We are playing catch up, we did not have internet connectivity for almost a week as we traveled back through Yukon Territory, Canada. So here’s our next little tale to be told: From Kenny Lake we headed back to Tok, the community that we first visited when we arrived in Alaska.
On this second stop in Tok, we decided to take a (long) day trip to the very cool town of Chicken and drive the Top of the World Highway. Some people take the Klondike Highway through Dawson City, Top of the World and Chicken on their way into Alaska. We decided not to subject our Betsy to almost 100 miles of gravel roads in bad condition, especially in June before many highway repairs had been completed. Instead, we drove our car from Tok to Chicken and then on across the Top of the World Highway. Since it is 185 miles one-way from Tok to Dawson City, we had planned to spend the night there and then come back the next morning. However, it was not to be, as all hotels were filled due to the Discovery Days celebration that was underway. So, off we went at 7:00am to see how far we could get in one day and on a tank of gas.
The trip from Tok to Chicken on the Taylor highway took about an hour and 45 minutes, with the road varying from good to fair (had to slow to 25 mph in some gravel sections). Chicken is a very cool funky little town, if you can call it. It is a living museum of gold-rush and Alaskan frontier history. As the story goes, the miners wanted to name the town Ptarmigan after the bird that is common in the area. But folks had too much trouble spelling the unusual name so they settled on Chicken and the name stuck. The town has a permanent population of around 35 people.
The downtown is a series of small buildings shoved together with a walkway through all of them so one person can run the cafe, liquor store, saloon and gift shop. Susan Wiren the proprietress and owner of downtown Chicken runs this operation. She is also a fantastic baker and made some of the best blueberry muffins and pies we have every tasted. The gift store had some really cool unique “Chicken” gifts too, not the cheap corny stuff you see most of the time. It’s worth the drive from Tok just to check this place out. The other businesses here also offer their own unique attraction and as you can imagine this town is the place to find all manner of trinkets with a Chicken theme.
Moving on, we immediately hit the all-gravel road which varied from fair to poor condition. There were many tight bends and steep hills along the way. It was reported that several motorhomes had fallen off the edge of the road while pulling over to let people pass. You see, the edge of the road is really nothing more than uncompressed gravel that was pushed there by a grader. We hate it when our RV rolls down a mountainside, so really glad we took the car. We climbed to the top of the Top of the World highway, which is about where you encounter the U.S. – Canada border. After entering Canada we stopped for lunch at a beautiful overlook. The vistas along this 50-mile section of the road were immense – mountain ranges and massive valleys as far as the eye can see – WOW!
Although we did not complete the drive into Dawson City, we accomplished our goal of seeing and driving the Top of the World Highway and finally turned around for the long drive back home. It was a 12-hour drive that allowed us to view some fantastic parts of the US. and Canada that few see. And hey, it was kind of cool to drive out and have lunch in Canada! We turned around and headed back to Alaska, crossing back into the U.S. Since I had forgotten to eat my orange that I bought in Alaska and brought with me into Canada, I had to turn it in to the U.S. Customs folks. No fruits or vegetables can be brought in across this border 😦 On our way home we spotted only two wild animals. Steve was excited to spot a badger along the road, and several ptarmigans.
Back at our campground in Tok, we spent 4 nights this time through, so we could prepare our vehicles for the drive back down the tortuous roads of the Yukon. We’re hoping some road repairs have occurred since our trip through in June. We were very glad to have another sunny day so we could take a long bike ride and sit outside to do our blogging. We met Jerry, who built the Tok RV Village park that we stayed in. He talked about life in Alaska and how challenging it was to create a business here. It is definitely the best RV park in town – check it out when you come through!
Next up: Getting Ready to head back down the Alaska Highway