This is the 15th in a continuing series about our trip to Alaska
NOTE: For whatever reason, Part XV didn’t get posted, and since the Top of the World Highway is one of the real adventures of the trip, I want to make sure it is available. By way of a weak excuse, we’ve had long days of travel and touring. My energy level is eroded by the need to be alert for hours on the road, and these days with only three hours of daylight are confusing. I think the problem was probably my fatigue.
Did you even know there is Alaska Daylight Time? Wednesday we set our clocks back an hour as we waited to cross the border from Canada back into the United States. We entered Alaska.
Getting through the border checkpoint at Poker Creek was the easy part. Getting to this remote outpost at the border and from there to the next town, Chicken, Alaska, was the part that many travelers dread. The ride took us four-and-a-quarter hours from Dawson City to Chicken, a distance of 108 miles. Some of you who have already made that trip are probably wondering how we made it so fast. Well, road conditions were good, except for slow-going through the clouds.
This fabled Top of the World Highway is torturous to vehicles — not more difficult than some other roads we have traveled, just a lot more of it. Because of careful preparation, we and apparently all other 20 rigs in the caravan made it with no major damage. When we weren’t socked in, we could see for at least a hundred miles. What we saw were trees and more trees, creeks and rivers, and beyond it all were the mountains dressed in blue, grey, purple and emerald. We were told that you can see Denali (a.k.a. Mount McKinley) from the road, but we didn’t take the time to stop at the overlooks except to get snacks from our trailer.
One other thing that helped speed us along was that Monique and I left Dawson Tuesday afternoon, catching the Yukon River ferry after only a three-minute wait, and driving six miles of washboard to the Top of the World Golf Course. This 9-hole course carved out of the forest is rustic, particularly the greens. I suspect that the same guy who made the roads around here also did the greens.
Having played in Key West, Florida, at the Southernmost Golf Course in America just six months ago, I had to play at the Top of the World in the Yukon. Two other members of our group and their wives had a very enjoyable time, particularly since we didn’t keep score. The tradition is to play at midnight, but since that’s a bit past our bedtimes, I proposed that we tee off at 8:30 and just tell our friends we played in the bright daylight of midnight. Please don’t tell anyone we cheated.
The bustling city of Chicken is a hoot. In addition to the no-hook-ups RV park with a restaurant, office/gift shop, gold-panning opportunity and the Pedro Dredge, there is the town. It consists of one building about 100 feet long separated into another gift shop, a liquor store with reasonable prices, and a saloon. We passed another RV park nearby. After the drive up here, it is an oasis.
The reward for reaching Chicken was a chicken dinner prepared by the caravan staff. Afterward we sauntered over to the restaurant for homemade dessert and to hear owner Mike’s talk about Chicken’s history and ability to survive despite minus-80-degree weather. There are only four year-round residents; the rest (146) begin to disperse for less harsh conditions in the fall.
Two days before arriving in Chicken, I didn’t know what a gold-mining dredge is. Now I’ve toured two of them, one in Dawson, the other in Chicken, which is probably my lifetime quota.
This morning I joined an expedition to find a mama moose that Larry had photographed standing in a pond just up the road from the camp. By the time we made another excursion, she was gone, but the scenery made the hike a complete success. So now it’s on to Tok, another rustic spot, before reaching Fairbanks for a five-day recovery stretch and rehabilitation of our RVs.
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
9 Responses to “Our Alaska Trip Part XV White-Knuckle Driving”
▪. Mike Busby on July 5th, 2010 12:06 am Sounds like you enjoyed your stay in Chicken at our park, http://chickengold.com. Even though you had no hookups, we do provide hookups in the lower park and soon will in the caravan park. Hope your travels are great. Nice blog! You will find more info on our Chicken life in our blog: http://chickengold-blog.com. Mike
▪. Lynne schlumpf on July 5th, 2010 4:19 pm Glad you made it ok! Lynne, Chugiak, Alaska
▪. Alex Gendron on July 5th, 2010 4:22 pm It is quite interesting to get other views on the Alaska Trip as we just returned from a one month visit to the North via Dawson Creek, BC to Whitehorse, Dawson City, Top of the World, Fairbanks, Wasilia, Tok, and down HW 37 to Stewart and 16 to Prince George and South again. It was truly a wonderful experience in contrasting scenery. All I can say is the North is especially beautiful and its beck-and-call will take me back to some special spots in the next few years. Atlin, Dawson City, Dease Lake area to name a few that I thought were special. I look forward to another RV venture up there.
▪. Sharon Brandt on July 5th, 2010 7:37 pm We went over the Top of the World Highway to Chicken on the day the road opened. It was so very quiet at Poker Creek that we saw a hoary marmot taking a sunbath in the middle of the road. Though Top of the World was slow going (we stopped a lot to take in the scenery — no clouds), it was a much smoother ride than we had on our return through Destruction Bay.
▪. Jerry X Shea on July 6th, 2010 4:52 pm It took us about the same time last year, going from Chicken to D.C. We made the trip on our way out of Alaska. Two days before our trip over the Top of the World Hwy it was all fogged in and raining. The day we made the trip it was between two storms and it was sunny and clear. One of the best and most beautiful drives we made in Alaska – the road however was the worst we ever drove on or ever will again. The next day in D.C. it rained. My advice to those of you following this trip and planning your trip – check the weather. If it is raining or foggy, just pass, as you will see nothing. Go when it is sunny and it is beautiful – but bumpy.
▪. Gordon and Martha Wagoner on July 7th, 2010 1:20 pm My what memories that picture of Chicken brought back. We went thru there in 2000–IT HASNT CHANGED A BIT! Ha. Was the bearded lady[?] still working there running the place? We traveled on a tour bus however, and when we left to start our trip up the Highway, it was a misty rain…by the time we got to Chicken is was completely raining. We were told then, that we were the last persons allowed to travel on the road as parts of it had washed away. We drove thru little rivers made in the gullies of the missing road and slid on the muddy road. Fortunately we had a truck spotter who traveled ahead of us to warn us of oncoming vehicles since there were very few places to pull over. Can’t say I got a lot of pictures as we were all holding on for dear life as the bus slipped and slid along … and our driver [who looked all of 17 yrs old] kept assuring us that she had it under control and had driven that road many times. Oh, yes what memories we had of our Alaskan trip, but that ‘highway’ was one experience we often relate to others. Enjoy your trip!!
▪. marianj on August 12th, 2010 5:57 pm Boy you had a nice trip on the Top of The Highway. It has since been closed most of the due to washouts and rain part of the road is no longer there, it will take months to fix it. [It reopened in a couple of weeks, reportedly with a constant flow of traffic.]