Win a trip to Western Newfoundland in 2018

Parks Canada is sponsoring a contest that will be of interest ti any Canadian who wants to win a trip that will really get them off the beaten track. The contest is only open to residents of Canada, and you can only enter once, but check out the prizes.


Win a trip to Gros Morne National Park

Grand Prize

  • round trip, economy flight for 4 people to Deer Lake, Newfoundland, from closest major airport nearest the winner’s residence in Canada
  • 5 nights of accommodations in a Parks Canada oTENTik
  • 1 night of accommodations in L’Anse aux Meadows or St. Anthony
  • a $3,000 CIBC prepaid VISA card
  • a $1,000 Mountain Equipment Co-operative (MEC) gift card
  • over $1,100 in Parks Canada merchandise, including a set of authentic Parks Canada red chairs
  • amazing Parks Canada experiences in the destination selected
  • a 2018 Parks Canada Group Discovery Pass

Secondary Prizes

Three 3 day/2 night weekend getaway packages (include Parks Canada oTENTik accommodations, a $1,000 MEC gift card, a $500 CIBC prepaid VISA card and a Parks Canada merchandise prize package). These are for travel in 2017 – one has already been drawn for, and the other two draws will be done on March 31, 2017 and April 28, 2017.

There are also bi-weekly draws for 2018 Parks Canada Discovery Passes and Parks Canada merchandise prize packages. These draws are happening every second Friday until September 15, 2017.

How to Enter

Just go to the Discover Canada contest page! Remember, it’s is only open to residents of Canada, and you can only enter once. You can enter until September 30, 2017. Good luck!



Cremation ashes turned into a glass memorial sculpture

Dealing with death is a very personal experience, handled in an infinite variety of ways. People thinking about dying, and those dealing with the death of a loved one, have their own ideas about what to do with the body. Some choose burial, most of the others choose cremation.

When cremation is the choice, the decision about what to do with the ashes of a loved one also takes many forms. Cathy and I have a “memorial garden” on our property where we spread the ashes of the 4-legged members of our family who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. For some reason, we haven’t yet been able to spread the ashes of our husky Monty, who died last March. They’ve been in a box in my office, and on the dash of the motorhome when I travelled last summer. An article on CBC North on Tuesday, however, about putting ashes into glass, sent me down to Lumel Studios in downtown Whitehorse the next day.

I’d been into the studio before, and Cathy has been to one of their workshops, so we knew the shop fairly well. Luann “Lu” Baker-Johnson and her husband Mel Johnson bought the downtown lot that the studio sits on in 2013, and then it took a year and a half to get the studio designed in a way that would serve a wide variety of functions. Community engagement was a big part of Lu’s dream for the studio, and the community is embracing it in a big way.

A glass and cremation-ashes memorial from Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
I looked at the small dogs and cats that Lumel has in stock. Custom ones with ash could be created, but I asked if they could create a glass sculpture of Monty from a photo I showed them. They could, and I set an appointment for Thursday to watch the process of creating it.

A glass and cremation-ashes memorial from Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
The studio is a very comfortable, welcoming place, especially in the winter.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse

The cost for the hour I booked at Lumel was $120. There are many places doing glass pieces with cremation ashes, but I’ve seen nothing close to this sort of price – the norm seems to be much higher. My impression is that some places are taking advantage of the emotions of the buyers.

Jason Murphy was the artist chosen to work with me, and I when I saw that he was wearing a Yukon Quest shirt, I knew that it was a good fit 🙂 I showed him this photo of Monty.

Monty, my beloved husky, in his prime
Jason hadn’t done a dog laying down before, so wanted to do a test piece to make sure that his ideas would work.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
He and I were both happy with the test piece, seen below as it neared completion, so work began on the real one.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
First, a test of the required colours was made. Only a couple of tablespoons of the ashes, seen in the box on the right side of the table, are required. They make the white in the glass. Artist Mark Steudle, in the middle, assisted at several points in the process of creating my piece.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
The sales area is in a wing off the workshop. The “Created in the Yukon” bags contain pieces that have cooled and are ready for pickup. I really appreciate that the bags say “the Yukon” rather than “Yukon” as the government wants us to use – little things count.

'Created in the Yukon' bags at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
The process of creating a glass Monty begins with a blob of glass picked up in one of the three furnaces. Hot glass fascinates me.

Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
While Jason was working on my piece, Tyson Isted was finishing the first of a new line of glass ravens.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
The legs take form. Lu initially said that the legs would be formed together so they were less fragile, but the test piece showed that they could be apart.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
Some of the tools of the trade.

The tools used in creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
Adding the head was a tricky part of the process that required two people. Mark formed the glass for the head while Jason kept the body at the right temperature by placing it into the oven occasionally.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
Tweaking the shape of the head.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
Forming Monty’s ears, which were added as blobs of glass with black colouring.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
Some detail-firing with a torch to get the form just right.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
The piece is about ready to receive its tail. At this point, Jason had been working with me for about 90 minutes. Once the tail was on, the piece went into a cupboard to cool for a day. On Friday evening, Cathy picked the sculpture up.

Creating a glass and cremation-ashes memorial at Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
A few minutes ago, I took Glass Monty out into the yard that Monty loved so much, and the sun lit him up beautifully.

A glass and cremation-ashes memorial from Lumel Studios in Whitehorse
A little extra that was added in is this little teardrop, which also has ashes in it. This will very likely hang in the window of the motorhome.

A glass and cremation-ashes memorial from Lumel Studios in Whitehorse


Delta Air Lines gave guests an unexpected look at Whitehorse

Delta Air Lines paid the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport a surprise visit on Saturday night. Their Boeing 757 N6713Y had to make a precautionary landing after the emergency oxygen supply dropped below 50%. It had over 200 passengers and crew on board.

Every now and then, Whitehorse receives an emergency landing of note. The 2 most exciting have been the two Korean Boeing 747s that were diverted here on September 11, 2001, and a Nippon Cargo Boeing 747-8F that landed here on May 23rd, 2013, after a fire warning.

On Sunday morning, I got a phone call from a friend telling me that a Delta Air Lines plane was at the gate, and Cathy and I and the dogs were out the door a few minutes later. We arrived at the very quiet airport at 10:25 to find this scene.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
A check of the registration on my phone revealed that N6713Y is a Boeing 757-232(WL), and that it had been bound for Anchorage from Minneapolis/St Paul with flight 1088. It landed at Whitehorse at about 8:40 pm on Saturday, and another Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 had arrived at 05:53 Sunday from Seattle, picked up the passengers, and left soon after for Anchorage.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
A mechanic had been flown up from Seattle to fix the oxygen problem.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon

We learned that many of the passengers didn’t have passports, so everyone had to spend the night in the in-transit lounge. Air North brought in about 50 pizzas for a late snack, and all the luggage was unloaded. Some people needed medications from the plane, and others wanted strollers for their youngsters. Before they boarded the new plane on Sunday morning, Air North served up a Continental breakfast of fresh muffins and coffee for everyone. All of this was done by airport, Air North, and Canada Border Services Agency employees called in for the emergency.

A broader view of the airport.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
At 10:56, everything was stowed, the captain had a look around, and then he boarded the aircraft.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
Air North’s de-icing truck is seen at 11:03.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
The fuel truck arrived a minute later. Calculating that we had a bit of time to spare, we went back home to get binoculars and my aircraft radio, then returned to the airport.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
Almost finished the de-icing, right at noon.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
At -23°C, it takes a minute to get things warmed up enough for jet fuel to burn efficiently, so the engine start-ups are quite ugly.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
Starting to taxi at 12:07. Having the aircraft radio paid off here, as I was able to hear the control tower close the main runway so the 757 could use it to taxi to the south end of the runway, as the normal taxiway is too small for it.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon
At 12:15, N6713Y was on its way back to Minneapolis/St Paul, empty.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Whitehorse, Yukon

It was great to soon see a comment on Air North’s Facebook page: “A huge THANK YOU to the gentlemen of Air North when Delta flight 1088 had to divert to Whitehorse on 3-4-17. Your kindness is greatly appreciated. Many of us had been traveling all day and though many were not happy with the situation the Air North guys went out of their way to provide food, water, coffee and a warm place to wait for a new plane.”

After the plane left, we went into town for lunch, and finally got home 3½ hours after we’d left. Seeing Yukoners helping out like that really is a nice way to start a day. And I’m also very thankful to have a network of friends who help me get stories like this 🙂


UPDATE: On March 16, full details of the incident were posted at the Aviation Herald:

A Delta Airlines Boeing 757-200, registration N6713Y performing flight DL-1088 from Minneapolis, MN to Anchorage, AK with 206 people on board, was enroute at FL360 about 50nm westnorthwest of Whitehorse, YT when the crew received a low pressure indication for the crew oxygen system. The captain tested his oxygen mask and found it was not working. The crew worked the related checklist and initiated a diversion to Whitehorse. The aircraft landed safely in Whitehorse.

A replacement Boeing 757-200 registration N538US was dispatched to Whitehorse and reached Anchorage with a delay of 21 hours.

The Canadian TSB reported maintenance observed a leak on the captain’s oxygen mask hose connection and replaced the mask and storage box. In addition the crew oxygen regulator was replaced, too.

The occurrence aircraft was able to position back to Minneapolis about 15 hours after landing.



Dogs, Old Cars and History in Still-Winter

The beginning of March already! This winter has gone by so quickly I can hardly believe it – the foster-puppies sure helped with that for a few weeks 🙂 With Father Winter still hanging on, though, dogs and old cars and writing about history are all helping the days continue to go by quickly.

Last weekend was our Heritage Day long weekend, and also the main weekend for our end-of-winter Sourdough Rendezvous. We didn’t go in for any of the festivities, but the weather was so nice, we went on a bit of a road trip for the first time in what felt like a very long time. About 40 minutes east of home on the Alaska Highway, a small herd of caribou stopped us for a minute.

Caribou along the Alaska Highway
After a huge and excellent lunch at Jake’s Corner, the rest area at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the South Canol Road was our turn-around spot.

South Canol Road
We’ve been keeping in touch with a few of the families who adopted our foster puppies and their mom, and got an invitation to go out to visit the family who adopted Elderberry (“Blue” to us). The reaction we got from Blue was wonderful, and it was so good to see her very happy with her new life. She sure enjoyed getting to play with Tucker and Bella again.

Our foster husky Blue
If there was any way that a third dog could fit into our lives, Blue wouldn’t have left our home. She’s a beautiful soul.

Our foster husky Blue
Bella and Tucker had a ball playing outside during the warm spell with lots of new snow. After an hour or two of play, they come in the house and crash, usually on a bed or the couch 🙂

My Sheltie-husky cross Bella
I finally put my many other projects on a shelf for a bit and have gotten to work on the 1952 Austin A40 pickup at the Yukon Transportation Museum (YTM). It’s had a lot of restoration work done over the past few years, but there’s lots to do yet, on the mechanical, the electrical, and the body.

1950s Austin A-40 pickup at the Yukon Transportation Museum

Because putting stuff online is what I do, I’ve created a Web page about Austin A40 pickups generally, with photos and specific information about the GQU4 model that I’m restoring. For me, it’s a handy place to keep the information I need, and hopefully it will also help others with their projects.

It’s a really cute little vehicle, about as basic as you could get.

Interior of the 1950s Austin A-40 pickup at the Yukon Transportation Museum
We don’t know for sure yet, but it was probably sold by Tourist Services in Whitehorse. It was located where the Yukon Inn is now.

Yukon advertisement for 1950s Austins
Yesterday, a crew arrived and pulled the Waco out of the shop that it and the Austin shared. It’s getting fabric and paint at other shops before returning in a couple of weeks.

Waco at the Yukon Transportation Museum
Father Winter returned today. It was -19°C (-2°F) with strong winds that dropped the wind chill to -29°C (-20°F). It would have been a really good day to stay home and snuggle pups, but I went back to YTM instead.

Nasty winter day on the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse
The little bitty engine that put out 40 horsepower on a good day is really easy to work on – not a computer module to be seen! I was hoping to fire it up today, but there’s an electrical and maybe a transmission problem to figure out first. Old cars are like old houses – there’s always something to do.

Engine of the Austin A-40 pickup at the Yukon Transportation Museum
The rear brakes are particularly funny. They’re so small that I thought about what it would be like to go to Skagway with the truck. A great deal of caution with those teeny brakes might get you safely down the hill, but trying to get back up the hill with 40 horsepower could be really interesting 🙂

Rear brake on the Austin A-40 pickup at the Yukon Transportation Museum
I’ve been getting distracted a lot in my historic research lately, but one of the results has been reprinting newspaper articles about the Alaska Highway from 1945-1950, the period when the highway was being opened up for civilian/tourist traffic. Click on the screenshot below to go to that page (which will be getting much larger).

Alaska Highway News, 1945-1950


The Ghost Creek Railway and other Public Art in Whitehorse

This past week, I’ve been exploring the world of public art in Whitehorse. I’ve put a lot of miles on by car and on foot, and have been quite amazed at the amount of art to be enjoyed for free around the city.

The main thing that I’ve accomplished so far has been posting a record of all of the Murals in Whitehorse – 53 of them. The one seen below, painted by several artists, is outside the headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It’s a collage of historical scenes that the Mounties were part of.

Mural at the Yukon RCMP headquarters
Next on the to-do list is a similar record of all the other public art – statues, busts, paintings, stained glass, and so on. The Whitehorse Horse, mounted at the top of 2 Mile Hill at the Public Safety Building, quickly became the most well-known such piece, and may well be the the main advocate for keeping the City’s “1% for Art” program intact. The program is currently under attack – I’ll tell you more about that in the not-too-distant future.

The Whitehorse Horse sculpture

The Yukon Permanent Art Collection holds almost 400 works in almost every imaginable media, and various pieces rotate around the territory’s government buildings. I often go to the main legislative buildings to see what’s currently on display. I’d like to give you a look at one piece that really caught my fancy this week.

“Ghost Creek Railway” is a large acrylic on ceramic sculpture created in 1999 by Jerry Kortello. It’s mounted behind plexiglass so getting good photos is a bit of a challenge, but it’s a marvelous, whimsical piece.

Ghost Creek Railway, Yukon

Part of the fun of the piece is the story that goes with it:

Ghost Creek Railway

“If Mohammed wouldn’t go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Mohammed.” This line in a cheap novel inspired Panko Kornu. Panko was working as a summer student with a team of senior engineers doing a feasibility study which would one day lead to the construction of dredge #4. Water is essential for separating gold from gravel along the creeks of the Klondike. There was an intricate system of sluices and trestles which used virtually all the water flowing downstream. Claims further away from the stream beds and those on higher ground were not being worked because there was no available water. Panko’s plan was to bring the water to the claim on a train.

This is a model of the railway that Panko built. Water literally circulated around the train in a series of troughs. It was elevated to a storage tank by a windmill and then flowed over a system of sluice boxes. The waste gravel was discharged at the rear of the train. The water was redirected to the front by another series of water troughs on the other side of the train. There, settling ponds helped maintain the clarity of the water. In the last pond, fish were planted and thrived, attributing to the effectiveness of the water purification system. Then the water was pumped up to the storage tank and recycled.

The train consisted of four elevated derricks with draglines. The first derrick prepared the roadbed on which the train traveled. The side derricks fed the sluice boxes. The rear derrick spread out the waste rock accumulated from the sluice boxes. Periodically, the four derricks acted together and Dassed sections of track from the rear of the train to the front. The train ran on the same half mile section of track which was repeatedly leapfrogged ahead. Speed was not of the essence.

The train had two highly different sides — the industrial sluice box side and the quiet settling pond side which included a store, restaurant, hotel and casino. Not only did Panko plan to recycle the water, he planned to recycle the miners’ share of the gold. Poker and games of chance were offered in the casino, other games in the hotel and gourmet meals were served in the restaurant. The chef came from France.

Panko entered into a business agreement with a large number of placer miners. He would provide the water in return for half the gold. They would provide the gold bearing gravel from their claims. He would provide the machinery – the draglines and sluices. They would provide the labour. It was a win/win situation for both parties. Unfortunately, both parties had only limited capital.

From this point on, there is a great diversity of opinion on what really happened. Some say Panko bought the train fair and square. Others say there was a bridge derailment west of Edmonton. When all the snow had settled, there was a giant hole in the ice, a missing train and no survivors to tell the tale. All personnel were presumed drowned in the icy depths. Only one boxcar was ever found. Funny thing was that a half mile of track was missing.

Panko and an entire crew of experienced railway men headed north, spanning rivers and building roadbed as they went. If you drive along the highway outside Dease Lake, people say you can see the remains of the roadbed.

Something happened in the third winter. Stories are contradictory. Actual facts are hard to determine. With the slow progress, disillusionment settled in. Heated arguments ensued about where to cross the Pelly River. Some people died – whether from sickness or from deadly force, no one knows. Among the four crosses at the train site, there is one with the name Panko Kornu on it. It is in the exact path of the train, which would seem odd for the man whose dream it was. Others say those who didn’t like Panko planted him there. Another rumour had it that Panko was seen running a small art gallery in the south of France.

The fun side of the train really is a lot of fun to explore, to see the various ways that Panko Kornu had devised to separate the miners from their share of the gold.

Ghost Creek Railway, Yukon
A woman lazing in a tub is a good example of the sort of detail in the train.

Ghost Creek Railway, Yukon

I think that pieces from the Yukon Permanent Art Collection will be appearing here fairly regularly now.

With sunshine boosting the energy levels of most Yukoners in a major way now, even with temperatures still dropping into the -20s at night, there’s a lot going on that I want to tell you about in upcoming posts.



Final tour day – Yukon Wildlife Preserve, and musher Frank Turner

Yesterday was our last day of activities on the 12-day Yukon Quest tour. We spent the morning at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, and the afternoon with legendary musher Frank Turner at his dog sledding operation.

We had driven from Dawson City back to Whitehorse on Friday, but there’s not really anything to tell you about from that day.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve opens at 10:30 in the winter, so our final day started with a nice easy morning. We were at the gate a few minutes before it opened, with the temperature a relatively balmy -8°C (+18°F).

Yukon Wildlife Preserve
The guides at the Preserve can always be counted on to be extremely knowledgeable, and Jake Paleczny was no exception. We began the tour with an introduction at a viewing platform beside the elk habitat. Despite the reasonable temperature, a strong wind was bitterly cold.

Jake Paleczny, our guide at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Elk (Cervus canadensis) seen from the viewing platform. We then left to tour the property in our van (see a map of it).

Elk (Cervus canadensis) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Our next stop was at the habitat for Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), where this female was close to the fence. Classified as a threatened species in Canada, Wood bison were once common in the Yukon, but died out. An attempt to reintroduce the species in 1951 failed – they all seem to have died by 1973. Another 170 bison were released between 1988 and 1992 in the Nisling River valley, 160 km west of Whitehorse, however, and that herd (the Aishihik herd) has grown to about 1,200.

Wood Bison (Bison bison athabascae) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Sightings of Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in the Yukon date back to the 1920s, and they’ve become much more common in recent years as our climate changes. Mule deer have been known to break into the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and never leave – a muley resort, with good food and no predators, it seems!

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
It was great to see all 3 of the Preserve’s moose (Alces alces) right at the fence and happy to receive visitors. The moose in the next photo is “JB”, who was abandoned as a calf near Haines Junction in 2015 – there’s a wonderful video about her on Youtube.

Moose (Alces alces) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Moose (Alces alces) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
It’s not common to see any of the Muskox (Ovibos moschatus) close to the fence, but we got lucky there as well. While these ones displayed their defensive positioning upon our approach, others were very animated.

Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
The Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are often very sociable to visitors, and a couple who had been up on the cliffs came down and joined several others close to the fence.

Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
When even 2 of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) were near the fence, I was beginning to be quite incredulous at our luck. Lynx are really curious, and although they can often see you, they’re generally very difficult to spot – that’s true both at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, and along Yukon highways.

Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Next, a young Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) who was found abandoned when he was only days old – it was a month before he was positively identified as a fox and not a dog as was initially thought. CBC has an article with video about that process. He’s very cute, but his actions make him totally adorable – I’m certain that he would like to be somebody’s snuggle-puppy.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Right across the road from the Red fox are 2 Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus). In the Spring, their white winter coats change to brown or greyish.

Arctic fox at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Arctic fox at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
We had been spending so much time at each habitat that our time ran short, and our visits with the sheep and caribou were short. About 90 minutes after we left the visitor centre, we were back at the elk habitat.

Elk at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve
For our final lunch together, we went to the dog camp of Muktuk Adventures. There, we feasted on bison burgers, and the stories told by legendary musher Frank Turner. As many times as I’ve been there over the past 27 years, I never get tired of listening to him. When he grabs a chair and uses it as his sled to show us how steep the climb/descent at American Summit is, it’s pretty tough to not get caught up in his passion for mushing. Frank started the Yukon Quest 24 times in 25 years, crossed the finish line 17 times, placed in the top six 10 times, and won the 1,000-mile race once.

Lunch with Frank Turner at Muktuk Adventures

Lunch with Frank Turner at Muktuk Adventures

At 04:00 this morning, I picked my new friends (and my old friend Jeremy) up at the Westmark Whitehorse for the final time, and took them to the airport for their returns to Alberta and Ontario. It was an exceptionally good tour, and I think that the people who hadn’t been to the Yukon before understand now why some of us are so passionate about this little corner of the world.



The Dempster Highway, more Dawson City, and more Yukon Quest

After a very busy day on Wednesday, yesterday had lots of free time to explore Dawson City, but we also went up the Dempster Highway about 30 km, and over the ice road to the Yukon Quest dog camp again.

The weather at 10:00 was iffy, but it can change so quickly over time and area that I decided to go up the Dempster Highway for a look. I was hoping to get to North Fork Pass, but with limited visibility and a rough road, this is as far as we went. The road surface felt like it must have melted sometime recently – normally the road is like good pavement this time of year.

Dempster Highway in February
On the way back to Dawson, we made a stop at Mile 0 of the Dempster Highway, which offers a few good photo ops.

Dempster Highway in February

Dempster Highway sign in February
We got back to Dawson City for lunch, then had free time to wander before going to see the next Yukon Quest musher at the restart. This view of the Red Feather Saloon complex was shot from the front door of our hotel, the Eldorado.

The Red Feather Saloon complex in Dawson City, Yukon
This is the Masonic Lodge, originally a Carnegie Library, that we went through on Wednesday. The Carnegie Library, which opened in August 1904, was called the most elaborate building in Dawson. It didn’t survive the sharp decline in Dawson’s population, and closed in 1921. The abandoned building was bought by the Masonic Lodge (Yukon Lodge No. 45) in 1932 for $400.

The Masonic Lodge, originally a Carnegie Library, in Dawson City
Up on Eight Avenue is one of the two YOOP (Yukon Order of Pioneers) cemeteries in Dawson. A high percentage of the most prominent pioneers are buried here.

YOOP cemetery in Dawson City

Yukon Order of Pioneers cemetery in Dawson City, Yukon
The last remaining Westmark Hotel in the Yukon is in Dawson. Once a dominant player in Dawson’s tourist industry, Holland America, owner of the Westmark, now brings few people in. The hotel got so large that it’s now pretty much a white elephant, open for about 4 months a year.

The last remaining Westmark Hotel in the Yukon, in Dawson City
While there are some lovely building restorations in Dawson City, there are also some that are beyond restoration, The saddest of those is St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, built in 1901. It’s considered to be “a very good example of High Victorian Gothic architecture interpreted in wood.”

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Dawson City

At 2:00, we drove the ice road across the Yukon River to the dog camp where Yukon Quest musher Katherine Keith would soon start the next leg of her 1,000-mile trek to Fairbanks. The restart line as at the far, downriver, end of the Yukon River Campground, so we got to have a look at each of the camps of the mushers who are still here.

Looking into most of the dog tents, it’s hard or impossible to tell that there are dogs under the straw, blankets, or other insulators.

A Yukon Quest team resting in Dawson City
This is the camp of Rob Cooke, who was the first person to sign up for Yukon Quest 2017.

Musher Rob Cooke's camp in Dawson City
During the 36-hour mandatory layover, the handlers need to take each of the dogs for regular walks.

A Yukon Quest dog being taken for a walk
The earliest that Katherine Keith could leave was 3:44, and we had lots of time to get a good spot to watch her departure.

The restart line in Dawson City
I suggested that we go down onto the Yukon River and continue on to the Sternwheeler Graveyard to get photos of Katherine in front of the steamboat wreckage.

Sternwheeler Graveyard in Dawson City
Photos like this 🙂

Sternwheeler Graveyard in Dawson City
Katherine Keith, departing in 6th place, with 12 dogs. Although she’s a Yukon Quest rookie, she’s completed the Iditarod twice.

Katherine Keith, Yukon Quest 2017
Next stop, Eagle, Alaska. We heard that temperatures of -50 are ahead for her. Brrrr!

Katherine Keith leaves Dawson City in Yukon Quest 2017
We got back to the van just before 4:30. This beautiful husky/collie cross was at the truck beside the van.

A husky at Dawson City, Yukon

I had planned to meet the final musher Hank DeBruin when he arrived in Dawson, but my 11:00 alarm didn’t go off, and when I woke up just before midnight, he was just arriving. He came in with only 8 of his 14 dogs left, so I think the race is over for them.

In less than 3 hours, at 08:00, we’re heading back to Whitehorse.



Looking at Life at the Yukon Quest Dawson City Checkpoint

Yesterday was one of our main Yukon Quest days. We met more mushers as they arrived in Dawson City, and drove the ice road across the Yukon River to the dog camp.

On the walk over to the checkpoint at 08:30, I made a detour to get a photo of the Commissioner’s Residence, which was designed by Thomas Fuller, and built in 1901.

Commissioner's Residence, Dawson City, Yukon
At 09:03 (32 minutes before sunrise), Torsten Kohnert arrived. He was in 8th place, with 12 dogs in harness of the 14 he started the race with.

Torsten Kohnert arrives at the Dawson City checkpoint of the Yukon Quest
After the check of his equipment by race officials, Torsten went inside the race headquarters for a couple of minutes. Within seconds of his arrival, handlers were caring for the dogs, giving them love and treats.

Torsten Kohnert at the Dawson City checkpoint of the Yukon Quest
Some of the dogs quickly settled down.

One of Torsten Kohnert's huskies at the Dawson City checkpoint of the Yukon Quest
Torsten’s team heads for the Yukon River Campground on the other side of the river, to settle in for the mandatory 36-hour layover.

Torsten Kohnert leaves the Dawson City checkpoint of the Yukon Quest, heading for the Yukon River Campground
At 10:00, I took the group on a tour around Dawson City, and then up Bonanza Creek Road into the goldfields. We don’t usually get very far due to snow and/or ice conditions, but we made it to Dredge No. 4, just before 11:00. Seeing the world’s largest wooden-hulled bucket-line gold dredge covered with snow was something not often seen. It was very much a one-lane road by that point, but a couple of other vehicles had turned around there and their tracks made it easier for me to get turned.

Dredge No. 4, Dawson City, Yukon
Back in town, getting to the dog camp in West Dawson was high priority. Usually, an ice road is plowed directly across the Yukon River between the two ferry landings, but a couple of kilometers of open water has made that impossible this year. A lengthy, winding road had been plowed going far up the river and then across, but it’s not certified by the government engineers. We found one of the entrances to it, had a look on foot at the narrow and icy road, and down we went. Once down on the river, the ice road was much better.

Ice road across the Yukon River at Dawson City, Yukon
This ice road is actually a great deal more fun and interesting than the usual one. This view is looking downriver on the west side of the river.

Ice road across the Yukon River at Dawson City, Yukon
Now that’s a fine view on an ice road!

Ice road across the Yukon River at Dawson City, Yukon
This is the home of “Caveman Bill” Donaldson, in the cliff just above the river. “Caveman Bill” has become one of the most well-known of Dawson’s characters because of his housing choice. I’d only seen it through the telephoto lens of my camera until taking this drive. In 2014, Lisa Jackson did an interview with Bill, which you can see on her blog, Eat Drink Travel.

The riverside home of 'Caveman Bill' Donaldson at Dawson City, Yukon
From up on shore, looking back across the open water to Dawson City, with the bonus of a sun dog (the rainbow in the sky to the left).

The Yukon River at Dawson City in the winter
The Yukon River Campground, home of the dog camp.

The Yukon River Campground in the winter

The Yukon River Campground in the winter
One of Ed Hopkins’ dogs getting a well-earned rest in the team tent.

Ed Hopkins' Yukon Quest dog camp at Dawson City
Michelle Phillips taking care of Ed’s dogs. Michelle and Ed have been friends of mine for many years, so I take liberties at their camps (getting this close to the dogs) that I’d never do at another musher’s camp.

Ed Hopkins' Yukon Quest dog camp at Dawson City
More of Ed’s dogs looking particularly cozy.

Ed Hopkins' Yukon Quest dog camp at Dawson City
We spent a long time at Matt Hall’s camp, watching his handlers feed the dogs. They’re extremely well organized, and it was great to be able to watch the process.

Matt Hall's dog camp at Dawson City
Hank DeBruin hasn’t reached Dawson City yet, but his camp was being set up. This is one of the 4 dogs he’d dropped so far. I expect that Hank will scratch at Dawson – the trail ahead is too hard to start with 10 dogs (in my opinion).

One of Hank DeBruin's Yukon Quest Siberian huskies
As we reached the Dawson City side of the river again, Ryne Olson was just heading over to the dog camp. She’s currently in 9th place in the race, with 12 dogs.

Ryne Olson in Dawson City during Yukon Quest 2017

Ryne Olson in Dawson City during Yukon Quest 2017
At 2:00, we got a tour of the Masonic Lodge, which was built as the Carnegie Library. This is the upper-floor room that’s used for special ceremonies – the meeting room on the lower floor is much more plain.

Masonic Lodge in Dawson City, Yukon
The tin ceiling and upper walls, especially the curved top corners, are quite remarkable. The tinwork is all original, sandblasted during the Masonic Lodge’s restoration of the building.

Tin ceiling and walls in the Masonic Lodge in Dawson City, Yukon
I find the light bulbs with Masonic-emblem filaments fascinating.

Light bulb in the Masonic Lodge in Dawson City, Yukon
A potrait of Queen Victoria hangs on a wall.

Masonic Lodge in Dawson City, Yukon
I went for a wander at 4:00, killing time before meeting the woman who adopted the foster puppy that I called Peanut. The Yukon River dyke always has a great vibe, in any season.

The frozen Yukon River at Dawson City
The Yukon Quest checkpoint was quite – the next musher due in was about 3 hours out.

Yukon Quest checkpoint at Dawson City
Looking down the Yukon River along the steaming open water.

The frozen Yukon River at Dawson City
This fellow was feeding ravens on the dyke, and they obviously know him.

Feeding ravens on the dyke at Dawson City
At 4:30 Karli arrived with Peanut (whose name is now Zhurpee). It was a joyous reunion for both Peanut and I. Well, not completely – I still regret not being able to keep that very special boy.


But, he has a great life now with a family who loves him, and that was the point of helping him for a few weeks.


For dinner, we all went to what many people consider to be the best restaurant in Dawson City, the Drunken Goat Taverna. The lamb in particular truly is superb.

The Drunken Goat Taverna, Dawson City, Yukon
What’s Dawson City without giving people a chance to experience the world-famous Sourtoe Cocktail. Three brave members of our group let a real severed human toe touch their lips!! And, writing this the next day, nobody is showing any signs of Toemane poisoning, so I guess soaking it in Yukon Jack works 🙂

Drinking a Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon

Preparing to drink a Sourtoe Cocktail in Dawson City, Yukon

In an hour, I’ll be taking the group for a look at the Dempster Highway, then when we get back, we’ll be going over to the Yukon Quest dog camp again, and watching a few mushers leave for Fairbanks.



Driving to Dawson City, back to the Yukon Quest

Having spent a couple of days driving to Skagway and Haines while the Yukon Quest mushers made their way to Dawson, we followed them yesterday. The plan was to get to Dawson as the first mushers arrive, and then spend 3 nights there during the race’s mandatory 24-hour layover.

We pulled away from Whitehorse at 08:00, and our first stop was Braeburn Lodge, where the temperature was -34°C (-29°F). Braeburn is a checkpoint on the trail of the Yukon Quest (The World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race), but it’s also a stop on the Yukon Arctic Ultra, “The World’s Coldest and Toughest Ultra”. The Ultra can be run by mountain bike, xc-skis, or on foot, as a marathon, or 100, 200, 300, or 430 mile race.

Braeburn Lodge, Yukon, during the Yukon Arctic Ultra
An Ultra contestant was heading off into the wilderness as we arrived.

Yukon Arctic Ultra contestant
All 21 Yukon Quest teams had passed through Braeburn, and only 3 dogs out of the 294 (14 in each team) were dropped there.

Yukon Quest status board at Braeburn Lodge
We got a couple of tables among the Ultra contestants and supporters, and enjoyed coffees and some of Steve Watson’s famous cinnamon buns. They’re huge, so 2 buns fed the 8 of us nicely 🙂

Braeburn Lodge, Yukon, during the Yukon Arctic Ultra
An Ultra contestant arrived as I went out to warm to van up. He could be the poster boy for the race to confirm the “coldest” part of their slogan!

Yukon Arctic Ultra contestant
A few miles north of Carmacks, we made a brief stop at Five Finger Rapids. It was the toughest spot on the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson for the steamboats of days past, and is still the toughest for modern canoeists.

Five Finger Rapids, Yukon River
Just before 2:00 pm, we reached Moose Creek Lodge, one of the best of the few remaining highway lodges. It’s always a great spot to stop for coffee and one of Maja’s wonderful pastries.

Moose Creek Lodge, Yukon
When the weather is good, the Tintina Trench viewpoint is a must-stop. One of the interpretive signs explains: “Beneath the Tintina Trench is a fault line along which the bedrock has shifted a minimum of 450 km laterally. Some 65 million years ago, the rocks presently beneath Dawson City were adjacent to those of Ross River! About 8 million years ago, the earth’s crust separated along the fault, creating a wide valley or trench.”

Tintina Trench viewpoint

Tintina Trench viewpoint
We reached Dawson City a few minutes before 4:00, and checked in to the Eldorado Hotel. Lead Yukon Quest musher Brent Sass arrived at 4:23, but nobody from our group had made it to the checkpoint to welcome him. By arriving first at Dawson City, Brent won 4 ounces of gold, as long as he reaches the finish line in Fairbanks.

Eldorado Hotel, Dawson City
After getting settled in my comfortable room (probably about my 30th stay at “the Eldo”), I went over to the lounge. Two of my guests were already there, and within a few minutes, the other 4 arrived, and we had a great chat before dinner.

Room 245 at the Eldorado Hotel, Dawson City
I love Dawson City, and never get tired of wandering around taking pictures. A block south of the hotel, across from the liquor store, a coffee shop was built in recent years beside the famous leaning buildings of the Third Avenue Hotel Complex (a.k.a. “the tiltin’ Hilton” 🙂 ).

Third Avenue Hotel Complex (a.k.a. 'the tiltin' Hilton') in Dawson City
After dinner, some of the group went over to the Yukon Quest checkpoint to have a look, but I waited until 9:30, when 3 mushers were expected to arrive within a couple of hours. Across from the Eldorado is the historic Westminster Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in the Yukon.

Westminster Hotel, Dawson City
The checkpoint was very quiet when I arrived. I went inside for a few minutes, but was dressed for -40 degrees, not +20, so was soon back outside.


At 10:08, Matt Hall and his team came tearing past the sternwheeler Keno and down off the dyke towards the checkpoint.

Yukon Quest musher Matt Hall arrives at Dawson City
As soon as the checkpoint is reached, race officials quickly check the sled over to make sure that everything is still legal. While that’s being done, handlers give the dogs all a treat.

Yukon Quest musher Matt Hall arrives at Dawson City
A special moment as Matt thanks one of his huskies. Seeing the relationships that every musher has with their dogs is probably the thing I like the most about the Quest, and the sport in general. The contrast to the lives that many “pet” dogs have is striking. One of Matt’s handlers posted a short report early this morning about the treatment the dogs get once they get across the river to camp – you can read it here.

Yukon Quest musher Matt Hall thanks one of his huskies
Ten minutes after Matt arrived, Allen Moore reached the checkpoint.


As I finish writing this at 05:45, there are 7 mushers in. Ed Hopkins arrived just before midnight, rookie Katherine Keith at 03:44, and Paige Drobny 20 minutes ago.

Starting at 10:00, we have a busy day ahead of us, exploring Dawson and the area as well as watching more Yukon Quest mushers arrive. We’ve lost the sunshine that’s been so wonderful the few days, but it warmed up overnight (it’s -27°C/-17°F at the moment), so it’s all good. Sunrise today will be at 09:35, and the sun will set at 17:29.



Driving the Golden Circle, Haines to Whitehorse

Yesterday was the second our of 2-day drive around “The Golden Circle”, although we added a couple of hundred kilometers with a side-trip out to Kluane Lake.

Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map, Haines to Whitehorse
The view from my room at the Captain’s Choice Motel at 07:15 as I headed upstairs for a coffee and muffin.

The view from the Captain's Choice Motel in Haines, Alaska
Downtown Haines, looking north from in front of the motel.

Downtown Haines, Alaska
Our first stop was at the Southeast Alaska Fairgrounds to see Dalton City, the frontier town that was built for the filming of Disney’s “White Fang” in 1990. While most of the buildings are usable for shops, the Dalton Transfers Stage Line building to the far right is only 2 feet deep.

Dalton City movie set in Haines, Alaska
I stopped along the Haines Highway for a minute to watch Trumpeter swans on the Chilkat River.

Swans on the Chilkat River, Alaska, in the winter
We stopped at the main viewing and information area for the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, but there were no eagles. We did see 3 not far up the highway, but November is when the big bald eagle gathering and festival happens.

Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in the winter
After a quick and pleasant crossing back into Canada at Pleasant Camp, we experienced an interesting temperature inversion. The temperature in Haines was -13°C (+9°F), but as we climbed up towards the summit, instead of dropping as it normally does, the temperature rose to -9°C (+16°F).
The wind was screaming up on the Haines Summit, though, so as beautiful as it was, watching it from inside a warm van was good. Every Easter weekend, a small city forms here when snowmobilers from all over the Yukon, Alaska, and even BC and Alberta, arrive and set up camp in RVs and tents for one final blast of wilderness snowmobiling. See my Destination BC article, “Spring Snowmobiling in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park” for a look at that weekend.

The Haines Summit, BC, in the winter
We stopped at Kathleen Lake in Kluane National Park to eat the lunches that The Bamboo Room had made for us. I lit a fire in the stove in the shelter, but we were ready to go before it developed much heat.

Kathleen Lake, Yukon, in the winter

The miles were going by much faster than we’d planned on, so I suggested a side trip out to Kluane Lake, where there are a few things to see, including the possibility of Dall sheep on the highway. The sheep didn’t make their appearance, but it was superb day to just enjoy the sunshine and the mountains. We got back to the Westmark Hotel in Whitehorse just before 5:00, so everyone could have a good rest before our long day going to Dawson today.