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

Top of the World Highway Is Not For Everyone, But – Depending — It Could Be OK For You

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Highway passes through a land of little trees

Bert Gildart:  The distance between Chicken, Alaska, and Dawson City, Yukon Territory, is about 100 miles, but in that span you travel through some of North America’s most interesting country. You do, that is, if you can make it. At least that is what many told us.

Before departing, some said that if we valued our vehicle and our trailer the 100 miles over the Top of the World Highway could be some of the most devastating in the world.

“The road is chock full of fissures, and is nothing but a washboard-y nightmare.”

“The road travels a precipice,” said another. “The shoulders are soft and if you don’t stay right in the middle, you’re gone.”


DISILLUSIONED AIRSTREAMER

One fellow, pulling a single axle 21-foot Airstream said even more. He said that after completion of the drive he’d had to tighten up all of the nuts and bolts on his belly pan, and all the latches on the inside.

He said he’d broken the fresh-water drain value.

We’d had that problem elsewhere and long ago had asked our local RV shop back in Montana to install a shield. It has worked in Montana and later we discovered, Top of the World.


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We left Chicken bound for Dawson with trepidation. We departed about 10 that morning–trying before we left one more attempt at panning for gold. We’d become addicted.

SMOKE-FILLED THE AIR

As we drove, smoke filled the air from the 300-plus forest fires burning in the Fairbanks and Denali National Park and it often muted the sun, forcing us to drive slowly because of poor visibility. But smoke or no smoke, driving slowly was not a problem for us, and yet others had told us that if we didn’t hurry, we’d have no problem. “Just take it slow,” they cautioned. “Take it slow!”

Almost immediately the road out of Chicken began to climb and you enter what we call the land of little trees. Because of the height and because of the permafrost, the trees are stunted and often tilted, resulting from so much freezing and thawing. In that respect, they sometimes resembled the road over which we now traveled.

In places we encountered a bit of wash boarding, but found if we maintained our 15 miles an hour rate of travel that there was absolutely none of the chatter you encounter if you increase your speed.

Take it slow. Take it slow! And remember, that the road has hosted several  Airstream travel groups, and they have emerge successfully, but only because they traveled slowly.

WOLF AND MOOSE TRACK

As the road continued, we crossed bridges over beautiful streams and we stopped at several finding moose tracks and what we thought were wolf tracks. A fellow traveler coming toward us said that he had seen a wolf earlier in the morning. We saw several families who had set themselves up for a week of serious gold mining. We found several beautiful campgrounds and stopped at one for lunch.

Sometimes the road ascended, then dropped, but about mile 30 the road climbed above timber line, and here, the road proceed along a crest with shear drop offs. Several other RVs were traveling our direction and we stopped to let them pass. Another time, a maintenance worker slowed us, leaned out the window and said there was a large dump truck coming our direction and that we might want to wait at the first wide spot we found. “No problem,” we said, thanking the man.

Three hours after departing Chicken, we stopped to explore a cabin and some other trapping and mining artifacts. Then, a few miles later, we came to the border crossing, meaning we’d traveled about 40 miles.

REMOTE CROSSING

Certainly this must be the most remote crossing in North America, and was represented by several small buildings. A friendly uniformed lady greeted us and then asked the usual questions. Did we have aboard any drugs or liquor? “How about firearms? No? OK, then you can proceed,”  she said, adding a wave.


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Most every one we had talked to back in Chicken said that the Canadian side of the drive was the best, and that seemed true. At times we increased our speed to 40 and even 50 miles an hour. Still, there were places we slowed to 20. We stopped often to admire the scenery.

About 4 in the afternoon, we began a steep descent that soon took us to the banks of the Yukon River. There is no other way to get across other than by a small ferry, which is free and is operated by the government of Yukon. As we waited we saw an old stern-wheel paddle boat, plying the river as in days of old. It was a tour boat, but that was OK, for it set the scene for a chapter of some of the world’s most interesting and far-reaching American and Canadian history (something we’ll be learning more about in Skagway, Alaska).

Soon the ferry approached our side of the bank, angling against the power of the Yukon to keep the boat aligned with the bank so that the one RV and several vehicles could more easily disembark. Cautiously, we then drove from the dirt road and onto the boat, following precisely the directions of two Han Gwich’in Indian men. We were the only ones aboard and our 50-foot long truck and trailer combination fit with room to spare.

CITY HOME TO FAMOUS AUTHORS

About 10 minutes later, we drove off the ferry and into Dawson City. Once Jack London and Robert Service lived here and the town back dropped settings that later helped make both famous. Today the town is home to several thousand residents, and offers several campgrounds.

We drove the dirt streets of the town and pulled into one of the campgrounds, anxious to look over our trailer and truck. We soon learned that other than lots of dust, everything was in the same shape as when we departed Chicken.

We concluded that the difficulties were far overstated, at least for those who are willing to slow down. All totaled, our trip of about 100 miles took us about seven hours, including our many breaks. Sure, there’s another way to this historic gold mining town of Dawson City, but it’s about 800 miles longer. What’s more, if you don’t follow the Top of the World Highway, you’ll miss some of North America’s most interesting and beautiful scenery.

Travel slowly and we recommend Top of the World to most anyone.

NOTE: Strangely, we can post blogs but we have been unable to use our cell phone from either Chicken or Dawson. Even more strange is the fact that we can receive email but can not SEND email. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do so  from Whitehorse, and should be there by August 7th, Janie’s birthday!

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THIS TIME THREE YEARS AGO:

*Kayaking To Wreck of Francisco Morazan

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