We are back in the U.S.A. In fact, we were welcomed back “home” by the border customs officer as we entered back into the US on Thursday. We enjoyed our drive across the rest of the Top Of The World Highway as the views truly are spectacular. (One runs out of adjectives after a while!)
When we saw the border station come into view as we rounded a bend we all gave a shout for joy – almost to Alaska! Clearing through customs was a piece of cake, although Hilary and I were chastised for having not signed our Passports yet. Hmm – still not signed. We will have to do that before we head back to Canada.
I had read a lot about the road conditions on the Top of The World Highway and honestly we found them to be very good. Waiting a day after wet weather is definitely the thing to do. The road dries out nicely without being too dry and dusty. The Alaska portion is fully paved and in really good condition. Once the Top of the World Hwy ends one has to get on to the Taylor Hwy to head south down through Chicken and on to Tok, AK. The Taylor Hwy was in very rough shape. We averaged about 30 mph until we reached the paved portion about 50 – 60 miles from the Alaska Hwy. The road was also very dry and dusty. We had dust everywhere inside the bus and in the vents of the Jeep. Along the way we saw evidence of a lot of mining activity. I even saw two guys sitting on 5 gallon buckets panning for gold.
Of course, no trip down the Taylor Hwy is complete without a stop at the town of Chicken. The story goes that the founders wanted to call the town Ptarmigan, but couldn’t agree on how to spell the word. So, they settled for Chicken. The famous “Chicken” statue is made up of hundreds of locker doors from the Homer, AK school district. Chicken boasts a winter population of 7 and a summer population of 23!
Chicken also has an old dredge on display as well.
After Chicken we continued south until we were back on the Alaskan Hwy and heading west again. We stopped in Tok for fuel, dump, fresh water refill, a quick spray down wash, and a visit to the visitor center.
Following diner we headed south out of Tok on the Tok cutoff – Alaska HWY 1. We stopped for the night about 20 miles south of Tok. A few minutes after we stopped we heard a truck honking his horn after he passed the pull off we were staying at. Years ago I got in the habit of honking my horn whenever I see wildlife in the ditches as it is usually effective in getting them to head off into the forest/brush instead of onto the Hwy. I immediately thought that was why the trucker had honked his horn and thought out loud to Hilary – probably “just” a dumb whitetail deer. A few minutes later we walked up towards the highway and stood looking at the view of the mountains to the south of us along the Hwy. Less than a minute later a cow moose came out of the forest on the up hill side and started walking across the highway. She saw us and stopped to look at us (we were down wind from her.) After gazing at us a few minutes she continued across and down the hillside into the forest. She was just far enough away my cell phone camera did a poor job of capturing her. Still, we saw a moose in AK!
Friday we continued south on the Tok Cutoff Hwy and then headed into Wrangell St Elias to see if we could find any hikes to do. The visitor center/ranger station staff was very friendly and we were soon headed into the park with three great hike recommendations. We ended up voting for the Skookum Volcano hike. This is a pretty ambitious hike since it gains 2,000′ of elevation across the 2.5 mile distance up and into the long dormant volcano. I am very pleased to say Hilary and the girls all made it to the top of the pass! It was a very emotional sense of accomplishment to be at the top of this mountain with my wife who just a few short months ago would never have dreamed she could do something like this again. AWESOME!
Below are lots of pictures from the hike. Many are pictures of flowers and rocks we saw along the hike because Hilary loves flowers, rocks, pine cones, sticks, cool trees, roots, branches, etc.!
At the top of the formal trail one can hike up the crest of the ridgeline to the west and get an even more expansive view of the surroundings. I just had to do the hike! It was WAAAAY up there!
Below: The trail head is WAAY down below just about at the center of the picture. The main road goes from upper left to lower right and the “line” from the middle of the picture to lower left is the creek bottom the trail mostly followed up into the volcano.
Today we are taking it easy. Granola and bread have been made and are on the cooling racks. The vacuuming and cleaning is done. School corrections have been caught up on and an English test is done. Email is getting caught up on. Reading time is calling and now the skies are starting to clear while the rain has stopped – hopefully. We may head back up deeper into the park to hike another trail today. This one is much shorter at only 1.5 miles long and only 400′ of elevation gain.
Total Bus Miles: 5,906
- Thursday, 6/9: 204 (south of Tok)
- Friday, 6/10: 43 (Wrangell St. Elias)
- Friday, 6/10: 60