Still in Yukon territory, we got up and ate in our room-breakfast bars and juice. We met our tour group and went to the Klondike Spirit paddle wheeler, for a trip down the YUKON river. A costumed guide filled us in on the history of the stern wheeler and paddle wheeler in the Dawson gold mining era. Did you know that a stern wheeler had 1 paddle in the rear and a paddle wheeler has a paddle wheel on each side? We passed a First Nations village, a cemetery for abandoned wheelers, & Break Up island. Beautiful scenery from the water! We also passed a man who has lived in a cave since 1996. He actually has 3 caves-1 with a generator, 1 with chickens and 1 for himself. In the winter the Yukon freezes. Two weeks before the freeze everyone in W. Dawson on the other side of the river, finds a family to stay with on the E. side, until the river freezes and is inspected. Then cars can drive on ice bridges on the river as the ferry is inoperable. After the river trip, we ate a complimentary buffet at the Westmark and boarded the bus. Off to the car ferry where the big bus squeezed on with 1 other car. The crossing only took 5 minutes and then we were on the magnificent Top of the World Highway, which literally runs on the top ridges of the mountain for 40 miles. Wonderful views as we were above the tree line most of the time. The Canadians built this stretch on the upper ridges while after the border crossing, the US built in the valleys where the miners had to traverse. Each technique had its pros and cons. There are a lot of switchbacks on the US side. The border crossing was interesting as this is one of the few spots where 2 countries share the same building facilities. The highway is only opened May to October and is very remote. The station closes at 9 pm, so you have to time it right or sit there over night! The satellite was down on the US side so we waited about 30 min. Then the agent collected all passports and manually processed them in the building. He had seen 1 caribou and there was a herd of moose over the small hill at the customs-wish we could have seen them. We couldn't leave the bus or take pictures at the border crossing. Now we are back in the US and headed for a short stop at Chicken, Alaska!
Chicken is a tiny place with a landing strip, RV campground, post office, saloon, gift shop, cafe, chicken coop and outhouse . We grabbed a cup of buffalo chile and a huge brownie. We are now traveling on the Alaskan highway. I did not realize what an engineering feat this was. 1400 miles of road was built in 1942 by the Army Corps of Engineers after we were attacked by Japan. The Japanese took over Dutch Harbor in the Alleutian Islands. Too close for comfort. This wilderness was not even mapped. No one had dealt with the problems of permafrost or building in 40 degrees below zero or being attacked by thousands of mosquitos. The president wanted it built within 8 months and with enormous fortitude and ingenuity, it was. It played a big part in our defense during WWII.
We arrived in Tok at 7:30 at the Westmark hotel. Tok consists of 1 intersection. Only 1000 people live there. After nachos and a hamburger, it was off to bed.