and we are back from our adventure to Chicken, Alaska.
I have wanted to go to Chicken for years. Ever since I read the book “Tisha” which chronicles the story of a young woman who is sent to teach in the village of Chicken, way back when. It is a wonderful story, and I recommend it to all of you.
So, this fall, when our friends the Riopelles, told us about the 4th of July Chicken adventure they were planning, I was quick to invite myself along. And boy am I glad I did.
Chicken is located about 1.5 hours from Tok, Alaska, which is about 6-7 hours from Anchorage(depending on RV traffic). So driving up there is a major time and petroleum fuel commitment.
As it came closer for the time to go to Chicken, I was faced with a major decision:
Do I take the 13 year old minivan with 160,000 miles?
Do I take the 19 year old truck with 190,000 miles?
As Dave put is “they have equal chances of breaking down, take wahteverone you want”. easy for him to say, since he wasn’t going on this trip with us (ah, the sorrow of having to work). Why I was worried about this, I have no idea. I mean really, I drove the Lord’s Van all over the Midwest!
After much discussion and debate, we took the truck, because, in the words of my 9 year old, “we could haul a whole lot more junk”.
Right here and now I want to publicly thank Sandy and Shawn Friendshuh for taking such great care of that truck! It ran like a dream and took the frost heaves like an old pro.
I have driven the road from Anchorage to Tok many times, but never before had I taken the turnoff onto the Taylor Highway. Alaska really is beautiful, and so vast, and the trip up the Taylor just reinforced that. The landscape on the way to Chicken was different than much of what seen in my limited travels around the state. The mountains are big, but not jagged, more like grown up versions of the rolling hills of northern Minnesota. Trees and wild flowers and little lakes here and there, it was lovely.
As we pulled into Chicken, it was everything I had hoped: quirky, dusty, hot! With a name like Chicken…
I could never get a definitive answer on the actual number of residents in Chicken, but I heard 3 as the year round population a number of times, with 70 being the standard for fulltime summer residents. These seemed to be mostly people there to work the various gold claims in the area and a number of people who ran the 2 rv parks in the area, as well as the bar, cafe and store.
The kids and I set up camp at one of the 3 tent sites at the “Original Chicken Gold Camp” RV park. The owners looked at me a little funny when I said we would be tent camping. I guess that isn’t really popular among the retired recreational gold mining crowd. Then we set out to explore. it didn’t take long. In the town of Chicken there is one store, one bar, one cafe and a post office, which only processes mail 1x a week, on Thursdays. There are 2 RV parks, each with the required gift shop selling “I got laid in Chicken, Alaska” bumper stickers and t-shirts. I did not get those.
Kjell and his friend, Sam, immediately began to gold pan, while the other kids ran around and got dirty. We had a lovely evening settling in and visiting by the fire.
I woke up Saturday morning feeling that a shower would be a lovely thing. So I sauntered on over to the campground shower house. Happened upon an empty shower, plunked in my quarters for a 5 minute shower and realized(in a near panic) that I had not remembered to throw my shampoo into my toiletry bag. I was determined to get the most out of this pricey shower, and make it more than just a rinsing. A quick dig in the bag revealed a nearly full tube of toothpaste. I thought, “What the heck, it cleans my teeth”. I can now say, with complete assurance, toothpaste will take the grime right out of your hair and is a truly lovely body scrub to boot.
On Saturday, July 4th the big community picnic. this picnic is a yearly fundraiser for a Gold Prospectors Assoc. and draws quite the crowd, about 200 people, the biggest weekend in Chicken all year, by far. It was a great picnic. For $12 you get the biggest steak (or grilled chicken) I have ever seen and endless side dishes, with all the water, soda and beer a person could possibly consume. There are activities all day long, gold panning competitions for all ages, a massive egg toss event, and the indestructible pinata to cap off the day.
Kjell and Sunny participated in the gold panning contest and they both won their age groups. It was very very cute. Broder was my entrepreneur and spent his afternoon plunging his arm into ice cold water to retrieve beer and sodas for the picnic goers. his line was “tips appreciated, but not required”. I think the little guy earned about $10, but he put all but $3 into the donation pot.
We had heard that there was a German tourist component to Chicken (I have no idea why this would be true) and we were not disappointed. The kids got the practice their language skills with a couple families, both of whom were delighted and charmed.
I walked away from the weekend with a bit of a sunburn, and the aforementioned, really big bruise. While packing up the truck to go, I completely forgot we had installed a hitch with which to pull our boat (another post), and ran into the stupid thing, HARD. As was observed by a friend, “those suckers don’t move”. I can say without any doubt, my right shin was the loser in the “shin vs hitch” battle.
We drove back on Sunday, dusty, smelly, and thoroughly happy to have made the trek.
Next stop, Haines, AK, to visit with Dave’s folks.