Ah, Chicken. Located on the Taylor Highway (AK-5), which is not maintained in the winter, Chicken had a 2010 census population of 7. Summer months swell the population, of course, but it is completely off the grid and proud of it.
One might wonder how a remote area known mainly for its gold mining activity came by the name of Chicken. Well, back in the early 1900s a post office was officially established, and with the post office arose the need for a name. The local populace decided to name their town Ptarmigan, as these birds are numerous and, in fact, became the state bird of Alaska once it was accepted into the US in 1959. Unfortunately, there was much confusion over how exactly one spelled Ptarmigan–so much so, that to avoid embarrassment, they switched to the much-easier-to-spell Chicken.
We stayed at the Chicken Gold Camp, owned by a couple who’s been living in Alaska since the 70’s. They used to winter in Homer, but now go down to Arizona. They still actively mine for gold, but their store and RV park are pretty popular with people coming over the Top of The World. Not that there’s a ton of choice, but still.
The RV park offers only 20 amp electric hookups–enough to keep your batteries charged, but nothing else. They have to generate all of their own electricity. We’d been warned to carry water, and as we were traveling to Tok after the one night at Chicken, it wasn’t an issue.
It was sad to look at the amount of dirt accumulated on the rigs from the mudfest we’d traveled through the day before. Rory was a mess; the trailer was a mess. I was a mess just trying to hook things up, since everything had mud on it that I touched.
Some good news regarding Bob and his journey into the ditch: a wrecker had hauled him out and he’d been able to drive it to Chicken around 3 in the morning. I slept through the whole thing, but Bob, Harry and Mo had been required to drive out to the site of the accident at midnight once the wrecker got there. The great news was that there wasn’t too much damage and it was completely drive-able.
I did try my hand at gold panning while there–let me tell you, it ain’t worth it. You swish and swish and swish and swish, and your reward are a few microscopic flecks of gold? Along with ferocious mosquitoes? No thank you.
During the gold rushes back in the day, the smartest people were those who set up stores to serve the needs of the miners. Those people got pretty rich with far less backbreaking work. Chicken is no different, as their store sucked a rather alarming amount of money from me. In my defense, they had some really cute items!
Finally, as I hitched up and hit the road to Tok, I was able to do yet one more map update: