Unwanted Visitor at the Summer Solstice
After spending a lot of time in the wilderness, we decided it was time for some RnR and what better night than the summer solstice, excellent we thought, but where to go. We looked at the map, calculated the mileage and decided - it has to be Chicken, which is at the start of The Top of The World Highway which travels from Alaska to the Yukon in Canada. According to our guidebook it has a year round population of 6, which probably trebles in the summer months. We pull off the dusty highway at the sign directing us to Downtown Chicken - a general store, a saloon and a café with a sign pointing to free camping - happy days says Dave, all you need for a party - beer, food and a place to sleep it off! Chicken was apparently named after Alaska's national bird the Ptarmigan, not because these tundra birds taste like chicken, no, because nobody in the town could spell it. Due to it's location on the highway it's a popular stopping off point for all who drive it and offers gold panning and mine tours as well as being the start of the dust to dawson motorcycle route.
We park up and start chatting to the couple next to us from Ohio, then head out with cameras to explore the old dredger left over from the town's mining days, and maybe try our hand at panning for gold. As we head back to Red a really cool truck camper pulls up, it's compact and has all the countries it has visited written on it, we spotted it on the Denali Highway, so were keen to talk to the owners ands hear of their travels. Chista, Johann, Dave and myself were soon sitting in the Saloon, a glass of Alaskan Amber beer in our hands chatting away, they had travelled all over the world in their truck which Johann built onto the back of a Toyota land cruiser and had endless funny stories full of tips and advice. As the evening rolled on people pulled up and soon the saloon with it's ceiling decked with baseball caps and shredded underwear, the latter of which was fired from a cannon, filled up. As the day drew to a close, the sky was still bright and we returned to our campers and despite the rain carried on our stories around the campfire for a while.
I was awoken around 3am by our truck door opening and someone climbing in, I unzipped the window cover and peered out, I could see the culprit - Doug a biker from Alaska whom we had been chatting to earlier, what the hell was he doing? He was throwing rocks and shouting, I followed his gaze and the stones to his tent 10m away, onto which a black bear was jumping. I was too amazed to grab the camera and instead told Doug to get inside and shut the door. The bear eventually got scared off as the tent re-popped up and moved off into the bushes. Doug understandably was not too keen to spend the night in his tent, so I offered him the floor of our camper. He tentatively made his way back to the tent to retrieve his sleeping bag as I kept lookout for the bear's return. I spotted it on the other side of the camper making his way back to the tent the long way round. "Quick" I shouted to Doug "He's coming back round from the right:" Dave had finally been woken from his deep sleep and was filming the bear whilst shouting 'Hey bear, go back." Doug seemed to take forever, the bear was now quite close to him again and I really didn't want to have to run out of the camper and spray it with our pepper spray, or worse witness an attack! Eventually Doug was safely in our camper as the bear once again started to paw his tent.
"I woke up as his paws were on my feet and I could hear it snorting, then he started to claw my tent." Doug was saying, "I sprayed it with my pepper spray and made it to your truck." He stood on our steps throwing stones and shouting at the bear. The bear finally had enough and with a final snort he headed off into the bushes once more.
As our heart rates returned to normal we sorted out Doug's sleeping area on the floor and eventually went back to sleep.
So all in all it was an eventful Solstice celebration, great friendships were made, another bear encounter was experienced and Dave got some great video for his FB posting.