Tok is the first (and last) big town on the major land route from Alaska to Canada and the lower 48 states. It didn't exist prior to the construction of the Alaska Highway. Tok was a construction camp during the building of the highway and became a town after construction was complete. There are a number of legends about how Tok got its name. One of the most popular gives the origin as a contraction of Tokyo since it supported the war effort to reach Tokyo. The legend the locals tell us that it is named after a stray dog that adopted the Army Engineers that were based here. Today Tok likes to call itself "Main Street Alaska" because to get into or out of interior Alaska you have to go through this town. Tok also prides itself as the coldest inhabited town in the US. The record low was -80F (-62 C)... anybody want to visit this town for some winter sports?

This is our second time through Tok (rhymes with smoke). The first time was after a ride on the Top of the World Highway from Dawson, Yukon Territory. We were not in the mood to explore the area after that ride. We allowed ourselves some time to explore the area on our second time in town, but we really didn't accomplish much. The intent was to visit the Tetlin Wildlife Refuge to see what animals we might find. It turns out that there are no trails through the refuge so the only viewing opportunities to be had were from the Alaska Highway. The refuse begins about 12 miles from Tok and ends about 80 miles later at the Canadian border. We drove for about 30 miles (50 Km) and pulled over at two viewing areas and all we saw were trees, mountains and lakes... no animals. We will be going past the refuge again tomorrow as we head back to Canada so maybe we will get lucky.

The Alaska Highway is Tok's main street and is lined with tourist related businesses such as campgrounds, hotel and lots of gift shops. It is the last major town to buy all the souvenirs that tourist put off buying. Burnt Paw Gift Shop, below, is one of the more unusual in appearance... it almost seems to make a joke out of itself.

Sod roof with lawn mower
Note sign which does reflect Alaska's independent spirit
Midway Lake, 30 miles east of Tok is in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. Picture at left is the view to the east from the Alaska Highway. View on the right is to the southwest with the beginning of the Alaska Range visible in the distance.