The Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge sits on a lovely site first developed in the 1940s by the Jilson family. Their Log Cabin Inn sat alongside the newly built Tok Cut-off, a 125-mile road that linked Tok with the Richardson Highway at Gakona Junction.
The Jilson's operated their Log Cabin Inn until 1970, when the main road was rebuilt a few miles away from their land. The property was a private residence until John and Jill Rusyniak of Tok purchased the 11-acre parcel in 2004, hand built their 4,000 square-foot Scandinavian scribed log home and began establishing their business. The Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge, which opened in May 2008, features both refurbished historic and modern cabins. The Rusyniak's developed and operated the popular Cleft of the Rock Bed and Breakfast in Tok for eighteen years before moving out of town to what they long considered a perfect location.
There is plenty of wildlife are in the area. Moose are frequent visitors to the property; it's common to have sightings four or five times a week, and bears stop by on occasion.
The Cut-off, running southwest from Tok, sliced 120 miles off the journey toward Valdez or Anchorage. Before the road was constructed, travelers from the south on the new Alaska Highway had to continue north to Delta Junction before turning south on the Richardson Highway.
Records showing the exact date that the Jilson's opened their Log Cabin Inn, which included a gas station, garage and the cabins for lodging, have not been found. However, the business certainly was up and running by the later part of the decade because it was included in the inaugural 1949 edition of "Milepost," a $1 travel guide published by the Alaska Research Company of Anchorage.
The entry in the guide for Log Cabin Inn:
MILEPOST 45 (28 miles from Tok). Here, in one of the prettiest parts of the Little Tok Valley, the Log Cabin Inn, is located on a clear mountain stream. Individual log cabins offer privacy and excellent home-cooked meals and ice-cold beer and wine are served in the Log Cabin dining room from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The friendly owners, Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Jilson, will serve late arrivals a "snack" after hours. A line of tires is carried, and there is gas and oil service. The fall season brings out unbelievably brilliant reds and golds on the birches and aspens in this valley, presenting some exceptional opportunities for color photography.
Members of the Jilson family told John and Jill and that the famous actors John Wayne and Andy Devine stayed at the Log Cabin Inn. Wayne was a huge Hollywood star during his long, distinguished career. He was featured in the 1960 movie "North to Alaska," but stories about the movie say it was filmed in California. Devine appeared in more than 400 films, including three with Wayne, "Stagecoach", "Island in the Sky" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
Transportation in Alaska improved dramatically in the 1940s, especially during World War II. Decades of talk about a road from Canada into interior Alaska quickly turned to action following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Construction plans were approved by the U.S. Army in February 1942, work began the following month, the route was completed on October 28 and the highway was dedicated on November 20. The Tok Cutoff followed.
"We're not sure when the Jilson's obtained the property," John says. "The government was giving out 40-acre land allotments to people as an incentive to open businesses along the road.
"From what we can see from the "Milepost" magazine, they sold gas, serviced people's cars and had the cabins. So it was sometime between 1942 and 1949 that the Jilson's came here and began building their business."
A decision was made in the 1960s to rebuild a section of the Tok Cut-off a few miles to the west on what was considered to be drier, more firm terrain on the other side of the valley. When the construction was completed in 1970 and traffic was no longer passing by, the Log Cabin Inn closed. A two-mile section of the old road from the north to Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge and a similar section on the southern end are maintained, but the rustic cabin at LCWL central portion has been abandoned for 40 years and is not suitable for normal travel. As a result, it is accurate to say that Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge is at the end of the road.
Although there has never been electricity from the grid available at the this location, we do have telephone service from the bare copper land line that was put in place in 1952. You may remember the old "party line" where each family on the line had a different ring and if you wanted you could listen in on your neighbors calls. Well we are currently the only party left on the line.