Having ‘done Dawson’ we drove away from the mighty Yukon River under still grey and heavy skies across the ‘Top of the World Highway’. Heavily promoted for its magnificent views, this road follows the route of what was an old pack trail out of Dawson City after the gold rush. Once also known as the ‘Ridge Road’, it has been upgraded many times and is now a generally smooth packed dirt road which when the weather allows we have no doubt would be spectacular. Not for us though, the clouds preventing any significant views.
It’s along this road that we crossed the border into Alaska proper. (You may remember we did cross into Alaska briefly, further south at Hyder). The joint US / Canada crossing makes the formalities pretty seamless and not much time was spent here. The road, still in good condition, winds and climbs its way pleasantly through the pines, spruce, elms, aspen and alders, crossing swiftly flowing creeks and past old mining activity, past the turn off to the town of Eagle and on to the town of Chicken – we kid you not!
Chicken makes the most of the name with a variety of stores selling every conceivable chicken related item you could ever think of. The origin of the name – apparently early miners wanted to call their town ptarmigan, after the bird that is common in the area, but they couldn’t spell it… hence Chicken! (We didn’t make this up!)
The day ended in a campground in Tok, a major intersection with roads heading west to Fairbanks or southeast to Anchorage. After some discussion based on local information that Peter and Barb had gleaned from some Tok locals, the decision was to leave our visit to Fairbanks till later in the trip with the hope of maybe seeing the Northern Lights which sometimes appear as early as late August.
And so we headed towards Valdez.