Friday, July 4, 2008

Alaska '08 Day 23, Dawson to Tok

Fri July 4, 2008

We left to catch the ferry around 8:30, I didn't want to get stuck in too big of a line. We hit it right, we waited for 3 ferries, maybe 20 minutes, there were 3 campers and 2 semi trucks ahead of us. The semis go on the ferry alone.

The Top of the World Highway is amazing. I don't remember too much of this highway from '82. On the Canadian side the highway is paved most of the way and follows a ridgeline mostly windswept of trees. The border patrol said that in May and August they have caribou all over the place. In the summer the caribou have all moved north. The last part of the Canadian side is dirt but it is graded, wide and mostly smooth.

On the US side the road drops down into a valley and follows a river and the road changes. Instead of being straight and high on a ridge line it is turns and hills. The road is rough. It looks like there is a heavy stone base for the road and in lots of places the road is warn down to the base. There are heavy washboards, blind turns and many very narrow places. I had to stop twice to allow oncoming traffic to pass. The most narrow/blind part is the part after Walker Fork. The road climbs the side of a valley and it is a lane and a half wide with a steep roll off and many blind hills and turns. I met a semi along here and a group of campers. I stopped for the truck driver so he could pass and he barely slowed down, he knew exactly how much lane is truck took. As for passing campers well some just come as close as they can to you. The US side is paved south of Chicken but is full of potholes and frost heaves. I could average about 25 mph in the US gravel and maybe 35 mph on the paved part until we were 20 or 30 miles south of Chicken.

I am glad we drove the Top of the World but I wouldn't want to have to go back through there anytime soon. The Top of the World is a great drive but the US side is nothing to see and really scary/bad road. But if you were to turn around and go back at the US border you would go 400 miles south to Whitehorse and from there you would be 400 miles to Tok so this was the shortest route.

We stopped in Chicken at the Gold Panner and "downtown", both just tourist traps. The "downtown" is rough looking but what I remember of ALCAN tourist traps. From Chicken to Tetlin Junction (ALCAN) is a long drive through nothing, no one lives out here. The area from the border to Chicken has been mined for gold and in places still is being mined today.

Once you hit Tetlin Junction you turn onto the ALCAN and the road is great. Once you hit Tok you also hit civilization, there are a lot of people living in this area. We made it into Tok about 5PM (9 hours on the road to go 188 miles) and stay at the Sourdough Campground. They had a 4th of July picnic with free salmon and country music! I bought some "reindeer on a stick", tasted like kielbasa. In the morning they have all you can eat sourdough pancakes.

186 miles today.

4547 miles so far.
- Jon


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