(18) Alaska! The Last Frontier
Thursday August 19 2004
I leave Dawson City and drive the Top of the World Highway (Yukon Hwy #9) through the mountains.
The smoke and haze are still quite thick today, I have heard so much about the beauty of this drive but unfortunately I will not be stopping for photos along the way, just too much smoke to see any of this beautiful mountain road.
It is 127 kms from Dawson to the US border, the highway is named the Taylor Highway.
The border crossing is only open from 8:00am to 8:00pm Alaska time, 9:00am to 9:00pm Canada time so be aware your watch is running on time.
I thought I had enough of gravel for awhile but from the border to Chicken, Alaska there is 160 kms, oh well, I am well used to it from the Dempster.
Chicken, Alaska...a funny story about its name.
According to legend, the original gold mining locals wanted to name this place "ptarmigan", but no one could spell it, they named it Chicken instead...I like it!
As I continue in the mountains the smoke once again gets thicker and thicker, I can see the remnants of a once lush forest now reduced to black, leafless match sticks standing upright, it is devastating and eerie to look at, I hope all the animals made it away safely.
I have heard there are millions of acres that are burnt, I can see firefighters putting out small fires out near the road sides, small scattered fires and huge fires burning uncontrollably in the mountains out in the distance, amazing to drive through all this...and a little scary. Total devastation!
After a all day drive through the smoke & fires, I arrive in Tok, Alaska. I've heard of an motorcycles "only" campground here, it is Thompson's Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park, it is set up really well, I am all alone here and the price is right, only $5.00 .
I did see lots of motorcycles around the town as I came in, I surmise that they are in nice surroundings in their hotel/motel rooms tonight...away from the smoke.
Friday August 20 2004
Alaska- Kenai Peninsula
I drive on the Hwy #1 towards the Kenai Peninsula. The landscapes here are mountains, rivers & lakes, amazing glaciers and as I near Anchorage the smoke is less and less.
I welcome the opportunity to breathe clean, fresh air again, it smells, feels and looks good, well more than good, it is very beautiful here, the whole of Alaska!
I pass through Anchorage, it is a big city.
Maybe I'll check it out more on the way back through but for now I am more interested to be in the smaller more cosy towns in the "real" Alaska from the gold rush days.
I think I have found one as I motor into Hope, Alaska.
What a beautiful, tiny town with a lot of history and the most amazing scenic views in all directions.
I am glad to find these little gems as I talk to the locals when I stop to eat, fuel up, buy groceries, take photos or just a timeout.
Hope was a gold rush town, has charming old buildings, harkens to another time and you can see and feel a slower pace of life here, a very nice place to relax.
I walk into the restaurant and pay $5.00 for my campsite anywhere I please along the creek that is full of pink salmon at the moment.
I ask some of the locals about the origin of the name Hope.
I was told when the town founders were looking for a name, they decided that the next male person that arrived here seeking his fortune, would have the town named after his surname.
It seems ironic as Mr. Hope would have had a lot of hope to strike it rich and find his fortune.
Saturday August 21 2004
I drive along the Seward Highway and decide to check out the town of Seward.
I am not disappointed as it is situated on Resurrection Bay, with towering mountains lining its shores.
Close by are icefields with many glaciers, which many are tidewater glaciers, calving icebergs into the sea.
It is a sunny clear day and the views are breathtakingly stunning, I have the photos to prove it.
Onward towards Soldotna, Alaska.
I get many good photos of the area around Clam Gulch, famous for the large razor clams that people dig for on the beach at low tide.
This is an excellent and world famous area for fishing King (Chinook)Salmon on the Kenai river, the world record was caught here and 50-60 pounders are common.
Across the Cook Inlet there are 3 or 4 massive active volcanic mountains, most notably is Redoubt Mtn.
The sunsets are amazing and even more dramatic from the smoke & haze from the forest fires.
I want to thank Per, Gary, Grannie & Jen for there hospitality(especially the seafood extravaganza!).
You made my stay very enjoyable and it was a pleasure to meet you, your family and friends...oh and Pojken too!
Soldotna, Clam Gulch & Homer, Alaska
I spend a day in Homer, Alaska.
It is more amazing scenery as you become accustomed to in Alaska.
So much to do and see here, take flights to see the grizzly bears gorging on salmon, every outdoor activity you can imagine, the fishing is spectacular, I get many good photos of the area.
The wildlife is abundant and everywhere, especially moose and bald eagles.
I have the motorcycle serviced at the dealer in Soldotna, they look after me right away. I have been very pleased with the service from all the dealers I have been into on my trip.
That is what keeps customers coming back...good, friendly service people!
Wednesday August 25 2004
I have fond memories of the Kenai Peninsula, its beauty and the friendly people I met there.
I backtrack over the same roads that got me here, it is still so amazing to see all of this again. Once I reach Anchorage I just drive through not wanting to stop.
I have a town that I have been thinking about exploring.
I received an email from a friend that had raved about this town and its surrounding areas like: Mt. McKinley and Denali National Park.
My plan is to see Denali, then Fairbanks and loop back down to Haines, Alaska.
It is here that I have thought about boarding an Alaskan ferry to take the 3 1/2 day voyage through the famous Inside Passage.
I have heard all people rave about this and it has been on my mind the whole trip.
The town I am talking about is called Talkeetna, Alaska.
I arrive to a very interesting, quirky little town.
It has old historical buildings and is the headquarters for climbing expeditions to Mt. McKinley, which at 20,320 ft. (6,194 meters) is the tallest mountain in North America.
It is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise, with fishing, hunting & backpacking are world class.
But the real reason I came here was to take a flight in and around Mt. McKinley and land on one of the glaciers.
I camp at the rivers edge campground, all is well.
Posted by Jeff Nicholls at August 25, 2004 12:06 AM GMT