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The Yukon - the land of the midnight sun, permafrost and Sam McGee! We were slow to warm to the Yukon but after a few days we were hooked. Dawson City, Tombstone Park, Keno, the Lapie River - spell-binding country with memories of the frantic gold rush stampede and romantic steam paddlewheels still hanging fresh in the air. It was all so recent and chunks of history's toil lie everywhere for you to pick up and examine. We'd love to go back.
June 21-28 2004, The Teslin River:
We did a week long trip on the Yukon's Teslin River with friends from Williams Lake and had an excellent time. For Stephen's version of events see The Teslin River: Stephen's version and for Devon's version see The Teslin River: Devon's version.
June 30-31 2004, Whitehorse:
Although we weren't initially impressed with Whitehorse, it proved to be a good base and we warmed to it. It was also an expensive stop. We got a major service done on the truck, new tires for the trailer and did laundry. I also installed a 12 volt source for our portable fridge and a vent on the trailer lid. We were amazed at the number of RVs parked at Wall-Mart and we didn't clue in until we were told that they camp there because it is free and their rigs are two big for normal campgrounds. I suspect some also like the homey feeling of living beside the world's biggest source of cheap plastic crap. I can't believe that there are people who drive thousands of miles to stay in a WalMart parking lot (you know you have lost your soul when...). And while I am on this rant - what is it with all these fifth wheels and their irritating generators? Since when do people need a !@#*&%@* generator to go camping? How bad is your energy habit? Leave the noisy things at home. Oh well, now you know where I stand on the bigger RVs. Note: the photo of the sign is not one we took.
June 31 2004, Whitehorse - The Wheaton River:
During our shuttle into the Teslin, Carol had worked out an evening river trip on the nearby Wheaton River with the driver. He likely never expected to be taken up on the deal but he was, and, upon return from the Teslin away we went. The Wheaton River was a cold, steady, rocky class II sort of mountain river with lots of corners, sweepers and rock eddies. Lots of fun! It poured rain when we got off the river so not only were our wetsuits and canoe gear wet but so was our tent and all that gear. It took a few days to dry out, especially because the sun was constantly obscured by the smoke.
July 1-3 2004, Kluane National Park, Yukon:
This is a spectacular place with over 75% still glaciated and pretty inaccessible. The first night was spent at Kathleen Lake Campground where we did the King's Throne hike (not really long but very steep). The landscape is huge; it was amazing to stand in the middle of the cirque with rock walls rising on three sides of us and billions of pieces of broken rock flowing from them, down beneath our feet and then down the slope into the lake far below. Of course, this flowing takes thousands of years but it is there - you can see the different waves of rock making their way down.
July 4 2004, Kluane National Park, Yukon:
Kluane is a huge park along one side of which runs the Alaska Highway. We stopped and did the half-day Sheep Creek hike which was pretty neat and much different from the King's Throne hike we did the day before. It is more of a sub-alpine hike with hoodoos and low-vegetated slopes to the east, a huge canyon to the west and views of Slim's River way down to the south. The rivers are so choked with glacial silt that places apparently don't have any real bottom. You wonder how the fish breathe or see. The rivers are in wide flat valleys with the river cutting new and changing channels every few hours. Thankfully for us, the smoke had cleared for the day so we were afforded some great views. If one had the time and money, I think a plane tour would be a great way to see this place and its vast ice fields.
July 3-4 2004, Alaska, Taylor (USA) and Top of the World Highways:
It was a solid drive today through Haines Junction and Beaver Creek (on the Alaska Hwy), Alaska (via the Taylor Hwy), Chicken (see below), back into Canada (on the Top of the World Highway) and finally to Dawson City. We were a bit concerned going through U.S. customs without passports on July 4th (heightened security of course) but the predictably surly/grumpy U.S. border patrol let us through with a stern warning about traveling without a passport. Contrast this with the scene a few hours later when we meet and amicably chatted with the lone female Canadian border patrol for 20 minutes before her watch beeped and she had to go remove her banana bread from the oven. Message to U.S. border patrol: lighten up - no one wants to invade your country despite what they tell you in border guard school.
July 4 2004, Chicken, Alaska:
We didn't actually stay in Chicken but with a name like that is deserves an entry all by itself. Chicken consists of a handful of buildings doing all they can to capitalize on the town's name. It even has the first gravel golf course we had ever seen - the greens are little squares of Astroturf. It was a neat place to stop. The one
photo is an old floating gold dredge from the early 1900s while the other is of the in-town golf course. Note the heavy forest fire smoke in the photos - a neat light.
July 4 2004, The Fires:
Alaska and the Yukon were burning up during our travels. It was the land of the midnight sun and 24 hour smoke. We had gotten used to the smoke everywhere but today we were seeing flames taller than the trees they were consuming only a few hundred feet off the highway and passing kilometer after kilometer of burnt trees and smoking hot spots. Chicken and the Top of the World Highway (Hwy 9) were so socked in with smoke you could only see for a few hundred feet which was too bad because the scenery is apparently spectacular. See the photo from the truck... those are beautiful mountains, plateaus and alpine in the background!
July 4-6 2004, Dawson City:
Dawson City's population peaked at approximately 30,000 during the Klondike Gold rush only to fall to several thousand shortly after (and remain there since). Creeks in the gold fields (now on fire) have been some of the most generous in the world but much of the gold was buried under permafrost making for difficult mining. Where gold is involved however, people find ways as evidenced by the landscape around Dawson City. It has been turned upside down. The area thrives on tourism but its unique people, placer miners, rough gravel streets and plentiful supply of old steamers and historic buildings ensure it remains an interesting place. There is almost too much and too recent a history to save it all, package it and sell it as happens with many tourist destinations. We only had to walk a few hundred feet in any direction to find old workings, buildings and the like. Note the smoke in the photos.
July 7 2004, The Dust:
Dust, dust, dust.... aargh. Everyday when we stopped we spent the first half hour wiping the day's accumulation of dust off the top of everything in the trailer and the back of the truck. The relative solitude was nice but dirt roads and highways had their price too. On the day's drive a stray stone bounced up and shattered the rear window of our truck cap. Carol built us a fabulous cardboard and plastic window and we were good to go again. The plywood face of our trailer was constantly being bombarded with stones from the tires and in two spots the first 1/8" layer of ply had worn right through!
July 7 2004, Dempster Highway and Tombstone Park:
We only went up the Dempster as far as Tombstone park to see the tundra and the Tombstone mountains. Great scenery and finally a park run by real people (most are self service in this part of the world). A very knowledgeable mother/daughter team help run the place and they have built up a great interpretive center. All the displays are hand built. Neat. Unfortunately, we didn't get to do our planned hike. We were building windows the first day and got rained out on our second day. Mud, mud, mud is what you get when rain, rain, rain hits the dust, dust, dust. Although we had been dustier (Labrador), we had never been dirtier overall. There was even a layer of thin mud up inside the canoe which was upside down and on top of the truck!
July 8-9 2004, Mayo/Keno:
Keno is 112 km off the more traveled Klondike Highway. The scenery started as nothing spectacular but got more and more interesting as we headed head north. Keno is a land of stunted trees, sub-alpine tundra, old glacier worn cirques, plateaus, mountains, and of course, silver. Some of the world's highest grade silver ore came out of this area and was originally transported via horse and sled to Mayo where it was loaded on steam driven paddle wheelers to Whitehorse and then finally San Francisco for smelting. The mines operated up until 1989 and at one time almost 800 people lived in the area. The population is now officially listed as 50 yet we counted only 3 slightly grumpy old guys and 1 friendlier sort. Hiking, old mine works and a mountain top drive made it a great place to stop. The area also had one of the nicer campgrounds we had stayed at in the Yukon. Called Five Mile Lake, it was a bit of a hidden gem (although well used by the locals) with a great swimming lake and quiet (unless said locals were swimming) treed sites.
July 11-15 2004, Ross River (where?) Yukon:
We were on our way out of the Yukon when we stopped for the night at the Lapie River Canyon Campground and ran into a group doing a canoe course... it was five more days before we got on the road again. For the story see the Lapie River link.
July 16 2004, Watson Lake, Yukon to Fort Nelson, BC:
We had finally made it. After two weeks of trying we had successfully left the Yukon. We were sad of course. We got used to having the highways to ourselves even if they were gravel, dusty, bumpy and on fire. Back in BC and on the Alaska Highway we had to share the roads with hundreds of 5th wheels all crawling along. If not a 5th wheel, it was a bus with the husband driving (of course) and the white haired wife in the passenger's seat (of course) behind the wood plaque upon which their names have been engraved. The drive along the Alaska Highway between Watson Lake in the Yukon and Fort Nelson in BC is beautiful and the Liard hot springs are a nice break (if you can find a spot to park between all the RV's). Unlike some of the more centrally located hot springs, these have not been converted into swimming pools and remain more or less in their natural state. The photo is the Robert Campbell Hwy - one of the Yukon's major roads!
July 17 2004, Fort Nelson, BC:
Yup, this is BC on the Yukon page but we only stayed long enough to regroup before we headed up the Liard Hwy (#77) to the North West Territories. Carol brilliantly booked us into the Providence Hotel/Motel for the night which allowed us a night without dusting the camper or setting up the tent. It was the first real shower we have had in weeks - I had three in the space of 10 hours! During our stay, we did an emergency load of laundry, got fuel and propane, withdrew cash, bought tie-down straps and box liner tape (for the trailer in a dust proofing effort) and restocked groceries. A short but productive visit. The photo is of the sign-post forest located in Watson Lake, Yukon.
We loved our stay in the Yukon and would love to go back. It has its tourist spots but still has heaps of northern charm. The biggest problems we faced were dust (needing to clean out the back of the truck and the trailer EVERY day) and smoke.
After temporarily dropping back into BC we headed north along the rather rough Liard Higway (#77) and into the North West Territories. If you are following chronologically you might want to link to the North West Territories page.
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