Smoked Salmon in an Unexpected Row Boat: Day Six on the Alaska Road Trip

Upon leaving Beaver Creek, we immediately came upon Canadian customs. “Alaska, here we come!” we thought, only to find that US customs were in another 30 kilometers. Which country lies in between? It’s unclear. After that minor hiccough, we did indeed cross the boundary into our own country. Finally!

Welcome to Alaska!

Our first business was to buy cheap gasoline: $3.00 per gallon instead of $1.30 per liter, you do the math. There, we met a mom and her young adult son who had driven all the way from Henryville, Indiana.

The telephone poles on the US side of the border were not doing well in the melting permafrost. Many were only feet from being totally submerged.

A roadside pond was packed with skittish ring-necked ducks, American wigeons, and mallards. They wouldn’t let us get within a half-mile; maybe this pond is open to duck-hunting?

Two ring-necked drakes and one duck.

An eager young ranger at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge was surprised at the direction we were headed. “Most visitors are headed south,” he told us. “Welcome to Alaska, ladies. You have the state to yourselves!” Jane spotted two distant trumpeter swans through the scope, and I read about the replica food cache that was used by early settlers and Native Alaskans to keep food and supplies safe from floods and rodents. According to the sign, frontier code stated that a stranger could break into any cache in an emergency, but was expected to fully replenish any supplies used.

We checked out a free audio tour, and an assertive lady verbally guided us through the next several hours of beautiful country. I think we stopped at every short hike the Refuge offered: Seaton Roadhouse, Hidden Lake, Dead Man Lake, and Lakeview Campground.

Seaton provided with a stunted black spruce forest, a posse of American robins, and two species of waterfowl: American wigeons and good ol’ mallards.

Seaton Roadhouse lake.

Two of the plentiful American wigeons.

Hidden Lake offered the best surprise of our day.

The boardwalk through stunted black spruce taiga.

Lowbush cranberry.

The 1.2 mile boardwalk through boreal forest brought us to a sparkling blue lake, a rack of red life-preservers, and a pair of flat-bottomed rowboats with handmade paddles (a 2x2 with a square slab of plywood nailed to the end).

Unexpected rowboats!

Handmade paddles.

We paddled in a hybrid rowboat/canoe style to the middle of the lake, where we ate a smoked-salmon picnic and watched rainbow trout leap from the water. A couple from Holland took out the other rowboat. They had visited the very same lake 10 years before and seen beavers from their rowboat, but today only an empty lodge remained.

Beavers abandon their lodges when the local supply of hardwood (willow and alder) saplings is depleted.

Dead Man Lake was home to a scoter, a duck we normally associate with the ocean, but which occasionally ventures inland in summer.

Lakeview Campground offered a photo blind, where we heard loud splashing near the shore. I thought it might be a bear, but mom was hoping for a moose or sage grouse. The culprit turned out to be a trio of mallards taking a raucous, splashy bath.


Six adolescent ducklings is a feat to be proud of for mama mallard.

We made it to the city of Tok and ordered take-out at the suggested eatery, Fast Eddy’s.

Fast Eddy's in Tok, Alaska.

We pulled out of town at 5:30 pm, 120 miles down, 210 to go. Jane and I entertained ourselves with Milepost-Chocolate-Chip Trivia through Delta Junction and North Pole (a town suffused in candy-cane stripes). As we pulled into Fairbanks, we saw a moose and two calves nibbling grass by the highway. Our Best Western was thrilling for four reasons: a pool, a printer, free ice, and laundry – all of which we took full advantage of before hitting the most comfortable beds of the week!

End of day summary:
  • Day of road trip: 6
  • Start: Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, Canada 
  • Miles traveled: 311 
  • Hours driven: 6 
  • Favorite bird sighting: ring-necked duck 
  • End: Fairbanks, Alaska, United States