A final drive into Alaska, and now we wait it out…

These are crazy times, and the situation is changing so fast it’s hard to keep up with even your local situation. On Sunday, Cathy and I took the dogs down to Skagway and then Dyea for a play on the snow-free beach. Yesterday Skagway announced that visitors were no longer welcome, and this morning the Canada/US border was closed to non-essential travel.

I’ll tell you a bit more about what’s going on here in the Yukon, but first, let’s have some fun with Bella and Tucker 🙂

I had taken Bella and Tucker out for a long walk on Friday – our first real walk in months. It felt soooo good!

My dogs Bella and Tucker out for a long walk.
It’s a long way until Spring, but we had our first hamburger barbecue on Saturday. Not the first barbecue – we’d done some moose steaks a couple of weeks ago – but notable anyway.


The weather was spectacular on Sunday, which is what prompted the drive. The forecast for Skagway was for sunshine and 43°F (6°C). When we left home at about 11:00, it was -11°C (+12°F). Our first stop, as usual, was at Tutshi Lake, but the snow was too deep for the kids to play there so it was a short stop.

The Tutshi Lake pullout in the winter
Skagway was very quiet. I checked my mailbox, then we went over to The Station and had a great lunch before driving to Dyea.

Broadway in Skagway on a brilliant March day
There were a fair number of people on the beach at Dyea – a dozen or so. On a square mile of beach, that’s not too crowded 🙂

The beach at Dyea, Alaska, on a brilliant March day
Once the Jeep is parked and the ball comes out, the party is ON! Bella’s not actually much of a ball dog, but plays along a bit.

My dogs Bella and Tucker playing with a ball on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
Mr. Tucker on the other hand is a ball maniac. Look, my dog can fly 🙂

My dog Tucker playing with a ball on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
There are no problems in the world when I see my pups laughing.

My dog Tucker playing with a ball on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
Still for about 3 seconds…

My dog Tucker playing with a ball on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
Bella the play monitor.

My dogs Bella and Tucker playing with a ball on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
For quite a while, Tucker was dropping the ball in a little creek and watching it go downstream.

My dogs Bella and Tucker playing with a ball on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
This beach is such a spectacular spot – and calm when the pups poop out. The tide was extremely low when were there.

The beach at Dyea, Alaska
As we were about to leave, Bella found something to roll in. The last time that happened here, it was very stinky, but we got lucky this time. She really enjoyed it but we barely noticed it.

My dog Bella rolling in something on the beach at Dyea, Alaska

Other than the dogs, I didn’t take many photos. With more sunny days forecast, I had planned to go down again specifically for photography, but that didn’t work out. Anyway, it was a great day.

I’m now able to work on the long-neglected woodpile, and have the wood room in the basement at a comfortable level now.


Although we have no COVID-19 cases in the Yukon, some people have gone crazy here too. Yesterday afternoon, the toilet paper racks in every store were empty, as they have been for a few days, and lots of other things were out of stock as well.

Empty toilet paper racks in Whitehorse

Today has been the big change here in the Yukon. Although closures of events have been going on for a week or so, today the Canada/US border was closed to non-essential travel, schools were closed for a month, and the Yukon’s chief medical officer declared a public health emergency. Even my vet posted today that they’re taking emergency cases only until May 1st, so I cancelled Bella’s annual checkup I had scheduled for next week.

I go out very little, but that’s normal for me. I’m happy to be at home with Bella and Tucker and Molly and just putter on my million projects.

The final image (you can click on it to greatly enlarge it) and the comment that goes with it were created to post in an RV group in response to some nasty comments this morning, about a woman going out in her motorhome. Social distancing is my preferred lifestyle – that’s why I bought this rig. The spot in the photo is less than 2 hours from home and I regularly spend a week at a time boondocking there, doing day-hikes off into the wilderness with my 2 dogs, photographing, and writing. There is no “norm” for RVing – it can be anything you want it to be. If not for the fact that many nights are still nearing -20C, that’s where I’d be. My wife is in a fairly high-exposure public job and at 69 I’m probably a fairly high risk, so home isn’t a particularly safe place – my RV is totally safe. Please take care of each other, and don’t assume you know what’s best for other people – you really have no idea what might work in their specific case.

Social distancing for RVers

It’s impossible to say what’s going to happen in the coming days and weeks. The economic impact is going to be staggering, though, with cruise ports like Skagway taking the hardest hit. At this point all I can do is hope that you’re all okay.



Vote for Canada’s National Lichen

Vote for a national lichen! The seven candidates were selected by a panel of lichen experts, facilitated by Dr. Troy McMullin, lichenologist with the Canadian Museum of Nature. The lichens were chosen for being widespread in Canada and more common in Canada than in other countries, as well as for their beauty, their ability to be recognized, and their ecological functions. So, learn about Canada’s lichen diversity then have your say! Voting closes March 20, 2020.

Introduction to Lichens

Lichens are diverse and ecologically important. They are symbiotic organisms composed of fungi and one or more photosynthetic partners (usually algae, sometimes cyanobacteria, and occasionally both). Lichens occur in a wide array of colours, shapes, and sizes and they live in virtually every terrestrial environment worldwide.

In Canada, lichens are particularly rich and abundant. There are more than 2,500 species and the environments where they are most abundant—the boreal forest and arctic-alpine—cover most of Canada’s large land mass. Canada is a country with perhaps the highest lichen biomass globally.

Lichens are included in the diet of numerous species of invertebrates and vertebrates, including serving as the primary food source for caribou in winter months. Many species also use lichens as nesting material and for camouflage. Other important ecological functions include erosion control and nutrient cycling, particularly nitrogen fixation.

Human use of lichens is widespread. They are used as medicine, poison, dyes, and in scientific studies, particularly as indicators of air quality and ecological integrity as many species only occur in environments that have remained undisturbed for long periods of time, such as old-growth forests.

This important, beautiful, and ubiquitous group is often overlooked and underappreciated, which is why we are promoting greater recognition of lichens in Canada by proposing a national species.

Please read about the species that have been nominated by Canada’s lichen enthusiasts and select the one you think will make the best representative of this unique group in Canada.

Thank you for participating.

Dr. Troy McMullin
Research Scientist, Lichenology
Canadian Museum of Nature



Meet the Candidates

Boreal Oakmoss Lichen (Evernia mesomorpha)



Boreal oakmoss lichen is common in virtually all forested environments across Canada. Although it occurs in Asia, Europe and the United States, it is much less frequent in those regions. This conspicuous lichen hangs on the boles and branches of trees and is also common on wooden fence rails and posts. It is superficially similar to beard lichens (Usnea spp.), containing the same chemical (usnic acid), which gives it its light yellow-green colour, but boreal oakmoss has branches that are wider, more ridged, and they lack a dense central cord.

This species is tolerant of air pollution, so it commonly occurs in parks and woodlots near urban areas. It is a relatively large and distinctive lichen that will be easily spotted by Canadians in suitable habitats east of the Rockies. Moreover, it is more abundant in Canada than anywhere else. Boreal oakmoss warrants consideration as an official symbol for Canada.


Common Freckle Pelt (Peltigera aphthosa)



Common freckle pelt is a large lichen occurring across Canada, from coast to coast, and into the High Arctic. It blankets moss, soil, and low shrubs in exposed moist areas, but also tree bases and rocks in deeply shaded old-forest habitats. This species can cover several meters and varies from a very pale grey-green or brown-green when dry to a deep green when moist. Nearly half of all known occurrences worldwide are in Canada.

An interesting feature of common freckle pelt is that there are at least three Kingdoms in its symbiosis: the fungus (Fungi), which constitutes most of the lichen’s mass, the green photosynthesizing alga (Coccomyxa)(Protista), which gives this species its green colour, and the photosynthesizing cyanobacterium (Nostoc) (Monera), which appears as dark “freckles” (cephalodia) on the lichen’s upper surface. The cephalodia can fix nitrogen into a biologically useful form (ammonium, NH4), which can benefit the nitrogen-deprived ecosystems where they occur.

This species is large and conspicuous, ecologically important and widespread in Canada and would make an exceptional national symbol.


Concentric Ring Lichen (Arctoparmelia centrifuga)



Concentric ring lichen is a familiar sight on large boulders and rock outcrops in the Arctic and boreal regions of Canada. It is a closely attached, yellowish-green (from usnic acid) species that forms concentric rings that are brighter in colour near the actively growing margins than in the center. After fruiting-bodies (apothecia) form near the older central part of the body (thallus) and release their spores, the central part dies and decays making way for new rings to be initiated in the center. It is highly fertile, often with many apothecia and spores that are easy to germinate in culture.

This species is scientifically intriguing because of the chemical compounds it contains and because it can be easily manipulated in the lab. It sometimes contains the chemical that makes it yellow green and sometimes doesn’t, and is one of the few lichens that make the effort to contain two different compounds in its outer surface (atranorin and usnic acid). The abundance of the species and the comparative ease of culturing the fungal component from spores makes it a very good candidate for a model species. Lastly, the concentric ring lichen is distributed from the east to west coasts and throughout the Arctic, and should be Canada’s national lichen.


Elegant Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria elegans)



Elegant sunburst lichen is a conspicuous and spectacular bright orange species that grows mostly on rocks and bones, but also rarely occurs on soil and wood. It is most common on shoreline rocks throughout Canada and on bones and rocks in the Arctic. It prefers open sites that are nutrient rich, usually from excrement from birds or other animals. The presence of this species is used by hunters to locate nests and burrows.

This iconic species occurs commonly in all parts of Canada, from southern Ontario to the High Arctic and from British Columbia to Newfoundland. It is an unmistakable beacon that draws observers into the world of small but important organisms around us. Elegant sunburst lichen is an ideal representative of the Canadian lichen biota.


Horsehair Lichen (Bryoria)



In North America, horsehair lichen is predominantly a Canadian genus. In a sense, these conspicuous lichens unite Canada east and west and, with the help from tundra horsehair lichen (Bryoria nitidula), also north and south. More particularly, horsehair lichen, among the epiphytes, is THE defining lichen genus of the boreal forest, which in turn is THE defining ecosystem of Canada as a whole. In the northlands they occur in numbers unimaginable, festooning the branches of fir, spruce, and pine, hanging like little prayer flags and blowing in the wind: a blessing to all Canadians.

Less whimsically, horsehair lichen was the basis of a crucial starvation food for some of Canada’s indigenous peoples and remains an important forage item for flying squirrels, voles, caribou and, to varying degrees, ungulates as a group.

Horsehair lichen is also the genus that first hinted at a higher-than-expected level of complexity in the lichen consortium of disparate organisms. In this way, they underscore the point that sustaining a unified ecosystem – or nation for that matter – takes more than meets the eye—a lesson we must never lose sight of and, indeed, will need constant reminding of in the times ahead. This last point argues for the value in recognizing the lichen consortium as emblematic of the Canadian identity which, after all, is synonymous with multicultural diversity. As for including a genus of scraggly hair lichens as a candidate for a Canadian emblem, it’s well past time we all began to go a little deeper than surface colour or elegance of form. These intricate brown tresses – nowhere more diverse than within our nation’s borders – are pure Canadiana and, for this reason, just the thing for a national symbol.


Star-tipped Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia stellaris)



The star-tipped reindeer lichen forms yellowish green, rounded, foam-like tufts that not only cover thousands of square kilometres of boreal woodland soil from coast to coast to coast, but also extend into the temperate parts of southern Canada in certain habitats. It is abundant in every province and territory and has a very distinctive appearance; it is easily recognized by the general public because of the appearance of cauliflower-like heads. Star-tipped reindeer lichen is the slowest growing of the reindeer lichens, and, as a result, the large ground cover in an area suggests a mature and stable habitat. The representation of maturity and stability as well as the regularity of the branching pattern is appealing for a national lichen.

Although Cladonia rangiferina is the nominal true reindeer lichen (Rangifer is the scientific name of reindeer and caribou), star-tipped reindeer lichen is more important as winter food for both wild and domesticated reindeer and caribou. It is also used in the floral industry as a decoration and as miniature trees and shrubs in architectural models and miniature railroad layouts. The critical role of this species in the boreal ecosystem, the dominant landscape of Canada, surely makes it the most important lichen in Canada.


Yellow Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum)



Yellow map lichen is widespread across Canada. It is readily recognizable and is closely associated with the Canadian Shield and mountain landscapes that dominate much of the country—some of the more iconic Canadian landscapes in the minds of people around the world. It is one of the only crustose lichens (those that grow closely attached to their substrate) that most people know. Its common name is apt for a country with such a large geography and a strong history of cartography and map-based science (keep in mind that GIS was invented by a Canadian). Therefore, this widespread and eye-catching species is an appropriate Canadian emblem.


Comment from Murray: I think this is a wonderful way to get people to think about a part of our world that escapes most people’s notice. I spent a lot time time thinking about this. While the Elegant Sunburst Lichen is very attractive and I love the way it looks on shed moose antlers in the wilderness, and who can not love the name “Common Freckle Pelt,” the statement “the most important lichen in Canada” kept taking me back to the Star-tipped Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia stellaris). It is the lichen that is the most visible organism in my favourite part of the world (the high-country granite of places like the White Pass) and I love the way it feels under my bare feet early in the summer, so that’s the lichen that got my vote.



I’m back – my first good road trip in 6 months

Well, my friends, I’m back. I found someone with the skills needed to solve my health mystery. I’ll tell you more about that at the end of this post. Yesterday was Day 12 of feeling better, and I did the final test – I drove out to Kluane Lake and back. It was a wonderful day, an exciting day.

I asked Cathy if I cold have her Jeep for the drive – Bella and Tucker are much more comfortable in it than in my car. On my last refresh of the weather forecast as I was getting packed up, it changed from Sunny to Cloudy with Snow Flurries – oh well, I was going anyway.

We left the house at 09:30, with the temperature at -12°C (+10.4F). That’s the Alaska Highway ahead in the first photo, as we left Mary Lake.

Leaving Mary Lake, Yukon
The Jeep was filthy so I stopped at the car wash as we passed through Whitehorse. It was 10:08 when we reached the junction of the Alaska Highway and the North Klondike Highway to Carmacks and Dawson (Km 1437 of the Alaska Highway).

The junction of the Alaska Highway and the North Klondike Highway to Carmacks and Dawson.
The open road at 10:26. I stopped here at Km 1466.9 to take a couple of photos and post one to Facebook.

Km 1466.9 of the Alaska Highway, west of Whitehorse
At 11:20 we stopped for a walk at the Canyon Creek Bridge rest area. The log bridge was built on the original Kluane Wagon Road to the Kluane goldfields in 1904, then was rebuilt for the original Alaska Highway. You can see the old road climbing across the slope ahead.

The historic Canyon Creek Bridge
Just north of the west end of the bridge is a log cabin that served as a roadhouse and store during the Kluane Gold Rush.

A log cabin that served as a roadhouse and store during the 1904 Kluane Gold Rush

A log cabin that served as a roadhouse and store during the 1904 Kluane Gold Rush

Approaching the big rocks of Kluane National Park, at Km 1554.

Approaching the big rocks of Kluane National Park, at Km 1554 of the Alaska Highway.
By 11:45 it was clear that the weather forecast was going to be wrong – I could see lots of blue sky ahead. Not mandatory for a good day, but very welcome.

Snowy peaks along the Alaska Highway near Haines Junction, Yukon
The view ahead right at the Km 1600 milepost. I still don’t trust that I’m going to continue to feel good, and I was deeply enjoying this, stopping often.

Km 1600 of the Alaska Highway, west of Haines Junction, Yukon
Transitioning to sunny skies, with a layer of cloud above me but sun on the mountains.

Snowy peaks along the Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction, Yukon
The 400mm lens compresses the highway and brings the mountains even closer. I shot the next photo right at Km 1620.

Snowy peaks along the Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction, Yukon
Between me and that section of road is Christmas Creek. This was shot right at the Km 1630 milepost.

The Alaska Highway climbs away from Christmas Creek near Kluane Lake.
I had planned a major stop at the pullout at Km 1642.1, but wind was bitterly cold and the snow was deep. Bella was loving it, though. She was digging as if she was after something, then rolling as if she’d found something stinky 🙂

Bella my husky/shelty cross playing in deep snow at Kluane Lake, Yukon
“What are you laughing about?”

Bella my husky/shelty cross playing in deep snow at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Okay, let’s go, I’m cold!

Bella my husky/shelty cross playing in deep snow at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The cabin in the next photo, at the foot of Sheep Mountain, belonged to Captain Alexander Clark Fisher, who died in January 1941 and is buried above the cabin. You can see more photos and the article that appeared in The Whitehorse Star upon his death, here.

Alex Fisher's cabin at Sheep Mountain on the Alaska Highway
There was a fairly high probability of seeing Dall sheep on the highway at Sheep Mountain, but no luck.

There was a fairly high probability of seeing Dall sheep on the highway at Sheep Mountain, but no luck.
Still feeling good at 1:00 pm, my hope to go to Destruction Bay for lunch had turned into a plan.

The Alaska Highway along KLuane Lake
I had an excellent burger at the Talbot Arm (saving some fries for my doggies), but as I was about to leave I saw a Facebook post about Tserber, the dog that’s been lost in this area for months. There was a possible sighting just past the airport. I couldn’t ignore a message like that – things happen for a reason – so instead of starting for home, I continued on another 25 km to the Duke River. All I saw, though, was some intriguing tracks just before the Duke River – the sort of tracks a nervous dog might make? The inch of snow last night made them too indistinct to ID. Poor Tserber… 🙁

Tracks in the snow
At 2:30 I made a U-turn at the Duke River and started for home. The huge “gold pan” at Burwash Landing, repainted last year, looks great now.

The huge 'gold pan' at Burwash Landing, repainted last year, looks great now.
We stopped for another walk at the Sheep Mountain interpretive centre. The wind was making great patterns in the snow.

Wind-created patterns in the snow along the Alaska Highway

Wind-created patterns in the snow along the Alaska Highway

There were lots of sheep visible, and they seemed to be making their way slowly down towards the highway, but I couldn’t wait for them to possibly reach the highway and I wasn’t dressed to hike up to them. A group of about 10 people had hiked up to them, and the sheep didn’t seem to be bothered at all by them.

Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain, Yukon

Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain, Yukon

Heading back into the clouds – looking east across Christmas Creek at Km 1630.6.

The Alaska Highway at Christmas Creek in February
I love mountains and their infinite moods…

I love Yukon mountains and their infinite moods...

I love mountains and their infinite moods...

This awesome sundog stopped me for a few photos near Bear Creek summit. It was being caused by snow and ice driven off the mountains by the wind.

A sundog near Haines Junction, Yukon

The clouds were broken and the light was beautiful on the way home, but I didn’t take any more photos. Tucker had asked to come up for a snuggle and I didn’t want to disturb him. We got home at 6:15.

I left my backpack on the table when I got home. What a nut! 🙂


So, what has happened with my brain injury? Well, just before Christmas, Brook Bouquot, the daughter of people I know, called and asked if she could come over and do an osteopathic session with me. Absolutely. My body’s reaction to that session, while very negative initially, made me think that osteopathy was a path I needed to follow. Unfortunately Brook wasn’t going to be back in the Yukon for a month, and it felt like weekly sessions were needed, so I sent emails to both osteopaths in Whitehorse, asking to be added to their lengthy waiting lists. I soon got a reply from Lindsay Charron, saying that she’d take me on and see if she could help.

My results from my first 3 sessions with Lindsay were vague. There was nothing I could really put my finger on, but for a couple of days I’d feel “lighter.” Then all of a sudden 13 days ago, literally overnight, I felt better. Not 100% but dramatically better. I cautiously began testing that. Trips to the grocery had been awful – that was now okay. Lunch with friends had to be short – now I could stay as long as I wanted.

My cognitive abilities have largely returned – I was able to go to a meeting about a complicated subject, and understand it. Creative photography is again possible.

For our 12th anniversary, Cathy and I went to The Cut Off restaurant and had a wonderful evening eating a wonderful meal and listening to Steve Slade. I was able to stay for a couple of hours and had 2 beer. This was amazing.


So the drive yesterday was the final test. And my body and my brain showed no negative results. Murray is back.

Although very optimistic, I’m still very cautious about what’s going on. I’m seeing Lindsay for another session today – I still have neurological issues to work on. While I’m still trying to figure this all out, for now I’m going to rejoice at where I am. The past 6 months have changed me, no doubt. I will never forget how dark things got, with a wheelchair beside my hospital bed. Yesterday, though, Cathy booked a rafting trip in Chile for me during our Antarctica cruise in December-January.

Value every day, my friends.



Yes it snows in the Yukon, but not like this

In the Yukon, we get many months of snow falling, but it’s unusual to get heavy dumps of it, and what we call “heavy” is a joke in many areas. On Monday and Tuesday, though, we got about 38 centimeters (15 inches) of it, and I still haven’t got it cleaned up.

I’m not able to deal with much of the snow anymore. Even handling the snowblowers is beyond me. A couple of weeks ago, I called a neighbour with a Bobcat to take care of the driveway.

Bobcat clearing my driveway
The next day was beautiful and I was able to get some fine-tuning done. I even got the roof of the motorhome cleaned off (I really need to get a carport built for it). I actually had to fire up the motorhome to yank the Tracker out of a snowbank I’d buried it in – whoops! 🙂

Snowy driveway in Whitehorse.
Winter is much nicer to view from this angle.

Winter hot tub in the Yukon
I spend a lot of time in bed and usually give most of the credit for taking care of me to Tucker, but Molly does a wonderful job of it, too. She is so sweet to Cathy and I, though she hates everybody else.

In bed with my cat.
I hired a contractor to finish a bit of drywall and then paint 2 of the 3 largest rooms in the basement, the laundry and the fitness room. Getting the rooms ready – moving furniture, appliances, and equipment, and removing all the stuff from the walls, was a big enough job for me. Yes, I could have gotten them to do it.

Painting contractor
On Sunday, my Facebook post simply said: “14-19 cm tonight and tomorrow – *sigh*”, with this Snowfall Warning weather forecast attached.

Snow warning for Whitehorse
Monday began as a warm, calm morning, with the temperature at -4 and a light snow falling. I created the next image as my morning inspirational – “Think it to be it.”

Think it to be it
At 1:00 on Monday, with heavy snow falling and the roads geting worse by the minute, I drove into town to get some groceries. The next 2 photos show Robert Service Way, which most of us still just call “the South Access.”

Heavy snow on Robert Service Way in Whitehorse, Yukon

Heavy snow on Robert Service Way in Whitehorse, Yukon

Alongside the Yukon River, at the base of the “clay cliffs” – the airport is directly above.

Heavy snow on Robert Service Way in Whitehorse, Yukon
The airport is a great place to shoot when the weather turns bad. My usual parking spots were well covered with that white stuff when I stopped there at 2:30. Even plowing snow like this, the all-wheel-drive in my Caddie has never let me down.

My Cadillac CTS in deep snow.
It takes more than this to stop Air North. The only Air Canada flight on the board, though, was “Delayed.”

Air North getting ready to depart Whitehorse in heavy snow

Air North getting ready to depart Whitehorse in heavy snow

Heading for home on the Alaska Highway just before 3:00.


My painters finished that afternoon. Now I have to put it back together, and start putting the baseboards back on.

Freshly painted fitness room.
Tuesday morning, my car really was a snowplow, not just on my driveway but for a couple of blocks to the main road as well.


Plowed road dead ahead 🙂 – I had an appointment to get some important repairs done on my car or I would have waited a while.

Snowy roads at Whitehorse
It was a lovely morning to be out, though. The last photo was shot at 09:04 as I was nearing home.

Winter dawn on the Alaska Highway

It’s now Saturday morning. I’ve been pecking away at decks and sidewalks, and am still waiting for the Bobcat to return for the driveway clearing.



Out the Alaska Highway to Kluane Lake

With the beautiful light returning, I’m getting road fever, so on Monday I decided to take Bella and Tucker on a drive out towards Kluane Lake. My post on Facebook as I started out said, “I probably just need a bunch of fresh air and mountains to get better – headed west…” – I actually had no idea where I might get to.

As I left Mary Lake at 09:45, the skies were rather dreary, but the weather report said it was sunny out Kluane way. The first photo was shot on Fireweed Drive a couple of blocks from home, with the temperature at -11°C (+12°F).

Fireweed Drive, Mary Lake, Yukon
I wasn’t feeling particularly well, and had lots of rest stops planned. Our second one was at 11:15, at the Takhini Valley Rest Area, Km 1487 of the Alaska Highway. The Milepost incorrectly calls it the Takhini Burn Rest Area because it’s located in a large area burned by a wildfire in 1958. I took my car, so the kids were happy to be able to get out and stretch often – it’s not the most comfortable vehicle for them.

Takhini Valley Rest Area, Alaska Highway

Takhini Valley Rest Area, Alaska Highway

Marshall Creek is in the dip ahead, at Km 1560. It was great to see clear skies just ahead.

Marshall Creek at Km 1560, Alaska Highway
We made a long stop at the Kluane Range Rest Area at Km 1566, one of my regular stopping places.

Kluane Range Rest Area at Km 1566, Alaska Highway
The smoke at Haines Junction was awful. It seemed to be mostly from a fire at the garbage dump, with possibly some wood stoves adding to it. On a clear day this is one of my favourite views in the territory.

Approaching Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway
There’s what I needed – right at Km 1620, with blue skies and the peaks of Kluane. Ahhhh…. 🙂 Just west of Haines Junction I hit a strong south wind, and the temperature climbed quickly to -4°C (+25°F).

Km 1620 on the Alaska Highway
About to drop down to Christmas Creek, at Km 1629.6.

About to drop down to Christmas Creek, at Km 1629.6 on the Alaska Highway
I should buy the long-abandoned Kluane Lake Lodge as a summer base – the beach there is wonderful. But the last time I saw it for sale, in March 1993, they wanted $198,000 – maybe for 1/4 of that.

The long-abandoned Kluane Lake Lodge on the Alaska Highway
I decided to go as far as Sheep Mountain in the hope of seeing some Dall sheep.

Sheep Mountain, Alaska Highway
This is a closeup of the road surface at the spot in the photo above – that’s compressed snow and ice. It’s nice to have awd.

Compressed snow and ice on the Alaska Highway
Looking across Slim’s River Flats, a vast expanse of sand in the summer.

Looking across Slim's River Flats, a vast expanse of sand in the summer.
A coyote crossing the flats – I can’t imagine that hunting is any good out there. So far we had seen a small band of wild horses and a single elk. Tucker loves seeing wildlife!!

A coyote crossing Slim's River Flats, Yukon
Pressure ridges (caused by expanding ice) always fascinate me, and Kluane Lake builds some beauties.

Pressure ridges always fascinate me, and Kuuane Lake builds some beauties.
This was the furthest west I drove – there were no sheep. I did a U-turn here at Horseshoe Bay and started for home. I really wanted to walk down to have a close look at that pressure ridge, but I had no energy left.

Pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Back on November 21st, a large dog (a Caucasian Shepherd) named Tserber got lost along Kluane Lake, and his family is still looking for him, as he’s sighted occasionally but nobody can get near him. They have a Facebook page, and there are signs like this everywhere along the highway starting in Haines Junction. Heartbreaking… 🙁

Back on November 21st, a large dog (a Caucasian Shepherd) named Tserber got lost along Kluane Lake, and his family is still looking for hi
I took very few photos on the drive home, despite some wonderful light. I felt awful. I knew that Kluane would be too far but had to do it anyway.

Peaks along the Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction
Stopped for another rest at Km 1566, I could see that the sun had some warmth now, with snow melting off the back of the car. I tried to get some sleep here but Tucker needed to protect me from every vehicle going by so I soon gave up that idea. Tucker takes very good care of me.


Heading home in the lovely afternoon light at 4:16, right at the Km 1516 milepost.

Southbound at Km 1516, Alaska Highway

By the time I got home I was “done,” and went straight to bed. How far is too far now? I don’t really know, since I didn’t feel well right from the start. Cathy wants me to give up my plan to go back to Vancouver Island in mid-April, but I’m not willing to do that yet.



A look at our 10 days of deep cold (-40s)

After 10 days of deep cold, warm(er) air has returned. As I start writing this at 02:30 on January 19th, the temperature has risen 11 degrees in the past 6 hours. Although life has some extra challenges when the thermometer starts reading temperatures in the minus-40s (where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet), many Yukoners find it exhilarating, and surely everyone agrees that it produces some spectacular scenes. The photos that follow journal that cold snap.

I began my series of cold-weather photo outings on Thursday, January 9th. I posted on Facebook at 10:30 that it was now -34°C, “too chilly to even go to the hot tub”, but the view out my window was spectacular so I needed to get out. The first photo shows the spectacular beauty of the Alaska Highway just east of Whitehorse, at -29°C that afternoon (that’s -20°F). That’s the Yukon River bridge ahead. What a place.

Yukon River bridge on the Alaska Highway just east of Whitehorse
I do quite a bit of shooting at the Lewes River Dam (a.k.a. the Marsh Lake control structure) just downriver from the Yukon River bridge, in all seasons. The open water at -29 creates some great fog.

Lewes River Dam, Yukon River, at -29C
The Yukon River just downstream from the dam.

The Yukon River just downstream from the Lewes River Dam, at -29C.

The Yukon River just downstream from the Lewes River Dam, at -29C.

I really like this angle on the dam from the slope high above.

Lewes River Dam, Yukon River, at -29C
That little outing wore me out and I had to go home for a nap, but that afternoon I went into town to do some more shooting. The temperature had only warmed up one degree by the time I shot the next photo a couple of minutes before 3:00 pm.

Downtown Whitehorse and the Yukon River at -28C
APTN was shooting a segment at my favourite location on Long Lake Road. They offered to move to let me shoot down the river from that exact location, but I was okay with what I had.

APTN shooting a segment at my favourite location on Long Lake Road in Whitehorse, at -28C
For me, the deep cold adds a new dimension to photographing a town I can’t imagine ever leaving. It was -36° when I shot the next photo a few minutes before sunrise on Saturday the 11th.

Downtown Whitehorse and the Yukon River at -36C
Back up to my Long Lake Road spot for the broader views. The next photo was shot at 10:02.

Downtown Whitehorse and the Yukon River at -36C
Looking downriver from the same location a minute later. That’s Shipyards Park in the foreground – once the home of our large fleet of steamboats.

Shipyards Park and the Yukon River at Whitehorse, at -36C
At 10:16 the sun was lighting up the world in a wonderful way, though adding no warmth to it. This was shot from the same spot as above, but at 235mm. It shows the Marwell industrial area (home to an oil refinery during WWII), Mountainview Drive, and on top of the hill, Yukon College and the Yukon Arts Centre.

Whitehorse, Yukon, at sunrise, at -36C
Turning the other way again at 10:17, the downtown area was still in shadow.

Whitehorse, Yukon, at -36C
I stayed there for a while longer to watch the sun light up more of my world – this was 10:28.

Whitehorse, Yukon, at -36C
And at 10:32 the moon was in a good position for a few shots.

The full moon at Whitehorse, Yukon, at -36C
The next photo was my final one from the spot on Long Lake Road, at 10:36.

Whitehorse, Yukon, at -36C
Driving along the Yukon River – Rotary Park is on the opposite side here.

The Yukon River at Whitehorse, at -36C
On my way home, I got distracted by the fog along the Yukon River by the restored sternwheeler SS Klondike.

Fog along the Yukon River at Whitehorse, at -36C

Fog along the Yukon River at Whitehorse, at -36C

While I was shooting there, a friend came along and got a photo of me.

Murray photographing along the Yukon River at -35C
It was the SS Klondike I was getting some photos of when the photo above was shot.


It seems that most new homes in Whitehorse in recent years have electric heat (because it’s cheap to install), but Yukon Energy had every piece of generating equipment they own or have leased going full-tilt when I shot the next photo on January 11th. That afternoon there was an LNG tanker and a diesel tanker loading up the respective tanks. The forecast for that night was for -44°C with a -56° wind chill (that’s -47 and -69F), and it was forecast to remain similar all week. I’d have no problem staying warm if the electrical system crashes – most people in Whitehorse would be in serious trouble. The next photo shows the leased Cat diesel generators.

Yukon Energy's leased Cat diesel generators running at -35C
It was the LNG generators pumping out this impressive vapour. The mountain is Golden Horn – I live at the foot of it, 3 blocks off the Alaska Highway. It looks like a volcano, but isn’t/wasn’t.

LNG generators pumping out an impressive amount of vapour at -35C
This was the Yukon River right below the power dam. Pretty quiet…

The Yukon River right below the power dam, at -35C
The first -40°C of the season, at 05:15 on January 12th. It was -37 in town, and the forecast was for 6 degrees colder that night. The all-time record for this day is -44.5, set in 2005, when the record was set for the 12th, 13th, and 14th. Tucker tried really hard this morning to convince me that going outside to poop is just stupid 🙂

Minus 40C on my home weather station in Whitehorse, Yukon
I spent a few minutes on the wood pile when it warmed up to -36°C 🙂

Murray working on the wood pile at -36C
The weather forecast as it was at 4:00 pm on Sunday, January 12th.

Whitehorse weather forecast for January 12th, 2020
If not for this, I may not have even bothered to go out at these temperatures. The garage isn’t heated, but never drops below about -8.

Cozy vehicles in my garage at -40C
I went out to do another few minutes work on the woodpile on the 13th, but my wood splitter said it was too damn cold to work. Sissy. An hour warm-up changed his attitude, though, and we made a good addition to the wood room in the basement.

Frozen wood splitter

On January 14th, the Calgary Zoo tweeted that their Penguin Walk was cancelled “due to extreme cold weather conditions.” Calgary Mayor Nenshi retweeted that with the comment “Nothing to see here, folks. Just a city where it’s too cold to let the penguins outside.” It was 6 degrees colder in Whitehorse 🙂

Just before noon on the 14th, I headed into town to take a friend out for lunch. I thought that with the temperature still at -40°C it would be a safe bet that reservations wouldn’t be needed – I was right 🙂

Welcome to Whitehorse at -40C
The sign on the Millennium Trail in Whitehorse amused me. It was -41C and there could be “Icy Patches”, the sign says. I’ll try to avoid them 🙂

Sign warning of icy patches on a walking trail in Whitehorse - at -41C
The ice fog was so thick on the 14th there wasn’t much to see – the next 2 photos were shot at 11:37.

Whitehorse in thick ice fog at -41C

The Yukon River in Whitehorse in thick ice fog at -41C

It’s now 09:20 on January 20th. Cathy arrived home last night from 10 days with her family in Ontario, and it’s warmed up to -22°C so the excitement of the deep cold is over. I’ll be back at the Yukon Transportation Museum to work on my boat for a bit this afternoon.

On the health front, I’m getting worse by the week. These photo and other outings, however, are required for my mental health regardless of how tough they are. Ten days ago, I went to see my doctor (my GP), and she now has a referral to the GF Strong spinal injury rehab centre in Vancouver in process. Fingers crossed, though it could take many weeks to get into one of their programs…



A family adventure day to Skagway

Cathy hasn’t joined the dogs and I on a adventure in a very long time, but on Friday she took the day off work to escort us to Skagway. Bella and Tucker are always happy to ride in Cathy’s Jeep Cherokee – it’s much more comfortable for them than my car.

We got off to a very late start, not leaving the house until a few minutes after 11:00. The sun had risen at 10:08, at it was -22°C when we started out.

It was soon apparent that some of the large lakes weren’t yet frozen, and there was a lot of fog down Carcross way.

Fog ahead on the South Klondike Highway in January
It’s difficult to capture in a photo, but I really like way the sun looks in fog.

Fog on the South Klondike Highway in January
By 11:34 it had warmed up to -14°C, and it was obvious that it was open water on Lake Bennett that was producing much of the fog.

Fog ahead on the South Klondike Highway in January
I wasn’t feeeling very good when we left home, so Cathy was driving. That gave me a chance to get some photos not normally available to me. I always like seeing and photographing semis and snowplows, though I do usually cringe at the thought of another rock hitting the windhield.

B-train fuel tanker on the South Klondike Highway in January

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway in January

The new bridge across the Nares River at Carcross opened a few weeks ago, and the old wooden bridge is slowly being torn apart.

The new Nares River bridge on the South Klondike Highway in January
As we drove south from Carcross the fog dissipated, as Tagish Lake was frozen. At the Venus Mine, the weather was looking great ahead.

The historic Venus silver mine on the South Klondike Highway in January
We made our usual stop at Tutshi Lake to let the kids play for a few minutes. The amount of snow this year is extremely low.

Snowy peaks along Tutshi Lake in the far north of BC
Tutshi Lake was still open and some fog was forming, but a north wind blew it away quickly.

Tutshi Lake, BC - open water in January
I took the wheel when we left Tutshi Lake, and our next stop was at the White Pass summit. The next photo was shot right at the Canada-USA border. The wind was brutal – the wind chill must have been nearing -30, and there were no sledders or skiers. I processed the image as an HDR to bring out the detail.

The White Pass summit on a windy January day
Another DHDR image. The ground blizzard was pretty cool, if a bit disorienting.

Driving south from the White Pass summit on a windy January day
Once on the sea side of the summit, the temperature started climbing as usual. It was up to -10 as we descended towards the William Moore Bridge.

Driving south from the White Pass summit on a windy January day
Once out of the shelter of some curves in the valley, the north wind hit us and the ground blizzard got even better 🙂

A ground blizzard on the South Klondike Highway on a windy January day

We got to Skagway at about 12:30 Alaska time (1:30 Yukon), had an excellent lunch at The Station, and by 1:30 were back on the road. I wasn’t feeling good again, so Cathy was driving and other than going over to the mouth of the Dyea River to see the seals that are aways fishing there, didn’t do any wandering.

There was no traffic on the highway other than semis and snow-clearing equipment, though a few vehicles were parked down in the sheltered forest areas – sledders and skiers. The reflection of the lights of the B-train fuel tanker in the next photo may give you an idea of the condition of the road – yes, thats ice.

B-train fuel tanker on the South Klondike Highway in January
Icy or not, it’s spectacularly beautiful in the winter.

The South Klondike Highway in the White Pass in January
Another snowplow doing some fine-tuning of the shoulder.

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass in January
A grader and the rotary snowplow doing some heavy moving.

A grader and the rotary snowplow doing some heavy moving on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass in January
The snow-clearing crews were sure busy this day.

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway near Fraser in January
Clearing Customs at Fraser was quick and simple as usual.

Canada Customs at Fraser, BC
You can see the fog rising off Tutshi Lake in the next photo.

Tutshi Lake, BC - not frozen in January.
We stopped at Tutshi Lake again, to give both the dogs and me a break.

Tutshi Lake, BC - not frozen in January

My dog Tucker at Tutshi Lake, BC, in January

My dog Bella at Tutshi Lake, BC, in January

Driving back to the highway from the Tutshi Lake parking area.

Snowy peaks along Tutshi Lake, BC, in January
A final shot of Dail Peak. I slept much of the hour from here to home.

Dail Peak in January
This game cam was in my post office box at Skagway – now we can get some photos of the moose and other critters that pass through our property 🙂

Our new game cam


Catching up – winter and dogs and photography and Christmas…

It’s been 5 weeks since I last posted. There hasn’t been much going on as my activities are still very limited, but I promised that I wouldn’t go silent for long periods, so here’s what I have been doing.

The Whitehorse airport is one of my happy places. Whenever I go to town I have a list of expected arrivals and departures and try to time my errands or meetings to catch some of them. The first photo of the action on the ramp with the fancy new snow-clearing machine going by was shot on December 19th.

Winter action at the Whitehorse airport
The following day, I caught an interesting atmospheric phenomenon created by an incoming 737. At -16°C and 85% humidity, jets make their own weather as they approach to land. Notice that it’s not smoke from the engines, it’s clouds of vapour created by the flaps.

At -16C and 85% humidity, jets make their own weather as they approach to land.
A better look at the plane making the little clouds, Air North’s Boeing 737-48E C-FANB.

Air North's 1992 Boeing 737-48E C-FANB
This new rig looks like it does a great job of getting snow and ice off the runway.

Clearing snow off the runway at the Whitehorse airport
The older rotary puts on a more impressive show, though 🙂

A rotary plow clearing snow off the runway at the Whitehorse airport
The airport is easy for me – I drive by it on my way to other things, and the photos come easily. The thought required for creative photography is still beyond me, and writing this blog is far more difficult than it was before the accident.

Air North action at the Whitehorse airport in the winter
I waited for the arrival of Air Canada’s Airbus A319-114 C-FZUL that afternoon (December 20th). It was 20 minutes late, but while I was waiting I was able to help a couple from Vancouver who had gotten badly stuck below my planned shooting location across from the Alaska Highway truck scales. I had taken the Tracker, and it’s always stocked with recovery gear, so that was quick and simple. The next photo was shot at 4:07, exactly 20 minutes after sunset.

Air Canada's Airbus A319-114 C-FZUL
On December 24th I did a morning outing to pick up a few last-minute things at 2 grocery stores. I left the driveway at 08:50, and was heading home on the Alaska Highway at 09:35 (35 minutes before sunrise). Quick and simple. When I headed for home it was -6C in town, -13 at home. The next photo shot on the Alaska Highway gives you an idea of just how little snow we have this year.

On the Alaska Highway at dawn in December
Christmas was particularly quiet this year. There were no decorations, no presents (well, we never do presents), just a couple of wonderful meals with friends, one on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day. I had plenty of assistance offered while I was working on the turkey stuffing. 🙂

All my fur-kids watching me working on Christmas dinner
We’re babysitting for a couple of weeks. Paddler is an easy fit – he’s pretty much a part-time member of our pack, which he joined as Maverick, a member of YARN’s Airplanes2 litter 10 months ago. Bella and Tucker both love playing with him, especially in this incredibly mild weather we’ve been having.

My dogs Bella and Paddler
I’ve been doing some more scanning of documents and slides, most of which then get turfed. This is the painful part of slide scanning. I can think of many reasons why I shouldn’t toss them, but these many binders of slides have to go. Some – a few, like early Alaska Highway images – I may be able to rehome.

Throwing away slides after scanning them
The City of Whitehorse does a wonderful job of lighting up the city for the holidays, and I’ve been wanting to get out for some photos. By evening, I never have enough energy to do it, so on December 31st, I headed out just after 04:00 while I still felt okay.

My driveway at 04:00 on December 31st
The SS Klondike was my first stop. The lights here have been scaled back from what they used to be, but it’s still beautiful.

Christmas lights on the steamboat SS Klondike at Whitehorse, Yukon

Christmas lights on the steamboat SS Klondike at Whitehorse, Yukon

The huge tree that’s installed in front of the railway station on Main Street was one of my two primary targets, and it’s best seen before normal people get out of bed. The next photo shows it from the Main Street side.

Christmas tree and railway station at Whitehorse, Yukon
And here’s the Front Street view.

Christmas tree and railway station at Whitehorse, Yukon
City Hall is always done up nicely.

Whitehorse City Hall at Christmas
The MacBride Museum.


Shipyards Park is the main showplace for the light display.


This was the first time I’d seen the City create a large animated light display – the train at Shipyards Park is best seen in a video.


At 05:30 I went up to the airport to catch an Air Canada departure. It was too dark and none of those photos were any good, but Air North’s Boeing 737-55D C-FANF was towed into position to get ready for a 07:00 flight while I was there.

Air North's Boeing 737-55D C-FANF

I really needed to get out, but the Christmas light cruise went badly. I wasn’t feeling well by 05:30 and by 06:00 had to quit after a few minutes at the airport. By the time I got home I was just plain sick and had to go to bed.

I could only spend a few minutes on it yesterday, but I’m still working on restoring the model of the WP&YR container ship Frank H. Brown at the Yukon Transportation Museum. The section of the boat needing the most work, the gantry crane, is almost ready for paint now. Two of the arms were broken off, one was loose, lots of the paint was flaking off (and at some point it had been re-painted the wrong colour), and many small pieces like railings needed to be re-glued.

Restoring the model of the WP&YR container ship Frank H. Brown at the Yukon Transportation Museum
The model railway is a superb location to work on this piece of the boat. It’s an easy place to talk to people about it and other aspects of the museum as well.

Murray Lundberg working on restoring the model of the WP&YR container ship Frank H. Brown at the Yukon Transportation Museum
I did an interview with Dave Croft and Wayne Vallevand from CBC a couple of weeks ago. Very soon after the story went live, I heard from one Whitehorse woman who also had a fall and needed to hear that what’s going on is real. Hearing from Rebecca made my day, since that was my main point in talking about it. Admitting what’s going on in that way feels like its own sort of defeat, and yet is important. You can read the story here.


There, caught up – sort of. My search for a solution to my health problems continues. I’m not getting better – except on days when I do nothing, and that includes computer time.

I love this New Year message. Every day I get to kiss someone who thinks I’m wonderful, snuggle with furry creatures who agree, and can still make art. So maybe I’ll surprise myself and get better, too. I hope that 2020 is kind to all of you.

Happy New Year


A drive to Skagway – sun, torrential rain, and heavy snow

My last attempt to drive to Skagway didn’t turn out well, but on Friday (November 22nd), I had the urge to have another go at it.

I checked 511yukon this time and things looked good. The yellow means partly covered with snow, black is bare, and white is covered with snow. The weather forecast for Whitehorse was cloudy in the morning, with a high of +5°C (41°F) and then clearing later. For Skagway it was rain and 46°F (+8°C).

Yukon road report
The scattered clouds at home produced some nice light for the frost early in the morning. It was +2 when I headed down the road at 10:50.

Frosty pine in the Yukon
Unlike the crazy temperature swings the previous week, it only ranged between +1 and +3 all the way to the White Pass summit. While you might think that the weather doesn’t look too good in the next photo (shot at 11:18), to me it looked like good photography ahead 🙂

Along the South Klondike Highway
Brute Mountain at Carcross.

Brute Mountain at Carcross
At the Bove Island viewpoint, the light on the island wasn’t good but Lime Mountain was nicely lit up.

Lime Mountain along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The light on Dail Peak along Windy Arm was particularly good right at noon.

Dail Peak along Windy Arm, South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The next photo, shot just south of the Yukon-BC border, was processed as an HDR to exaggerate the great storm light on the mountains and wet road. It was +3 with a very light rain falling – despite the road report of “bare,” it was quite icy.

Storm light on the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
Even though I had left Tucker and Bella at home, I made our usual stop at Tutshi Lake and shot a few photos.

Tutshi Lake, BC

Tutshi Lake, BC

The rain falling at highway level along Tutshi Lake was snow just a little way up the mountains.

Snowy trees along the South Klondike Highway, BC
Just south of Log Cabin, although there was sun and it was +1, there was a light snow falling.

A late-November drive on the South Klondike Highway, BC
Sometimes the views at the Canada-USA border are spectacular. Other times, not so much 🙂

The Canada-USA border on the South Klondike Highway

I hadn’t felt too bad until I hit the really winding section of highway dropping down from the summit. That made me quite sick.

Crossing into Alaska was quick and simple as usual. Two Customs officers I hadn’t seen before, both women, were on duty. I always wonder what brings people to a post like Skagway. A few miles further south, winter was gone.

The South Klondike Highway just north of Skagway, Alaska
I had a relaxing, excellent lunch at The Station in Skagway. While I was there, it started raining – and soon turned to torrential rain. I did a loop around town, but as I started up Broadway to head home, I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen as I climbed back into the mountains.

Torrential rain on Broadway in Skagway, Alaska, in late November
I made a short stop at the WP&YR yards, but the rain was so heavy the photos I took are from the car window.

WP&YR locomotives in November
The rain started to turn to snow just north of Customs.

Rain turning to snow on the South Klondike Highway just north of Skagway, Alaska
As I neared the William Moore Bridge, the snow was extremely heavy.

Heavy snow falling on the South Klondike Highway
The new pullout at the William Moore Bridge is very nice. The old bridge is securely fenced off now, but it supposed to be opened to foot traffic at some point. Perhaps the National Park Service hasn’t come up with a complete plan for it yet.

The new pullout at the William Moore Bridge
A woman in the grocery store said that 2 feet of snow was forecast for the White Pass that night, and the way it was coming down, I could see that possibility. The next photo was shot just south of Summit Creek, at 2:40.

Heavy snow falling on the South Klondike Highway
At Canadian Customs, when I asked what I was down for, I said “just wandering.” His response as he looked around was “really??” – I said the light was really good when I was southbound 🙂

Coming up to Canadian Customs at Fraser, BC, in the winter
Back to great light at Dail Peak just south of the BC-Yukon border. When I stepped out to take this photo, I discovered just how icy the road still was.

Great light at Dail Peak on the South Klondike Highway
The last photo of the day was shot just south of Conrad at 3:30.


I got home at about 4:30 and texted Cathy “I beat it!” A full day and I hadn’t hit the dreaded “wall” 🙂

But… Saturday was bad. I did nothing all day. And Sunday was much worse – I was very sick, the worst I’d been in weeks. Two steps forward and 3 back? By Monday I was back to “the new normal,” though. Will I make that drive again knowing how sick it might make me? At this point I don’t know. Probably not, without some sort of plan to do something different (a sleep in Skagway perhaps).



A drive to Carcross, and an update about my brain injury

It’s now been 7 weeks since I’ve posted here – the longest break since I started the blog in 2007. This post will sort of be in two parts. The first will be the sort of thing you expect here – a photojournal of one of my wanders. The second part will be about the brain injury that has brought my very active life to a screeching halt for now.

I spend my days now in two ways now – going through old newspapers gathering information that I sometimes post in my Yukon History group, and browsing through my tens of thousands of photos. The photo-browsing got me to thinking that I should fly somewhere – anywhere, just to get some window-seat time, overnight and fly home again. To do that, I needed to test my ability to travel, so on Friday I decided to drive to Skagway. Being out for 6 hours or so, with winding roads, would be a good test.

We’re down to just over 7 hours of light now, so I was in no big hurry to hit the road. The temperature was -4°C when I left home, +1 in town when I fueled up 10 minutes later. The temperature was all over the map as I headed south – the cold spot was at Robinson as is often the case, at -7°C. A few miles further, it was +3 when I shot this first photo at 10:05. At Carcross a few minutes later, it was back down to -1. Crazy.

Winter on the South Klondike Highway
I stopped just south of the new Carcross bridge to get a photo of what I thought was a crew starting demolition of the old bridge.

The new and old Nares River bridges at Carcross, Yukon
Well, this was a surprise! There was no cell service there, but when I got back to Carcross I checked 511yukon and discovered that not only was the highway between Carcross and Skagway closed because of “black ice”, roads in the entire southern Yukon were under a Travel Advisory.

The avalanche gates on the South Klondike Highway closed to to icy road conditions

The avalanche gates on the South Klondike Highway closed to to icy road conditions

I decided to hang around Carcross for a bit and see if the highway would open. On closer examination of the work going on at the bridge, the crew was just taking down the last of the wooden framing around the new bridge.

The new and old Nares River bridges at Carcross, Yukon
There was some interesting light that allowed for some good photo ops, like the next one shot at Caribou Commons.

Winter at Caribou Commons in Carcross
Some of the long-abandoned cabins on the opposite side of the Nares River are always good subjects as they slowly fall apart.

Abandoned cabin at Carcross
The Tutshi memorial, built from the remains of the famous steamboat that burned on July 25, 1990.

The Tutshi memorial, built from the remains of the famous steamboat that burned on July 25 1990.
While the weather was quite pleasant in Carcross, it was certainly Winter right above us on Brute Mountain.


At 11:30 I drove back to the avalanche gates, but no luck – still closed, and there was no indication at 511yukon when that might change. By this point, though, it didn’t really matter. I was starting to get pretty sick, and getting home would be all I could manage.

The avalanche gates on the South Klondike Highway closed to to icy road conditions
When I start to “hit the wall” now, things deteriorate in a hurry. Within a few minutes, I really didn’t know if I would be able to get home without a nap.


By the time I got home, I was done. If Tucker and Bella hadn’t been anxiously waiting for me in the window, I would have gone to sleep in the car. It was all I could do to get in the house and to bed.

So, the test did not go well. I can’t drive very far (so I can’t fly anywhere – the point of the test), and I can’t walk very far.

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That was Part 1 – the easy part because most of it was what I’ve done here for many years. Part 2 is much tougher.

My regular readers know that I injured myself in a fall during a hike back on August 7th, and am still having a lot of problems. If any of the people who get paid a lot of money to know this stuff knows what’s wrong with me, they’re keeping it a secret. My neurology team “can’t put a name to it,” and the concussion therapist says it’s not a concussion. It’s a brain injury of some sort, though – perhaps exactly what doesn’t matter. It’s a very complex subject with each person having their own set of issues, and solutions.

Some people say that rest is important, but many more say that you need to work through it to whatever degree you’re able, and that’s the one I’m going with. My final neurologist said that while there’s no recommended treatment or therapy, “rest is not your friend.” Rest is my friend in one way, because that’s when I don’t feel too bad – activity soon makes me feel like shit. Three to four hours of anything is about my limit – then I “hit the wall” and need to go to bed. With brain injuries, you can’t work through it in the way you do sports or hard physical work. When you hit the wall after a brain injury, you’re finished.

Brain injuries are very often life-changing, as has been the case for me. Among the symptoms, they produce headaches, fatigue, dizziness, poor coordination, disorientation (stairs are awful for me), difficulty in concentrating and in processing complicated questions, difficulty in making decisions, impatience and emotional outbursts, and depression. Depression is a big part of it for many, and the suicide rate for people with brain injuries is at least twice as high as for uninjured people. That rate increases beyond double as the severity of the injury increases. I’ve had some extremely dark days.

For many, conversations are difficult, and avoided whenever possible. I’ve apologized on Facebook to the many people whose messages and phone calls I haven’t returned. Processing the thoughts is difficult, and even something about the frequency of the cell phone is annoying.

The dizziness, poor coordination, and disorientation make walking difficult. Some people say I walk like I’m drunk. I often use a cane – that will be the case this afternoon when I go to my concussion therapist because of the distance I have to walk, much of it on icy surfaces. When grocery shopping, the cart is my walker.

A support network is extremely important during the healing process. For me, that includes pets. Tucker is my nurse. He’s extremely intuitive, and demands that I join him in bed when I don’t feel good, most recently a couple of hours ago while I was in the middle of writing this.

I’ve joined a couple of brain injury support groups. While they both provide lots of information about people’s different experiences, they can also be quite discouraging. My neurologists said I’d get better “eventually” but refused to say whether that was weeks, months, or years. I see people in the groups who have been suffering for 4, 7, 10 years. One of the members posted a Brain Injury Identification Card that has a list of symptoms, to help people understand how to deal with the card carrier. She said “I received this card in the mail today. While it’s probably a good thing to carry, it feels like defeat. I have made a lot of progress, but I still struggle accepting this new version of life. All the things on the back of this card are true, but I wish they weren’t. Seeing it in writing makes it feel too real, too permanent. I cried and cried when I saw it. Even though I know it’s good to carry, it just makes me so sad that it’s necessary. I want to wish this all away.”

I’ve had people tell me that there are lots of people in much worse shape than me. That’s supposed to somehow make me feel better, that other people feel worse? This isn’t a contest.

For now, I have to embrace small victories – sometimes very small ones. I also have big events ahead that I keep focussed on. In April I’m going to drive the motorhome back to Vancouver Island for a few weeks, and I’ve recently booked a 22-day cruise in South America that includes 4 days in Antarctica. I WILL be better for both of those.

Motivational images are always around me now. Usually made by other people, but sometimes I make my own, like this one made with a photo shot from my Carcross cabin in early March 2007. That bit of blue sky off in the distance is very important to me.


I see we have some sunshine and some great aurora forecasts coming up in the next week, so I hope to have more photos of this amazing country to share with you soon.