Posts Tagged ‘Chicken’
An epic day, but we made it. 440kms doesn’t sound like a great distance, but over the roads we travelled today, it was. We went from Beaver Creek, Yukon to Dawson Creek, Yukon, in and out of Alaska like a boomerang.
The day broke crisp and clear, and stayed almost entirely cloudless the whole day. Things were stowed and we were on our way before long. By 9am (Alaska time) we crossed the border and drove in and our of low-lying fog. To our left was a massive valley, home of the Tetlin Wildlife Sanctuary. We stopped in a visitor’s centre and looked out over the fog-shrouded valley to the Nutzotin Mountains in the St. Elias.
We continued on this road – a vast qualitative improvement over the same route further east – about 80 miles to Tetlin Junction where we turned north and up the Taylor Highway. We climbed up into country made desolate by the spruce beetle; as far as you could see were dead, grey trees, looking like the landscape around Mt. St. Helens after it blew. There was some colour from the deciduous trees, but it felt bleak. The rolling hills and low mountains must have been beautiful just a few years ago.
We stopped at a pull-out next to some hunters scanning the landscape for caribou and moose. An unusual noise high in the sky got our attention, and we looked up to a cloud of sandhill cranes high in the sky, swirling and calling before wheeling to the south and flying away.
In the town of Chicken we had lunch next to an old mining dredge. The road west was heavily hit by flooding and landslides this spring, and by great fortune only just opened (we had confirmed by calling the Highways Department). The road was still in rough enough shape that we had to travel in a convoy with a pilot car. We drove in a small cluster of about six cars for around 25 miles over recently re-assembled roads. The area we passed through got more dramatic. We peered down precipitous slopes with rushing creeks below. The road was entirely gravel, so the group kicked up large clouds of dust.
Our pilot car retired at a junction. North it went to Eagle; we headed south towards Boundary and the Canadian border. The border post was one of the more dramatic I’ve seen. Apparently it is the most northerly land border in the US and Canada. It sits above the treeline among lichen-covered rocks.
The road we drove for the rest of our journey is called the Top of the World Highway, and this name is apt. As soon as we crossed the border, we drove a few hundred meters more to the summit of the pass, got out of the van and walked a short distance to a cairn. It was exhilarating. The mountains weren’t jagged and glaciated like those further south, but they had a grandness and openness; mountains rolled away in all directions, and the highway was draped like a thread off to the east.
We stayed at elevation for the next 90 or so kilometers, gasping at the landscape around us. The low sun (the golden hour for hours this far north) brought out all the relief and the colours. Heading east, the sun to our backs made it all the more dramatic. This area did not seem to suffer damage from the spruce beetle, so as we came among trees, they were healthy and green. The road was almost all gravel, and rough in places, so it was tiring driving, but it was one of the most amazing drives I’ve done.
It was not until we were about 10 or so kilometres from Dawson that we finally began to drop down. Around a bend the wide Yukon River appeared below us, and Dawson in the low sun. At the riverside a small ferry pulled up and lowered a gangway into the dirt and we drove on for a short ride across the swift current.
This are closing down fast for the season here, but we booked into a spot in an RV park across the Klondike River from town. Back in town we treated ourselves to a dinner out and the (Jack) London Grill: char for Kristi, a burger and beer for me. Back at the campground, a fox siting in the driveway just feet from us turned out to the be highlight of the evening.