Top of the World
Our route took us down the Richardson and Alaska Highways to Tok, up the Taylor Highway to Chicken, then we joined the Top of the World Highway at the Eagle turnoff. The road along the Richardson was an easy trip with a few picture stops and pull outs with information about the gold rush days. The Taylor highway was a steep climb into the mountains. It was paved for the first 15 or so miles and then it was fair gravel. The views deep into the valleys were striking and a bit unnerving as there are no guard rails.
Chicken is an old gold town – summer population 23, winter 7. You can still pan for gold there or take a tour of an old gold dredge. The town consists of 2 RV parks and gift shop-restaurants, an air strip, and “downtown” Chicken – a restaurant and mercantile with free camping or rooms for $25 at the hotel. The Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost had a very nice gift shop that had top quality Alaskan crafts as well as kitsch (everything chicken), probably made in China. Chicken got its name when miners in the area (probably over a beer or something stronger) were trying to settle on a name for the town. They agreed upon “Ptarmigan” (after the state bird), but no one could agree on the spelling, so they decided on “Chicken,” which is what everyone calls the ptarmigan anyway. The name stuck.
After leaving Chicken we followed the river for a while where we saw people dredging and panning for gold, and then we climbed even further on gravel roads until about 15 miles before the Canadian border we came to a brand new paved road — so smooth and relatively wide. What an unexpected surprise. We still had to keep our speed down since it was so winding, but the lack of potholes and washboard was much appreciated.
We cleared customs with no issues and continued on– incredible views with roadside-snow from time to time. We stopped for the night at a roadside pullout that had a large rock formation that we climbed for even a better view. It certainly felt as if we were on top of the world.