Chicken, Alaska allegedly got it’s name because the early residents didn’t know how to spell Ptarmigan, the local bird in the area!
The last and only time I had been to Chicken was about 8 years ago, driving the other direction. The road that leads from Chicken, over the border to Dawson City, Yukon is known as the Top of the World highway because it follows along high ridge tops for almost it’s entire length, unlike most roads that tend to follow rivers and valley bottoms. But the last time I drove the road, the smoke from huge forest fires all over the region was so thick that I had to take the guide books word for it that it was a scenic wonder!
So, being in Dawson with decent weather, there was no choice (!) but to try the road again.
This time, about half the road was scenic, before rising up into the low clouds, and intermittent rain.
Visibility decreased as we continued …
And the remaining roadside snow banks got bigger!
We crossed the border in the rain, and Hailey got interrogated because she forgot to bring along her vaccination paperwork as we had not really planned to visit the US on this expedition. Narrowly avoiding getting paw-printed, they felt sorry for her and let us in.
There was a fair bit of road construction going on in the Chicken area, especially on the leg south towards the Tetlin Jct and Tok, Alaska.
We found a discreet spot to spend the night around the Tok area, then hummed and hawed quite a while looking at the maps and calendars. Eventually, it was decided to perhaps head down towards Glennallen, then head north through Paxson, up the Delta Junction and back to Tok.
There are some great views of the Wrangell - St Elias range along the Tok Cutoff road
Heading on north to Paxson, there was not a cloud in the sky, and the map showed the original road to Denali would lead us directly across the mountains to Denali Park. Well why not? How often is the weather there so cloudy that you can’t see the mountain at all. Best to go now while the getting was good.
From the Paxson end of the Denali highway #8 the first 20 miles or so are beautifully paved to lure you past the point of no return .
Then there are a few miles of smooth, hard surface roadway. Then come the potholes and rocks! It’s not that bad if you take it slow, but there are a few times when you may start to regret the decision. Roughly half way through we pulled off near a small lake where the frogs were croaking to greet the recent departure of the ice.
Not all rigs make it all the way …
The road is mostly above tree line, so the views are expansive and stunning.
Like most road signs in Alaska, the mile 96 marker was shot up, but it must have been new as there was only one bullet hole in it!
Several of the lakes along the way were still ice covered.
Eventually, after some great views of Denali at over 20,000 feet, the old Denali highway joins the modern Parks highway at Cantwell, and you are back on pavement.