Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crossing the Yukon

We're looking for the ferry out of Dawson City. So I tell Allen to travel north on Front Street, which follows the Yukon, a river that promised extraordinary riches to so many people so long ago.

We found none of those riches in Dawson (our own fault) so it's time to go to Alaska. Maybe our fortune is there.
But first, we need to cross the Yukon, on a small, free ferry.

After driving just a few more blocks north, we find the dirt ramp leading to our escape. Two cars idle in the line next to us. We're the sole RV. So it's just the three of us, waiting to cross. On this very small ferry.

Small, yes, but we see it's sturdy enough to tote a double oil tanker (filled with another of today's extraordinary riches) from the other side. We watch it disembark. Then see the ferry rises a good two feet when relieved of the weight. A good sign. A strong boat.

Our turn. The two men and one woman in hard-hats and rain gear direct the three of us on, waving their hands and signs to inch us forward, as close together as possible, the two cars first, then us.

A man in the first car hops out to take pictures. What a great idea! So I follow suit. As soon as one foot touches the deck, the woman waves me back in. She's shaking her head furiously, pointing to a sign, waving her sign. The sign, I see, says I'm to stay in my vehicle. Oops. So I stay inside.

The Yukon's current tugs us sideways as we cross. I understand why she wants us all seated. It's a raging river. And it takes 15 minutes to go from one side of the river to the other because the powerful current wants to wash us away.
But, we reach land, safely, and roll off in West Dawson City and head up the hill to begin our journey on the Top of the World Highway, a 175-mile narrow, paved/gravel/dirt road that cuts across the mountaintops from Yukon into Alaska.

But we stop first, so I can get a few pictures of that ferry.

As I snap, I see the troublemaker trotting down to see me. He's the man whose lead I followed on the boat and got chastised.

"I've come to apologize," he says, in a lovely, cadenced British accent. "Because had it not been for me, you would not have been scolded so back on the boat." And then, he proceeds to make plans to email me the pictures he took of our motorhome on the ferry.

There's more.

We meet again, this British man, Keith, his wife, Janet, near the end of the Top of the World Highway, in a town called Chicken, Alaska, where we spend the evening chatting about the monarchy, the world, kids and travel. We become fast friends.

Our evening together sparkles, like flakes of gold in a miner's pan. So just as I though, we strike it rich in Alaska.

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