Trip to Chicken, Alaska.
I wish I could have gotten better pictures of the swans but they were in a pond right next to the highway and I didn’t want to get out of the car and cross the road right there.
The ice on this river was so blue and beautiful.
My kids normally, and sometimes unfortunately, stay awake during road trips. But it was cool and rainy and she was snuggled down in all the bedding. We had brought every comforter we own for sleeping in the tent. She had a good nap in her little nest.
Chicken was settled by gold miners in the late 1800s and in 1902 the local post office was established requiring a community name. Due to the prevalence of ptarmigan in the area that name was suggested as the official name for the new community. However, the spelling could not be agreed on and Chicken was used to avoid embarrassment. A portion of Chicken, with buildings from the early 1900s and the F.E. Company Dredge No. 4 (Pedro Dredge) are listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Chicken is the outpost for the 40 Mile mining district. There are still active gold mines in this area. Enough gold was mined here to make it worthwhile to haul huge gold dredges to this remote location. There are still several inactive gold dredges in the Chicken area.
Chicken has one important former inhabitant: The teacher Anne Hobbs Purdy, co-author of the book “Tisha” (together with Robert Specht, Bantam Books), lived here for 1 year in the late 20s teaching the local children. Her famous and captivating book tells her story in the Alaskan wilderness and how she faces the difficulties of a close-set community, prejudices against natives, and the hard winter.
Year round population of 7 according to the 2010 census.
We arrived Friday afternoon after a 6 hour drive. It was cloudy with occasional sprinkles. There were more people this year then last year so the camping grounds were more crowded. We got our camp set up with a bit of a delay. After finally being able to get into our storage unit to get the camping gear, we didn’t have time to really check it over as well as we should have I guess. Some how, a part of one of the tent poles did not make it into the tent with the other ones last year so we were short one. I started to ask around. A spare pole was quickly found thankfully. It wasn’t quite the right size so our tent had a bit of a canter to it. I thought that was quite fitting in my life which also has a bit of a canter to it. We had borrowed an older Coleman stove from a friend. I had also brought my propane burner and half a bag of charcoal. When hooking up the canister of propane to the stove, we discover a huge WHOOSH of escaping fuel. I unhooked it and put it back in the truck thinking that it would be no problem. I still had my single burner. I got out the single burner and hooked it up only to find that it was getting ho fuel at all. I changed out the bottle and still was getting no fuel. This is a practically new burner and I was pissed that it was just not working. I normally just cook over an open fire but since I had two other sources, I only brought the left over half bag of charcoal and nothing to use as fire starter. I hate using lighter fluid so never buy any. At last we found some wood and got a fire going to cook dinner on. We are pretty good at just rolling with the flow of what life hands us.
Saturday was such a bright, sunny day that I got a sunburn. It’s the first one I’ve gotten in years.
Here’s a short video clip of what Chickenstock is.
After it was over, we packed up camp and headed 3 more hours up the road to the town of Eagle, AK. My friends Wayne and Scarlett live up the river from there and this is our main chance to visit for the year. To get to their cabin, one must drive to the village of Eagle, park on the river bank, go up the river in their boat, park the boat, go up the trail on the ATVs.
For gardens planted directly in the ground, black material is laid down to help warm the soil. Scarlett has beautiful gardens.
The kids liked helping to feed the dogs. The dogs are fed salmon and kibble depending on the day. Most of their dogs are up on the glacier for the summer, giving rides to tourists. This is a good exchange system. The dogs get fed and continued conditioning and the tour company gets well-trained dogs. They keep a core group of dogs though. Some are not able to do that job and the group of them are an early warning system for bears.
This is the sauna for winter cleansing.
They have a little, wooden, homemade bench in their yard the provides this view. I could sit here for days gazing out onto the Yukon River and the vast wilderness. It’s one of the most comforting sweet spots I have ever been to, a place to commune with nature.
On the second day we went to visit some friends up the river. They live near this rock formation called Calico Bluff. It is a famous geological site.
Salmon wheel. This is placed in the river to catch salmon with.
Outhouse with a view. This could be handy to make sure no bears or moose are out there before leaving the relative safety of the structure. I know I have a whistle hanging on the wall of our outhouse in case one of the kids gets trapped in there by an animal.
On the way back home, we stopped to cut up a tree to add to the stockpile of firewood. Winter is never far from our minds.
I can’t really explain the call that this type of life has for me. It feels right to my soul. Right now I just have to focus on raising my children and learning more. But someday, I will have my own little sweet spot in the wilderness.
After spending a few days, we head home.
It is good.