The top of the world is full of surprises and hidden treasures. Travelling the Alaska Highway, we found a real treasure at Hidden Lake.
The one mile trail, covered in a narrow boardwalk, led us through the boggy woods. At the end of the trail, there was a boat available for anyone to use, complete with life jackets for any children. What a wonderful idea!
Our GPS led us off the main highway and took us to a historic town. There were a lot of log cabins from the early 1900’s. The village, Champagne, is still inhabited. The most unusual surprise were the totem poles.
We left the Alaska Highway and turned north on the Taylor Highway. I love how each highway in the west has a name and a story. The Taylor was not well maintained, so it was slow going. The landscape was stark, blackened trees for mile after mile after mile. A forest fire had burned an enormous portion of the Alaskan wilderness. It took well over an hour to pass by. As we drove quietly by, I could not get the picture of the animals who must have perished, out of my mind.
At the end of the road, we arrived in the town of Chicken. It is impossible to miss this town, even though it is not on the highway. Sign after sign pointed the way to downtown Chicken. The entire downtown consists of three buildings in a row. The gift shop, the Saloon and a cafe. The hotel is off in the “suburbs” with the RV park. The total population is 37 (growing to about 100 in the summer).
This is a mining town with history back to the gold rush days.We drove up and were warmly welcomed by a small crowd of locals who were loudly enjoying the evening at the Saloon. I am sure they had been enjoying the evening since lunchtime. We looked around the only store in town. You guessed it.. Everything chicken. All sorts of chicken souvenirs. Almost all the t-shirts said the same thing.. “I got laid in Chicken, Alaska.” I resisted the temptation to buy one, although they do come in a beautiful pink. (Is that a treasure I missed?) The locals laughed when we said we were driving on. They offered us free camping for the night. They explained that the border to Canada is not far, but it closes at 6 pm. Another surprise.
In the morning we started to drive the “Top of The World” Highway.
The scenery: amazing………The road: rutted with potholes……The cliffs: steep, without guardrails……The fun: endless.
At one point, we saw caribou, high on the hill. I climbed up to try to get a closer look. They kept looking at me, then would move further up.
I climbed very high up the hillside.
A little further along, we stopped at a large open section in the road. We climbed to the highest point. (We do a lot of climbing) We were at the top of the world. We looked down in every direction. I stood on a rock and enjoyed the exhilarating feeling of conquering the highest mountain… There was only one thing left to do. Build an Inukshuk.
On our way back to the car, John found a five gallon gas can. I shook my head when he decided to keep his treasure. We are stretched for space, however, John found a spot for it.
The map showed a town called Boundary. We stopped when I saw a beautiful log cabin. I wanted to take a picture. Another small place. Population 3. As soon as I got out of the car, a man with wild, curly, red hair greeted me enthusiastically and asked if I would like a tour. He and a partner were working a gold claim. He explained the history of the cabin and showed me inside. John joined us. The only other building in town is a small cafe. John bartered with Adam. Two coffees, two muffins for a gas can. Deal made, we sat down in the tiny cafe. Every inside wall and the ceiling are covered in business cards and money from around the world. A wood stove keeps the cabin warm. We met all three residents of the town as we enjoyed a coffee: Adam (the red-head) Richard and Ryan. We spent some time listening to their stories. Adam showed us some of his treasure, the gold nuggets they have been able to find. Wishing them well, we drove off.
There is something about old log cabins that calls to me. John knows that he needs to stop and allow me to look, touch and photograph. I spotted another, a dilapidated old cabin hiding in the undergrowth. A gray Jay landed on the cabin. John grabbed some trail mix and threw a few nuts at his feet. The fearless jay hopped down and started eating, inches from John’s feet. John held out some nuts in his hand. Another jay flew down, landed on his hand and started eating.
I had to give it a try. It is so exciting to have a wild bird land on my hand. I could feel the tiny claws around my finger. We lingered and fed the birds for while. The time we spent with the birds is the best treasure of them all.