Late-Fall exploring along the Top of the World Highway

Friday, September 23rd, was mostly a day of wandering along the Top of the World Highway back to Dawson City, exploring some side roads along the way.

The world didn’t look the way I had expected it would in the morning. Despite heavy rain, strong, dry winds from the Alaskan interior had dried up everything except a few now-frozen puddles. I started the day off by driving the Tracker back towards Dawson a few k to see what photo ops dawn might present. What a place!

A late Fall dawn along the Top of the World Highway
The land just goes on forever…

A late Fall dawn along the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
I drove back as far as the rest area at Km 86.3 (from Dawson – 18 km from the summit where I camped). The Milepost says that this was a stopping place for the McCormick Transportation Company, which I expect was hauling supplies into the Sixtymile gold district. The colour in this and the next few photos hasn’t been altered – the dawn light up there was absolutely stunning.

Old cabin on the Top of the World Highway
Heading back on the Top of the World Highway to the summit was slow, as there were a lot of photos to shoot 🙂

Fall morning on the Top of the World Highway
Km 96, which is 8 km from the summit.

Fall morning at Km 96 on the Top of the World Highway
Just before Km 100, I encountered by far the largest flock of willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) I’ve ever seen, and they were very vocal. There were about 50 of them on both sides of the road – there are 12 in this photo.

Willow ptarmigan on the Top of the World Highway
They’re beautiful birds, especially in Spring and Fall when they’re changing their plumage.

Willow ptarmigan on the Top of the World Highway
Nearing the summit, a rough mining road led off to the north. A large piece of equipment visible on the ridge caught my interest…

An old mining road on the Top of the World Highway
Now that’s a bloody awesome piece of equipment! A massive self-propelled gold-sluicing machine. I have a vague recollection of seeing a smilar rig somewhere, but can’t imagine where. It could even have been this one, decades ago.

A massive self-propelled gold-sluicing machine off the Top of the World Highway
After checking out the gold machine thoroughly, I had to see more of that road. This country has an amazing network of old mining roads, wandering across the barren ridges and then dropping into valleys of gold.

An old mining road on the Top of the World Highway
This is as far as I went on that road. That’s an all-day exploration ahead, and there are many more just like it.

An old mining road on the Top of the World Highway
Climbing back up the road, I spotted what appeared to be 3 graves high on the slope above! A small brass plate on the one to the left says “‘Bill’ W.E. McMillan, 1923-1987”. A Google search has come up with no information about him. My guess at this point is that the valley below was his mining operation. Are the crosses beside him for his dogs?

Grave of W.E. McMillan above an old mining road on the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Looking down on the Canada/USA border posts below my camping spot.

Canada/USA border posts on the Top of the World Highway
Time for brunch. “Garcon, a table with a view, please.” Yes, indeed 🙂

Top of the World Highway
Back in 1999 while I was working on the move of the gold dredge that’s now a tourist operation in Skagway, I drove a very rough road up from the dredge site in the Sixtymile district, and ended up where my motorhome was now parked. I decided to have another look along that road before leaving.

An old road from the Top of the World Highway into the Sixtymile gold district
I didn’t get very far down the Sixtymile road. That puddle I’d come through had a bottom of mud that was far too deep to be playing with this late in the season. With my heart in my throat and the transer case in Low Lock, I pounded back through it, and went back to the motorhome.

An old road from the Top of the World Highway into the Sixtymile gold district
Just after 12:30, I had the Tracker hooked up to the motorhome again, had packed everything up, and was headed down to Dawson City.

Leaving the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
It was a spectacular day to be driving the Top of the World Highway. This was by far the latest I’d been on it.

Late Fall on the Top of the World Highway
By the time I got near Dawson, the Tracker had an impressive load of gravel and mud thrown up from the thawing road by the RV.

Muddy RV toad on the Top of the World Highway
I wasn’t sure where I was going to overnight yet, but decided to drive through the Yukon River Campground, as it had been many years since I’d seen it except in the winter.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson
As soon as I saw this pull-through campsite right on the river, I knew that this was the perfect place to camp.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson

Back in Dawson City with lots more to see during the next 18 hours or so before starting for home!

Forty Mile ghost town and wild weather on the Top of the World Highway

Thursday didn’t go quite as planned, but I finally made it to Forty Mile, and it ended with a truly incredible experience out in the middle of nowhere on the Top of the World Highway. This is another very long post, with 39 photos.

We got off to a fairly early start, and after breakfast and a good walk from our camping spot in downtown Dawson City, were on the ferry across the Yukon River at 09:40, an hour and a half after sunrise. This short crossing is free.

Crossing the Yukon River on the ferry at Dawson
at 10:10, I stopped at the Fortymile rest area, mostly so I could take the drone for a short flight.

Fortymile rest area
A shot from the drone. The video that I also shot needs some editing yet.

Drone view of the Top of the World Highway
Up, up we go – Km 28 from Dawson, at 10:35.

Top of the World Highway, Km 28
The view from near Km 58, just east of the junction of the Top of the World Highway and the Clinton Creek Road (it’s signed as the “Clinton Road”).

Top of the World Highway, Km 58
At 11:55, I was 14.4 km (8.9 mi) down the Clinton Creek Road in the Tracker, in country I’d never been in before and had virtually no information about. It was a safe bet, though, that the motorhome needed to be left up on the Top of the World Highway.

Clinton Creek Road
Ten minutes past noon, at km 23.9 (mile 14.9), the abandoned Clinton Creek asbestos mine came into sight (the whitish spot at the far right). Owned by the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation, it operated from 1967 until 1978. There aren’t actually any mileposts along the Clinton Road, I kept track of the mileages.

Clinton Creek Road, Yukon
At Km 33.3, an informal sign notes the side road to the Forty Mile townsite (at least I expected that that’s what “40 Mile Site” meant). The road up to this point had been very good, but neither road from here on was big-rig friendly.

Road to Forty Mile townsite, Yukon
Km 1.6 of the Forty Mile Road. As you can see, the Fortymile district is exceptionally pretty country.

Km 1.6 of the Forty Mile Road, Yukon
At Km 3.5, the Forty Mile Road ends at the Yukon River. There were several pickups parked here, and there’s an outhouse, a garbage bin, and a couple of interpretive signs at the start of an ATV trail that leads to the townsite, which is part of the Forty Mile, Fort Cudahy and Fort Constantine Historic Site, co-managed by the Yukon and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in governments.

At Km 3.5, the Forty Mile Road ends at the Yukon River.
This aerial photo on the sign hints that it’s a fairly short walk to the townsite (it tured out to be about 15 minutes). I started off with the copy of the 32-page brochure I picked up in Dawson, Forty Mile, Chëdë Dëk (pdf, 1.9 MB), in my pocket (Chëdë Dëk – “river of leaves – is the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in name for the Fortymile River).

Aerial photo of the Forty Mile townsite area
It’s funny to see logs as the approaches to this substantial bridge on the trail – I guess no gravel/dirt was available. A fellow on an ATV stopped here to warn me that my dogs weren’t safe ahead, because a guy building a cabin at Forty Mile had two dogs that are large, aggressive, and loose. I stopped and stewed about that for a while, but decided to continue on.

Bridge on the trail to the Forty Mile townsite
This grave beside the trail isn’t mentioned in the brochure. The cemetery shown in the brochure is far from here, with no direct trail from this point.

Grave at the Forty Mile townsite, Yukon

When I saw a pair of new log cabins being built, I picked Tucker up and carried him, and shortened Bella’s leash, but no dogs came out.

The first of the 12 buildings left in Forty Mile is St. James Anglican church. It was built of round logs in 1895 by Rev. Richard J. Bowen. Some of the logs may have come from the original 1887 Buxton mission. The church was officially closed in 1935, but in the 1970s residents of Clinton Creek used it for occasional weddings, and some restoration work was done during those years.

St. James Anglican church, Forty Mile, Yukon
In 1889, government surveyor William Ogilvie was in Forty Mile, and described it as a rough jumble of buildings taking up an area of about 60 acres. This photo, shot from the opposite side of the Fortymile River, was shot in 1901.

Forty Mile, Yukon, in 1901
Interpretive signage at the site is very good.

 at Forty Mile, Yukon
The size of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) post was surprising. It was built in 1901, 3 years before the force became the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP), but the brochure and signs use that latter name.

Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) post at Forty Mile, Yukon
The townsite, much of which is on a bench above the Yukon and Fortymile Rivers, is lovely, and the weather was perfect, with the temperature probably hitting about 15°C (59°F). This is the telegraph station. Built in around 1893, it also served as the post office, and the RCMP post when Corporal Claude Tidd was stationed here in 1939.

Telegraph station at Forty Mile, Yukon
This monument commemorates the found of the Yukon Order of Pioneers (YOOP) at Forty Mile in 1894. The stated purposes of the benevolent organization were “the advancement of the great Yukon Valley, the mutual protection and benefit of its members, to unite members by the strong ties of brotherhood and to prove to the outside world that the Yukon Order of Pioneers are men of truth, honour and integrity.” Initially members were required to have come into the country before 1888. Still in existence, YOOP now requires members to have lived “within the watershed of the Yukon River, and/or the Territorial Boundaries of the Yukon Territory” for at least 20 years.

YOOP monument at Forty Mile, Yukon
The Fortymile River is on the left, the Yukon River on the right, flowing into the distance. This view is from in front of Swanson’s Store.

The Fortymile River and Yukon River at Forty Mile, Yukon
Wallpaper on the walls of the Alaska Commercial Company (the AC Co) warehouse. It was built between 1895 and 1901, and because it needed to be built close to the Fortymile River for business reasons, has been damaged and even moved by floods at least twice.

Alaska Commercial Company (the AC Co) warehouse at Forty Mile, Yukon
Many of the visitors to Forty Mile arrive by canoe, and the small campground for them at the north end of the site is very nice, with fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses.

Campground at Forty Mile, Yukon
One of the early residents. Jack McQuesten, tried to plough his 4-acre potato and turnip farm using two young moose. The plan wasn’t successful 🙂

Young moose at Forty Mile, Yukon

I only spent about an hour at Forty Mile, but it could easily have been much longer. On the way back to the car, we did get hassled by the cabin-builder’s dogs. I was carrying Tucker again, but they appeared suddenly and scared Bella. Yelling and kicking at the damn things only resulted in a half-hearted call by the owner – one left, but the other followed us at a distance for a long time. If I would have brought my bear spray, I probably would have used it on them. Asshole…

Anyway, it was mostly a very good visit, and I’m very pleased that I finally got there. At 1:50, we were almost back to the Clinton Road.

The Forty Mile Road
Heading north on the Clinton Road, this one-lane bridge crosses the Fortymile River just a couple of hundred meters/yards from the Forty Mile Road junction.

Fortymile River bridge on the Clinton Road
After the bridge, the road narrows substantially, and it becomes hard to imagine that it once served a substantial mine and community. I even wondered if I had somehow missed the road to Clinton Creek.

The road to Clinton Creek, Yukon
I was extremely surprised to come to an active mining area blocking the road as I neared Clinton Creek. This is 8.1 km from the south end of the Fortymile River bridge. I haven’t found out yet who is doing what (Midnight Sun Drilling from Whitehorse is doing the work), but that’s as close to the old mine as I could get.

Mining at Clinton Creek, Yukon
Seen from the effective end of the road, an old adit from the asbestos-mining days can be seen at the upper left.

Mining at Clinton Creek, Yukon
Clinton Creek, back down the road.

Clinton Creek, Yukon
Even if the active mining hadn’t stopped me, this very recent large slide clearly would have if the miners hadn’t re-opened the road.

A slide on the Clinton Creek Road, Yukon
Back at the motorhome at 3:20 pm, it was time to chill and then have a nap before driving another 45 km (28 mi) up the Top of the World Highway to the summit to camp for the night.

As I drove to the summit at 6:30, the weather turned quite nasty, with an icy rain driven by high winds. I thought a few times about cancelling my high-country camp, and developed a Plan B, and then Plans C and D, in my head. Plan D, for very heavy overnight snow, involved winterizing the motorhome and abandoning it until Spring, escaping with whatever we could carry in the Tracker. The Adventures of late-Fall travel in the North! 🙂

I was very surprised to meet another Class A motorhome – at least he was going in a more sensible direction (down!).

Rainy Fall day on the Top of the World Highway
At 6:45, we reached the summit and were soon set up, with wind shaking the rig and whistling through any openings, and with storm after storm passing by and over us. Wild!

Fall rainstorm at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon

We had dinner, went for a short walk in the rain and wind, then as I was reading at 7:50 pm, the sky started to change to the west. With some clearing that way, a good sunset could be coming. That turned out to be an understatement.

I started taking photos, and the sky to the west kept getting more and more dramatic. The extreme contrasts in light got me to start shooting bursts for later HDR image processing. This HDRI was created from a series I shot at 7:55.

Fall sunset at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Changes in the sky were rapid, and I was shooting almost constantly – this is from a series shot at 7:57. At the extreme right of the photo, the Canada/USA border posts of Little Gold Creek, Yukon, and Poker Creek, Alaska, can be seen. They were set to close for the season 3 days later, on September 25th.

Fall sunset at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
I very seldom ever create extreme HDR images, but really like this one from a series shot at 7:59.

At 8:03, I turned around to see if anything else was going on, and OMG, there was a double rainbow!

Fall rainbow at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
The Top of the World Highway is an incredible place, and the summit is especially so. As I write this days later, I’m still quite blown away by the experience of this evening. This photo was shot at 8:07.

RV and a Fall rainbow at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Looking back down the Top of the World Highway at 8:10.

Fall rainbow at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
By 8:19, when the series that I created the next HDR from was shot, the show was almost over, though I got a few more shots I like.

Fall sunset at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon

The wild weather continued through the night, with the motorhome rocking and rolling and whistling. In the morning, it was very cold – everything was frozen, but there was no snow. Life was good. Very, very good! We’d do a bit of exploring up top with the Tracker, then drive 104 km (65 mi) back to Dawson.

Back in Dawson City again – never bored

My first stop in Dawson City when I arrived at noon on Wednesday (September 21st) was the Visitor Reception Centre. I had decided that the ghost towns of Forty Mile and Clinton Creek would be the first destinations, and I wanted to find out if they had any information about either site. Other than having an excellent brochure about the Forty Mile townsite, the answer was no.

As I was about to leave, the woman I was talking to mentioned a new model railway layout in a back room. That I had to see.

The railway layout shows various parts of the Klondike Mines Railway, and the detail is superb. I took a photo with my camera, posted it on Facebook, and one of my friends quickly said that it wasn’t new, that it was built years ago by a fellow from Vancouver. I had heard about a layout in North Vancouver, and Google quickly confirmed that this was indeed the layout bult by Brian Pate. Four years ago, Michael Gates published an article about the layout, and Brian has his own very detailed Web site about the railway and construction of the model.

Brian Pate's model railway layout of the Klondike Mines Railway, at its new home in Dawson City
The fact that the railway model was now in the Visitor Reception Centre (VRC) made me think that Brian had perhaps died, but no, he’s just down-sizing, and the railway has now joined his large model of Dredge No. 4, which has been in the VRC for many years.

Brian Pate's model railway layout of the Klondike Mines Railway, at its new home in Dawson City
While some of the structures are educated guesses as to what the originals looked like, as no photos are known to exist, Brian’s Web site has close-up photos of his models with photos of the original buildings, and the detail really does have to be seen to be believed.

Brian Pate's model railway layout of the Klondike Mines Railway, at its new home in Dawson City

The new home of the model railway is, I hope, temporary, as it’s really not suitable. To visit it, you have to walk in front of people watching films, and the room isn’t nearly large enough. But it’s great to have it here.

I learned at the VRC that the Gold Rush Campground in downtown Dawson allows RV parking for free after they close (services have all been shut off, of course). It was too late in the day to start for Forty Mile, so the location was perfect for a day of walking and other exploring, as it was when we stayed there last June.

Gold Rush Campground in downtown Dawson City, Yukon
Bella and Tucker were now ready for a long walk, so we went to the south end of downtown, to the mouth of the Klondike River (“Klondyke” is a historic spelling). From there, we walked back along the high dyke that protects the town from the Yukon River.

Klondyke Millenium Trail in Dawson City
There are interpretive signs everywhere in Dawson. This one, in front of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment, describes the Government Reserve where all government buildings were located in the early years.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Dawson City
With the kids happy and ready for a nap, it was time for lunch for me, and I went to the Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel, for the hundredth time or so over the years 🙂 Despite the fact that the hotel has passed from the Van Nostrand family into the hands of a Yukon investment/development company, the character of the place hasn’t changed.

Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson, Yukon
After a leisurely lunch, I went back to the motorhome to get Bella and Tucker, and we continued our walk. This building beside the Palace Grand Theatre has seen many uses over the years. For 3 years or so in the 1990s, it was the apartment for Atlas Tours’s highway drivers and local guides, and I spent many nights here. Now, it’s the Cat’s Pyjamas Travellers Hostel.

Cat's Pyjamas Travellers Hostel in Dawson City
While I don’t think that this broken-backed building is actually part of the hostel, in Dawson you never know! The rate, $32/night, sounds good for a location like this.

Dawson City Hostel, $32/night
One of the most loveable of Dawson’s old-timers was Newt Webster. He died in about 2010, in his 90s, but right until his last summer, he could be found most evenings sitting on the steps of the Masonic Lodge, across from Diamond Tooth Gertie’s casino, greeting visitors and locals. His photo still looks out from the lodge to the casino.

Newt Webster's photo in the Dawson Masonic Lodge
Newt came to Dawson in 1937, and was a collector. By the time I met him in the early 1990s, his house was so full of stuff that he had had to move a trailer onto the property to live in. At least that was his story 🙂 He would never show me any of his collection, but you could see through the windows that the house was indeed full of something.

Newt Webster's house and trailer in Dawson
In business, timing is everything, and it’s really nice to see that Husky Bus was in the right place at the right time with the right service.

The Dawson City Post Office, then and now. While the old building stands, the operating post office has been in several other locations since moving out of this building in 1923, and is now a couple of hundred meters/yards to the left. This building, built in 1900, was designed by Thomas W. Fuller, who later became Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works.

The historic Dawson City Post Office
At about 5:00, we went back to the RV, got the Tracker, and drove about 20 km (12 mi) out into the Klondike goldfields, to Dredge No. 4, at Claim No. 17 Below Discovery on Bonanza Creek. That’s close to the spot where its buckets quit scooping gold-bearing gravel in 1960.

Dredge No. 4 in the Klondike goldfields
The bow section of the hull is currently being rebuilt, with timbers sawed at an on-site mill. I started taking tourists through the dredge in 1990, when it was sitting at about a 20-degree angle, filled with mud and ice, but was as complete as the workers walked away. The next summer, Parks Canada began the massive job of raising it, stabilizing it, and restoring it.

Dredge No. 4 in the Klondike goldfields
The dredge was a great place to launch the drone. The last time I got this view was 31 years ago when I flew my Cessna over her. The video I shot will take some time to edit.

Drone view of Dredge No. 4 in the Klondike goldfields
The gold mine just up Bonanza Creek from the dredge was going full tilt. In the 26 years I’ve been watching the property it’s been abandoned, and then had small crews for a few years, but this is the largest operation I’ve seen on it yet. Gold being at $1,332 USD at the moment continues to keep miners active.

Placer gold mine on Bonanza Creek, Yukon
There’s apparently been an awful spell of vehicles and equipment being stolen and/or vandalized in the Dawson area. Just down from the dredge, this hoe and loader were torched.

Burned mining equipment on Bonanza Creek, Yukon
Claim 33 Goldpanning & Jerry Bryde Klondyke Mining Museum had closed a couple of days before my arrival, but I love looking over their collection.

Claim 33 Goldpanning & Jerry Bryde Klondyke Mining Museum near Dawson, Yukon
There’s some amazing equipment, such as this tiny bulldozer and oddly-configured tractor.

Claim 33 Goldpanning & Jerry Bryde Klondyke Mining Museum near Dawson, Yukon
This early McLaughlin touring would be quite a car if a guy had $100,000 or so to put into it!

Claim 33 Goldpanning & Jerry Bryde Klondyke Mining Museum in the Klondike goldfields
I’m not sure what goes on at Leo’s Corner when he’s there.

Leo's Corner, Bonanza Creek Road, Yukon
Leo certainly has a quirky sense of humour, though – his signposts are pretty interesting 🙂

Leo's Corner, Bonanza Creek Road, Yukon
A quiet spot along the Bonanza Creek Road as we headed back to Dawson, with the road winding between a couple of ponds in the dredge tailings. The distant hills were the site of a large hydraulic gold-mining operation 20-odd years ago – it was very interesting to watch.

A quiet spot along the Bonanza Creek Road
Some Dawson miners go out of their way to be jerks. A couple of weeks ago, Michel Vincent and Michael Heydorf applied to the Yukon Surface Rights Board to evict several families living in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation subdivision, which their gold claims overlap. This photo shows their claim and part of the subdivision. The Yukon clearly needs to revise some of the regulations, which regularly cause problems.

I don’t yet know who the artist is who paints the city’s compost bins, but they’re beautiful.

Compost bin art in Dawson City, Yukon
This guy has apparently had no luck getting the copper pipe stolen from his building returned – the sign has been there for a long time.

Please Return Copper Pipe that was stolen
I had planned to go out for a good dinner and then to Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, but with Cathy not there, just couldn’t get into it. As the sun set at 8:00 pm, the kids and I went for a final walk, along the waterfront, always an interesting place. Some of this raft-home from the summer is being salvaged.

Raft-home along the Yukon River at Dawson
The freight barge Amelia Lupine, with the Dawson ferry crossing the river behind her. We’d start Thursday with a ride on the ferry.

As we got back to the motorhome, this ambulance went screaming by. That’s certainly an unusual sight here.

Ambulance in Dawson City, Yukon

The plan for Thursday was to visit Forty Mile and Clinton Creek ghost towns, and camp somewhere along the Top of the World Highway, perhaps at the summit, though the high chance of getting snow overnight at altitude made that a “maybe” still.

Two days on the North Klondike Hwy, Whitehorse to Dawson

I got home yesterday afternoon from 6 days in the RV, exploring along the North Klondike and Top of the World Highways, and in Dawson City. I had only very brief Internet accessibility in Dawson, so didn’t post or even write any blogs. It was a great trip and I have a lot to tell you about, though.

I got away from Whitehorse fairly late, after an interview with a couple of researchers from UBC. Since I was going through Whitehorse anyway, we used my motorhome as the meeting room, which was pretty cool – well, it would have been if not for Molly, who dropped nasty a bomb in the litter box and didn’t bury it. *sigh*

I had only the vaguest of plans for the week. Dawson was the general goal, and I had to be back to pick Cathy up at the airport at 11:00 pm on Sunday. Other than that, whatever caught my interest along the way would determine the actual route and timing.

By 11:00, I was heading north on the North Klondike Highway, which most locals still call the Mayo Road. That name goes back to the 1940s when the road went to the silver mining district of Mayo, not to Dawson. At the bottom of the curve ahead in the photo is Horse Creek, which is at Km 212 (the kilometer posts mark the mileage from the ferry terminal in Skagway).

The North Klondike Highway near Horse Creek
The Fall colours are almost finished now, but there were still some bright patches along Fox Lake. With summer traffic long gone, the highway was very quiet, though I did meet 3 rental RVs headed south.

The North Klondike Highway at Fox Lake
The Fox Lake Burn, too, provided some colour. A forest fire started by careless campers on the Canada Day weekend (July 1st) in 1998 burned all summer, eventually destroying 45,000 acres of the spruce/pine forest that had been here. Human-caused fires in the Yukon are generally in or near communities or along roads, so are spotted and extinguished fairly quickly – this one was an exception. The brochure “Driving the Fire Belt” describes this and other fires along the North Klondike Highway.

The North Klondike Highway in the Fox Lake Burn
At the summit at Km 272, we stopped at the Fox Lake Burn rest area and went on the interesting 20-minute interpretive walk.

Fox Lake Burn rest area, North Klondike Highway
Several signs along the trail tell the story of the fire, and its short and long-term effects on the plants and creatures that live here.

Fox Lake Burn interpretive trail
Most people don’t realize how dry the Yukon is – many south-facing slopes support only grasses and sage. That and the short growing season combine to make re-growth after a fire extremely slow.

Fox Lake Burn interpretive trail
At 2:00, we reached Montague Roadhouse, a spot that I usually stop at. The timing this day was perfect, because Tucker had let me know that it was past our afternoon nap time. So we stayed in this pullout for quite a while 🙂

Montague Roadhouse, Yukon
During our after-nap walk around the roadhouse property, I was both surprised and pleased to see that a couple of layers of logs have been recently added to the walls of the roadhouse. The Montague Roadhouse operated into the 1940s, and when it was closed, the roof was removed and used on the Carmacks Roadhouse, which still stands as a complete building.

Montague Roadhouse, Yukon
About 15 km (10 mi) south of Carmacks, at 2:35.

North Klondike Highway, south of Carmacks
We stopped at the Carmacks rest area for another walk. None of the fur-kids are big fans of the driving part of the RV trips. It’s the walks and other adventures that Bella and Tucker love, so I make sure that they get lots of them – and they’re good for me as well, of course. Molly seldom gets outside, but she’s happy just having her family close.

Carmacks rest area, North Klondike Highway
The Yukon River bridge at Carmacks. I really like the style of these old bridges, and have been sad to see almost all of them on the Alaska Highway replaced by wider but boring concrete structures.

The Yukon River bridge at Carmacks, Yukon
At the bottom of the hill ahead, the Campbell Highway leads east to Faro, Ross River, and Watson Lake. The hill, Tantalus Butte, was the site of a series of coal mines that started operating in the 1920s, with the last one closing in 1967.

Tantalus Butte, North Klondike Highway, Yukon
We reached the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site, another place that I seldom just drive by, at 3:15. Both the view and the history of this site keep me coming back year after year. The weather forecast had called for sunshine, but clouds were moving in, and the light for photography was poor.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site, Yukon
The stairs down to the rapids overlook are great exercise, but with the poor light, I decided to delay that until Sunday, on the drive home. Various reports put the number of steps at around 220-230, and it’s been years since I counted.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site, Yukon
Almost all the leaves had fallen from the trees by the time we reached Km 470, north of Pelly Crossing, at 4:20.

Km 470, North Klondike Highway, Yukon
At 5:15, it was about time to stop for the day. It would have also been a great time to be lazy and have a cafe meal, but my long-time friend Maja had had a busy season at Moose Creek Lodge, and had closed for the season a couple of days earlier. I’ll be seeing her again when she opens the lodge for the Yukon Quest sled dog race, though, as I’ll be guiding another tour following the 2017 race.

Moose Creek Lodge, Yukon
Looking north from Moose Creek Lodge, the highway crosses Moose Creek just ahead, and just past that is Moose Creek Campground. While the campground closed on September 15th, I hoped that it would be one of the ones that didn’t lock the gate.

Looking north on the North Klondike Highway from Moose Creek Lodge
The gate at the campground was indeed open 🙂

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
By 5:30 we were set up in site #20, a huge pull-through at the back end of the campground. I don’t recall ever hearing anybody mention Moose Creek Campground, but it’s very nice.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
The road is wide and the sites are very large so it’s big-rig friendly, the facilities are all in excellent condition, and it’s quite far off the highway to keep noise down.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
I used to wonder why some – perhaps most – of the parks close and lock the gates off-season. At Moose Creek, I saw why. Garbage bins full of household trash, signs on the firewood sheds stating “Firewood Protected by Theft Proof Coded Flakes” (whatever that means exactly), and picnic tables chained to the ground. So our parks have to be protected from theft and vandalism by locals – how bloody sad is that? Strangely, as if to confirm what I was writing at 05:30 in the morning, a pickup truck drove past my site. There’s no possible good reason for a pickup with no camper on it to be at the back end of the campground almost 3 hours before sunrise.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
After getting the kids dinner, Bella and Tucker and I went out to explore more of the campground. We soon found a network of trails – one main interpretive trail along the bench above Moose Creek, and some side trails.

Moose Creek, Yukon
The trails vary from a very old road as seen in this photo – a wood-cutting road is my guess – to narrow paths.

Walking trail at Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
These stairs lead down to Moose Creek and on to the Stewart River, about a half-hour walk.

Walking trail at Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
There are several interpretive signs about the ecosystem and the birds and animals who live here. I was surprised by how steep the slope is, and how far down the creek is.

Walking trail at Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
The second-growth spruce forest is lovely, with a thick carpet of moose. I expect that the original forest was logged to power the sternwheelers that ran the Stewart River.

Walking trail at Moose Creek Campground, Yukon

It was a peaceful night as usual, with all the kids snuggled up with me on the bed. The established order in the motorhome, which is different than the one at home, is that Tucker sleeps half on me, often on my shoulder, Bella takes the other pillow, and Molly is tucked up to one of my legs.

On Wednesday morning, while I waited for sunrise, I read through the manual for my drone again, as I planned to do some flying and am still not very comfortable with its abilities and limitations.

Learning about the DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone
I was in no hurry to get on the road, so it was 09:30 by the time we reached Gravel Lake rest area, only 61 km (38 mi) from the campground.

Gravel Lake rest area, North Klondike Highway
The Tintina Trench viewpoint and rest area at Km 655.2, at 10:20.

The Tintina Trench viewpoint and rest area at Km 655.2 of the North Klondike Highway
At 10:40, I reached the Dempster Highway junction and had to decide whether some of the Dempster Highway was on the itinerary or not. The road reports a couple of days before had been quite bad due to a lot of rain. I’d think about it while fueling up.

Dempster Highway junction on the North Klondike Highway
When the AFD (Alberta Fuel Distributors) cardlock opened at the former location of the Klondike River Lodge, it was dramatically the cheapest fuel in the Dawson area. I don’t know whether it still is, but filled up at $1.239 anyway. Before heading south, I’d fill at the North 60 commercial cardlock and could see who’s the cheapest – at North 60, you don’t know what the price is until the invoice arrives in the mail.

AFD cardlock at Dempster Junction, Yukon
The flashing sign at Mile 0 pointed out structural problems with the one-lane bridge over the Klondike River ahead, and the fact that the campground at Tombstone was closed.

Dempster Highway, Mile 0
The highway sign had other important information as well. If it had been dated, I might have gone for a look 🙂

Note about a bear sighting ahead on the Dempster Highway
An AFD fuel tanker on the Klondike River bridge. They’ve sure done well since moving north.

An AFD fuel tanker on the Klondike River bridge, Dempster Highway
I decided against the Dempster. There were too many other sites to visit, including some I’d not been to yet. At 11:45, I stopped at the unique “Welcome to Dawson” sign.

Dawson City is a wonderful place to just wander, and that was the basic plan for the rest of day.

Fall Colours and Yukon History – by Floatplane

Yesterday morning I was cooking up a storm, getting some chili and meatloaf in stock for an RV trip that was to start today. Then I got a call about finding some historic sites along Lake Bennett by floatplane. That led to an invitation to go flying to check the sites out, and 5 minutes later I had gotten changed, grabbed some aerial photos of the area, and was on the road, headed for the Whitehorse Water Aerodrome (CEZ5, a.k.a. Schwatka Lake).

There are 42 photos in this post – sorry! 🙂

At 11:20, Kyle Cameron was doing the final get-ready stuff on his beautiful bird, a 1957 Cessna 180A on floats. Kyle’s Dad, aviation historian Bob Cameron, and Tracey, a friend and history fan from New Zealand, were also coming.

Getting the floatplane ready to go
This gorgeous Turbo Otter turned out to be particularly interesting once I checked it out online. Formerly C-GCQA with North Star Air in Pickle Lake, Ontario, she’s a 1955 DHC-3 model (serial number 77) and has just been rebuilt by Recon AirCorp for Rainbow King Lodge. Newly registered as N947RK, she was passing through Whitehorse on a ferry flight to Alaska with pilot Virgil Peachey.

1955 DHC-3 Turbo Otter, N947RK
We lost our sunshine within minutes of leaving Whitehorse, but the ceiling was high with a bit of ragged low cloud. With at least 3 of us in the plane very interested in aircraft wrecks, which the Yukon has a lot of, we first had a look at the wreckage of a United States Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcar which crashed just off the Annie Lake Road on November 23, 1961 (the wreckage is marked by the arrow). Seven men died in the crash – see a newspaper article written 2 days later.

Plane wreck near the Annie Lake Road
Looking up the Watson River, with a light rain starting. A rough mining road runs up the right (north) side for about 5 miles, crosses the river then goes another 5 miles or so. It’s spectacular country with a fascinating history.

Watson River, Yukon
Heading down the Wheaton River. Even opening the window, the mist made it tough to show how brilliant the Fall colours are – we’re pretty much at peak colours now.

Wheaton River, Yukon
Looking down the Wheaton River to Lake Bennett, with Millhaven Bay on the right.

Looking down the Wheaton River to Lake Bennett, with Millhaven Bay on the right.
I’d sure love to canoe the Wheaton!

Wheaton River, Yukon
The sandy head of Millhaven Bay. The initial call from Kyle had been about the location of Otto Partridge’s lumber mill on Millhaven. I think that there have been 3 mills here, and that one was near the head of the lake, but from the air we could see no signs of any of them. Sometimes the forest canopy can hide sites that are fairly obvious when you’re on the ground.

The sandy head of Millhaven Bay, Yukon
Brilliant Fall colours on the west side of Millhaven Bay.

Brilliant Fall colours on the west side of Millhaven Bay, Yukon
With no luck at Millhaven, we landed on the main arm of Lake Bennett, close to the location of a Gold Rush boat-building yard, just before 12:30. Here in 1898, the Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company built 3 small sternwheelers – the Ora, Nora, and Flora.

Float plane on Lake Bennett, Yukon
While Kyle and his Dad got the plane secured, I walked up the lakeshore in search of the boatyard, which I hadn’t been to in 10 years or so. Up close, some of the colours were quite spectacular.

Fall colours on Lake Bennett, Yukon
I expected to find the site very quickly, but the further I walked, the more confused I became. Nothing looked familiar, and the heavy erosion that’s occurred made me start to think that it had all been washed away.

I spent almost an hour walking to the mouth of the Wheaton River and back to the plane. Either everything had been washed away, or I’d walked in the wrong direction.

All 4 of us scattered along the beach and into the forest to the north of the plane, and very quickly found the first signs that this was the right way.

Within 15 minutes, Kyle found the grave that’s at the south end of the boatyard. When I was here 10 years ago, I lightly stabilized the fence and headboard – the headboard was still leaning against the post I sunk then, so it will at least rot slower.

1899 grave of R. Saunders on Lake Bennett, Yukon
The inscription carved into a piece of marble inset into his headboard states simply that R. Saunders died in May 1899, at the age of 39. Mr. Saunders is, so far, largely a mystery man – all I’ve been able to find out about him is a brief mention in the 1899 North West Mounted Police report, stating that he died of natural causes on June 21, 1899 (contrary to the headboard’s date). Several years ago, I got an email from a man who had met Mr. Saunders’ son some 40+ years ago in Calgary, and he believed that his father died in a boating accident. Saunders clearly had either some very good friends or a family wealthy enough to afford to hire this level of grave construction. At the bottom of the photo, you can see a steel rod that was put through the board to prevent it from warping and popping the marble out.

1899 grave of R. Saunders on Lake Bennett, Yukon
The view from Mr. Saunders’ final resting spot.

1899 grave of R. Saunders on Lake Bennett, Yukon
From the grave, the first debris from the boatyard is only 100 meters/yards or so. There’s all manner of metal, from food and gas cans to broken pieces of equipment, most of which we couldn’t identify.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
Bob looks over the main food-container dump. It’s hard to say how deep the material is, but it would have taken a substantial workforce to quickly build 3 sternwheelers.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
A lead-soldered tin can and a broken bottle. There’s very little glass among the debris, and I expect that “collectors” have removed it over the years.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
This was possibly a root cellar, but the small diameter makes me think that it was a well. It would be easier to get good water from a well than from a frozen or storm-lashed lake, regardless of how close it is.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
This was one of the 2 most interesting pieces of equipment we found, and we have no idea what either were.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
A piece of something from Boston, it appears.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
This is the view from the middle of the boatyard. Extremely high water levels are hiding the pilings which allowed me to positively identify the site as being the Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company’s, many years ago, by comparing the view to a photo of the dock in 1899.

Bennett Lake & Klondyke Navigation Company boat-building site on Lake Bennett, Yukon
Does that look like pretty much the perfect Yukon day? 🙂

Float plane on Lake Bennett, Yukon
This survey was done a few years ago to delineate the First Nations settlement land here.

Survey pin along Lake Bennett
The way water sorts sand and gravel always intrigues me. There’s about a foot of extremely clear water over those materials.

Sand and gravel on Lake Bennett, Yukon
Kyle, Bob, and Tracey discussing departure at 3:30. We decided fly a few miles south to get a high view of another site before heading back to Whitehorse.

Float plane on Lake Bennett, Yukon
If we would have looked at the right spot at the right second as we were landing, we could have walked right to the grave!

Grave on Lake Bennett, Yukon
Away we go again. It was amazing to see Lake Bennett calm, and then to stay calm – that’s not a common occurence.

Taking off from Lake Bennett, Yukon, in a bushplane
The view to the south, down the main arm of Lake Bennett. The Yukon/BC border runs across the lake just to the south of the island.

Aerial view of Lake Bennett, Yukon
Looking at the island from the BC side of the border. On that island are 2 Gold Rush graves, those of Luc Richard and Thomas A. Barnes who were drowned when they fell through rotten ice on Lake Bennett on May 10, 1898. See a brief 1898 report on that accident from The Caribou Sun, a newspaper printed at Caribou Crossing (now Carcross).

Aerial view of Lake Bennett, Yukon
The historic Pennington section house on the White Pass & Yukon Route rail line. Every time I see it, I wish that somebody would turn it into a B&B 🙂

The historic Pennington section house on the White Pass & Yukon Route rail line
Looking north on the lake towards Carcross.

Aerial view of Lake Bennett, Yukon
At 3:45, we crossed over Millhaven Bay again, and headed up the Wheaton River.

Millhaven Bay and Lake Bennett
Another little detour, through a notch in Gray Ridge. Mount Gilliam is on the left (north) side, the peak on the south side is unnamed.

Flying through a notch in Gray Ridge, north of Carcross, Yukon
At the bottom of that cliff is a cave that appears to be quite deep. Some of us are quite intrigued by the thought of making the tough hike up to it 🙂

A cave in Gray Ridge, Yukon
One the east side of that notch in Gray Ridge is another plane crash. The arrow points it out in the main photo, and the inset shows the upside-down Cessa 180 floatplane that 4 men were killed in. To non-pilots, looking for this sort of site may seem morbid, but when you’re flying in this country, it’s good to always keep in mind what can happen when you make bad decisions. During the years that I was involved with CASARA (and actively flying), I spent countless hours looking for tiny specks of metal like that, always hoping to see survivors waving at us.

Cessna 180 plane crash on Gray Ridge, Yukon
Looking east across the Watson River to Lewes (or Lewis) Lake and the Mount Lorne ridge.

Aerial view of the Watson River and Lewes Lake
My house is at the lower left in the Mary Lake subdivision, the model aircraft club’s airport is left of centre, and the abandoned stock car track (where I often fly my drone) is right of centre.

Aerial view of the Mary Lake acreage subdivision in Whitehorse
Turning onto the base leg of the approach to the floatplane area of Schwatka Lake, with Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport ahead.

Air North’s base of operations.

Air North's base of operations at Whitehorse, Yukon

When I got home, I got back to my cooking, but my departure in the motorhome has been delayed by a day. The weather is supposed to improve tomorrow anyway, so it’s all good 🙂

Driving from Hudson’s Hope to Clinton and West Kelowna

I got home from Kelowna just after midnight last night (Thursday), but this post will cover the final legs of the drive down, from Hudson’s Hope to Clinton, and Clinton to West Kelowna.

After checking out of the Sportsman’s Inn in Hudson’s Hope at about 07:45 on Tuesday morning, I drove back to the small museum. I knew that it wouldn’t be open, but I got the views over the Peace River that I wanted. After a huge dinner at the hotel the night before, I hit the road without breakfast.

The view over the Peace River from the Hudson's Hope museum
At 09:25, I was at the eastern end of Highway 29, dropping down into Chetwynd.

Chetwynd, BC, from Highway 29
Heading south from Chetwynd on Highway 97, BC’s longest highway, after fueling up at Chetwynd. Highway 97 stretches right from the Yukon to Washington State, under several different names for various sections – this one being the Hart Highway. Much of the hillside is covered with electrical transmission lines from the massive W. A. C. Bennett Dam at Hudson’s Hope.

South of Chetwynd on the Hart Highway.
At 10:30, I stopped at the huge Pine Pass rest area for a few minutes. There was extensive damage to the highway in the area from floods this past June, but I couldn’t see where the road had been destroyed. There’s a great deal of work being done on creeks all along the highway from Chetwynd south, though, and there were a few short delays.

Pine Pass rest area on the Hart Highway
Bijoux Falls Provincial Park is a wonderful place for a short walk as long as there are no tour buses there, and I spent a few extra minutes chatting with a woman from Mackenzie who had a friend’s recently-rescued dog out for the day.

Bijoux Falls Provincial Park
From Bijoux Falls, except for a fuel stop at Prince George, I drove straight through to Clinton (a 590 km / 367 mi run), where I planned to spend the night. This photo was shot south of Williams Lake at 4:30.

I reached the Round-Up Motel at Clinton at 6:00. I’ve stayed here 3 times in recent years, and it was the reason I chose Clinton to overnight. The motel has a new owner, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that the previous owners have retired in Edmonton. I got the last room available (room #17), a kitchenette which the owner gave me for $80 plus taxes, a bit of a senior’s discount. I was very pleased to see that the new owner is keeping up the previous owners’ high standards.

Room #17 at the Round-Up Motel, Clinton, BC
Once I got settled, I did a bit of browsing at the antique store across the highway from the motel. The Clinton Emporium has a large and varied stock, and much of it, right down to toy trucks and other “portables”, is left outside on tables beside the road overnight.

Clinton Emporium, Clinton, BC
Prices seemed really reasonable, too – this large freight wagon was only $1,795. No, I’m not shopping – there was a time, however, when this freight wagon would have gotten me thinking… 🙂

Antique freight wagon at the Clinton Emporium, Clinton, BC
Although fires have taken many of Clinton’s oldest buildings since I started seeing the community almost 60 years ago, there’s still a lot left. The Palace Hotel was built as a private home in 1862, and became a hotel in the 1880s.

The Palace Hotel in Clinton, BC
Even the government office building, built in 1927, looks like it would be worth a look inside. It now houses both the Village of Clinton and Service BC offices.

Village of Clinton and Service BC offices in Clinton, BC

I had dinner at the pub in the Cariboo Lodge, four blocks or so from the Round-Up. The waiter screwed up my order, but the chicken burger was good, and probably healthier than what I ordered anyway 🙂 After a fairly long day of driving (769 km / 478 mi. in 10 hours), I was in bed early.

This is the Round-Up Motel on Wednesday morning just after 8:00, as I was about ready to hit the road for the 3-hour, 270-km drive to West Kelowna.

Round-Up Motel, Clinton, BC
Beside the motel, at the southern edge of Clinton, is this cairn: “Clinton. This cairn marks the junction of two routes to the Cariboo Gold Mines. The original 1859 Cariboo Trail from Lillooet and the Cariboo Road through the Fraser Canyon built in 1863 by the Royal Engineers. Originally called Cut Off Valley, renamed in 1863 honoring Henry Pelham Clinton, 5th Duke of Newcastle, Colonial Secretary, 1859-64.” A tiny plaque below the large one says “Derward Smith, Clinton’s Land Inspector 1955 – designed and built this cairn with stones he collected from both routes”.

At 09:00, I turned off Highway 97 onto 97C, which would take me through Ashcroft, Logan Lake, and Merritt. Despite some very steep grades, it’s the shortest route, avoids the awful traffic congestion through Kelowna, and I hadn’t driven it in many years.

BC Highway 97C
Nearing Logan Lake half an hour later, I came to Highland Valley Copper’s mine tailings pond. It’s almost 10 kilometres in length, with a massive earthen dam, seen in this panoramic photo. The Highland Valley Copper mine is the largest open pit copper mine in Canada. It also produces large amounts of molybdenum, and small amounts of gold and silver.

Highland Valley Copper's mine tailings pond
I was very surprised to see a couple of wild horses grazing on a small patch of grass among the vast expanse of tailings.

Wild horses grazing among mine tailings near Logan Lake, BC
A closer look at the far end of the earthen dam.

Highland Valley Copper's mine tailings pond
There were short delays at a few spots along the highway west of Logan Lake. This one was for re-paving of a section of the road.

Repaving along BC Highway 97C near Logan lake
Ranching is still important throughout much of the dry areas of central BC. Although the log building in the distance was abandoned long along, the fence and gate leading to it are fairly new.

A ranch near Logan Lake, BC
Clear-cut logging along the Okanagan Connector part of Highway 97C, between Merritt and West Kelowna.

Clear-cutting along the Okanagan Connector part of Highway 97C
Nearing the eastern end of the the Okanagan Connector at noon, with Okanagan Lake visible.

About 3 minutes after I arrived at my friends’ home, a couple of energetic young fellows arrived to unload the truck. All the kitty’s stuff was now in her new home (she flew down from Whitehorse on Air North on Sunday night), and she was settled 🙂

A well-settled cat
The view from the kitty’s new home. I had a very enjoyable visit, spent some time with my Dad at his new home nearby, and at 7:30 on Thursday, headed for the airport to fly home.

This is a map of the entire 3½-day trip – click on it to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map, Whitehorse to Kelowna

I was going to leave for a couple of weeks with the motorhome tomorrow (Saturday), but I’ve all of a sudden developed a bad cold, so we’ll see what happens in the morning.

Driving Northern BC from Muncho Lake to Hudson’s Hope

Monday morning started easy at the Northern Rockies Lodge on Muncho Lake. I spent a couple of hours writing yesterday’s blog, with a comfortable desk and a spectacular mountain view. I’d continue driving south through northern BC once I got moving, with no real plan for the destination – Chetwynd perhaps. I was going to take the Highway 29 cutoff rather than go through Dawson Creek, to see what changes if any the Site C dam project has brought about so far.

A look down at the breakfast buffet setup at 07:15. I was the only non-staff person there for the first half-hour. It’s a very basic buffet, though the home-made bread was notably good.

Breakfast at the Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake
I went out for a bit of a walk after breakfast, to get some photos of the property while I waited for the light to get better to start the drive. These mountains are too wonderful to not see them in good light when you just have to wait an hour or so.

Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake
During my walk, I took a couple of photos of this plane, which allowed me to add a new aircraft to my favourite online aircraft database. C-GMUD is a 1995 Maule M-7-235B Super Rocket from Hines Creek, Alberta – it’s new in the database under that registration because it was just brought to Canada last year. I wonder why you can’t easily search cars the way you can airplanes?

C-GMUD, a 1995 Maule M-7-235B Super Rocket
At 08:20, I started down the Alaska Highway, though it was a slow start, with several photo stops along Muncho Lake.

Muncho Lake, BC
The original Alaska Highway is above these cliffs – it’s now an excellent hiking trail. The heavy blasting required to get the road down to lake level was done shortly after the highway was finished, though – about 1945-46.

The Alaska Highway along Muncho Lake
This sheep ran across the road from the lake to the cliffs, then found that there was no place else to go. I took a couple of quick photos then left him in peace. He’s a Stone sheep (or Stone’s sheep), Ovis dalli stonei.

The road ahead at the Highways maintenance camp at the east end of Muncho Lake, signed as Historic Mile 456 of the Alaska Highway, a checkpoint and refueling stop.

Historic Mile 456 of the Alaska Highway
I stopped at Toad River Lodge to get enough fuel to reach Fort Nelson, then a few minutes later, at 09:00, went for a short walk after crossing the Toad River bridge. I remembered to take my phone with me so I could take this photo with it for an Instagram post. I seldom use my Instagram account because I just don’t use my phone to take photos.

Toad River, BC
The Racing River required another stop and walk. I wasn’t making very good time! 🙂

Racing River, BC
A look back up the highway from the Stringer Creek culvert, where the Racing River photo above was also shot.

The Alaska Highway along the Racing River in BC
I had plans for a big hike at Summit Lake, and the weather was perfect for it. I climbed up the Ridge Trail over the campground first. I thought that it continued up to the microwave tower road, but I came to a dead-end, so went back down.

Summit Lake Campground from the Ridge Trail
I walked across to the microwave tower road and started up it, but didn’t get very far before I got really bad grizzly-bear vibes. I’m trying to limit my bear attacks to no more than one per year, so stopped just above the point seen in the next photo, and headed back to the truck. When I get those feelings, I always listen.

The communication tower road at Summit Lake
As I started climbing to Steamboat Summit at 11:30, the view in my mirror prompted a stop to get this photo.

The Alaska Highway north of Steamboat
The view to the south from a large pullout just east of Steamboat Summit. Dropping down the hill, I was surprised to see the long-abandoned Steamboat Lodge gone – there’s just a pile of burned timbers left. It looks like the fire was very recent.

The view from Steamboat Summit, BC
Just north of Fort Nelson, Conservation Officers had a hunting and fishing check-stop set up. A brief, pleasant chat, and I was on my way again.

Just north of Fort Nelson, Conservation Officers had a hunting and fishing check-stop set up on the Alaska Highway

I stopped at Fort Nelson for lunch and a full load of fuel. The new manager of the Fort Nelson Hotel had asked me to stop in to see him, but he wasn’t around. The hotel was sure dead – well, the whole town was.

About an hour south of Fort Nelson, I saw one of the silliest signs I’ve ever seen on the highway. On the large yellow sign at the edge of endless forest out in the middle of nowhere: “Danger. Wildlife Area. Enter at your own risk.” I should have taken a picture of it, and I watched for another so I could get a photo of it, but no luck. I can’t imagine who would have installed it, or why. I haven’t noticed it on previous trips, and it’s hard to miss.

Heading into the Peace District – oil and gas country – at 2:20 pm.

The Alaska Highway in the Peace District
Mae’s Kitchen served a lot of people over the past few decades, but when the oil boom hit, they started catering to just crews. I guess they’ve made their millions and retired now. Millions? Well, a sign at the place next door says “Room and Board from $160 per night”.

Mae's Kitchen on the Alaska Highway
Across Pink Mountain and for dozens of miles to the south, the highway is being re-paved, and delays were quite lengthy.

Construction on the Alaska Highway near Pink Mountain
There are plenty of anti-dam signs on Highway 29 north of Hudson’s Hope, but this one at one of the ranches that’s going to disappear under the Site C reservoir is one of the best (another on a hill along the highway shows how high the water will be – quite shocking).

Anti Site C dam sign along Highway 29
Three guys on Harleys passed me, and when I stopped at the main Peace River viewpoint, they were there. We had a nice chat for a few minutes. I’m not sure how far the dam reservoir is going to reach, but I think that it will cover as least the near part of this view.

The view from the Peace River viewpoint on Highway 29
I was tired by the time I reached Hudson’s Hope so decided to call it a day. I’ve had some good meals at the Sportsman’s Inn, so figured the rooms must be good as well. Not so much. But it was only $55, $61.02 with taxes.

The room was clean, but the neighbours were noisy (that’s no surprise when the parking lot is full of pickups), there was no coffee for the coffee machine, and no table to write at so now I have a sore back. Oh well, I should have known better. It’s now 07:00, time to get out of here – the planned destination tonight is Clinton, but I’m open to other possibilities as they might appear.

Driving the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Muncho Lake

I’m back on the Alaska Highway headed south again. This time, I’m alone, helping friends move by driving their U-Haul from Whitehorse to Kelowna, a 2,440-kilometer trip (1,516 miles).

I left Whitehorse just before 10:00 am yesterday (Sunday), with weather forecasts showing mostly sun all the way. After the amount of rain we’ve been having, that was a relief to see. There was some thick fog along the Yukon River and Marsh Lake (which are both extremely high) as I headed south, but within an hour it was pretty much clear.

The Alaska Highway at Teslin Lake
I made a brief stop at a rest area along Teslin Lake. The mountains in the southern Yukon got a heavy dump of snow on Friday night – it makes a nice addition to the Fall colours as long as it stays up there 🙂

Snowy peaks at Teslin Lake, Yukon
Wandering through the mountains south of the community of Swift River – the highway crosses the Swift River at the bottom of the hill I’m descending.

The Alaska Highway south of Swift River
At 1:30, I reached Rancheria Lodge at Historic Mile 710 of the highway. I can always count on Rancheria for good food and service, and a burger and soup were perfect for a late lunch.

Rancheria Lodge, Alaska Highway
The approach doesn’t look bad in this photo, but I’ve always hated the curves at both ends of the Big Creek bridge. The hills on both sides of the creek, though, don’t leave many options.

The Big Creek bridge on the Alaska Highway
This is by far the nicest of the many U-Hauls I’ve driven. It’s almost new, with only 26,000 miles on the clock, but a few buildings or whatever have already left dents and scrapes on the box.

My U-Haul truck
The Hyland River bridge. Even though the new bridge has no character, this is one of my favourite crossings on the highway, though I don’t really know why. I have a lot of photos of it, in both directions.

The Hyland River bridge on the Alaska Highway
The road ahead at Km 915. The intensity of Fall colours varies a lot year to year. While the southwestern Yukon has brilliant colours this year, as I got into BC, they faded and went mostly brown.

Southbound at Km 915 on the Alaska Highway
Right at Km 905 is a Point of Interest I’d never stopped at.

Southbound at Km 905 on the Alaska Highway
Now I know – the Alaska Highway crosses back and forth across the BC/Yukon border many times. There are many historic milepost markers along the highway, some with interpretive signs about their significance, many without.

The BC/Yukon border beside the Alaska Highway at Km 905
The the left of the highway as it crosses Scoby Creek is an old section of highway that’s extremely well preserved. I’ve not yet stopped to drive or walk it, but it’s on the list 🙂

Old and new Alaska Highway at Scoby Creek
This is another spot that I have many photos of – the Alaska Highway and Liard River about 20 minutes north of Liard Hot Springs.

As always, there were plenty of bison beside and on the highway all the way from Contact Creek to the hot springs. People make ne nuts sometimes. At 2 spots where there were bison right on the paved shoulder of the highway, as I crawled by, RVs and semis coming the other way seemed to not slow down at all. I saw a dead bison calf, with a headlight and other pieces of a motorhome still laying in front of it, so it had probably just happened. There were half a dozen extremely long full-lock semi skid-marks around the herds, too. Just slow down when you see them! Geez… 🙁

Bison on the Alaska Highway
Mom and baby were having differing opinions about whether it was meal time or time to go somewhere else – Mom was winning 🙂

Cow and calf bison along the Alaska Highway
I was up and down about whether to stop at Liard Hot Springs, but just before 6:00 pm, I pulled in, paid my $5, and started the walk. The light was gorgeous.

Boardwalk at Liard Hot Springs
I was going to go up to the Hanging Gardens first. Or maybe not: “Danger, Area Closed. Problem bear in area. Do not enter.”

Problem bear sign at Liard Hot Springs
I had a good long soak in the hotter part of the pool. With all my sore spots feeling much better, I decided that the stop was worthwhile.

Liard Hot Springs
The reconstruction of a lengthy section of the highway between the hot springs and Muncho Lake Park is in its final stages. The rains of the last few weeks have made some of it pretty soft, but it’s looking great.

Reconstruction of the Alaska Highway north of Muncho Lake
I just have a little truck – I want a bigger truck! 🙂

U-Haul truck beside a large dump truck
A very impressive slope stabilization project.

Slope stabilization along the Alaska Highway
The final rays of sunlight along Muncho Lake at 7:25. Ten minutes later, I stopped for the night.

Sunset on the peaks along Muncho Lake, BC
I had made reservations for the Northern Rockies Lodge just before leaving home. This is the nicest lodge on the Alaska Highway now. The rooms are good value at $129 (lake views are $149), but meals, though very good, are spendy – adding dinner and breakfast to your room is $55. The lodge is also among the most expensive places on the highway for fuel – it’s $1.699 per liter today (Whitehorse was $1.159 and I last filled up at Contact Creek at $1.114). Guests get a 20 cent per liter discount, but I never fuel here except when I’m on my motorcycle and have little choice because of the small tank on it.

Room 305 at the Northern Rockies Lodge
The view from Room 305.

The view from Room 305 at the Northern Rockies Lodge
This look at the dining room gives you a good idea of the quality of the construction of the lodge -it’s quite spectacular.

The dining room in the Northern Rockies Lodge

It’s almost 07:00, so time to get the day started. The weather is cold but beautiful, so I expect that I’ll be stopping for a hike or two along the way. I have no idea where I’ll be stopping tonight.

Fall Colours on the Rock Glacier Trail

After spending the first 2 nights of the Labour Day long weekend at Million Dollar Falls Campground, we moved to Dezadeash Lake Campground on Sunday evening, with the idea of canoeing, and hiking the Rock Glacier Trail on Monday.

It was nice to have some variety in campsites as well – Dezadeash Lake only has 20 sites and they’re all fairly small, but most have lake views and easy beach access.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
Dezadeash Lake 30 feet or so from our RV.

Dezadeash Lake, Yukon
Monday morning was very calm as usual. This is probably the time that I enjoy the most in the RV – it’s a wonderful vibe to start the days off 🙂

Dogs sleeping on our RV couch
The view from the RV door at 10:00. It was too windy to launch the canoe, so the dogs and I headed out for the Rock Glacier Trail instead – the trailhead is just 6.6 km (4.1 mi) from the campground.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
The view to the north at Km 202 – the trailhead parking lot is on the left just ahead. Everything to the left (west) of the highway is within the boundaries of Kluane National Park.

Km 202 on the Haines Highway, Yukon
It was a quiet morning at the trailhead, as expected. The woman taking the picture left right after that, and I assumed that the people from the camper were on the trail.

Rock Glacier Trail parking lot, Yukon
At 10:32, we started up the trail. One of the signs at the trailhead says that it’s a 3.2 km (2 mi) round trip, with an elevation gain of 90 meters (300 feet), which should take between half an hour and 2 hours (that’s quite a range!). The park Web site says that the trail is a 1.6 km (1 mi) return trip, which seems to me to be the correct figures. I’ll give the exact times I shot many of the photos so you can see how short the trail is, despite having wonderful variety.

Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
After going through 30 meters/yards or so of forest, a boardwalk takes the trail across a wet area.

Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
At 10:35, we were back in the forest for a couple of hundred meters/yards.

Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
“Trail Built by Conservation Corps, 1978”. This national program was very active in the Yukon in the 1970s. It spun off the Yukon Youth Conservation Corps in 1990, and they continue to do work on various conservation projects in the territory.

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park - Trail Built by Conservation Corps, 1978
10:36 – the sign in front of the bridge says: “Icy Streams. Although the rock glacier is now inactive, the last of its lifeblood is still flowing. Intermittent streams drain meltwater from the remains of the large ice mass that once allowed the glacier to move.”

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
Climbing the very steep toe of the glacier at 10:38.

Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
Some sections of the boardwalk and stairs up the toe of the glacier could use some levelling, but it’s not bad yet.

Stairs on the Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
The slope of the toe is very steep.

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
Once on the glacier at 10:39, the broad views of Dezadeash Lake and beyond are wonderful.

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
The sign (seen just past Bella in the photo above) says: “Edge of the Glacier. When it was active, this rock mass was higher and its leading edge even steeper. As it advanced it covered everything in its path. Later, as the ice core melted, the rock mass stopped and gradually settled to its present level. Slow-growing lichens on the rocks around you indicate that the glacier has been stable for centuries.”

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
Climbing across the glacier at 10:44 – the sign says: “Rock Waves. As the rock mass flowed, its surface buckled into undulating ridges because of compression forces. The resulting wave-like pattern is characteristic of all rock glaciers.”

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
A great deal of rock has been moved by hand to create an easy walking path. Just before I took this photo, we’d met the couple and dog from the camper that was in the parking lot. Once they were clear, I let Bella and Tucker off their leashes.

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
As the views get better and better, the trail zig-zags back and forth across the glacier to keep grades fairly shallow.

Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
10:49, 17 minutes from the trailhead. This is the viewing area where most people turn around. Over the years, a rock wall has been built on the south side to shield hikers from the winds that often blow here (but weren’t this day).

Viewing area on the Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
For those wanting a longer hike, a route runs basically up the middle of the glacier from the viewing area. The sign ahead says: “The Living Rock. A rock glacier is almost alive. Like a ponderous beast it moves, grows and devours forests. Even when it is no longer active, it still gives birth to the lichens and mosses that grow on it. And if you had several hours, you could climb up the glacier over its hard, rough skin and see where it was born from the bare rock and old glacial ice amid the rugged peaks of the St. Elias Mountains.”

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
Up and up we continue, at 11:01.

Hiker and dogs on the Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
At 11:14, we reached the highest point we’d hike to this time – I don’t find the route beyond here very rewarding for quite a while. I found it interesting that, while some “traditional” cairns had clearly been toppled and the rocks spread around, other hikers have used their rock-stacking skills to build several chairs.

Rock chairs on the Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
The view from the point where we turned around.

View of Dezadeash Lake from high on the Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
While we were at the top, a young European guy arrived, and continued up the slope – he can be seen towards the lower left of the photo.

High on the Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park

The walk back down to the car was much quicker – we reached it at 10:38, and hour and 6 minutes after leaving it. The trail provided a great start to the active part of the day.

Fall Colours on the Haines Highway

The Labour Day long weekend is the final outdoor weekend for many Yukoners, and we decided to take advantage of the best weather forecast in the region for a return to the Haines Highway. I’d been there a month ago without Cathy, but had pretty dismal weather, so was hoping for a much better experience with Fall colours and sunshine.

We had only vague plans when we left home Friday night, but we ended up at the Million Dollar Falls Campground that evening.

Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
Million Dollar Falls is an excellent campground – I don’t think there’s a bad site there. We got site #11, a very large and private L-shaped site right at the main parking lot for the trail to the falls. This is the view from the entrance to that site.

Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
I love any waterfall, but for me, there’s something very special about this one. It’s not large, or even especially scenic, but has a very special power.

Million Dollar Falls, Yukon
The Takhanne River just above the falls.

Takhanne River at Million Dollar Falls, Yukon
Looking over the falls and down the canyon. I’ve heard that there’s a long and rough trail on the opposite side of the river that leads from the highway to the bottom of the canyon, but I’ve never hiked it, or even tried to verify its existence.

Million Dollar Falls, Yukon
A closer look at the lip of the falls.

Million Dollar Falls, Yukon
This 6-minute video takes you on a walk from the campground to the falls, along a network of stairs.

Just before noon at Saturday, we drove back to Haines Junction, with a stop at Kathleen Lake to possibly go canoeing. It was very busy, though, so we didn’t stay. The lovely spot in this photo is at the junction of the Haines Highway and Alaska Highway in downtown Haines Junction.

Haines Junction, Yukon
Cathy had a craving for soft ice cream, and the kids agreed that that was a wonderful idea! 🙂

Dogs eating soft ice cream
On the way back to the campground, we stopped at Dezadeash Lake Campground, and conditions were perfect to launch the canoe there. It didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, though. Bella had been in the canoe last summer and was fine, but she was with Monty, who was her role model and her rock in many ways. She wanted no part of the canoe this time. I finally gave up, and took Tucker out – he was fine. Bella swam out after us, and I figured that might change her mind.

Canoeing at Dezadeash Lake, Yukon
At 18 pounds, Tucker is a really easy canoe partner 🙂 I bought this beautiful Kevlar Wenonah-Jensen race-touring boat quite a few years ago, with the idea of running the Yukon River Quest, but my only attempt at finding a partner to do that turned out badly. When I bought it, was my main Web site and effectively my sponsor, but I don’t use it anymore, and the domain is for sale.

My dog Tucker in the canoe
I got Bella into the canoe, but all the reassuring in the world wouldn’t get her to calm down, and I eventually gave up.

Trying to get my dog Bella to enjoy canoeing
Leaving the Dezadeash Lake Campground at 3:30.

Leaving the Dezadeash Lake Campground
Every time I drive the Haines Highway, I wonder why I don’t come over here more often. The variety of mountains is quite incredible, and the Fall colours certainly enhance that.

Fall colors along the Haines Highway, Yukon
Rain showers in front of a distant layer of glacier-studded peaks.

Fall colors along the Haines Highway, Yukon
Autumn colours here vary a lot in intensity year to year. Some years, like this one, they’re very good, but other years most of the leaves just turn brown. My impression is that a warm spell followed by a sudden cold snap is what makes the brighter colours.

Fall colors along the Haines Highway, Yukon
We got back to the RV at about 4:30, fed the kids dinner, and started a campfire. After a busy day, Tucker was happy to just curl up and go to sleep.

My little dog Tucker curled up in Fall foilage
On Sunday, we decided to spend the day to the south, in the Haines Summit area. Photo stops were frequent, though.

Fall colours along the Haines Highway, Yukon
The Blanchard River, from the highway just north of the Yukon/BC border.

Blanchard River, Yukon
The Blanchard River, from the bridge just south of the Yukon/BC border.

Blanchard River, BC
There are 6 glaciers visible in the photo looking to the west of the highway, into Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park

There are 6 glaciers visible in the photo looking into Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park
South of the Blanchard, the highway climbs up into very different country. The bright colours largely disappeared, but none of the grandeur did. This fellow was taking his horse for walk across the highway from a guiding operation 🙂

Walking a horse near the Haines Summit
There are countless glaciers along the highway, and few have names.

Glaciers along the Haines Highway, BC
One of the more dramatic peaks beside the highway.

A dramatic peak beside the Haines Highway, BC
Looking towards Three Guardsmen Mountain (commonly just “The Three Guardsmen”) from the highway summit.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, BC
Glave Peak (1,920 meters / 6,299 feet high) is part of Three Guardsmen Mountain.

Glave Peak (1,920 meters / 6,299 feet high) is part of Three Guardsmen Mountain.
Just south of The Three Guardsmen, we stopped for a long while at the large pullout seen in the distance.

The pullout was a spectacular location for lunch, and to run Bella and Tucker.

A pullout along the Haines Highway, BC
The view to the west from the pullout. That near ridge offers superb hiking from Marinka’s Hill, accessed on a very old section of highway.

Marinka's Hill
After lunch and dog-play, launching the drone seemed like a good idea.

Flying a drone near the Haines Summit
And it was great fun. Flying the drone is a somewhat vicarious way of enjoying flight, but it’s far better than not flying at all.

Drone view of the Haines Highway
Heading north again, we went up a short side road where this little pond in front of The Three Guardsmen offered a great spot to shoot some photos to create an HDRI.

The Three Guardsmen, BC
While the broad views showed litte colour, looking closely revealed plenty of reds and even purples.

Fall colours near the Haines Summit
In the Haines Summit area, hiking trails aren’t need – you can just walk in any direction you choose.

A pond near the Haines Summit
And it’s a great place for energetic dogs to play!

My sheltie cross Bella playing on the tundra
Continuing back towards the campground, we stopped at the Chuck Creek / Samuel Glacier trail. I was surprised to see it so well developed.

Chuck Creek / Samuel Glacier trailhead
It’s certainly a popular trail! There were vehicles at pretty well every one of the many trailheads along the highway, but this was by far the busiest.

Vehicles at the Chuck Creek / Samuel Glacier trailhead
For a fair distance around Km 122, the creek alongside the highway is only a few inches below the road.

Km 122 of the Haines Highway
The view northbound at Km 138.7.

We decided to continue a few miles past the campground and drive down to Dalton Post. Once a very busy salmon fishing area, it was totally quiet. Dalton Post used to be a name that came into conversations a lot, but neither Cathy nor I have heard anybody mention it in years. Here, the silty Tatshenshini River meets the clear Klukshu River.

Dalton Post
Brilliant colours as we neared the Haines Highway on the climb up from Dalton Post.

When we got back to Million Dollar Falls Campground at about 5 pm, we decided to move to Dezadeash Lake, only a half-hour away, for Sunday night, with the idea of spending Monday getting Bella into the canoe.