Awakening

One day my wife came to me and asked me a question that would alter my perception of what direction my life was taking and where it was taking me. She asked me this question with an air of daydreaming thoughtfulness, and floated it before me as if it was a cloud; 

“Have you ever wanted to live in Alaska?” It stopped me cold, reduced my thought processes to a single focused point of emotion, imagery, and fantasy. 

Alaska, all my life for one reason or another I’ve always had Alaska saved away in my mind, didn’t know why, still don’t know why. Growing up I romanticized about the country, it’s mountains, glaciers, rivers and wildlife. I became a climber of everything from sandstone formations in the desert to limestone and granite in the mountains. I found ice climbing through a friend after mountain climbing in the Sierra Mountain Range in Northern California and I knew I was hooked, addicted, in love. 

We climbed wonderful mountains in the Sierra’s, as well as Mt Reineer, Mt Whitney, Mt. Sill and many others that I went off to explore and lose myself in. Climbing ice allowed me to range out and explore who I was on a temporary and constantly changing medium , my short attention span was well suited to this sport and I flourished. I had only been ice climbing about four years when I met my wife, who was an avid hiker and backpacker but had never gotten involved in the more extreme vocation of rock climbing and eventual ice climbing. 

Our honeymoon was spent in the North Palisades of the Sierra Mountains climbing and sharing our love for each other and the world around us. After the first climb she was hooked and every so gently I nudged her towards the ice. The honeymoon was cut short due to a storm coming in from out of the west, and we literally ran the nine mile out escaping the weather that descended on our peaceful world.I took her to Ouray Colorado for the ice climbing festival and she was in, lock stock and 180 meters of dry rope. Every year after that we went to Ouray for the climbing festival for longer and longer periods of time, and we were actually considering moving there, to our perfect world. 

I am a desert rat, I love climbing the sandstone cliffs, the dry smells and dust that creeps up from under each step of foot as I would approach the wall we had chosen. I love running desert trails, being out in the open with nothing around but the massive expanse of landscape and sky surrounding me. The desert represented freedom for me, a freedom to stretch out my wings and fly. 

I was a bartender in Las Vegas, running in the mornings with the residual cool air left over from the previous night. I would drive up to the Red Rock Canyon and run one of several immaculate trails that I found to punish myself on, my favorite was a twelve mile loop that started at the visitors center and forged straight out to Willow Springs, around White Mountain, over to the Sandstone Quarry and then fall into the Calico Hills following the bottom of the hills back to the center. 

I would run these trails as often as possible, when the heat didn’t intrude on my serenity. I had returned to my roots, my first passion and that was photography, the one constant in my life that no matter how long or how deeply I buried it in the closet it was always there waiting for me, to awaken the artistic eye in my mind and again it had become an overwhelming part of my life. My wife encouraged my drive for this artistic freedom and in so being became my muse, everything I shot represented the way I viewed or felt for my wife. Every morning I could be found somewhere in the desert waiting for the light to improve and the clarity of my image enhanced to the imagination of my mind’s eye and place what I witnessed on film, then I’d be off for my run and revelling in the openness of my oasis. 

The first few years of our marriage went by and my obsession with the camera grew more every day to such a point that my wife took me away for a weekend to Mt. Charleston for a romantic escape from the normal day to day grind we both were experiencing. I brought my camera kit and tripod in hopes of capturing a few images on film. I ruined a personal moment for her and us, dumb as I was I still think it was a good time to shoot. 

I decided to return to college to eventually get a degree in landscape photography, the plan being to return to college and re-establish a current GPA that would allow me to transfer to a college specifically designed for photography and cinema. I had completed the necessary requirements and was prepared to follow through with the next step, which was preparing to move to Central California and begin a new era of education. 

“Have you ever wanted to live in Alaska?” 

I have missed many of my wife’s suttle clues that she was becoming restless with my continuous compulsive behavior towards my craft. At first she was excited about the prospect of leaving Las Vegas and moving to Central California, looking at places to live and job possibilities. I had taken her to the region, a place from which I was raised and grew, my home and in a sense I was indeed returning, and she did seem to like the area. 

Then the question arose about Alaska and everything else fell away like loose snow on a mountain side collapsing in an avalanche, my world vanished in a thunderous cloud. Once I was so sure of my future and the direction I had decided take my life, my wife seemingly optimistic about the choice I was making for us. 

After my wife explained to me that the job offer in Alaska would pay enough for me to semi-retire and leave me the time to focus on photography and writing. Maybe I could open a gallery or write a book about Alaska, it was all I could do to contain my excitement. 

I Answered my wifes question by grabbing a map and looking at Alaska, by going on to the internet and searching every place I could think of to live near the location of her future job. Overnight the thought of moving to California had instantly become a distant memory and the idea of where to live in Alaska was all I could think about. Fortunately I had finished my semester of school and only had work to keep my mind from wandering off into a distant dream of a new future. 

Bartending was such a fun job that allowed me to meet people and be myself, this was a job I have had since 1996 and was happy to throw away as soon as possible to begin the next adventure. 1996 was one of the most amazing years of my life, one filled with excitement, romance, travel, thrills and spills, also unemployment. I was laid off as a snow-ski mechanic in early spring of 1996 and subsequently was receiving unemployment compensation for the next nine months. 

That year was incredible, with bicycle racing almost every weekend, training every day. I was able to focus on one thing and one thing only bicycle racing, a sport I had been involved in for years. I met a girl and we spent that nine months together traveling the west racing bikes and road tripping until we couldn’t handle it anymore. I remember a road trip we took to Fort Collins Colorado looking for a possible place to live, my eventual hope of moving to Durango to become a bicycle mechanic and living a new life in a new place. 

But, fall came and with it the ending of my unemployment compensation and my girlfriend was off to the Navy and never to be heard from again. I got a job as a bar back at a brand new casino and became a bartender out of necessity to pay the bills and feed my needs to get back outdoors. 

The next several years were the same as the next, gambling, drinking and believe it or not running. I had injured my lower back in a crash on my bike in 1996 and had to stop racing. Running was the logical choice and fed the need to get out to the road, the trail and wherever I could get to. 

I met my wife at the casino and was overwhelmed by her immediately and over the next year it was all that I could ask for. Life was the dream I had always thought it would be, a wife and house with a great job and security. Being able to open my eyes and return to the artistic part of my life that had been hiding just below the surface of my consciousness was released and supported by a woman who loved and supported me. The next four years were the way I expected marriage to be and everyday was a new day, a fresh start and always led to another adventure. 

We went backpacking everywhere, from the Sierra Mountains of Northern California to Wyoming and fishing on the Snake River just outside of Yellowstone National Park. We always planned trips away from both of our jobs and the summer heat of the Las Vegas Valley. 

She became my climbing partner, road trip partner, fellow adventurer of the less traveled road. My wife had a contact in Fairbanks Alaska that had provided us with an opportunity to get a foothold in the town and at least start to build a foundation of where we would live. 

In 2004 we traveled to Fairbanks, staying in a hotel and spent a couple of weeks exploring the area and looking for a place to buy a home. We averaged a thousand mile a week just exploring the interior and I was slowly falling in love with the place. It didn’t matter that the summer we visited was the worst wildfire season in Alaska’s history with over 7.2 million acres of land burned and visibility was reduced to less than a quarter of a mile. Every morning when we walked out to the car there would be a fresh layer of ash from the fires on the car, seemed like a great time to be in Alaska. 

Turned out it was a great time in Alaska and I was sold, couldn’t rag me away from this place after a couple of weeks. Back in Las Vegas we put the hose on the market and I put in my notice at work, cashed in the 401k and liquidated my world. Two months later we were living in the basement of a house searching for our home. Then as if from a fantasy we found our home and two more months later we had our home and the Alaska dream. 

During the next seven months I was running al around photographing everything I could find, it was the most productive period I had ever experienced. Little did I know that my wife and I were drifting further and further apart and soon enough she had had enough and was gone. 

Escape was all I could think of, so I took a trip and found myself again…….. 

It wasn’t a spectacular June, actually it was a June that was quite ordinary. It was me, I was different, different in ways that I wasn’t really prepared to face. I was going through difficult times you understand, times that some of us must face at least once in our lives. I needed to escape, to get away from the world for a couple of days. I really had to go somewhere and get to know myself again. 

So without hesitation I loaded the Explorer up with the camping equipment, my camera gear, and my traveling companion Equinox my black Labrador. We had decided to head south since heading south out of Fairbanks was the smartest way to go. At one time I had the great idea to travel all the accessible main roads of Alaska. It has been a while and I still haven’t managed to fulfill my pilgrimage but I am getting close. 

I decided that our destination on this trip would be the Taylor Highway which would eventually lead us to the Top Of The World Highway, and on to Dawson City in the heart of Canada’s Yukon Territory. I thought that seeing the unique Forty Mile country would be a great place to see this time of year. Equinox and I got on the road sometime around 2:00 in the morning, now what makes this interesting is that I got off of work around 10:00 pm and was planning on leaving in the morning at a more reasonable hour, say 6:00am. Well as it would happen I was too excited and couldn’t sleep, so I figured an early start would be great. 

We left in a down pour of rain, the type of rain that is supposed to be very rare in these parts except for the fact that this rare heavy rain has been going on for most of the month now. I figured that if we drive far enough at some point we should drive out of the rain and into the clear skies, sort of. After three and a half hours of driving and with one stop in Delta Junction to clear dead mosquito’s off of the head lights I had managed to get within twenty five miles of Tok when the lack of sleep had finally caught up with me. I was beginning to fall asleep at the wheel, I needed to find some place to pull over and get a quick nap in. After finding a dirt road to pull on to and then clearing out some space in back to stretch out I was ready for a nap. 

Thirty minutes later Equinox decided that I had slept enough and started stepping on me and making lovely sounds that equated to grunts to wake me up so we could get on the road. Apparently Equinox was right, after getting back on the road I felt very refreshed and the drive into Tok went off without a hitch and I was ready to get on to the Taylor Highway. The rain had gone from a steady down pour to a heavy drizzle, and that was a good sign that we where going in the right direction. 

Turning on to the Taylor Highway was a pretty dramatic change in scenery. We had spent the last couple of hours traveling through forests of Black Spruce Trees and have finally lifted ourselves into the world of the Birch Tree. After a short drive we became absorbed by a region devastated by fire, for as far as the eye could see nothing but withered, blackened sticks, reminders of what once was. I could only imagine how beautiful the area must have looked before the fires cooked the life out of the region. 

Driving below Mt. Fairplay exposed me to a treeless wonderland, both barren and surreal yet magical. Tall grasses and large rocks reign supreme in this alpine oasis. Slowly we descended back down into the world, the world of the Birch, and Spruce tree, and yes the world of the evil mosquito. At roughly mile 49 we finally arrived at the West Fork Campground, which is located along the west fork of the Dennison River, hence the name of the campground. This well hidden campground is a jewel of a place to stay, with the campsites secluded and many out of sight until your right on top of them. I like the privacy of the more covered sites being as the open, bare sites are more vulnerable to passerby’s and swarms of mosquito’s. 

After taking a couple of laps around the campgrounds we came upon site number 9. Hidden from view and pretty well covered in trees the site offered a fairly flat location for the tent and all the common amenities of any good site, a large fire pit, a picnic table, and a great view of the tree covered hills across the river. As it so happened we were plagued by the ever-present heavy drizzle that we came to know so well, so setting up the tent was more of a test of speed assembly than a casual moment putting the thing up. 

After having put all the blankets for Equinox in, and my pads and sleeping bag were in place I began to relax and slowly unpack the truck. I had the urge to get the cooler out and set the camp site up proper and make it more homey but with the light rain it just wasn’t very practical. This was when I realized that Equinox had left me alone. My dog has abandoned me for all the new scents and images overwhelming his very being. 

In fact as soon as we came to a stop and I got out of the truck I was struck by the incredible odors that had infiltrated my senses. When I let Equinox out of the truck he took a couple of hesitant steps sniffing at the air, nosed the ground for a second and was gone, off into the trees setting himself to the endless task of sniffing and tasting everything within view. 

Equinox had trotted off to explore this wondrous area, then in a little bit of puppy time he’d show up, kind of checking up on me then he’d be gone again. Once we got the campsite and the truck squared away we decided to explore our new home. Being that it was around 7:00 in the morning we had plenty of time to get out and see what is around us. First thing we did was drive down to the town of Chicken, named so by the miners who wanted to name the town Ptarmigan but didn’t know how to spell it, and since a Ptarmigan looks very similar to a chicken they settled on Chicken as the name for the town. 

The eighteen wonderful miles to Chicken is a twisting turning adventure through Dark spruce forests and islands of Paper Bark Birch Trees. Fields of muskeg separate rivers and hills from one another. Meanwhile the drizzle carries on, and on into Chicken we went with the rain. For some unusual reason the rain really adds to the character of down town Chicken. Chicken contains a saloon, which by the way is my favorite spot, a couple of souvenir shops, a mercantile store and a small restaurant. It was a bit early for a beer so we headed over to the creek area and to the gas pumps. This particular area of Chicken is where all the R.V’s park and the people re-supply these monsters, and then head down to the stream to go panning for gold, just down stream from an old gold dredge. 

Crossing over the single lane Chicken Creek Bridge we headed east out of Chicken towards one of the last remaining active gold mines in the area that is readily accessible by this road, the privately owned Lost Chicken Mine. Driving on this fairly smooth dirt road we gradually rose up above the river and valley, left to float along with the hills and mountain tops of the region. The views of the Dennison River far below was truly extraordinary and at times I almost drove right off the road trying to steel a look at the river down in the belly of the valley. 

After driving through the hills and valleys, and crossing streams and rivers of this amazing country I was awestruck by the timeless beauty of the region. Eventually we came across the Jack Wade Gold Dredge, originally the Butte Creek Dredge, this dredge was located on the mouth of the Butte Creek way back in 1934. This rather heavily used dredge found it’s way to the Walker Fork and finally came to rest here at Wade Creek where it remains today. 

The Jack Wade Gold Dredge is historic with regard to it’s relationship with a very magical and difficult time in Alaskan history. Unfortunately the very dilapidated structure is definitely showing its age. It looks as if it’s about to collapse and crumble in complete ruin amongst the broken beer bottles. I think that if this dredge was more accessible or less remote it would have been better taken care of. 

This was enough driving for one day, so we headed back towards the campsite. By the time we reached Chicken the rain had finally cleared out and the sky had opened up to allow in a truly dazzling light. An incredible landscape had been exposed to me, an open tundra with sparse Spruce Trees lining the hills on either side of the valley. A flat expanse of muskeg drifts off as far as the eye can see and in the foreground floats a wonderful pond of dark glass, reflecting dreamlike skies and fringed by tall grasses of a shade of green I really have never seen before. 

I got out the camera equipment and shot off a roll of film there, and getting back into the truck the days driving was beginning to catch up with me. I was exhausted and it was only 11:00 in the morning but I felt a deep desire to take a nap. Yet again this area gave me pause to stop and reflect on the unique beauty of this place. A stop at Mosquito Fork Bridge to fire off another roll of film and back to the campsite we went. Little did I know at the time but that was to be the last roll of film that I would be shooting for art’s sake on this whole trip. 

Equinox and I arrived back at the campsite sometime around 1:00 in the afternoon, as I freed Eqi’ of the restraints of the truck he set himself back to the trees to do what he does best, sniff and taste test everything around him. It felt good to just sit at the campsite and relax with no itinerary, just slow down and take in the area. After a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches and a Scape Goat Ale we decided to go for a walk. 

My excuse for the walk was to seek out the camp host and check in with him, but truth be told the mosquito’s were beginning to be rather bothersome and besides, dogs need to stretch their legs too. About half way around the campgrounds we finally ran into the camp host at his R.V. he said that he would meet up with me later. 

I was relaxing at the campsite cleaning camera equipment when Don the camp host arrived. Gray scraggly beard and worn down from his choice of lifestyle Don is amazing to speak to. He is a WWII Marine Corps. Vet so we struck a bond together immediately since I did a six year tour in the Corps myself. Don is also an author of a couple of books about the Forty Mile region. 

Over ice cold beers we discussed the area and what Chicken means to people who actually live here. Meeting Don was an honor and I looked forward to talking to him when ever he would check in and see how I was getting along. While talking with Don a large Pine Tree located across the river and about half way up the hills decided at that moment that it was ready to fall and made quite the noise in it’s final act in this world. Speaking with Don was wonderful, a man molded by a lifetime spent living in the outdoors has left this man with great stories and very thorough information about the area. After a couple more ales Don had to run off to take care of one of the other campers, but not before telling me about a small lake located at the north end of the campground, he thought I might like to shoot some pictures of it at sunset or sunrise. Equinox and I were up for another stroll, so we got up and wandered over to the other side of the campground. The lake was actually behind Don’s camp site, the lake itself was down below us and hidden a bit. 

There we stood about thirty feet above the lake and the lake itself was barely visible through the bushes. Access to the lake itself was rather difficult considering the shore of the lake was nothing more than reeds, tall grasses and overgrown brush. A common malady of Alaska is that the best views of the Alaskan wilderness are obscured by trees and bushes. 

Every scenic pullout in Alaska is buried by overgrowth, leaving you with fabulous views of Birch Trees, Spruce Trees and lots of bushes but not much more. It’s almost laughable after a while, every time you would see a great scene to photograph you pull over at the pullout just to be welcomed by these wonderful views of well, trees and annoying shrubs or bushes that are just high enough to restrict your view. 

After wandering around searching for a location to set up a sunrise or sunset shot I could find very little to no access to the lake itself. We finally gave up and this was a let down, the area has a very gentle and timeless look to it. I would have loved to shoot the area but sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you hope. We made the best of the late afternoon, and made a little stroll through the campground on our way back to the camp site. 

The evening consisted of several more Scapegoat ales and a meal consisted of diced hotdogs, onions, cheese and salsa, all fried together and rolled up in a tortilla. It really was very good, then again it could have been the beer. Don came by around 7:00 checking up on me, and I let him know about my trip to Eagle tomorrow. 

Once Don had left and I had settled in by the campfire, I was left to ponder where I was in life and really think about what I had been through these last few months. 

Sometimes difficult times change us and force us to make choices that we normally wouldn’t make. This was where I was at, reflecting on choices I have made and actions I have taken lately. So I opened up another beer and thought about what has brought me here to this time and place. This is the first road trip since my marriage ended three months ago and it has been a very difficult time for me. I know that even though it hasn’t been that long, I felt that I needed to get use to the idea of being alone as soon as possible to make the transition a little easier. 

For almost six years my wife and I were inseparable, going on road trips and adventures as often as possible. Most if not all of our road trips involved the great outdoors, and camping or climbing was the predominant activity involved in these amazing adventures. So here I am attempting to get a grip on the reality in front of me. Unfortunately Equinox, being only about three months old couldn’t relate to the difficulties that I was attempting to deal with.The problem that existed then while on this trip and even now writing about it is that I am caused to reflect on events of the past and remember them fondly.There was a pain deep inside me, that this trip had awakened within me. The joy and pleasure I felt being with my wife and the incredible places we discovered together. I remembered the love we both shared for one another and the appreciation we had for the natural world around us, I missed my wife. 

So sitting there at the campsite alone beer in hand and nobody I could talk to, there was nobody there to be with. My best friend, my wife wasn’t there anymore. I was so utterly alone, so alone that I had no idea how to enjoy myself with just myself. I was fighting the overwhelming urge to just bolt, to pack it all up and go back to Fairbanks. 

I did give up too, I decided that in the morning we would pack it all up and head home first thing in the morning. This decision alone made me feel a little better, the emptiness had won out and I have conceded defeat. 

When morning came I crawled out of the tent, brewed some coffee and tried to clear my head. The crisp chill of the night air laid low on the land around me, I could almost see how the night air was being overtaken by the start of a new day. Dew was clinging to everything, steam rises up from my first cup of coffee, and the fresh odor drifted up into my lungs. A couple more cups of coffee had me finally waking up and savoring this amazing morning. I realized that I couldn’t possibly pack up and abandon this amazing place just to return to my desolation and tiny world of despair. I considered the fact that I might never get the chance to come this way again and that this could be the only opportunity I’ll have to see this beautiful world . 

I had to stay and revel in this time and to grow from it. Mornings were meant to be taken slowly, to be savored and enjoyed. A rushed morning can only lead to a rushed day, who would ever want to feel rushed all day. With time to see this magical area I was roaring to go and see what drew so many here in the past, and what has beckoned me here as well. 

Packing up the truck took considerably less time compared to back home when I was first loading everything up. Just the essentials today, camera pack, a bit of clothing, some food and something to drink and we were off. Our destination today will be Eagle Alaska, a place that has been drawing me to it with a magnetic pull that I find almost inescapable. 

Getting on the road felt fabulous compared to yesterday when it felt almost like a death march at one point, a battle of attrition that I almost surrendered to. The crisp morning air washed into the truck through open windows clearing out the dusty, dry odor of the truck. The drive up out of Chicken will always leave me gasping with the dramatic rise the road makes as it lifts me up above the landscape. 

In what seemed like an instant I found myself five hundred feet above the Dennison Creek, and the views of the creek are amazing. Again I almost drove right off the road craning my neck to get a better view of the valley below the road, this tends to happen a lot with me. Everywhere I look there are signs of old mining activity, old buildings dot the landscape here and there. Ghost like sentinels left to remind us of the many people that had come here before with dreams of riches in their heads, and hopes of a better life in their hearts. 

A very nice spot to catch your breath is the South Fork Bridge Wayside. This is a little beach along the South Fork that allows access to the river for rafting and far greater access to the Forty Mile country than the road allows. Just a few mile up the road is the BLM’s Walker Fork Campground. The Walker Fork is a wonderful river that breaks away from the South Fork and meanders through this amazing valley. The campground is well maintained and is a great place to spend a few days relaxing and enjoying the country. 

Back out and driving on the road continues it’s rise above the rest of the world and new surprises greet me with almost every turn. Slowly we leave the Gilliland Creek and the burnt out valley it weaves through far below and after short stretch we return to the Jack Wade Gold Dredge. This time the dredge offered little curiosity for me and we continued on leaving the old hulking mass behind. Rising up out of the valley I arrived at the barren, treeless Jack Wade Junction with the Taylor Highway winding its way north away from the Top Of The World Highway. 

I was oblivious to everything in my life except for this moment in time as we drove along this dirt road. I felt as if I was the only human being in the world and nothing stood any higher than I did at this instant. The isolation and emptiness of this region really appeals to me having spent a great part of my life living in the desert, and actually I was starting to feel a bit homesick for the desert southwest. 

I guess I was a little burnt out from all of yesterdays driving, and with our arrival in Liberty where all that is there is a name, I had concluded that this was enough for one day. So I wouldn’t make it to Eagle, well there’s a reason to return to this place again. We drove back slowly, absorbing everything with frequent stops to let Equinox out to sniff and explore the area. Well that was the excuse anyway, I actually needed to get out of the truck and walk around and feel this place, not just see it pass by my window in a blur. 

Since it was mid day the light was way too harsh for any real photography, so we just sat back and enjoyed the world around us. We arrived back in camp sometime around 4:30 in the afternoon and it was a little early to be resigning ourselves to the campsite so we drove back up towards Mt Fairplay. The light kept toying with me, every time I would see something that would be nice to photograph the clouds would obscure the light for what seemed indefinitely and we would move on with our impatient drive for something to shoot. Then having moved on in search of another view the light would reappear. 

We returned back at camp yet again around 7:00 and fortunately the mosquitoes had taken a pleasant break. Once Equinox got comfortable with the fact that I wasn’t going to vanish on him he traipsed off into the woods to find something that he hasn’t sniffed or tasted yet. 

So here I am relaxing close to the fire an ale in one hand and a camping tradition in the other, a fine cigar. I have a habit of indulging in cigars when I’m on the road so to speak. Well something came to mind while I was staring into the flames of that camp fire. The realization had come to me that if I was to keep searching for places, things, and light to photograph, I would see very little and the light would fade from my eyes let alone my camera lens. 

I know, the whole purpose for this trip originally was to photograph this unique region, and then the idea of rediscovering myself kind of filled in the gaps as it were. Be that as it may I find that the priority of this adventure has changed and that traveling and seeing all that I can see within me and around me has become the priority. I decided that packing up the camera equipment and hitting the road in the morning will be incredible with no responsibility ahead of me but to drive. 

Well after having come to and accepted this decision I cracked another ale and considered the bible of Alaskan travel, the Delorne Alaska Atlas and Gazetteer. Dawson City really appealed to me, not to mention the fact that several friends had just returned from Dawson City and had a great time. I thought that would make for a marvelous adventure and besides don’t they sell Cuban cigars in Canada?                                                                                   The distance to Dawson City is very misleading, road conditions are not taken into count not to mention the endless parade of slow moving R.V.er’s but they are easily dispatched when a nice straight away is convenient. Then again you would believe that a couple hundred miles would just slip by, not on the Top Of The World highway with a dirt road riding the spine of earth or the amazing views that steal away before you can even realize they were there. No, the road to Dawson City doesn’t just bring you in and absorb you, no it changes your life. It, this magical road slows time and involves you in it’s every twist and turn. Every grain of sand contained in the road enriched the experience. 

With a brief break at the Davis Dome Wayside to marvel at the desolation, the magnitude of my own insignificants, the wildfires off in the distance, and Equinox need for a restroom break so to speak we were off again. There’s something to be said about a world where you only have to look out and down to see this world around me, no need to look up. 

After what seemed like forever we fell upon the tiny outpost of Boundary Alaska, the last outpost on this road before anybody travels to Canada. Boundary Alaska is everything that the Alaskan frontier once was, the flavor still exists here, with a bit of a bite for tourism. Rustic and obsolete, dry and desolate and still the flair for catching the eye of the way fairing tourist. The passing roars of the hulking R.V.’s pull me back to the present. I’m left to follow trails of dust on this winding turbulent road that seems to disappear in the clouds. 

After what seemed like hours we arrived at the Canadian border and checked in with the border agent. The hours of driving along this treeless, bare world save the rocks and grasses, I found it almost shocking when I finally began the descent down to the Yukon River. Like falling from the sky, I was captured by the trees and water with a very dramatic affect. 

There she was, the mighty Yukon River and her mistress Dawson City, clinging to the shores of this magical river. It was a fabulous drive down to the shores of the river and the way Dawson City shimmered across the river was dreamlike. The wait for the ferry to cross the Yukon was quite pleasant as the heat was bearable and a slight breeze tempered the heat of the afternoon that much more. 

Dawson City is a very amusing town, with a beached river boat sitting on the shore having become a keno parlor. I could easily imagine myself riding in to town on this dusty road by horse a hundred years ago with the same buildings standing where they are now, and this same dust-covered road left to stimulate my imagination. 

The first task on our list of things to do was to get out of the truck for a bit to stretch our legs and get some fresh air in our lungs. We parked at the beginning of town beside a park that runs for at least a quarter mile along the shores of the river and the jetty that separates her from town. It’s a beautiful day to walk through the park and along the shore of the Yukon River. Once we got down to the end of the park just passed a great gazebo we turned around and walked along the shore and allow Equinox the time necessary for him to sniff and taste the plants and water that runs the river itself. 

Walking along the river in the fresh air was just what we needed, Equinox got to stretch his legs and I got a in comfortable stroll in a wonderful environment that for all I knew I would never see it again. Walking along the river I got the feeling that the river was alive, breathing and moving through its habitat. Equinox didn’t appreciate my sentiment and played in the water every chance he got. 

We ran and played in the grass all the while watching the endless parade of dust-covered R.V.’s as they head up the Top Of The World Highway There are several errands I needed to complete , one was to see the reconstructed home of Jack London as well as the home of Robert Service. Being that touristy stuff really isn’t my bag it didn’t take much time for me to visit each of the homes before I called it quits. Now it was time to get the necessities out of the way, things like gas, ice, and some Cubans. 

For half an hour we just wandered around town, checking out the sights visiting the different shops before we finally found a gas station to, well to get gas of course as well as clean all the bugs off of the windows. I managed to find a store that sold quality Cuban cigars but being as expensive as they are I could only afford a couple and lit one up for the drive home. 

Having achieved everything that I wanted to get done here I headed back over to the ferry and waited for the ride back across the river, back on the road to my reality. The drive back to the camp ground went unevenly and smoothly. Since we stopped at almost every place there was to stop on the way out here we didn’t have too many reasons to stop on the way home, so the drive took much less time. By the time I got back to Chicken I had felt like I’ve lived in this area my whole life. Views and images that I first found magical and unique became the standard and normal surroundings in my world. 

I keep forgetting that this world I’m visiting isn’t my own, sure I’m here and this is my existence but I don’t live here, I won’t spend every day of the rest of my life in this environment. This place in a sense will no longer exist for me once I’m gone, though it will live on in my images, memories, and the words I write on these pages. 

Though the sun was still high in the sky, it was just after 7:00 in the evening and food was definitely on my mind, as well as several ice cold ales that have been staying nice and cold for me. Not to mention that the cigar in my glove box will go wonderfully with my beer tonight after dinner. 

Equinox had enough of being cooped up in the truck and vanished into the woods to do his thing. After dinner I was relaxing beside the campfire, cold beer in one hand and a tasty cigar in the other. I was reflecting on everything that I had seen on this trip. The miles I’ve drove were mind-boggling to me and driving for all told nine hours to and from Dawson City really wore me out. 

Since the Top Of The World Highway is mostly a dirt road it is very demanding and I felt like I had ran a marathon from all the concentration spent on that road. I thought about how this was the last night that I would be spending here in a place that was heaven for me. In the morning I’ll be breaking camp and leaving this place, a place that I’ve become very comfortable. Living in my tent for the last few days with the smell of a campfire on my hands and in my clothes, listening to the river, though I couldn‘t see it through the trees it still put me to sleep every night. Waking up in the morning to the smells and colors, the wisps of leftover charcoal burning in the fire pit. The smell of fresh coffee under my nose and warming the nights chill from my body. 

It wasn’t until the river spoke to me, the wind soothed me and the trees listened to me that I felt at home here. In a very short time this place had become my reality while I was here. Walking around the campground every night like tonight was nothing less than a relaxing stroll through my neighborhood. 

I finally surrendered to the tent apprehensive about what was to come tomorrow leaving this place. In the morning I sat at the picnic table, my cup of coffee in hand and heating water for a couple more cups. I love the smell, coffee aroma almost brings the morning to life for me. Steam rises into the air from the dark liquid in my cup, the dew hangs from everything around me with a musty scent that intoxicates the very essence of my being. I sat there for quite a while, savoring this special moment when the nights chill was settled on everything and the sun casually glares down at me from the hills on the other side of the river. 

The mosquitoes had begun to stir but seemingly avoiding me, my guess being that they knew I was leaving and this was their gift to me. Ever so slowly and between sips of coffee I disassembled the tent and packed up all the gear laying around the campsite. Equinox was off in the woods saying goodbye to all the things he didn’t get a chance to taste. 

Finally getting the tent packed up and everything else put away in the truck I took a moment to look around the empty campsite that I had called home for a few days. I walked down beyond the fire pit to the edge of the woods and meadow that leads to the river. I gazed across the river at the hills on the other side, at the spot where a tree once stood before it casually and with little fanfare crashed into the hillside to settle on the ground in a pile of shattered kenneling. 

I stared down at the ground where my camp chair sat and where I made the decision to leave and then changed my mind to stay and see this trip through. I could see where I laid on the ground with a blanket and savored each and every moment. I was leaving a place that had become a very special place for me, a place that had become very spiritual for me. 

I took a final look around to make sure I didn’t forget or miss anything, and with a final glance around I got Equinox into the truck and slowly crept out of the campsite. This empty place I was leaving had become my home and now I was traveling back to the place I live. 

Years have passed since that trip, the choice of staying in Alaska was the best thing I could done for myself. I discovered a whole new world that welcomed me in like a child falling into his mothers arms. What tomorrow brings to this incredible world will include everything that I am today. 

  

  

  

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