Are we ever fortunate to be summering in this part of Alaska. Last week Doug (Aliy's dad) and I took a mini vacation to the top of the world and beyond. The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race seemed to follow us all along the way.
We first drove from Two Rivers east to Tok, Alaska. Tok is the fueling and food point for SP's dog truck caravan when heading to Whitehorse, Canada, where the Quest starts in odd numbered years. Since Tok is the first major community encountered by northbound Alaska Highway travelers, 'Ma and Pa' motels, cafes and a few gas stations are concentrated here. Doug has made this trek in cold, dark, snowy February. But that is what the Quest is all about! It was sunny and 70 last week.
Then on to Chicken, Alaska, about 80 miles northeast of Tok on 'summer only' roads. Here miners seriously work gold claims and a small tourist business has sprung up. We stopped to spend the night in a cabin at the Chicken Gold Camp. We were greeted by a Yukon Quest sponsor banner and the former YQ Race Director managing check ins. The name 'Zirkle' prompted her to ask if we knew Aliy. And a long conversation ensued.
|Quest Sponsor banner and Doug in Chicken.|
|A great stop. Chicken Gold Camp is remote, clean and friendly.|
Our trip then took us on Alaska Route 5 and Yukon Route 9, better know as the 'Top of the World' Highway. The road winds upwards from the gold streams near Chicken, to a mountain top boarder crossing and through ridge-top meanderings in far northwest Canada. The 150 miles of 'highway' is narrow and mostly sealed gravel. This desolate mountain road is just south of the point where Allen will enter the US from Canada, on dog sled during the Quest, and head to the Eagle, Alaska checkpoint. There are no Customs Agents on duty where he crosses!
|US Customs House on Top of the World Highway|
It's just 65 miles from the boarder crossing to Dawson City, Yukon Territories and the spectacular Yukon River. This is where the Quest teams take their 36 hour mandatory rest at the local campground. Now the campground is home to tents, fishing boats and kayaks where Allen camped his team in snow drifts last February. And the mighty Yukon flows at a 5 to 8 knot pace where the 'ice bridge' links Dawson City to West Dawson in the winter months.
|Yukon River Campground with leaves, grass and sun|
We stayed two days in Dawson City and saw the Yukon Quest haunts - the visitors center, the checkpoint locale, the Downtown Hotel with its ever popular real beds, showers and laundromat. But most exciting was our trek over Parks Canada land and skinny, treacherous gold mining roads to the top of King Solomon's Dome. Those of you familiar with the Yukon Quest remember that this first mountain after the Whitehorse start is the highest on the race trail, at an elevation of 4002 feet. Our warm weather ridge climb in a peppy Nissan truck was breath taking and heart pounding. I can only imagine what Allen and his dog team experience up here in February.
|The mining road behind me is the Yukon Quest Trail. |
It leads to King Solomon's Dome, marked by antennas.
We are safely back home in Two Rivers now. There are more stories to tell but these are the ones that make us marvel at this extreme land and the folks that people the land. But even more, it makes me marvel at the courage and stamina of my children, Aliy and Allen, and their incomparable canine athletes.