And we passed! The past four days have truly been a challenge. The weather changed quite dramatically, we headed farther north, and we climbed substantially in elevation. Also, the road became very hilly and eventually turned to dirt and gravel. As you can imagine from these facts, we have been living adventurously these past days! Because you are reading this, you know we made it unscathed, and are now safe, happy, and warm in Dawson City.
Leaving Tok was a blast, literally, as we were blasted down the highway by a strong tailwind. It was a wondrous feeling to float practically effortlessly down the Alaska Highway. That all changed when we turned onto the Taylor Highway, where we immediately slowed to a crawl. The road dove up and down for the next 35 miles with lovely views of forests in various stages of recovery from forest fires. After lunch, eaten huddled below a turnout sheltered from the wind, we got very cold and had to run around in circles stomping our feet and clapping our hands. We likely looked just as crazy as we felt.
Eventually we reached the days highpoint, and then descended into camp on the banks of the West Fork of the 40 mile river (yes, that is actually the river’s name). We had enough water for dinner, but the campground had no extra for us. Then, there was a disastrous mishap during dish washing (oops), and we spilled it all. The river was far away, so we ended up filtering from a large puddle near our site. We were worried because the water was brown, even after a filter and a UV treatment, but we drank it anyways. It turns out that all the water in this area is brown!
The only other camper there came to chat with us and warn us of the conditions on the Top of the World highway. We nodded… but of course we knew we would carry on regardless!
We rode up and down hills into the teeny tiny ‘town’ of Chicken, Alaska. In truth, it is a post office that is open 2 days a week, and three businesses that each claim to be the ‘true’ Chicken. In the end, we went to Beautiful Downtown Chicken, which wasn’t actually open yet, but luckily the cook there was willing to make us burgers on wheat bread and serve up some chicken soup. This place was a riot, and it was a blast to hear the characters coming through there.
For example, the cook was talking to a miner passing through and told the story of the last time he used a satellite phone, when it cost $7 per minute. He was on an isolated lake on a hunting trip and ran out of alcohol. He called his buddy, instructed him to go to his house and pick up a plastic bottle full of vodka, then tie something red on it and fly over the lake to drop it in the water. Apparently, hunting is impossible without vodka!
After Chicken it was all dirt road but in excellent condition, at least until the next day when we began to climb into the hills towards the US-Canada border.
We camped just about 20 miles from Chicken. The next day we would start the loooong climb to the US-Canada border, and from there embark on Top of the World to Dawson City. That, however, is a post for tomorrow!