Travelled from Whitehorse back to Watson Lake today. It was interesting to travel the road in the other direction and see new scenes. I also met tons of friendly people today! Stopping at Jake’s Corner for a drink of water and a cookie, a woman named Elaine came over to see my bike and ask me what I was up to and we had a little chat. They have lived in all sorts of northern communities and are now in the Yukon. Looking across the road from Jake’s Corner, I laughed to see a little rough log structure with a sign over it that said “Hippie Inn”.
An hour or so later, I was headed into Teslin with the throttle down and my mind planted on another hot turkey sandwich at the Yukon Motel and Restaurant. Such was my intensity that I almost went by the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre. Reigning in my stomach, I pulled in to take a look. So glad I did. The story of the Tlingit First Nations as traders in the Yukon had been showing up throughout my museum stops. They were astute business people and monopolized the trade in the Yukon by controlling the passes. While there are similarities in the lifestyle with other First Nations cultures as hunter/gatherers as well, their social structure was different. They had different clans and each clan had different responsibilities. They did not marry within their clan. Beautiful displays of beadwork and carving were on display. I also had an interesting conversation with Laura (who is an herbalist) about the local plants and berries they use for medicine and jams and jellies.
A little further up the road was the George Johnson Museum. This looked unique, so I took another detour on my way to lunch. George Johnson was born and raised in the Tlingit traditional life. Upon visiting Alaska, he discovered photography. He brought the first car into Teslin, ordered a camera from the Eaton’s catalogue and learned how to use it. He developed his own photos and is credited with creating a photo story of the Tlingit cultures and traditions as he travelled around the Yukon. One of the displays in the museum that talked about the tanning of hides reminded me of a comical headline on a similar display in another museum – “The moose had enough brains to tan his own hide”. Part of the tanning process, after scraping the fat and tissues off the skin was to soak the hide in moose or caribou brains and water before drying and then repeating the process.
At this museum, I fell into conversation with Wanda. Wanda is also struggling with grief, having recently lost her son. We had a good talk about loss and learning to living without our loved ones, about forgiveness and hurt, and parted with a hug. If we let ourselves be open, support is everywhere.
Carrying on to the Yukon Hotel and Restaurant for gas and food, my first little chat was with a man who has evidently been all over the world with his camper van. He tried to convince me that we should switch gas bills – his van taking 100 litres and my bike taking about 6.5 litres! I had my hot turkey sandwich and had a wee chat with Kenny and Candy from Alabama, who are travelling to Alaska in their own good time. Another American couple chatted with me as well, but I did not get their names. Both Kenny and the other gentleman were Goldwing riders and were interested in my bike. The CTX 700 seems to be a bit of a wild card still - very few people I have met have heard of it and even fewer have seen one. I haven’t seen another one since I left home.
The day being cool with a strong-ish headwind, I made more frequent stops. I find the wind fatigues me more quickly than rain or cold. It makes sense that it is more physically demanding, though I don’t think about that when I’m riding. Stopping for a break halfway to Watson Lake, I met Mike and Alberto who had travelled from Houston, Texas. They had a good look at my bike too and told me my suit was too clean to make what I’m doing sound real. LOL I’m sure the next few months will take care of that! About 30 kms out of Watson Lake, I had to pull over and take a photo. Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you’re bike hits 30,000 kms!! (Riders will understand the joke in that sentence. 😊 The end of the saying actually goes "and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself").
Arriving at the same Historic Air Force Lodge, 3 bikes pulled in behind me. These young men were traveling from Brazil, with the mission of starting at the southernmost city of the continent and travelling to the northernmost. One of them gave me a sticker of their journey and I will check them out online. Their tour is called Moto Expedicao Brasil/Alaska 2018.
So far, my theory bears out. If you leave politics and religion out of your conversations, people are just people – kind, generous, friendly and helpful. Back to BC tomorrow as I make my way into northern Alberta.
Solitude reigned on the road today
beckoning me to stay
As Nature revealed her beauty
In a thousand different ways.
A clear blue sky was overhead
The air was crisp and clean
The mountains and rivers and lakes I saw
Were the loveliest ever seen.
It's almost as though the Yukon knows
I'm leaving its wild lands
And wants me to remember all
the wonders my eyes have scanned.
Fear not, wild North, for I have seen
the beauty of this place
and felt the quiet strength and peace
that will lure me back someday.
As you may have guessed, the ride today was sunny and beautiful. Very little traffic in my direction and I was already prepared for the slalom course of rough spots and pot holes. Today's mission was to return to Whitehorse, and maybe get as far as Teslin. However, as interesting and quaint as Dawson City is, it is also noisy into the wee hours on the long summer nights. Sleep eluded me for quite some time and I woke early anyway. So I got up early, bade farewell to all my new buddies, and headed out. Upon arriving in Whitehorse, my brain shut down and said "That's enough!"
I didn't stop too many times except for gas and a slosh of water. I had noted a few sites on my way to Dawson City that I wanted to return to on the way back, though. One of these was the Five Finger Rapids. Wow, what a beautiful sight. This tricky little bit of the Yukon River gave no end of grief to the gold rush stampeders, many of whom ended up in the water trying to negotiate it.
My next stop was Braeburn Lodge, where they have a reputation for gigantic cinnamon buns. Having been nibbling on landjaegger sausage and nuts, I decided to stop for lunch. The cinnamon buns are indeed gigantic, but I didn't actually have one, opting for "real" food instead of carbs. I also knew I didn't have room in my cases for a cinnamon bun the size of a dinner plate. Turns out the Braeburn Lodge doesn't have any "normal" sized anything with protein. The sandwiches and burgers are all the size of a dinner plate too, and the soups were protein-less. So I ordered a cheeseburger with no bun, thinking I might be able to eat it all. It wasn't great - kind of tough and chewy and underdone. Wouldn't bother stopping there again unless it was for the cinnamon bun. The coffee was ok too.
Not far out of Whitehorse is Lake Laberge, made famous by the Robert Service poem The Cremation of Sam McGhee (click that title to read the poem). I had to drive in to the lake and take some pictures as Mom and I were just talking about it recently. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a really huge, beautiful lake. The shore is rocky, but the setting is lovely. There were some story boards near the boat launch and one of them told the story of a stern wheeler that had sunk there in 1901. I wondered if that's why Robert Service chose that location for his poem, as Sam McGhee was shoved into the shell of a grounded ship for the cremation.
Wildlife spotted today included one black bear, eyeing me quizically from the side of the road while munching leaves and plants, a red fox that didn't have the remotest use for me, two rabbits skittering away in their nervous way and three squirrels intent on committing suicide on the highway by being indecisive about what direction to take.
Arriving in Whitehorse, I settled into the Town and Mountain Hotel. It's very nice - clean, recently renovated and the room is spacious. Only thing is, if you have lots of gear to haul to your room (as I did), you might want to ask for something on the second floor. There are no elevators.
I was rewarded for my persverance by finding three beers in the little fridge, left behind from the previous tenant. Or at least it woudl have been a reward if I liked beer. But....when life gives you beer....add Clamato juice! I suspect when I've had it, I will be out like a light.
Grab a drink and put your feet up – this one is REALLY long!
Today was “explore Dawson City” day. My second goal was to have an old-timey photo done with my bike. They don’t normally do outdoor shots, they said, but I told them my story and they agreed to accommodate me! Mission #2 accomplished. 😊
Dawson City is a National Historic Site, so the buildings are all fronted with the Klondike style and where there are sidewalks, they are wooden boardwalks. The high way into town is paved, but the streets of the city itself are all dirt.
I began some of my exploration yesterday afternoon when I returned from the Top of the World ride. There are numerous historical sites in and around Dawson City and the majority of them are easily walkable. Of course, there are tons of shops selling everything from groceries to handcrafted jewellery featuring gold nuggets. You can book a tour to go gold panning or jump on the small paddlewheel boat for a cruise down the river. I didn’t do those things, but I did visit many of the historic sites and museums. Today’s photos will be a slide show again so I can add a caption saying what some of them are.
I stopped by the Visitor Information Centre which is really cool, as visitor centres go. It has some nice displays and the staff are keen and well-informed. I wandered around town in the evening, taking photos all over the place, so you are in for a treat or some boredom today, depending on your interest level and patience!
Front Street follows the Yukon River to the little ferry I took yesterday. There is a trail along the river for quite a distance. The SS Keno is a prominent feature as paddle wheelers brought thousands of fortune seekers, adventurers and entrepreneurs during the peak years of the gold rush. The gold rush was fairly short-lived, beginning in 1896, with the population peaking at 40,000 by 1898. At that time, it was the largest city north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg. By 1899, the big rush was over. A great deal of the individuals and small operators were replaced with larger companies that could mine deeper gold by machine.
The Danoja Zho Cultural Centre tells the story of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in people, and the impact of the gold rush on their community. Chief Isaac recognized early on that the influx of people to Dawson City would impact their lifestyle and culture and moved his tribe to Moosehide. The development of Dawson City came at the expense of their traditional lifestyle by driving away and depleting game and fish in the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. In fear of losing their culture and oral history, Chief Isaac visited a neighbouring Alaskan tribe and shared their traditional dance, story and culture with them for safe-keeping. In 1998, Chief Isaac was part of the delegation of Yukon Chiefs that negotiated land claims and self-governance for Yukon First Nations. The Tr’ondek Hwech’in have recovered much of their traditional teachings and stories. The cultural centre is a very well told and moving story of their past and present.
Starting my stroll on Front Street today, I saw the little Camera Obscura building that I had missed the day before. It’s set up so you go into the little hut and close 2 doors so it is quite dark. On the wall, you can see the images of people going by on the street outside. It was fun to see this as I had recently seen a show about a guy who was trying to figure out how Vermeer did his paintings. This is thought to be one of the techniques. It is also the technique that we use to day to view the eclipse safely!
Though I discovered it yesterday evening, I walked by the Locomotive Shelter again today in hopes that the building would be open. It was not, but I was able to get a photo or two through the window!
The Dawson City Museum was my next stop. I enjoyed this stop very much! Along with period displays of how people lived during the growth of Dawson City, it includes little stories of individuals. The personal anecdotes draw you in and make it all seem more tangible. There is a section on the mining techniques used during the gold rush and great displays of the geology of the area mapped by George Dawson. Dawson, who was appointed Chief Geologist and assigned to lead a scientific exploration of the Yukon, surveyed the Yukon region and defined the border between Canada and Alaska agreed upon by Britain and Russia in 1825.
The upstairs portion of the museum has a courtroom where the circuit judge would sit and is still occasionally in use today. Ironically, the upstairs also has a display about the women who came to the Klondike to live the “scarlet life”. Prostitution was considered a necessary service and was supervised and regulated. There were regular fines and medical inspections that were considered the cost of doing business. The proceeds from this “fund-raising” were donated to charity. In addition to the brothels in town, there were “cribs” (rooms lined up side-by-side) in some streets and alleys where women would ply their trade. A drawn blind meant “I’m busy”. It wasn’t until 1961 that the last brothel in Dawson City was shut down.
The Jack London Museum was next. This has a large centre with photos and a presentation about Jack London’s time in Dawson City. He had arrived hoping to make his fortune in gold but was unsuccessful. In spite of this, he achieved fame and fortune through his stories inspired by his time in the Yukon. Most of us are familiar with Call of the Wild and White Fang. His cabin was discovered by trappers in 1936. They noticed his signature on the back wall. The cabin was dismantled, with half the logs kept in Dawson City where the cabin was re-created, and the other half sent to London’s hometown in California.
A highlight of the day was the Robert Service cabin, down the street from the Jack London Museum. I arrived in time for the presentation. Robert Service was a Scot who came to North America and travelled all over it as a sort of vagabond for several years. He ended up in Dawson City well after the gold rush as a banker and began writing stories about the Yukon. It is said he hated his writing called “poetry” because he was just trying to tell stories in rhyme. Calling it poetry gave it a connotation he wasn’t fond of. By all accounts, Robert Service was an adventurous spirit with a well-developed sense of humour. His poems The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGhee gained him fame and fortune and have given Dawson City an identity worldwide.
The next highlight was the Berton home across the road from Robert Service’s cabin. I discovered this quite by accident last night and was keen to go back again today. Pierre Berton, was, of course, a renowned Canadian author, television personality and journalist. He lived in Dawson City when he was 12, not returning until his university years when he worked in Klondike mining camps for tuition money. It was cool to find out that Robert Service's last interview before he died was with Pierre Berton.
Ticking off a couple more sites, I stopped by the Commissioner’s Residence but had missed the tour for the day and so just wandered around the grounds. There were also some half-sunken buildings. Reading the story boards, it is permafrost that caused the damage to these buildings. Freezing and thawing turning the soil to muck. As you can see from the many photos of the day, I did a lot of wandering around taking pictures…..
Made a stop at the general store for some nibbles and postcards. I was delighted to see "Baker's Narrows Lodge" fish seasoning on the shelf - a little taste of Flin Flon, MB right here in Dawson City, YT! My food shopping complete, I went looking for the Palace Grand Theatre. They had a “Who’s the Best Klondiker” show yesterday at 4:00 and I was hoping for the same today. Unfortunately, it was not on today. Luckily for me, I ran in to Carol and Bill from Edmonton though! Met them on Front Street yesterday and talked at them for too long, so it seemed like they were old friends when I saw them again today. Such nice folks (or at least patient). They are headed for the Top of the World Highway and Chicken next.
I returned to The Bunkhouse early to write the majority of my blog and headed off to attend a show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s this evening. All of the performers did a great job. Although as I listened to the canned 50s music between the shows, I couldn't help thinking that Derry could have been doing it live!
As my Yukon adventure nears the end, Dawson City can certainly be considered a high point!
I had one goal today – to be on the Top of the World highway on Tracey’s birthday and spread some ashes and shed some tears. It seemed to me the most special place I could be for the occasion. So, Happy Birthday, Tracey, and welcome to the Top of the World!
The top of the world highway is reached by getting on a little ferry that goes across the Yukon River and drops you on the other side. On a street bike, the “highway” is a bit of a catch-22. It is jaw-dropping in it’s beauty, but the road demands all of one’s attention as it is loose gravel after the first 10 kms or so. It was slow going and I had to keep pulling over to gawk. I rode about half-way before turning around, deciding I didn't want to put any excessive wear on my tires, or find out why the acronym for the highway is T.O.W. But it was so very worth it to be there on Tracey’s birthday and it felt so good to achieve that goal. Nothing else would have satisfied me.
Coming back down was just as lovely and I stopped at a rest stop that I had passed on the way up. It had a sign that said Fortymile Herd. This is an area where the caribou have been successfully re-established. It also had a beautiful view of the mountains and the river. You can see that I also stopped at the blacksmith shop at this location but he said they didn’t have the right kind of shoes for steel horses. 😊
Skipping back across the river on the ferry, I continued past downtown to Dome Road. This road ends at the top of a mountain with a panoramic view of the city and surrounding landscape. It’s easy to see how people get charmed by Dawson City. In the summer, anyway – not sure it would be so charming in the winter.
After that, I strolled around town a bit, which I will tell stories about tomorrow and probably post about a billion photos. When I returned to the Bunkhouse, some of my fellow riders were sitting out on the verandah having a chat, so I joined them for awhile before going for dinner. Most of them are up here to do the Inuvik – Tuktoyaktuk road. From the stories of snow and mud and broken limbs they saw along the way, it does not sound like a road for my bike! There are folks from all over the world that come here to ride that road and the Alaska highway. I’ve met people from England, Italy, BC, Germany and the US so far. The gentleman from the UK has a motorcycle touring company. Next adventure?
I went for dinner and met a couple from Fort Steele, BC. They are making a journey through Alaska, Yukon and BC with an RV. Really nice folks and I’m glad I invited them to join me.
Time for bed now – lots to see tomorrow on my last day in Dawson City.
Today was a very late start. Had a few things to get done and figured I would wait for the a civilized riding temperature while I was at it.
On my way out of Whitehorse, I stopped at the Takhini Wildlife Preserve. It would take at least an hour and a half to go all the way around it, and being as I already had a late start, I did just over half of it. The highlight for me was the muskox. The rest was cool too, but you just don’t see a muskox every day!
So, I didn’t really get out of the Whitehorse area until almost 2:00 p.m. Rode the Klondike Highway to Dawson City. The ride was beautiful. Even though the temperature was still a bit chilly, the sun was out most of the time. A rain front skirted me and spit on me now and then, but nothing compared to the trip up to Whitehorse. Didn’t see any more wildlife on the road. I’m not sure if I should be disappointed or relieved.
I didn’t stop to take many photos today. The road was good, but demanded attention, being littered with potholes and frost heaves most of the way. Still, there were some nice long stretches with little to no traffic that afforded me some time for play and to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings.
Arrived in Dawson City around 8:30 p.m. and checked into The Bunkhouse. It’s another dorm-style abode and is reasonably priced in comparison to some of the others here in the summer. Not too many opportunities for food after 9:00 p.m. so I’m making do with a protein bar and some nut mix for supper. Ah, life on the road.
There are lots of riders staying at The Bunkhouse. A young man from Wisconsin who came up to travel the new road to Tuktoyaktuk. He has had to abandon the attempt twice. He said other riders who have gone up have run into snow and trouble. Another guy in front of him had broken his leg and was waiting to be air-lifted out. An Italian gentleman had his bike taken apart on a platform behind the hotel, replacing a seal. Had a chat with him – he’s been all over South America, the US and Canada with his bike. As well as Europe of course. A couple of his friends arrived shortly after and joined in the conversation for a bit. Such adventures sure put my little trip in perspective. Still, it’s a pretty big adventure for me - have to start somewhere!
For now, believe it or not, I seem to be short of words and am ready for sleep. I have many plans for my couple of days in the Klondike, so stay tuned. 😊
Today was a work, prep and maintenance day. Night Fury went in for a checkup and I am pleased to report she is in great health and ready for the next leg of our Yukon adventure. I had a tune-up at the massage therapist too and am much improved for it.
Experimented with cold weather layers a bit on the weekend and have found a good combo. It necessitated a couple of purchases, but I think will be worth it. I have also decided to lighten my load and have pulled stuff that I now consider "nice-to-have-not-need-to-have" to send back home before heading out again.
Today, while running around, I noticed again how many RVs were parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot. People had their camp chairs set up on the grass boulevard right beside the busy road. With all of the beauty and wonder of the Yukon, I can't for the life of me imagine why you would want to camp in the Wal-Mart parking lot!! It's insanity. Whenever I expostulated this, people would say "It's free." HELLOOO!!! They're driving an RV, towing a car with bicycles on the back, probably using 10L of gas per kilometer, and balk at the cost of an RV spot in one of the most beautiful areas of the country?! And shame on Wal-Mart for putting RV parks out of business by allowing it. Another example of how things would be different if they'd let me run the world. If all goes to plan, I should at least be on top of the world on Wednesday!
Am trying a post with a bit of video today. This video is arriving into Teslin, between Watson Lake and Whitehorse. I stopped here for gas and lunch on Thursday last week. Beautiful scenery coming into town.
I really thought today’s blog was going to be a short one……NOPE!
Well, if I didn't ride in the cold or rain, I'd still be in Vancouver! Waited until 10:00 a.m. to see if the temperature would rise a few degrees from the 3 degrees it was at 8:00 when I got up. It rose to 5......so I set out anyway. There was very little rain today and I took advantage of having a “home base” to leave a bunch of gear behind and explore a little closer to Whitehorse. It was sure nice to scoot around on the bike without the gear all loaded up.
When I finally got on the road, I took it to Carcross. It is a good road with lovely scenery. Clouds were low again, but it didn’t rain on me very much. My first little surprise was coming around a curve to see Emerald Lake. It’s a beautiful lake, its dramatic colour provided by the layer of marl on the lake bed. The surrounding mountains give the lake an extra boost of beauty – not that it needs it.
My second surprise was a couple of kilometers shy of Carcross itself – the Carcross Desert! What?!?! Though it is labelled as such, the story boards are quick to tell us that it is not a desert, since it is lacking the hot, dry climate. “Ya think?!”, says I, recalling my chilly ride beside snow-capped mountains to get there. The Carcross Desert is actually the result of glacial lake Watson depositing sediments as the glacier melted and the lake retreated. It’s an unexpected and incongruous thing to see in the Yukon.
On to the actual village of Carcross. “Caribou Crossing”, shortened down to Carcross, is a small community that has almost nothing going on in the winter but comes alive in the summer. "Skookum Jim" is a prominent figure in Carcross as a local who got rich in the gold fields, and more notably, remembered where he came from.
Artful buildings are gathered in a central area, housing the Visitor Centre, crafts of local artisans, coffee and foodstuffs. A little further up the road is the Matthew Watson General Store, which claims to be the oldest operating general store in the Yukon. Neat little place conveniently located directly across the street from the Carcross Station where all the tourists get off the White Pass train. The Carcross Station is a prominent structure that has a gift shop, information room and waiting area for folks boarding the train. Also in this location is the recovered “Duchess” steam engine, one of a pair of engines used for hauling coal for the railway. Eventually the Duchess was used to move tourists around before being retired to Carcross as an attraction in 1950.
The White Pass train takes passengers from Carcross through the pass to Skagway, Alaska. It is a 4.5 hour trip through what I’m sure is breathtaking mountain passes.
While I was exploring Carcross, the sun came out, bringing some welcome heat with it. Recalling the beach down the road from my winter excursion, I went to see what it looked like in “summer”. Wow. Just Wow!
On the return journey, I stopped at the little history pullout called Robinson Roadhouse. An abandoned log structure along the railroad marks the location of what was once a regular stop for people travelling to the gold fields. Many such roadhouses exist in the Yukon and were used by all manner of travellers – suppliers, fortune-seekers, entrepreneurs – you name it.
Back in Whitehorse, I did an “historical tour”, starting with the SS Klondike. This is the large paddlewheeler parked prominently at the edge of downtown Whitehorse. One of two boats of this name, the SS Klondike hauled passengers and cargo from Whitehorse to Dawson City from 1929-1950. It was a lot of fun to explore the lower deck where the cargo was stored. The huge stacks of Pacific milk boxes reminded me of Grandma Curtis using it in her tea. Observing the tiny spaces shared by 3-4 seaman would give any parent fodder for a child who complains about sharing a room!
From the SS Klondike, I made my way to the Old Log Church Museum. Another curious structure, with beautifully displayed stories of the influential missionaries and priests that travelled the Yukon and made the north their home.
Next was the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. Wow again. Lots of displays of Yukon wildlife and culture, as well as a small sternwheeler and the original log cabin of Sam McGhee. I was interested to see that the poem The Cremation of Sam McGhee” had nothing to do with the real person. Robert Service, the author of the poem, just met Sam McGhee and liked his name and asked if he could use it in his story. Sam McGhee was amused on a later visit to the Yukon by a creative entrepreneur claiming to have his ashes for sale.
Wanting to cram in the last two museums of interest to me, I made a beeline for the Yukon Museum of Transportation. This is an exceptional display of the different modes of transportation used in the Yukon territory since the beginning of time. The collection includes everything from snowshoes to aircraft to military vehicles to dog sleds. They have also recreated some historical facades to give you the feel of Whitehorse in days gone by. Truly worth the stop.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, located right beside the transportation museum. I almost gave this a miss, feeling a bit “museumed and historied out”. But it was a combo-pass for $12 with the transportation museum, so told myself “suck it up buttercup” and went over to it. Absolutely fascinating! Beringia is believed to be a land bridge between Siberia and northern Yukon/Alaska. This allowed for the migration of animals and homosapiens between the continents. The melting glaciers raised sea levels and Beringia has since been submerged. Left behind is fossil evidence of the animals and humans that crossed the land bridge. These fossils of animal and human remains date back tens of thousands of years. The Centre has reconstructed models from the paleontological remains and created displays of animals and their likely habitats. They have also created displays of the tools, clothing, shelter and lifestyle of the humans during this time. The oral histories passed down through generations of these people lend validity to many theories about Beringia.
When you see the number of museums and interpretive centres in the Yukon, you wonder how they can all exist. The answer is that they all have something different to offer. While there are common threads of wildlife, history and culture, they are all unique. No matter which one you choose - or if you choose all of them - you will not be disappointed!
A “cager” is what riders call people in regular vehicles. I was happy to be a cager today as my friend and I left the house with 8 degrees and rain and returned with a temperature of 6 degrees and a deluge.
We drove up to Haines Junction, and I didn’t get thrown out of the truck for asking to pull over and take pictures along the way. We stopped at the Canyon Creek bridge – a neat wooden bridge across the river that is so picturesque it demands a photo. At that same location, I crossed the steel bridge where the road crosses the river and scrambled up a rock to be rewarded with a gorgeous vista. Today, I paid a bit more attention to the vegetation, rather than just the views and took many photos of pretty little flowers. I haven’t identified them all, but they were lovely. It is too early for the Yukon’s territorial fireweed to be in bloom. ☹
The Canyon Creek Bridge marks the entrance to Kluane Country and the scenery gets more remarkable with every curve in the road. At one of the rest stops, the story boards told the interesting story of Elijah Smith. He was instrumental in negotiating Yukon land claims with a delegation of Yukon Chiefs, was a respected advocate for his communities, a horse wrangler, guide and family man. He was also a decorated war hero, having served in Normandy and Dieppe.
Travelling through Kluane country, there were vast areas of forest landscape marred by grey, dead trees from the spruce beetle. This surprised me as I did not expect the beetle would have survived the long, harsh winters in the Yukon. Wildlife was scarce. We saw some horses by the side of the road on the way out and on the way back, we did have an exciting moment watching a golden eagle soar over a lake. We were slightly less enamoured of its beauty when we considered it might be watching the baby swans that were on the water with their parents….
Our first stop at Haines Junction was the Visitor Centre. This is a must-see. There are fabulous displays of the geology, wildlife and indigenous people of the Kluane region. Even one that ruthlessly told me I weighed half a female grizzly bear and 15 eagles (some facts you just don’t need to know….). Shooting to weigh as much as a full-grown female grizzly, we stopped at the Village Bakery and made off with some bison sausage cheese sticks, a nanaimo bar, matrimonial square, an apple strudel and some kind of peanut butter energy ball thing (wouldn't buy that again).
Arriving in the core community of Haines Junction, you are immediately awe-struck by the gigantic mountains that you have been getting views of along the way. Even if my photos could convey their majesty, the low cloud cover today made it difficult to capture how impressive they are.
I am always humbled by such sights. Nature does not care that we petty humans have drawn lines on a map between our countries. She does not care that we exist – we are simply another species in her midst. We can’t begin to imagine the powerful force of nature that can thrust these massive mountains into the sky and carve channels between them with gigantic ice blocks. We may be able to harness some aspects of nature for our use, but we are fools if we think we can control it.
Loaded up with our bakery spoils, we headed for Burwash Landing. We stopped at Kluane Lake, which is fed by a river from the Kaskawulsh Glacier. It is the largest lake in the Yukon, though there is visible evidence that it has shrunk considerably. The view is absolutely stunning. I was saddened to see the mermaid washed up onto the rocks as her curly head and jacket reminded me a bit of myself. On the same pile of rocks was a gorgeous boulder. If Tracey had been with me, she would have been looking for a way to load that up and take it home.
Following the lake took us to Destruction Bay and on to Burwash Landing. If you travel the Alaska Highway this far and do not stop at the Kluane Museum of History, you have done yourself a great disservice. For a miniscule $5.00 admission fee, the museum has an excellent display of regional wildlife, descriptions of the regional First Nations tribes, historical tools, and clothing. They even have a very well-done display of the minerals of the Yukon. It was at this museum that I realized that the big brown bear I saw the other day on my way north WAS a grizzly bear. The museum also has a very nice gift shop, of course, but it is the museum itself that should not be missed. 10/10 on this stop.
Not far out of Destruction Bay, there is a beautiful memorial to a young man who died at the age of 23. The memorial was created by his artist father. It is a moving and beautiful tribute to his son.
Heading back towards Haines Junction, We stopped at Sheep Mountain to see if we could see any animals. There was one lone sheep wandering along the hill that we saw through their high-powered binoculars. Curious about a little log cabin not far from the viewing platform, we toodled down the road to take a look. It’s an abandoned cabin that Anne said I would be staying in if I offered her another bite of that peanut butter energy bar. I was startled when I peeked into the shed beside the cabin and there was a statue of a woman in a dress and sweater standing at a counter. After my heart abandoned my throat for its normal place, I almost apologized!
Back at the junction, we continued past it down the road towards Haines, Alaska, for a few kilometers. We made a brief stop at Katherine Lake – a lovely spot backed by the mountains, before heading back to Haines Junction for a very late lunch/early supper. We stopped at Frosty’s, which I can highly recommend.
After restoring our good humour with real food, we started back towards Whitehorse. The skies darkened ominously and then opened up to pour on us most of the way back. We did not let this deter us from an hour-long stop at the Takhini Hot Springs, though, and so ended a successful sight-seeing day without riding in cold wet weather for 8 hours!
I have the best hosts! Waiting on the table beside my bed at Anne’s was a copy of The Last Great Road Trip. She had remembered me picking one up when I was here before and I had been raving about it. Can’t wait to have a read through it. Took a photo out my borrowed-bedroom window at midnight last night and there was still plenty of daylight. I didn't even realize it was 11:30 p.m. while I finished writing yesterday's blog. Maggie kept me company and made me laugh when I looked over to see her sitting on the arm of her chair! What a goof.
After a couple of hours of work this morning, I jumped on the bike and went for a quick visit with some friends before heading to my acupuncture appointment. Had a relaxing, albeit somewhat painful one-hour session that left me feeling much better and smelling like a walking wintergreen candy stick.
I stopped at the Yukon Visitor Centre, having told the young lady that was there in February that I would stop again when I came through on my trip. She was not working today, but I did chat with a couple of gentleman from Saskatchewan. They had been up to Inuvik by vehicle and were on their way back. They were riders as well and were interested in the trip. After chatting about it a bit and having a look at my bike, I handed them a card and the guy said “I’ve seen this before! I’ve been to the website. That’s you?” So that was really fun. There are days when I may not really feel like doing the blog, but I am always glad that I did because it is a great way to journal the adventure and share it with people. So it means a lot when people let me know they are enjoying it and it was really fun to meet a complete stranger that was already familiar with it.
My final destination downtown or the day was Gold Originals by Charlotte. I found this little jewellery store on a previous trip to Whitehorse and chatted a bit with Gerry about my upcoming trip, saying I would be back to say Hi. This store makes jewellery using little bits of raw gold nuggets and has some really nice designs in both gold and sterling silver settings. They also have work from local artists and carry a good Keith Jack selection (one of my favourite Celtic jewellery designers). It’s a unique store and worth a visit if you’re in Whitehorse.
The sun peeped out when I arrived back at my “home away from home”, and I promptly prepared to give my poor Night Fury a bath. She had mud everywhere, and probably still does in places I can’t see. There is no question about who is doing the hard work on this trip. I also noticed earlier today that the chain guard had been caught up on a screw and was resting slightly against the chain. This was a new thing from the inspection I had done yesterday morning and I can almost guarantee I know which bump it happened on that I didn’t see in the rain yesterday. So I fixed that up, lubed the chain, checked the tire pressure and gave her a good wash. She looks much better in her rock star parking spot, and will go in for a proper shop inspection on Monday before I head out again on Tuesday.
Making a road trip by vehicle with my friend tomorrow as the weather is going to be a bit inclement again. I’m looking forward to all the new wonders I will see!
Don't forget your history lesson by clicking on Trivia Bits! To see the previous British Columbia blogs, look under the Explore My Nation header at the top and you will see it in the drop-down menu.
Today, I got out of bed at 8:00 and the temperature read 3 degrees Celsius, so it seemed a fine idea to take my time getting ready and loading the bike to see if the temperature would come up a bit. By 10:00 a.m., the temperature rose to 9 degrees, so I suited up and set off.
My first destination was about 2 kms up the road to Watson Lake’s Signpost Forest. Neat little stop with signposts and license plates from all over the world. It began in 1942 with the construction of the Alaska Highway. As the story goes, Carl Lindley, a homesick soldier added his hometown and other began to do the same. It is one of the best-known attractions along the Alaska highway. According to the sign with the story, at the end of 2004, almost 55,000 signs were erected in the Signpost Forest. Can you find yours….?
Heading out in earnest, I pulled onto the Alaska Highway, destined for Teslin – the halfway point to Whitehorse – for lunch. The day was cold, but initially sunny and I though it would be a nice break from rain and cold, at least. It was only about half an hour into my ride that I was disabused of that notion. Mother Nature saw fit to test me with intermittent rain just to see what my stamina was. I hung in there, as it still wasn’t as cold as the Hwy 37 ride the day before. I expected to see more evidence of the fire devastation that I had seen the day before along Hwy 37, but the forest seemed untouched by recent fire in this area.
The landscape in the Yukon is noticeably different from that of northern BC. It seems to open up and the snow-bound peaks seem taller and even more pronounced. The Alaska Highway winds it’s way through mountains and forest, displaying its beauty as you travel from one breathtaking vista to another. And I know I haven’t even seen the best of it yet.
About an hour short of Teslin, I ran into some interesting road work where they were gravelling and then hosing down the road. I had been warned at a rest stop that it was coming. Given that this was happening over curving and climbing hills, it presented another challenge to keep the bike moving but minimizing input. Once again, I began the chant in my head “relax and look where you want to go” and got through it with relative ease.
Rounding the last curve before Teslin, there is a long hill and an ideal photo opp before actually entering the community. A lovely valley opens up with a long steel bridge crossing the water into Teslin. It is a bit of a surprise and certainly a pleasant one. This area is a national wildlife area, providing important protection for wildlife, including a wide range of migratory birds. Continuing into Teslin, I stopped at the corner gas station to find it has a restaurant and gift shop as well. The restaurant has great “home cooking” and a bakery as well. Portions are large and the hot turkey sandwich was stacked up with real turkey on a slice of garlic French bread and smothered in gravy. I was more than ready for a comfort meal after the chilly ride. Had a chat with some folks from Edmonton and Ontario that were travelling to Dawson City. The one gentleman said he has been in every province and territory except for the Northwest Territories. Widowed and retired, he continues to explore new areas.
Left Teslin refreshed for the last 2 hours to Whitehorse. A fellow rider warned me of “mud” some way up the road and I thought “Oh, great, more “experience”! It rained on me for a while leaving Teslin, and then gave up and even offered some weak sunshine now and then. More of the “spread and water” construction came up to taunt me and this time the road was much softer, wanting to pull the bike around much more than the previous sections. Still, it wasn’t any worse than the soft, deep sand I had encountered in Saskatchewan a couple of years before and with patience and focus, I made it through without too much trouble.
The scenery between Teslin and Whitehorse continued to be stunning and along the way, I saw another black bear amble across the road and a huge bald eagle. At one point, 4 large helicopters passed overhead. I don’t know my helicopters, but they were bigger than any I had seen before and I wondered if they were military.
I arrived in Whitehorse about 5:30 p.m. at Anne’s house. She has graciously agreed to put me up for a few days while I toodle around Whitehorse and area exploring. Night Fury has princess parking in the front yard! She sure doesn’t look like a princess though – she looks like a downright dirty girl! I’m going to try to get her booked at a local shop for a checkup in the next day or two. In the meantime, she will get another wash and de-bugging.
Anne and I had a welcome walk to Miles Canyon, which is a beautiful walk along the Yukon River. It is a network of trails and the views are lovely and peaceful. The basalt columns along the river reminded me of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Having warmed up the muscles and got the blood flowing again, it was time for some dinner. Whenever I am in Whitehorse, I have to go to The Dirty Northern for arctic char. I love the way the prepare it there and arctic char is soooo good!
A bit of TLC for me tomorrow too, with an acupuncture and cupping appointment booked for the afternoon. Some of that is going to hurt like heck, but it will be totally worth it. Night Fury isn’t the only one that needs her body maintained if we are going to get through this big adventure.
Until next time, thanks for checking up on me! 😊
P.S. I had to make a correction and an adjustment to yesterday’s blog. Apparently, I can’t count, because though I can name all of the riders that were so good to me the day before, I numbered them at 5 and they were a group of 6. So they have been renamed from the Famous Five to the Sensational Six. Also, make no mistake that the ride from Stewart to Watson Lake via Hwy 37 was full of beauty and stunning views, in spite of my whining about the cold and rain. Just when you think the bush might be getting a wee bit boring, you round a corner to another gorgeous view.