Day 18

August 13, 2009 – Day 18:  Anchorage AK to Tok, AK – 318.40 miles

The Road to Tok, Outside of Chickaloon
The Road to Tok, Outside of Chickaloon

I looked out of my window and saw the unsurprising grey sky with light rain, light, now becoming a relative term, meaning not painfully hard.  I dressed appropriately and headed out to pack the bike.  As I packed the bike I hardly noticed the rain, I was a little depressed.  This would be my last full day’s ride through Alaska, and tomorrow I would have to negotiate the same stretch of road I had traveled only a week earlier.  Oh well, forget about tomorrow, just enjoy today.

Matanuska Glacier
Matanuska Glacier

The ride started off uneventful, actually on the freeway for the first 50 minutes.  I stopped for fuel in a small place named Palmer, as I finished fueling the bike I noticed the rain had stopped and the sun was peeking through the clouds.  I stripped off my rain gear, stowed it in the right side saddlebag and took off towards Tok.  The countryside glistened from the last of the rain and I found myself stopping, shooting, packing, and moving, over and over again.

I saw a fuel pump in Chickaloon, so I stopped to top off.  The lady at the counter looked up from her book and gave me a strange smile as she took my $2.95 for the gas.  I told her I didn’t know where the next gas stop would be and I didn’t want to run out.  She laughed a little and told me I would be able to get 92 octane in Slana, a little over 75 miles up the road.  I thanked her and headed back to the bike.

Matanuska Glacier, EF70-200+EF2xII, on 055 MF4
Matanuska Glacier, EF70-200+EF2xII, on 055 MF4

As I pulled out from Chickaloon the road became more winding and empty.  I was really starting to get into the fun of the ride.  The turns were long and shifting, the straight-a-way’s short and quick, I felt like I had been in this turn for two to three minutes and as I pulled the bike upright to ready for the next sweeper, I saw it.  I immediately shut the throttle down and started breaking, I almost missed the turnoff.  As I pulled in I couldn’t take my eyes off it.  It was enormous.  There before me stood the most incredible sight I had ever seen, a glacier, an enormous glacier that filled the entire valley and went on for miles.

First of many Lakes, Anchorage to Tok
First of many Lakes, Anchorage to Tok

I couldn’t get to my equipment quick enough.  I ran through every lens and combination I had.  I just kept shooting and shooting.  One of the great perks of shooting digital on the road is the ability to shoot in every combination of lens /extenders/filters/shutter speeds and f/stops, with no worries of running out of film.  The only limitation is the shooter’s amount of storage and I had plenty.

I must have been shooting this glacier for a little over an hour when it struck me; I don’t even know where I’m at.  I took a break and walked over to a small kiosk at the far end of the parking area.  There, I realized that I was shooting the Matanuska Glacier.  It was 24 miles long and 12 miles wide, with a face a little over 4 miles in length.  This thing was huge. I had finished shooting and I just stood there staring at the Great Matanuska, when it struck me, the pure greatness of it all.  I had never felt so alone, and yet at total peace, with my surroundings.  It was a personal moment, one I cannot fully understand or describe, but at that moment I realized there had to be a god.  Beauty of this magnitude just didn’t happen; it was designed from the dreams of its creator.

Just Another Lake, Anchorage to Tok
Just Another Lake, Anchorage to Tok

I pulled into Slana around 3:30pm.  I filled the tanks with 91 Octane and Alaskan Summer Ale, lit a cigar and headed north to Tok.  I didn’t get two miles out of town before I found myself stopping to shoot a couple of lakes on the side of the road.  As I packed and pulled back onto the road I saw three more up ahead, and more after that, I passed lake after lake for miles; I had seen in one stretch of the road, more lakes than I had seen during the rest of my entire life.  Big lakes, small lakes, narrow lakes, broad lakes, deep lakes, shallow lakes, everywhere I looked I saw lakes, it was absolutely phenomenal. I pulled into Burnt Paw and Cabins Outback around 6:00pm.  I thought about going over to Fast Eddie’s but the lour of margaritas and Mexican drew me back to the Westmark.  After dinner, I sat at the bar, drinking margaritas and describing my journey through Alaska to Wilma and Jesus.  Before I knew it, it was last call and time to get to bed.  I felt so alive, I didn’t get much sleep and the next thing I knew morning had arrived and I needed to get ready to depart.

More Lakes
More Lakes

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