Ken's Journal
No. 5 - Summer 2005

Chicken, Alaska & Dawson City, Yukon
July 6-9, 2005 - Days 36-39 on the road. Part I.

Somewhere on the road between Kenny Lake and Tok, we lost the transfer case on the Jeep. Our original intention was to leave the Motorhome in Tok and take the Jeep on a circuit through Chicken and Eagle, AK, Dawson City, Yukon, Whitehorse, Yukon and back to Tok. This would have been a difficult journey to accomplish in the week or so we had before Lesley was scheduled to fly out via Anchorage. Without the Jeep, it would be impossible. So with just the Motorhome, we decided to take on the roads and see how far we could get before we had to turn around and come back.

PS - The Jeep is fine now. I picked it up in Tok on my way through on 7/18 after dropping Lesley at the Anchorage Airport on 7/14. The only remaining problem was a faulty speed sensor. The parts people sent the wrong sensor twice. I wasn't about to wait for them to send the third wrong one so I continued my travels. When I got to Fairbanks, I ordered one through the Chrysler dealer there and he had me one from Portland in just three days. I installed it and the Jeep works just fine now - some $2500 later - the cost of travel.

On the road to Chicken - the Taylor Highway. This road runs north from Tok to a border crossing and on to Dawson City. Chicken is just 78 miles from Tok - the last few miles are unpaved. There is nothing between Tok and Chicken - no other habitation, no nothing. From Chicken to the boarder is 42 miles and Dawson City is another 68 miles - including crossing the Yukon River on the ferry.

We've arrived. Why Chicken? Well, legend has it that the early miners wanted to name their town after the Ptarmigan, a locally common bird in the Grouse family, but they couldn't agree on the spelling so named the town Chicken instead - the nickname of the bird.

Downtown Chicken - a mercantile (gift store), a liquor store, a bar and a cafe - the cafe is equipped with internet access via WiFi - when the generator runs that is. There are no public utilities this far from civilization - no telephone, no sewer, etc. Downtown Chicken is for tourists. The real Chicken, perhaps a half-dozen year-round residents and 30 or so during the summer, live in a few houses just across the road.

Lesley in the bar - the ceiling is festooned with hats, flags, bras and other stuff left by past patrons. The beer was good, but we left nothing!!

The road closes in the winter and is not opened again until April or so when the first plow comes through. The record cold temperature here is -85 Fahrenheit. You really need to be self-sufficient to winter over.


Just down the road from Downtown Chicken is the RV Park. Here, as in Downtown Chicken, the electric runs from 7AM to 7PM - WiFi Internet is available here too - see the dish just behind the roof on the right.

This is why Chicken is here - Gold. For $5 you can pan all day in the paydirt provided by the management of the Park. Although there are no large commercial gold mining operations left in the area, there are several small claims still being worked. The owners of the RV Park have a claim they still work and claim the RV Park is just part-time. I suspect the park is what really puts the bread on the table.

Hopefuls -

This young lady had been panning for a few hours and had recovered a few flakes of gold worth perhaps $5 - so that works out to about $1 an hour - perhaps that's why there all the large commercial operations left the area.

This is where the real gold is in Chicken (and the rest of Alaska for that matter) - Tourists!! These were on a Princess or Gray Line tour bus that brought them up from Eagle. They're on their way to Anchorage or Fairbanks. The way the tour works is they come into Skagway, AK on a Cruise ship, take a bus to Dawson City, Yukon, then take a riverboat down the Yukon river to Eagle, AK and then on to Anchorage or Fairbanks by bus. The tours run in both directions. This same bus dropped off a group in Eagle to take the riverboat back up the Yukon to Dawson City. Chicken Susan, who owns Downtown Chicken, is famous for her pies, blueberry muffins and other delicious pastries. The buses stop at her Cafe for these delicacies three times a week during the season.

Here, the tourists wait in line to use the "facilities" - a four holer. I'm sure that after the trip from Eagle in a large tour bus over the primitive dirt road - they need it.

Typically there are two tour buses at a time and they are led by a "lead car" that runs interference on the sharp curves - some so sharp the buses have to do a "K" turn. We decided not to take the RV to Eagle.

This is the Pedro Dredge and when last in operation, worked the Chicken Creek from 1959 to 1967.

Briefly, in operation a dredge floats in a small pond and "dredges" the gravel from the bottom and sluices the gravel for gold. What's left, the tailings, are deposited behind the dredge by way of this conveyer. Basically, by taking the gravel from the front and moving it to the back, a dredge moves it's pond upstream as it works.

So this is the back of the dredge - more on dredges when we get to Dawson City!

Next, Dawson City, Yukon
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