Friday, June 14, 2013

Top O' of Morning from the Top O' the World! (aka Dawson City, Y.T., to Chicken, AK)

We spent the night in Dawson City and in the morning we got up and did a little more exploring. The guys went down to the ferry dock while we girls were putzing around. We had been told to be up early at the ferry crossings because there would be a line up. As it was, there was no one in line and not too many at any one time during the day. I do suppose it has to do with the timing of our trip. Everywhere we go, we are told we are about two weeks ahead of the caravans. I'm not sorry to miss that mess. The George Black Ferry across the Yukon at Dawson City is the only way to cross without going back to Whitehorse. That is about a 1200+km trip! No thanks.

We did a little shopping for essentials, then we all got in MinnieMee and took the road out of town and up to the “Midnight Dome.” This is a road that winds up on top of the mountain above the town. I think it's the same range that has the “Moosehide Slide” I mentioned in yesterday's post. One can see for miles and miles from that vantage point. It was nothing but spectacular views all around. You can see the Yukon River and a lot of the mining as the road leads into town. You can easily see all the “trailings” which are created by the process of dredging the waterways looking for gold. It's quite interesting to see. It certainly lays waste to a lot of ground. Now the town of Dawson City is building subdivisions on top of the trailings which just appear to be large hills of rocks.

After returning to town from the mountain top excursion, we drove down to the ferry to wait in line. We had planned another day here, but we found out Chicken, Alaska, our next stop, is hosting “ChickenStock,” a two-day event and campsites would be hard to come by. It's a long, arduous road from Dawson City to Chicken, so we decided to go a day early so that we would be gone by the time the crowds arrived.

Once we crossed the ferry, we drove down the river to the Yukon Provincial Park. My friend from, Sue.t, had told us about a “sternwheeler graveyard” in this area. When the heyday of the riverboats came to a close, there was a dilemma of what to do with them. So they placed them in “drydock” along the river's edge. There they still sit, exposed to the elements and rotted down. Sue had posted pictures on her blog a few years ago and I had read it. My interest was piqued and I wanted to see it. The problem is that normally the river is down far enough that one can walk along the riverfront at the water line and view the boats a short walk later. Since the river is still higher than normal, the waterfront walk was pretty much out. I wanted to see it badly enough I was willing to hike the trail. So Tab said he would go with me. My only regret is that we didn't take my bear spray. I wasn't even worried till Tab mentioned “bears.” Fortunately we didn't see any or even hear them. We hiked through some pretty dense woods and it was muddy and wet part of the way. We had put on our “wet shoes” which was smart. Just about the time I was ready to give up and go back I saw something. I was pretty excited. Tab and I tromped through the wreckage. He actually climbed up on top of a couple, but I stayed down below and explored. We found a paddlewheel that was largely intact with the boards missing. But the framework was there allowing you a good look at it. We know that we were looking at four different boats. Further on through the forest was another group of them, but we were not aware of that until we got back and looked at the leaflet. We probably would not have ventured deeper into the woods without some sort of bear spray. It was a pretty cool experience and I am glad we made it a point to go.

Once back in the car we started up the “Top of the World Highway.” Basically I would say that this road is bad and gets worse. Hah. Once again, it was a great trip. One hundred miles. . . some is paved. The Canadian side is much, much better than the American/Alaska side. Part is paved, part is gravel, part has been washed out, part has been repaired, part is soft sand, etc. . . you get the picture. My friend Sue has always said it is 100 miles and FOUR hours. Do the math. . . that's 25 miles per hour. If you make it quicker. . . shame on you. It took us every bit of four hours. One section was extremely bad. There was a lot of work going on in the area, lots of big road equipment. There was just one lane through and Tab was leading. I couldn't see that far ahead, but when he pulled over to the side, so did I. Turns out two 18-wheelers were coming down the mountain and there was just one lane. We allowed all that traffic to pass, then pulled out to take the one lane up the hill. It was soft sand in a couple places. You couldn't get a running start and the one side dropped off down the side, so you had to go through it. Once my front tires plowed through it, I sped up a bit to get my rear tires through it. You do a little slip sliding, but we made it fine. I would not have wanted to try to take Phaeton Place through it, that's for sure. MinnieMee is doing just great. She is going everywhere we need her to go and getting there in good shape. We are really happy with her.

Top of the World Highway must have gotten its name from the fact that you run up on top of the mountains with incredible views all around. It truly does make you feel like you are on the top of the world. While I don't intend to take the road again, I am glad we did it this time. The scenery was breathtaking. Traffic? Hardly any. Again, we had heard horror stories of people squeezing through on the road. There are very few guard rails and sometimes the drop offs are scary. Other times it's like driving through a meadow. There was still snow up high and we could see how high it had been. I think when we started this trip on May 20, this road was still closed and they were working to get it open. It is closed all winter and only opens for spring/summer/fall traffic. There is some evidence of activity on the road and work camps. Some is mining, other is road construction.

We finally hit the border into Alaska late in the afternoon. What a relief. . . or so we thought. We found the roads on the U.S. side were in very poor condition and had to drive even slower. But we eventually made it to Chicken, Alaska, our destination for the night. We were able to get a power site, which we didn't think was available, with ChickenStock starting on Friday. We toured the other camps and settled on a deli sandwich for supper since is was already close to 7 p.m. It's getting brighter out at night. There is actually no night anymore. . . it is entirely light outside all night. At 11:00 when we went to bed it was as bright as noon. We have to wear our “blinders” at night or we wouldn't be able to sleep at all!

Tab has been panning for gold while we are here. He's found a few flakes, but I don't think he's gotten rich yet. LOL We have no internet here. In fact, everything in Chicken is run by generators because they have no services here.

Today we drive 78 miles to Tok. Hopefully we can get a full service camp there for a day. I'm ready for a nap already!

Till next time. . .


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