Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Chicken Alaska Has Cachet

©Bert Gildart: Chicken, Alaska, is 66 miles from Tok, but seeing it is must-do side trip for anyone driving the Alcan. In fact, visiting it may give you bragging rights that places you on an even keel with some of those obnoxious travel bullies.

Chicken was immortalized in the book Tish, a story concerning a young woman who taught for a period of time in this remote village, established because of a gold discovery. As you can probably imagine, the tiny settlement has an earthy atmosphere, the product of having been founded by gold miners.

Chicken, according to a local handout was called “Chicken” because the original settlers couldn’t spell ptarmigan. Ptarmigan were also called chicken, so that’s how “the town” got its name.


Chicken Creek Saloon, the hub of Chicken, Alaska

If you make the trip, you will probably learn during your visit that the “town” of about 30 has no flush toilets. Hub of the community is the Chicken Saloon, and when you walk inside the thousands of baseball caps tacked on the wall and ceiling capture your attention. They represent almost every state in the country and most foreign countries as well – so you’re already in good company.


The bar tender was friendly and told us everything pretty well shuts down come winter, and that occasionally, temperatures can dip to 80 or 85 below Fahrenheit. The road also shuts down and those that remain rely on plane services for emergency. He said that in winter that’s the only real way in and out.

Wildlife adds to the excitement and our friendly bartender said that in the course of a year he’s tallied black and grizzly bears, caribou, moose (we saw one on the way in), weasels, rabbits, lynx, and wolves. Occasionally, he said, bears stroll through town.


We made the drive yesterday (traveling from Tok) and we made it in part because many told us that the hillsides are alive with fireweed, and that certainly proved to be the case. The species is one that requires heat in order for its seeds to germinate, and that source was provided about five years ago when fire ravaged hundreds of acres between Tok and Chicken. If the flames had been fanned a little harder, the town might not exist today.


Hills were alive with the color from fireweed

And so we had spectacular color on the way to Chicken, and when we arrived, we discovered that the residents had taken the concept of the chicken and run with it. The visitor outhouse was called the Chicken Poop Outhouse, and tee shirts were emblazoned with a chicken popping out of a shell, saying “I got laid in Chicken.” Judging from the number of shirts available, the item is an immensely popular item – appearing I’m sure, through out the world as a garment of sophistication and much distinction.  (Don’t ask if we bought one!)

This was not my first time to Chicken, and in fact, I made the trip in 2001 with Burns Ellison, a good friend of mine. We were on our way to Dawson City and eventually to the Arctic Ocean along the McKenzie River with my johnboat. (We made it!) We stopped in Chicken and then continued on what was then a gravel road – over the Top of the World Highway – to the Canadian border, where we were stopped and asked the usual questions about drugs, alcohol and firearms. The lady then asked us if we’d ever smoked dope. We shook our heads vigorously, and she laughed, asking, “Well would you tell me if you had?”


Chicken capitalizes on everything, in this case its outhouse known as the "Chicken Poop".

This is a relatively isolated area of Alaska, and when I told Janie about the crossing Burns and I had experienced, she hypothesized that this border crossing just 40 miles away must be the most remote in America. Certainly it was laid back, but I doubt it is that way now – eight years after 9-11.


Janie and I spent the afternoon rambling around Chicken, watching a couple of men pan for gold, then looking for the small school in which Tish once taught. Unlike my experience of several years ago, there’s now an RV park, and the road here was no worse than the Alaskan Highway. When Burns and I drove the road, it was all gravel.

Certainly, if you have a chance while in the area, it’d be worth your stop; it would give you bragging rights. Consider! When all those travel bullies start bragging about having been to the Grand Cayman, Mazatlan, or Cancun, you can puff out your chest and say, well we’ve just returned from Chicken?

This is beautiful country, and in my book, that goes a long way. Chicken has cachet.



*Wildflowers and Nikon Strobes



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