Dawson City & Top of the World Highway

Eagle Travel Blog

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7.22.08 Dawson City & Top of the World to Eagle


Long, but great day today!



Enjoyed chatting with our new friends from Colorado Springs, who are on an Adventure Caravans 60-day Canada-Alaska tour, along with some Texans in their group.  Great fun!


Also admired our Inuvik friends’ truck camper.  I have to admit that the size and configuration of truck campers makes them excellent adventure-mobiles.  I’m intrigued with them now.


Talked with the Sourdough (old-timer) from the Dempster and he clarified that the north section was the worst he’d ever seen it.  The construction site around there was dangerous mud.  I was glad I was frank with the guy who’d been standing in the road to seek the opinion of those who’d just driven from Ft. McPherson.  I’d shown him some pictures and they turned around and headed south again.


Dawson City:

What a fun town!  I wish we’d had more time here, but I’d love to take Ned back there in the future.  We took a Dawson City tour through the Canada Parks, which left from the Grand Palace Theatre and walked around the town.  We were able to enter the bank, saloon, and post office which are exquisitely renovated.  Parks Canada owns the buildings and they are closed except for tours.  We really learned so much in the 90 minutes- fascinating.


What I would love to see when we go back is the dredge, the Discovery Claim, the Midnight Dome (and drink a glass of champagne at midnight), the fun at Diamond-Tooth Gertie’s including the entire can-can show, the mummified human toe in a drink at Sourdough Joe’s (but I’ll pass on the drink personally), ride the paddleboat on the Yukon, pan for gold, visit the First Nations’ Museum, watch the 3 movies at the Visitor’s Center, read the books “Klondike” and “I Married the Klondike” and “Rebel Women of the Klondike”, etc.  You see, there is so much to do there!  It is hard to tell whether a town has very much, but Dawson City has a colorful past and present.  Great fun!


We were able to purchase a few “I Survived the Dempster” t-shirts, which features mud on the car, luggage flying off the roof, and bloodshot eyes of screaming passengers!  Haha!  Also, we finally found some Fireweed Jelly and Fireweed Honey.  It’s a purple flowering plant and we’ve been told the honey and jelly are delicious.


To head on up the road, you get on the main road at the Yukon River and turn left.  It ends just at the edge of Dawson City where you follow the signs to board the ferry.  Then they wave at you from the ferry and you drive down and onto the ferry, which holds about 6 cars.  It smoothly moves you across and they tell you when to drive off- very cool!


So where to go, where to go….



We asked a few people, in fact, about the Top of the World Hwy and then going on up the gravel road to Eagle and here’s what they said:


RV driver at ferry (I parked right after the ferry and jumped out to ask the RV’s in line (which were filthy), who’d just come over Top-of-the-World Hwy, how the road was):  “Horrible, terrible, awful, potholed, miserable, and raining every few minutes… by the time you get to Chicken, you’ll have had enough of that road, let alone going to Eagle.”


Woman in Raven’s Roost:  “Bad road, in 1 day on July 1st (Canada Day), they received their entire annual rainfall and it washed out the road in places and going up to Eagle is even worse.


Gas pump man at Boundary:  “The next 40 miles are (insert expletive) and the road to Eagle is REALLY (insert expletive)!  The whole last week has been rain and there’ve been buses going off the road.  I would not drive the curvy mountain road in this RV.  A car maybe, but not this.”


So, we thought about it. 


And we drove it! 


Top of the World Highway was a cake walk compared to the Dempster.  Since I’ve got about 48 hours of “RV Pothole Dodging” training under my belt, avoiding the occasional potholes on the TOW Hwy was a breeze.  I kept waiting for things to get bad.  They never did.   


Okay, to be fair, the road does require concentration, high-alert, low speed, and lots of cautious driving.  I can do that.  It takes a long time if you’re going along carefully in an RV.  Fine, we take our time.  But it was not punishing or jarring for the most part.  The view was magnificent.  The mountains were not overly steep and Ciao Baby never broke a sweat.


U.S. Border:  Okay, I ask you this:  If I’m a U.S. Citizen and I’m stealing my own kids, wouldn’t I take them away?  If I have a “Permission for Foreign Travel of a Minor” signed by Dad, then is it still valid if I’m coming back into my own country?  Why would a U.S. border guy want to see that Ned says it’s okay to travel in the U.S. with our U.S. kids?  Silly! 


But I didn’t argue with him, I just handed over the notarized letters, we chatted about our trip, fruit (we got to keep our Washington apple- no not the same one we brought into Canada), and after he did license plate and passport checks (he didn’t even know what Global Entry was), we made our way into the great land of Alaska.


Eagle Decision Point:  Should we skip Eagle or risk the road to it?  Well, we can always turn back. 


So we took it!


And it was similar to my description of Top of the World:  Very slow, required careful concentration, and for the entire 60 miles, we rarely reached 30 mph.  The road is, for the most part, one lane and if someone is coming, you’d want to stop and inch by each other in most places. 


Thank the Lord, it was bone dry for 95% of the drive.  If it rains, I’m out of here, because it is dirt in places and would get slick.  But it was far smoother than the rest of the Top of the World Highway! 


The road the final 10 miles into Eagle is in pretty bad condition, but 10 miles is not far and you can pick your way over it.  Also, in two places, the road is down to one lane with cones blocking off the crumbling edge of the outside lane.  Rock slides limit the other side of the road.  So it is a tricky road in places, that’s true, but it is not a bad road when it is dry.


Guess how many cars we saw on the way here to Eagle?  One!  And that was just 10 miles from Eagle, coming toward us. 


I felt sorry for the hitchhiker we waved to as we passed- I assured Lia that he’d pass us in a truck in just a few minutes- oops.  It’s a shame that a few bad apples have spoiled that classic form of travel for everyone, but sadly it’s not something I’ll risk with the kids or me.


It is a gorgeous drive to Eagle!  This road is actually the continuation of Top of the World Highway (and also the Dalton Hwy) and you can see ahead of you how it winds around near the tops of the mountains.  There are natural waterfalls and rivers, wildlife, and rainbows.  You feel like you’re on a beautiful country, mountain road. 


We rode through Eagle before coming into the BLM Campground on the NW side of town- it is interesting.  Lia said she felt sorry for the people here because they are poor, so we talked about what “wealth” and “poor” mean to some people and how “rich” they are in fresh air, nature, beauty, trees, values, family, neighborliness, etc. and how I’ll bet the people here don’t envy the rat-race of those of us in more populated and “rich” places.


We’re hoping to take a tour tomorrow and then head down to Chicken to see where Anne Purdy taught.  We cannot recommend highly enough in the book “Tisha”.  Just don’t blame me if you stay up until the wee hours of the night finishing that fascinating book!  You’ve been forewarned.  J


We’ve changed our watches AGAIN.  I think that’s two time zones in 2 days.  With the sun up all the time, we don’t know what time it is.  Days are long and fun can be packed into all hours.  There is no limit on driving as you can see around the clock (although it does become like twilight)��" actually, as I look outside, it looks quite dark in this forest.  I guess we’re further south now.


Hoping to make it to Tok tomorrow night, then Fairbanks on Thursday, for Friday Ned Airport pickup- Hooray!  We’re looking forward to some Family R&R time together.  On the last day of the Dempster, Lia groaned and said, “I need a vacation!”  We’ll try to do just that.






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photo by: TessaHill