Monday, April 13, 2009

When The Chickens Come Home To Roost

When Marilyn and I officially ended our first visit to Alaska on Labor Day of 2007 (after spending 3 ½ months in that state) and started out across the Top of the World Highway toward Dawson in the Yukon Territory, we just knew we would be coming back if humanly possible. Our last stop in the Great State of Alaska had been the gold mining town ( I use the term “town” loosely) of Chicken, Alaska. The official Fairbanks Census Bureau puts the population of Chicken at 18. That must be the summer population figures. I am convinced more than a few of those folks hike it out of town for at least part of the winter season. Most of those 18 are mighty fine individuals, and I guess I just don’t know the rest yet.

What I will tell you, and this applies to all of Alaska, but especially to Chicken, is that since the day we pulled up the jacks and rolled out of the state, there hasn’t been a single day that we haven’t talked about, read about, written about, or thought about going back there- as circumstances would allow. Which is one of the reasons that our trip to the South West this winter was so much fun. In Brenda, AZ and then Yuma, AZ and then Cottonwood, AZ, we were able to hook up with friends that we had been fortunate enough to meet while on that first Alaska trip. And of the new friends we made in the desert, many of them are actually hard core Alaska fans as well.

So it really came as no surprise that spending time with these folks just naturally led to talk about Alaska …and mountains and glaciers and eagles and salmon and bears and wolves and moose and caribou and prospecting and gold and well, you get the idea! From the start, the conversations were exhilarating. But after a while it put our heads on a “mental mission” to figure out just how and when we could go back. It seemed no longer satisfactory only to think and talk about it. Alaska was calling us back, if not home.

We stopped by to visit and did some prospecting and ATV riding in Brenda, AZ with Lynn and Judy Yoder. For more than a few years now they have been members of the staff of the Chicken Gold Camp. In the short week that we had camped and prospected there, they had become good friends. It is easy to make fast friends with good people with whom you have many interests in common. People who love what they do and who are good at what they do are just naturally “magnetic,” and they are certainly that. We had asked about whether they would be going back. We had talked about some of the duties of the staff over and above what we may have seen from our “guest” perspective. And then there was maybe some discussion around the edges of whether or not there might be room this coming year for someone additional at the camp. Which of course was chat and nothing more, but the thought never really left me after that point and in later discussions I realized the same was true for Marilyn. The ball was now clearly in our court….and we wanted to play. So we dropped Mike and Lou Busby, the owners of Chicken Gold Camp a quick e mail and asked what options, if any, might exist in this regard. Now as luck would have it, Mike and Lou were also in Arizona, thawing out from winter exposure to Alaskan winter temperatures. Like Lynn and Judy, Mike and Lou are extraordinarily friendly, talented individuals and we had come to think of as them as good friends from our very first stay in Chicken. Hosts that make guests feel truly welcome are doing far more than their job, they are growing a business! A short correspondence back and forth to see if we might all wind up on the same page at the same time…, and soon an invitation to join the staff of Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost arrived in our “IN” box. Admittedly by the time the invitation arrived we were virtually down on our knees in prayer hoping that it would. To put the finishing touches on the arrangement, we met them in Cottonwood, AZ, and spent the day talking things over and the evening grilling, you guessed it, chicken (the bird, not the town) on an open fire out in the desert on the BLM land. It made for a perfect time.

So! What started to be put into place unknowingly a couple years ago is now about to come to fruition. The “chickens” that left the barn to scratch and peck, explore and see what there was to see on the outside are now about to come “home” to roost.

What this means: There is a wealth of information on Alaska and the Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost to be explored in the blog in the coming weeks and months. First, though, there is a long trip to get there- through some beautiful country. Once there, we hope to be telling the story of what we will be doing there and what others are doing and experiencing there. Maybe the blog will become the first official on-line newspaper of Chicken with features on the state, the people, the wildlife. At this point I really can’t say ‘cause I really don’t know. But this I am sure of: we are looking for a terrific summer, one that allows us to pursue the things we love to do, with people whose company we really enjoy, and having the opportunity to share our time, our experiences, our skills with folks who most likely will come to Chicken in much the same way we did those two years ago- high with enthusiasm for the place, eager to learn, and chock full of the anticipation that “gold“, both the metal and the bright and shining lessons of life and nature and history, are already there just waiting to be discovered.

I had a friend back in Rockland, Maine, by the name of Ray Gross. Ray was the editor of the local newspaper, the Courier Gazette in those days. Ray and I served together on just about every board of directors that existed in that town at one time or another. We were constantly engaged with the Chamber of Commerce, and especially so in the Rockland Rotary Club, for which we both served as president. Ray had 30 plus years of perfect attendance in Rotary (I only managed 15). In all those years, Ray shared his philosophy of life. It is an idea that stays with me always. “Come to learn. …. And stay to teach”

And that is what we will do in Chicken. Come to learn. And stay to teach.

For now, there remain a couple more weeks of preparation and provisioning. The vehicles must all be serviced and readied. Supplies must be gathered. Business and family matters must be attended to. Did I mention taxes must be paid ??? But soon, very soon, we will begin in earnest to tell of the marvelous adventure that is “going to Alaska.” Again! An adventure every bit as big as the state itself. WE ARE PSYCHED!

Consider this your first of many and repeated invitations to join us on this special journey. If you have the time and the inclination, come to Chicken Gold Camp any time this summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Free panning lessons to the first 50 that take me up on this offer!!!! Actually, panning lessons will be free regardless, but I like the promotional aspect of it, don’t you? But if you just can’t make it this summer, then please follow along via the blog as we venture back . When you can’t come to Gundyville, Gundyville can ALWAYS come to you.

Stay tuned….

Chicken Gold Camp and Outpost "in season", photo courtesy


Ken and Linda said...

I am so excited for you two. Enjoy your summer...we will look forward to your blogs. We'll hope to meet up again next winter and to someday join you in your loved Alaska.

Big Bill said...

Greg & Marilyn...

Hello from Alaska!

I have followed your Blog since you first came into Alaska. I write a little also and am intereted in peoples perceptions of my beautiful state. At first I was excited about your enthusiasm, then you discovered my hobby. I too seek the Blue Lead. I found your writing to be vivid and expresive, So I accepted your invitation to follow along. I check in with your blog at least once a week.

I am excited to hear that you are coming back to Alaska with purpose and intent. Im sure you will have the Time of your Lives this summer. I look forward to following you north and hearing of your times in Chicken. As I recall you never made it to Eagle. I would love to read your comments about Eagle, be sure to make it this time, you wont be sorry!

I decided, as I read your coming home to roost post, to take a long weekend and come meet you guys and hang out at Chicken for a couple nights. I look forward to that.

Have a safe trip North... See you in ALASKA!

Big Bill Oliver, Anchorage AK

P.S. I had a story published in the GPAA magazine in the mid 90's "Over the Edge in Alaska" was the title. If you are interested in reading it or want more info, let me know. Bill

Greg said...

Big Bill, Thanks "a mill" for your comments to the post. Marilyn and I are very excited to meet you in "Chicken Camp" this summer and couldn't be more pleased to have our first "taker" on our invitation to join us in camp. And yes, for sure, we would like to read your article on "Over The Edge In Alaska." Let me know how we can arrange for us to see it. You can email me any time you like at
We will most assuredly plan enough time to visit Eagle!

Chuck Marunde said...

Fascinating. Believe it or not, I actually grew up in Tok, Alaska, just about 60 miles from Chicken. We lived in a 900 sq.ft. cabin with a wood stove, a kerosene lantern, and an outhouse. Lived off the land. Great way for a boy to grow up, although my sisters didn't care much for that outhouse toilet seat at 50 below. Fought forest fires around Chicken, hunted and fished the area for 20+ years before going to law school in Spokane, WA. I raised my family in Sequim, WA, and absolutely love it here. Reminds me of Alaska without the harsh weather.

Greg said...

Well, Chuck, we are happy to be starting to work with you. If you found this article in short order and sent a comment, I have zero doubts that your research skills are exceptional! We look forward to a great working relationship.