WinterCabin, a summer or winter getaway, where the stars sleep beneath the northern lights.



About Tok


Tok is a bit undefinable.  It is a town that isn't. Tok is not incorporated. It is not considered a city, town, or village. We call ourselves a "community" for lack of a better definition. People here are very independent. We aren't "near" anything. Geographically, it is 90 miles west of the Yukon border, 210 miles southeast of Fairbanks and 325 miles north of Anchorage. For information on other parts of Alaska see my
links page.

Tok, Alaska welcomes travelers on the Alaska Highway.

Welcome to Tok!

Tok history dates to the building of the Alcan, Alaska Highway.

Alaska HIghway 1942 - trucks and mishaps...

Alaskan links to the past in Tok.

and equipment...

Old Alaska Highway photo shows Alaskan history in action.

men, mud and ruts...

Before 1942, Tok did not exist. There was nothing at all where the small community is now. A result of the military constrution of the Alaska Highway during the war effort of 1942, Tok--the intersection of the Tok Cutoff and the Alaska (Alcan) Highway--was named by Captain Andrew McMeekin, commanding officer of the 97th Engineers. An all black company, "A" Company had two mascots...a young Husky pup and a black bear cub. The two were buddies, best friends from the outset, and kept the men in good humor. The pup liked to ride in the jeep seat next to McMeekin, bouncing over stumps and mud bogs, while the bear cub perched himself on the hood...somewhat like a hood ornament.

Tok history includes huskies and bears.

Best friends - Tok and Little Dynamite.

Because of their friendship, these two unlikely mascots were awarded special privileges which eventually lead to the naming of the intersection where Tok is now.  The black bear was affectionately and appropriately called "Little Dynamite." The young husky's name was Tok. The full story of why it was named after the pup is available in my book, "Tok, The Real Story." The pup, Tok, was named after the Tok River, which according to Athabascan Indian legend, was a place of gathering of tribes for peace. The word "Tok," derived from an Athabascan word, probably meant "peace crossing." Within months of McMeekin officially naming the junction, a community began to spring up, beginning first as a road construction camp for the Alcan and Tok Cutoff Highways. In 1946, Tok was designated a Presidential Townsite, civilians began building more permanent dwellings and a roadhouse was opened.

In spite of its size, in spite of its young age, but because of its location on the Alaska Highway, our little community was declared  "Mainstreet Alaska" in 1991 by the governor. This was quite an honor for Tok, considering that the previous year the community almost became non-existent again.

For things to do in Tok, Alaska links and Alaska information visit Mainstreet Alaska.

Tok is Mainstreet Alaska.

Alaska history in the making-forest fire- seen from the Tok information center.

First plume of 1990 Tok forest fire.

Alaska facts: Forest fire too near Tok, Alaska.

On July 1, 1990, a lightning strike ignited a forest fire. I happened to be in the right place, at the right time not only to see the strike, but to photograph the first plumes of the fire as it grew rapidly out of control within minutes. Five days later, in spite of several thousand firefighters and equipment from all over Alaska, Canada and the States, Tok was completely under siege, at risk of being cremated. The wind-blown inferno enveloped us on two sides by fire. The town was evacuated. We took with us whatever we could quickly pack away. Thankfully, Tok is still here...why? Because, imperceptibly at first, a slight shift in the wind began; a sweet, light rain began to fall. It came out of nowhere to save the town. In all, the fire burned 109,501acres at a cost of over thirty-five million dollars (U.S.), yet not one person had been injured, not one occupied dwelling destroyed, and Tok had been spared by what we residents still refer to as a "miracle wind."

Tok under Siege

for winter fun, snowmobile or snowmachine the area.

80 degrees below zero in Tok, Alaska.

Tok residents are fiercely independent, resilient. You have to be to live in a place that can see 70 and
80 (below zero) temperatures in the winter without a windchill and 80 and 90 degree (above zero) temperatures in the summer. Twenty-four hour daylight in the summer is replaced by only three hours of daylight in the winter. We have only two seasons--winter is here--and winter is coming!! Seriously, we have a very short spring, and sometimes an autumn you will miss if you blink. Winter lasts from approximately October through late March or April. Summer is June, July and part of August. Plants, veggies, and flowers grow at unbelievably rapid rates in the summer.  I've measured my green beans, tomato vines and peas from one day to the next and recorded 4-6 inches of growth overnight. The growing season is very short here, but it's fast and furious. A good percentage of the residents have gardens and greenhouses to supplement fresh goodies on the table in the summer.

Turnips are gigantic at WinterCabin.

Giant turnup.

Tok has a boom and bust lifestyle. With the influx of tourists coming up the Alaska Highway in the summer, hotels, restaurants, gas stations etc hire extra help.  Many residents are only able to work steady in the summer.  When the summer is over, there is no industry here to fill in a paycheck. There are no state, city, borough taxes or building codes. Wait!! Don't start packing to move yet...likewise, there are no street lights, sidewalks, public transportation of any kind, city water or sewer.  Tok has wonderful water. But if you have water, it's because you put in your own well. (Good friends of mine own
Tok Well Drilling) There is a power company, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have electricity.  If you aren't close enough to an existing line, unless you're independently wealthy, forget it!  We do have telephone service and, kicking and screaming, Tok entered the internet era and the 20th century just in time to welcome the 21st century.

Wildflowers, river trips, day trips, hiking, biking and northern lights viewing--all things to do and see.

Fireweed grows after the forest fire.

We also have a bank and a small medical/dental clinic, but in any major illness/injury the closest help is by Medivac to Fairbanks...210 miles away. By the way, there's no take-out pizza joint here either! We hunt and fish, gather berries and stock our kitchen cupboards and freezers with wild game to supplement store-bought supplies. The area abounds in moose, caribou, black bear, rabbit, spruce hens, raspberries, cranberries and blueberries, whitefish, burbot, trout and grayling.  Autumn is a time of hurried preparation for the long winter coming.

Alaskan links to the past and present:hunting big game for food.

We butcher our own meat. A black bear and two moose hang in the garage.

Mainstreet Alaska offers winter fun-snowmachining.

Winter snowmachining

Summer is our opportunity to build cabins, make improvements, get out and enjoy the longer days. We swim and waterski in the cold waters of nearby lakes, barbecue as much as possible, and read a newspaper at midnight by the light of the midnight sun.

In the winter, dog mushing is an active sport here, as is snowmachining. We go ice fishing. And the
northern lights are unequaled in this part of Alaska. Most of us have seen them a million times, but that doesn't stop us from standing outside until our toes feel like clubs, gawking at the magnificent light show going on above us.

Ice fishing and northern lights viewing are popular in Tok, Alaska.

Ice fishing in the winter.

Well, there isn't any movie theater, bowling alley, cable TV (there is satellite TV if you buy a dish), clothing, furniture stores or McDonald's here, that's for sure. But we have social gatherings, school events, rent a movie and stick it in our VCR's, read alot, listen to music, make music, and get together with friends and family often. And my family always jumps the gun in the spring and fires up the barbecue long before the snow is gone.  Usually it hasn't even begun to melt when we shovel out the barbecue pit and throw salmon, chicken or moose steaks on the barby.  So there's snow all around us.  So there may be icicles hanging off the spatula. So we're still wearing our bunny boots. So? It's still fun...and we never said we weren't crazy....there's a saying here, that's particularly true... "If you can't take a joke, don't move to Tok!"

Alaskan photos-we barbecue in the winter too!

Barbecue is good summer or winter

Aside from a variety of things to do in Tok itself, including shopping in unique gift shops, watching dog sled demonstrations, going to the Salmon bake, visiting Mukluk Land--the local theme park (where the Tent in Tok has been resurrected), you can make Tok, (and possibly my
WinterCabin Bed and Breakfast) a home base for your activities. Plan an adventurous day trip into the historic Fortymile gold country.  This is an area as rich in gold nuggets as it is in old miner's tales. A short drive up the Taylor Highway from Tok and you're immediately in
this wild and scenic country. Eleven years before the Klondike gold rush, the first major placer gold strike was discovered at Franklin Gulch, a tributary of the Fortymile River. At the time, many miners filed their claim locations in both Dawson City, Yukon and Eagle, Alaska because of questions arising as to whether those claims were actually in Alaska or the Yukon.

Day trips from Tok include gold panning in the 40 mile country, river trips, and taking Alaskan photos.

$8,000 in gold.

A very historic section in the Fortymile is the Jack Wade Creek claims. First located in 1892, and mined continuously ever since, it was named for the two men who originally located it -- Jack Anderson and Wade Nelson. In 1951, after working for nearly twenty years with the Yukon Placer Company, George Robinson bought the Jack Wade claims from the company and mined it on his own until 1970. Some BIG nuggets have come
out of Jack Wade Creek. Friends of mine now hold the claims. In 1983, they discovered a nugget weighing in at just under 57 ounces!! At the time of its discovery, this palm-size behemoth was the 12th largest nugget known to be found in Alaska. It still ranks somewhere around 14th or 15th. Yes, they still have the nugget....and yes, they're still looking for its "big brother." And incidentally, these friends own and operate
Jack Wade Gold Jewelry in Tok. "He" mines the gold and "She" makes beautiful jewelry from it. If you visit her place, don't try to be cool and tell her you know Mr. Jack Wade. She'll know immediately that you're a cheechako! (A cheechako is Alaskan vernacular for a newcomer or tenderfoot, "sourdough" being exactly the opposite). I'm a sourdough!! 

More things to do in Tok, Alaska: watch the 4th of July parade, go hiking or biking.

4th of July parade.

How about a trip in a jet boat on the Tanana River? Spend a day sightseeing, or photographing wildlife. Fish a little. The picture on the
photo cards page of the sunset at Beaver Pike is one I took on the Tanana River.  And since I mentioned cheechakos a minute ago, let's get one thing straight--"Tok" is NOT pronounced like "talk." It rhymes with "poke" even though there's no "e" on the end. Also, Tanana is pronounced tan'-uh-naw. It does NOT rhyme with "banana."

Go to the salmon bake for dinner, or take a swim not far from Mainstreet Alaska.

Sunset at Moon Lake.

Looking for other ideas? Hiking trails aren't too far away. Like to bicycle? Tok has paved bike paths. Take a flightseeing trip around the area and photograph the ultimate in mountains...the Alaska Range. Or come visit in the autumn, watch the trees turn golden hues and the tundra ablaze in reds and oranges. And there's always winter. Don't let the cold scare you off! Just bring an extra parka and enjoy the beauty of the North in its season of tranquility. Moose and caribou abound here in the winter months. Ride in a dog sled and have a mushing adventure. And don't forget the northern lights! The northern lights photos on the previous pages were taken right in front of my cabin. Watch a gorgeous sunrise or sunset, or come join us on the 4th of July.  Watch our 15-minute parade complete with floats, bicycles and fire engines. Come to the picnic, join in the games and activities. In the spring there's the "Tok Trot." Come watch or participate. It's a fun run from Tok to the Tok River and back. Go swimming or picnicking at Moon Lake nearby, or watch a float plane take off from the same lake. Slow down, relax, smell the wildflowers along the road and take in the scenery.

So, what's there to do? Well, we think there's plenty! It all depends on what you like to do.  And remember..."If you can't take a joke...don't move to Tok!"

the Tok Trot, held annually, sees hikers, bikers, runners and trotters.

Runner in the Tok Trot.

Pan for gold in Alaska and stay at wintercabin bed and breakfast.

What dreams are made of...finding gold.