Potable Water
    • Pets
    • Internet Connectivity
    • Hiking
    • Cycling
    • Kayaking
    • Damage
    • Dangers
    • Canada Border Crossing
    • US Border Crossing
    • General Observations
    • Serendipity
    • Final Thoughts
    • Our Camp Sites

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.