The Top of the World Highway (and Chicken, Alaska)

Several things came together this week to give me an excuse to drive the Top of the World Highway from West Dawson to Chicken, Alaska today!

My neighbour is moving to Anchorage and wanted a spotter behind her rig (a very nice Airstream) in case she ran into problems on this reputably rough road. She had driven the Top of the World before and knew that there is pavement shortly after Chicken and that Chicken is doable as a day trip from Dawson. So, not having had a day off since I got back from the Chilkoot and wanting to go to Alaska in memory of my dad who would have been 60 on the 24th, I found myself with ample excuses to go for a drive. Dad loved to go for drives and he would have enjoyed today’s trip so much!

The Canadian portion of the road is easy, mostly paved with a few gravel sections. The US side is essentially a dirt road, but we got lucky in that it had just been graded. Lately, people have been arriving at the campground from that road with their nerves fully frayed, but there was none of that today. The weather wasn’t the greatest, but I preferred a bit of mist and drizzles to having to keep my eyes glued to the road!

We left at about 10:30 and got lucky at the ferry, being able to drive on immediately. This was my first time since childhood going onto a ferry with a vehicle and it was good practise for this fall when I go to Vancouver Island! It was a most peculiar sensation to be moving forward without pressing any pedals!

It took us two and a half hours to get to the border at Poker Creek. She sailed through surprisingly quickly. I was asked where home is and it was lovely to not have to skirt around the question and reply “Dawson City.” He asked me where I was going and then why when I replied “Chicken”, shrugging when I said “Just to say I’ve been.”

It’s 40 miles from the border to Chicken and it took us almost two hours to get there as we followed two identical fifth wheels that exercised an overabundance of caution (not that I can blame them). We stopped at the new gift shop to get a free chicken (think keychain-sized plucked rubber chicken!) promised to us if we presented a brochure signed by the manager here. We then continued on to ‘downtown Chicken’, which includes a couple of very nice outhouses, a kitschy gift shop, a saloon, a chicken coop, and a café offering pretty good grub. Chicken has a year round population of 15, no flush toilets or phones, children are home schooled, the injured are medivacced to Fairbanks, and the old grump has left town. It’s an interesting place that had me hearing dueling banjos, if you get my drift…

The drive back was much quicker, even though I stopped at the pitifully few pull-outs to get pictures and to marvel that I was there, in mainland Alaska. It’s been an incredible summer!

The re-entry into Canada was easy as the border guard was a French-starved québécoise more interested in chatting about how long Dawson has been home than in whether I was trying to smuggle anything into the country. She did get around to asking me if I had any booze (no). It was surreal to cross from Alaska to Yukon in French!

About 75km shy of Dawson, I passed a couple of cyclists who seemed to be having tire issues. At first, they tried to convince me that they were fine, but the more they thought about my offer of a lift, the more it obviously appealed to them. They had doubts that all their gear would fit in my car, but I had every confidence it would. Check out the pictures for proof! 😀

We had a good chat as we continued on to Dawson, amused by the added serendipity that they were picked up by a fellow French speaker (he’s French, she’s German). They had planned to camp in West Dawson, but were happy to come here, to Bonanza Gold, when I told them that we have hot showers and laundry facilities!

The ferry crossing took no time at all, but it was 8:30 when we got back to Dawson. I suggested that getting food would be a good idea and they offered to treat me since I’ll be driving them around a bit tomorrow to find parts for their bikes. I think the dump will be a good place to start looking!

Today exemplified why I love this life so much; each morning is full of possibility for adventure and new encounters. Days like this just didn’t happen when I was doing the daily grind in Gatineau.

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  • […] Last night, I met at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s the cyclists I picked up on Friday. […]

  • […] years later, I had Tijuana in mind as I told an Alaskan customs officer that I was going to Chicken for the day just to say I’d […]

  • […] holds, I may decide to do something impossibly bold and arrive in Dawson from the west, via the Top of the World Highway, so as to see southwest Yukon and spend some time in Alaska. Having driven the TotWH I feel that I […]

  • […] I really want to go back there one afternoon. S and I can’t decide which place is cooler, the bar in Chicken or the marina in Indianola. It’s awesome to meet fellow travelers who have been to the same […]

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