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Uffish Thoughts: Travelling on the Top of the World August 17, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Uffish Thoughts.
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Uffish Thoughts: Travelling on the Top of the World

By Dan Davidson

July 17, 2012

– 663 words –

There was a predictable exchange of opinions between two levels of government last week regarding the state of the Top of the World Highway. The opinion of our local council was pretty much like the one I overheard coming from an Australian couple at one of our restaurants a couple of night ago.

They’d ridden the Tetlin Junction to Dawson route on a rainy day and didn’t have much nice today about it.

Mind you, there’s been some rain and some wear and tear over there since I drove it during the first week in June, so it may not be as good as it was that day. In addition we had a sunny day and that tends to give you the sort of view that makes up for a lot of other deficiencies.

Fifteen years ago you could say without fear of contradiction that the Top of the World part of the route was in better shape than the American Boundary Spur and Taylor Highway portion. Four years ago I learned that this was no longer the case.

As far as Chicken the Taylor was in pretty good shape in early June, and quite a bit of it has a paved surface. From Chicken to the border the dirt and gravel road isn’t really bad, but it’s dusty when it’s dry and can be slick if it rains. There are still a lot of tight corners where creeks run down into gullies. My 51 feet of truck and travel trailer didn’t have any problem with it, but I can see where longer, wider vehicles might.

The Top of the World on the Canadian side was more disappointing than bad. The BST treated surface, which I have been told didn’t set well due to wet weather after the last application, has had a rough time. It is full of potholes, damaged hardtop and lots of stretches where the surface is simply a patch of gravel on one side of the road or the other. I wouldn’t say it was dangerous, but you have to keep adjusting your driving to the road surface, and it certainly slows you down.

We had a nice day and it was pleasant to watch the play of shadows across the forested hills and view the more jagged peaks off in the distance. They had fresh snow on them then, while there were lots of places along the highway where the hard pack left on the sides of the hills by the ploughs just a few weeks earlier still clung to the shadier sides of the road.

That was similar to what I had seen in the high Country on the South Klondike Highway going to Skagway the week before, though that road was in far better shape.

I was not surprised to learn that Dawson’s council had drafted a letter complaining about the state of the road. This is the artery for our rubber tire solo traveler and bus traffic after all, and the fate of Eagle this year is a solemn reminder of what can happen if companies and families decide that your road isn’t safe.

The response of the Dept. Of Highways, which was essentially “we’re working constantly and as fast as we can” was also what could have been anticipated. In a summer that has included major washouts on every road south of Teflon and another at Kluane Lake, the highway crews have certainly been worked to capacity and behind this summer, and route that still be travelled might just need to wait in the queue for a bit while the urgent needs were met.

We’re reminded at times like these, to borrow a phrase from Sting, just how fragile we are.



* Canada Customs – The Little Gold Creek / Poker Creek border station.

* Inuksuk Hill – Shadows dapple the hills as Inuksuks welcome travellers to Canada just above the border station.



1. Sandra MacDonald - August 17, 2012

We just drove the Top of The World Highway early August in a 30 foot motorhome and it was a bit rough in places BUT I didn’t think to complain! The scenery was so beautiful that I didn’t notice the roughness and it is a great drive! I would highly recommend it!

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