Alaska at last
August 5, 2009, Dawson City Yukon, There is a strong pioneer feel to this small town. The streets are dirt except for the gravel Front Street which runs along the Yukon River. The wooden sidewalks and buildings refurbished in the style of the 1890's adds to the flavor. The poetry of Robert Service comes to life here. We heard a wonderful recitation of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and other pieces in front of Services' cabin by a Canadian Park Service employee, in 1890's gentleman's attire. The costumes are worn by government employees in the various historical stops in town and helps take you back to that time.
The heat wave finally broke but unfortunately there have been dozens of fires in the Yukon and Alaska sparked by dry lighting. As we headed out of Dawson City, a heavy layer of smoke hid the sun and the distant mountains from view. A bit of a blessing perhaps, the Top of the World Highway was our route to Alaska. This narrow, rough, primarily gravel road, has no guard rails and travels over the top of a series of mountain ridges for its 79 miles. It was kind of nice not to see the sheer drop offs but of course we didn't get to see the spectacular views either. Made it to the Alaska border with no problems--glad that we were the lead vehicle on the highway so everyone could eat our dust instead of vice versa. Entered our first Alaska town, Chicken (pop. 200) The sun had returned and the local cafe served tasty apple and rhubarb pies (but Dawson Peak is still #1). Spent our first night in Tok, AK at a camp next to the Tok River. This small town is a big hub for Alaskan visitors entering from the Yukon. Miles of land nearby show evidence of the 1990 fire that nearly devastated the town.
Decided to move toward Fairbanks, in spite of the massive fires SW of the city. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision. On our way we discovered Quartz Lake and set up camp. Leaving the vehicle the next morning to go fishing, we were surprised to find a mom and calf moose munching on vegetation just about 100 feet away from us. Slipped out onto the lake with a small rental boat in the choppy morning waters, but we were still able to catch 7 trout, lost 3--of course one of the ones that got away was the proverbial "big one". On our way back to shore, a bald eagle swooped down low overhead. We had hit the trifecta.
Moving into Fairbanks, we have lost the sun again. Heavy smoke over the city, and upon rising this morning there is ash descending on our camp. Time to head out.