We’re leaving the motel.
The firemen just left too, relieving their colleagues from the night shift.
Before we set off, we take a breakfast in the Northstar Restaurant. A big wall painting shows a landscape with the text of Alaska’s hymn :
“Eight stars of gold on a field of
Alaska’s flag. May it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky.
The mountain lakes, and the flow’rs nearby ;
The gold of the early sourdough dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams ;
The brilliant stars in the northern
The “Bear” - the “Dipper” - and, shining high,
The Great North Star with its steady light,
Over land and sea a beacon bright,
Alaska’s flag - to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier.”
The breakfast exceeded my expectations, ‘Today’s Breakfast Special: French toast with two slices of bacon for $3.99’.
While settling up the friendly but
curious waitress comes around for a chat.
“Well, where are you heading to ?”, she asks.
“To Dawson”, I say.
“Oh, then you are going to gamble ! It’s not difficult, you know, just hit the jackpot !”
Before we can explain that these kind of games are not in our nature and that we came here for the magnificent countryside, she is already serving another table.
We pass by in Tok’s Visitor Center. Very surprising for this quiet small village is this modern and instructive museum about Alaska’s history, from Native Eskimo’s and Stampeders, to wildlife and the fight against forest fires.
We are driving in an area outside Tok that was destroyed by fires in June 1990. There already is some green between carbonized trunks : grass, ferns, and small willows and birches. It can take up to 50 years to have a full-grown forest again.
Tetlin Junction. To the sound of Radio Moose we turn left to the Taylor Highway, a gravel but in good condition.
With Jimi Hendrix’ “All along the Watch Tower” on the radio and a raising clouds of dust behind us we feel unapproachable.
Oops, A two-car traffic-jam for a road construction. Someone who thought that a gravel doesn’t need repair is wrong.
A flagman, actually a woman, tells us that we will have to wait another ten minutes for the pilot car whe will lead us through the road construction.
The radio is excellent today. With Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” (very appropriate) we follow the pilot car on the highway that leads us to the Top of the World Highway in Canada.
In the meantime the sun breaks through the clouds again, it makes the view even more enjoyable.
Mount Fairplay Viewpoint.
The sky is grey again and the clouds are low, so Mt. Fairplay is not visible.
Mosquito Fork, a few miles before Chicken.
In this godforsaken place canoes and rafts can launch for a trip on the Forty Mile River.
From a notice board, we get the advise not to drink from the water : the parasite Giardia Lambdia can cause a lot of trouble, in particular stomach cramps, nausea and heavy diarrhea. In one term they call it here ‘beaver fever’.
A Yellow Warbler skims over our lunch, hoping we leave him some crumbs.
Jack Wade Dredge.
An uninitiated traveler would call this historical site an piece of scrap. This strange construction is actually a dredge to search for gold. In fact, we are in the middle of the Gold Rush territory. Thanks to the sourdoughs, the first pioneers of the gold fever, we now have an easy drive on a gravel through the bush. The gold rush has disappeared long since, the sourdoughs to, but the Taylor Highway still does the job for which it was built, a passage to Dawson City.
For the first time during this trip we have to use the windshield wipers, a brief shower.. There is no dust blown up by the wind anymore, but the car gets a thick cake of mud.
On our left the road to Eagle, we take rightwards to Canada and Dawson City.
“Welcome to Yukon, Canada.”
We drive in a desolate landscape with some scattered snowfields. The rain has stopped but the threatening clouds are still there.
While waiting for the customs officer at
the border crossing point, we watch a marmot beside the road. We jump
out of our skin when she taps on the window at the other side of the car.
She puts a stamp on our passport and we may continue on our way.
We are at 65 miles or 105 km from Dawson on the Top of the World Highway, the Canadians definitely like more adventurous names.
All traffic signs here indicate kilometers in stead of miles. A large notice leaves no doubt. So we can’t explain to a Mountie that we thought the indication was in miles. The maximum speed is 90 km/h, that is 55 mph in Alaska.
Fortunately, our Chevy’s speedometer has both scales.
It’s raining heavily now.
Due to the poor visibility it seems that we really are on the top of the world. On our left, there must be the North pole and to our right there must be some mountains of which we only can see a slope with rocks, low cover and spruce trees.
The gravel highway twists his way through this deserted landscape. Once, there seems no end to it, later on it looks like if we are really at the end of the world.
We are standing on the bank of the Yukon River. Across the river lies Dawson City. The ferry, that just comes in, takes about ten cars. The crossing is free of charge that’s a welcome bonus.
The Yukon is a wide river at this place, about 100 meters, I guess. It’s an enormous stream that gets a lot of tributaries in Alaska. The meanwhile well-known Chena River is one of them.
We are checking in in the Midnight Sun Hotel. Generally, it’s not worth the effort to tell something about hotels and other buildings, but here we have to make an exception.
Almost all houses are built in the Far West style, like we know them from western-movies . Charming colors like burgundy, yellow, pink and pale blue decorate the wooden façades. In addition, they carry sounding names like Klondike Kate’s, Downtown Hotel en Dawson Daily News.
The rain has transformed the streets in a mud bath. Only the footways, elevated wooden platforms, are able to keep our shoes somewhat clean. But crossing the street is a real nightmare.
The restoration work has made from this
town one big building industry, a lot of houses have scaffoldings, to
reconstruct them in their original view.
The roofs are mainly covered with zinc or corrugated iron, a thunderous clatter when it rains.