Jim and Robin are heading to Alaska! The Honda CR-V is packed and their trusty GO, L.E.O. (Low-Earth Orbiter), is ready for adventure. Follow along and get a taste of #myGOlife…Berzowski-style!
The Top of the World highway lives up to its name! You could see range after range of mountains, probably more, if the air wasn’t hazy with smoke from the fires.
Our CR-V and GO had no problem traveling this (or any of the previous 4500 miles we’ve driven so far)! While this road was sometimes gravel, sometimes packed dirt and occasionally paved, the drive was pretty good, as long as you took it slow. Our GO, LEO, had to eat a lot of dust and suffer the indignity of gravel popping on his frunk, but he proudly made it to the top.
As we drove across the Top of the World, it seemed pretty flat, but with sweeping views in all directions. We did see a very large porcupine having lunch on the side of the road. By the way, a group of porcupines is called a prickle!!
At mid-day, we crossed the border into the US…Poker Creek, Alaska.
It was kind of strange – we could bring our clementines into the US, but not the peels! So, there I was at the border, peeling a bag of them, then handing over the contraband peels to the border guard! While I was peeling, he entertained us with a story of hiking in the area and being startled by a herd of caribou – he only had a knife, no bear spray, and the one caribou looked menacing – so he ran like heck, without looking back – made it home safely ?
We decided to have lunch in Chicken, Alaska. We followed one of the roads out of the airport (tiny as it was) and saw two very young moose cross the road to Chicken Creek! There are 3 businesses in Chicken: Downtown Chicken, Chicken Gold Camp and Town of Chicken! The story goes (from Milepost book) “that the early miners wanted to name the town Ptarmigan, but were unable to spell it and settled instead for Chicken, the common name in the North for ptarmigan”. All of the town’s business sport large chicken themes.
We chose the ‘original’ for our lunch stop. We had our picnic lunch and then at the Chicken Creek Café, got dessert from Susan’s bakery with the “Best Pie in Alaska”. Jim had phenomenal apple/cranberry pie a la mode and I had a gigantic incredible chocolate chip cookie. We HIGHLY recommend this place. And if we had not been picnicking, the chicken pot pie and other food offerings looked and smelled amazing.
Favorite thought from from Chicken, AK:
We decided to stay in a motel overnight in Tok – definitely in need of showers! We actually had to call around to find a place with a vacancy because although Tok only has a population of 1,435, it is at the crossroad of the Alaska Highway and the Glenn Highway (to/from Anchorage) and just miles from the intersection with the Klondike Loop (to/from Dawson City). We stayed at the Golden Bear. Right next door was the Golden Bear restaurant. According to motel manager, her sister-in-law is the cook, and is Thai, and that’s the only type of food she knows how to cook. We can say that she is a wonderful cook – it was fantastic Thai food!
We stopped into the Alaska Dept of Fish and Game, right before they closed for the day. The woman there was very, friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. We needed the regulations (which are extremely complicated). She provided all the info we needed, much of it from personal experience. We headed out the next morning on the Alaska Highway.
As we drove northwest, we were aware of Alaska Range, however, due to smoke/haze, they were more like a ghost range. Closer to the road, the ‘watch for moose’ signs were accurate!
At Delta Junction, we continued on the Richardson Highway towards Fairbanks. As we crossed the Tanana River, we saw The Tanana River Pipeline Bridge, suspending a 1200 foot-long section of the pipeline across the river. Further along, we got a really good view of the braided Tanana River, although the mountains behind it were mostly obscured by haze/smoke.
We stopped in the North Pole to gas up before taking the bypass around Fairbanks to Chena Hot Springs Road. There are several state campgrounds in the Chena River State Recreation Area. We chose to camp at Rosehip State Campground. There are 37 campsites and almost no one there! Most of the sites are very large and nicely shaded, with gravel drives for vehicles and large grassy areas for tents, etc. There are vault toilets, picnic tables, and fire pits. It says there is water, but what we pumped was reddish (maybe because it’s not used much), so we used the water we carry with us.
Our site was very close to the river and launch (for canoe or kayak). It is really beautiful and not too buggy, especially considering the proximity to the river.
After setting up and checking out the river (and there is a nice nature trail), we drove to the end of Chena Hot Springs Road, to purchase an Alaska fishing license for Jim. Along the way, we saw bald eagles and moose. The moose looked like very large, awkward horses!
We did not go into the Ice Museum or Hot Springs at the Chena Hot Springs Resort, but we did walk around a bit and saw these interesting metal sculptures.
On the way back to the campsite, we saw a moose mom and calf. They were magnificent with the binoculars, maybe not so impressive in the photo!
With the long days, Jim decided to put his new fishing license to use and donned his waders with the goal of fly fishing to catch (and release) Arctic Grayling. Happy to say that he was successful!
It was getting quite smoky from the nearby fires, which gave us an interesting sky, considering that this was NOT a sunset.
The next morning was too smoky to consider hiking or any outside activity, so we headed into Fairbanks. We visited the wonderful Museum of the North at the University of Alaska. There were so many interesting exhibits and artifact. We stepped outside briefly to make our picnic lunch, and it was still terribly smoky.
After we finished in the museum, we hit the stores to re-provision for the next leg of the trip, then went to a movie and out to dinner.
It rained all night, which was great for clearing the smoke out of the air, and not a problem for us in our cozy GO! We packed up quickly, and got back on the road.