Disconnecting in the wilderness is good for your head

My day with Bella and Tucker in the White Pass two weeks ago convinced me that I really needed to get down with the motorhome. Last Wednesday and Thursday, I got the rig ready, and Friday morning, the dogs and I headed down. Cathy would join us when she got off work Friday night. It had to be a short trip, as I had an appointment with one of my therapists Sunday afternoon, but it would be a good start, and a good test of my progress recovering from my injury last August.

We got away just after 10:00 a.m. The first photo shows that removal of the old Carcross bridge is almost complete. While it had character, it was a wreck, and I really like the look of the new one – the decorative lights make a huge difference to what could have been just a concrete slab.

Removal of the old Carcross bridge is almost complete
We encountered some road construction along Windy Arm. It’s particularly nice to have pretty much no traffic on the road at times like this, so there are no rocks flying at me. The windshields are both broken anyway, one side very badly, but I’m not in the mood to spend another $5,000 to replace them (windshield insurance isn’t available here).

Construction on the South Klondike Highway
On the pass between Windy Arm and Tutshi Lake, we got stopped by more construction for about 15 minutes.

Construction on the South Klondike Highway
Tucker rarely rides shotgun like this, but I’m always pleased to have my little buddy there.

My little dog Tucker riding shotgun in the RV
We all had a long nap after getting set up at Summit Creek, and didn’t get out for a play until 3:00.

While the kids played and explored, I spent some time foraging with my camera. The contrast of the witches’ broom on this very healthy little tree struck me.

witches' broom
Mother Nature really does some lovely landscaping.

A closer look at the White Mountain Heather (Cassiope mertensiana) seen in the photo above.

White Mountain Heather (Cassiope mertensiana) in the White Pass, BC
Cathy arrived at 7:45 Friday night, and it was already cold – 8°C/46°F. While Cathy and I played Scrabble after she got settled, the kids went to bed.

My husky/shelty Bella asleep on the RV couch
When I got up at 05:30 on Saturday, the weather was cold (6°C) and dreary.

A chilly, dreary morning in the White Pass
By 07:30, it was looking like the day might have potential, as a wall of cloud moved off to the east.

A storm moving out of the White Pass
Time for a cookie before breakfast? Mr. Granite is as polite as he is handsome. He first came into our lives as a rescued puppy named Raspberry, and we dog-sit him occasionally now – he’s a perfect fit into our pack. He was one of the puppies we almost didn’t let go.

I couldn’t figure out from the clouds what the weather might do. There were some really unusual cumulus buildups off to the northwest. I shot these “clouds with rocks in them” just after 08:00 – a flashback to my flying years. Every mountain pilot quickly learns to know that term and respect it – or doesn’t live long.

Clouds with rocks in them
By 08:30 as the clouds keept moving away, some wonderful layers of cloud and light developed over Summit Lake.

Layers of cloud and light over Summit Lake, BC
At 08:45, I drove to the summit – on the way, I shot this photo of the storm drifting beyond the White Pass & Yukon Route railway summit.

A storm drifting beyond the White Pass & Yukon Route railway summit
A look at what is, in a normal year, the busiest tourist highway in the highway, as I drove back to the motorhome. There’s a marmot sitting on the shoulder of the road in the break between the two sections of guardrail.

The South Klondike Highway near the White Pass summit
The marmot wasn’t very happy about being disturbed, and this grab shot missed the focus a bit. Marmots are one of my favourite animals – they are such characters.

A marmot on he tSouth Klondike Highway near the White Pass summit
After lunch, I made a couple of attempts to get a family portrait, but all I could get was dog bums.

Cathy and Murray with their dogs ad RV in the White Pass
At 12:35, this storm was moving in from the northwest.

A storm moving into the White Pass
Although I didn’t see any lightning, there was lots of thunder coming from the Bryant Lake area just 3-4 miles away.

A storm moving into the White Pass
Enjoying a last bit of sunshine at 12:44. Rain started just a couple of minutes later – we stashed our chairs and moved inside.

Sunshine and storm in the White Pass
I shot this series of videos starting at 12:50. Click on the image to open the video page at Youtube.

Sunshine and storm in the White Pass
Waiting out the storm in comfort while some hikers were out there in it.

Waiting out the storm in comfort in the RV
Looking south across Summit Lake at 1:35, with the rain now gone from our spot.

Storm at Summit Lake in the White Pass

It was a quiet day. Even after the storm blew through, there was a very cold wind so we had to be well bundled up to spend time outside.

After dinner, we drove south to the William Moore Bridges (old and new) – Cathy hadn’t yet seen the new one. It was a lovely evening.

The William Moore Bridges wayside
The Captain William Henry Moore Bridge looks more like a concrete dam with a culvert at the bottom. I don’t understand how this could be earthquake-proof as the old bridge was – I guess we’ll see.

Captain William Henry Moore Bridge
As we got back to the RV just before 7 p.m., there was a wonderful rainbow that lasted for a few minutes.

Rainbow at Summit Lake in the White Pass
Looking to the southeast across Summit Lake at 7:08.

Storm at Summit Lake in the White Pass
Sunday morning was cold and misty, but by 07:30 when I shot the next photo of Summit Lake and the Sawtooth Range it was gorgeous – though the cold wind still required a layer of fleece to be outside.

The Sawtooth Range and Summit Lake
From any angle, Mount Cleveland and the Cleveland Glacier is impressive. At the bottom right you can see our nearest neighbour, about half a kilometer away on the opposite side of the Summit Creek bridge.

Mount Cleveland and the Cleveland Glacier
Breakfast prep time in the White Pass, at 08:30. We sometimes laughingly call this “camping” 🙂

Breakfast prep time in our RV in the White Pass
Just before 10:00, we took the dogs down to the wonderful beach where Summit Creek flows into Summit Lake. I had a couple of balls for the dogs in my pocket, and Tucker kept bugging me until I let him carry one. He’s become a great little trail dog – always right behind me. This was a very different walk for me than 2 weeks ago – I didn’t need my cane.

Walking down to Summit Lake
As always, Bella was the first one into the water! The water is very cold, right off the snowfields!

The water level is very high, but had dropped enough since we arrived that we could walk through shallow water to what was currently an island. I climbed up it to get the next photo.

Looking south across the lake. The wind was nasty, and cut down the enjoyment of this outing.

Looking south across Summit Lake
At about 11:00 we started the short walk back to the rig to pack up so I could get back to Whitehorse for my appointment with my therapist. Bella found a patch of berries along the way, and Cathy gave her a hand to get some that were a bit hidden. Bella is very adept at picking berries.

My dog Bella picking berries

Unlike 2 weeks ago when I had to walk with a cane, and had to stop several times to rest during what’s normally a 10-minute walk back up the the highway, I had no trouble. This sort of rapid, dramatic improvement happened in February as well, before my osteopath got shut down by COVID-19 requirements. I’m being very careful not to do anything that might set me back again.

I thought about leaving the RV and just driving the Tracker back for more supplies to return the next day, but decided against that – the final straw in that decision was discovering that I was low on propane. The final photo was shot at 12:40 as we started out.

Monday was a busy day. I decided to start taking care of some of the things the motorhome needs, beginning with tires on the steering axle. Two new 19.5-inch BF Goodrich Route Control tires, $1,040. Ouch, but there’s no more wobble from the crap tires that came with it, one of which was such crap my shop couldn’t even balance it. With gassing up the RV and Tracker, filling the propane tank, meeting Cathy for lunch, and buying groceries, the day disappeared quickly

As I finish writing this, it’s a few minutes after 05:00 on Tuesday. The motorhome is packed and ready to go back down to the White Pass today, for a longer stay. Cathy will drive down tonight to spend Canada Day with the dogs and I. The weather forecast changed dramatically overnight, and it’s now looking like a spectacular few days. ttyl… 🙂

I really needed a Mountain Day

Life isn’t easy for most of us these days, and it had been a very long time since I spent time in the mountains with my dogs, Bella and Tucker. Yesterday, I borrowed Cathy’s Jeep for the kids’ comfort, and we went down to the White Pass. The weather forecast was okay, though not great, and there’s no weather in sight that encourages me to take the motorhome down for a multi-day stay. But though we had some rain, we also had lots of sun, and it was a really wonderful day, punctuated with lots of wildlife.

At 06:48, this was the view across my back yard to Golden Horn. Not great, but good enough to continue with the plan.

My view of the mountain called Golden Horn, in Whitehorse, Yukon
At 08:50 we were on the Alaska Highway, heading towards Whitehorse to fuel up. Now things were looking much better 🙂

The Alaska Highway near Whitehorse, Yukon
The next photo stop was south of Carcross, at the avalanche gates at Km 98.3 of the South Klondike Highway. The electronic COVID-19 warning sign says “CAN/US BORDER CLOSED” – the next display reads “VITAL TRAFFIC ONLY”. Because of the way the Customs posts are located, though, it’s the US border that’s closed, and the 11.8 km of “no-man’s land” between the Canadian and American posts is still accessible. At this point I wasn’t 100% sure that was the case, but it turned out to be true.

COVID-19 warning sign on the South Klondike Highway
I read a Facebook post a while ago that said there were guards at the Yukon/BC border at Km 80.3, prohibiting entry to British Columbia – there aren’t.

Yukon/BC border on the South Klondike Highway
Along Tutshi Lake, at Km 70.3. Normally I stop at a beach on Tutshi to let the kids play, but didn’t today.

The South Klondike Highway along Tutshi Lake, BC
Although most people call them dandelions, I don’t think they actually are. Whatever they are, big fields of them sure brighten up the roadsides.

Dandelions along the South Klondike Highway, BC

Dandelions along the South Klondike Highway, BC

The Parks Canada parking lot at Log Cabin (Km 43.9) is still closed due to the pandemic. I suppose it doesn’t really matter – there are no activities like hiking that start from here anyway.

The Parks Canada parking lot at Log Cabin, BC, is still closed due to the pandemic.
There was a particularly fine display of lupine at Log Cabin. I believe this is Lupinus arcticus, but I didn’t look close enough to see if it might be Lupinus kuschei.

Lupine at Log Cabin, BC
I have many photos shot from Km 40.3 – on a morning with reflections like this, how can a photographer not stop? You can greatly enlarge this one (in a new window) by clicking on the photo.

A spectacular view at Km 40.3 on the South Klondike Highway, BC
Turning a bit to the left at the same location, this was the view. That’s the White Pass & Yukon Route railway at the bottom – to see this from a train, you need to take their Carcross excursion, called the Bennett Scenic Journey.

Nearing my planned stop at Summit Lake at 10:40, there was a caribou on the road! In 30 years driving that road, I’d never seen a caribou at the summit before.

A caribou on the South Klondike Highway, BC
I pulled over to the left as far as I could to get by her, but she ran down the road instead of stepping off it. I felt really bad about making her run, but she had 100 miles of wilderness available, and semis are still running on this road so it might be a valuable lesson.

A caribou on the South Klondike Highway, BC
At 11:00, I packed up way too much stuff and started down the trail to the Summit Lake beach we like to play at. The world is a rather scary place for me now – my brain is messed up from my injury to the point that things like comprehension, decision-making, coordination, etc, are all affected. Last week I was so overwhelmed walking down Main Street in Whitehorse that I had to hold onto a lightpole and close my eyes until the chaos in my head subsided. If I lived in a big city, I have no idea how I could function.

Walking down to Summit Lake in the White Pass
Even walking with a cane, it’s only a 10-minute walk down to the beach. Bella and Tucker were SO happy to be back on their beach! In this photo, Bella is exploring at the mouth of Summit Creek.

My husky/shelty cross Bella exploring at Summit Lake, BC
I mostly just sat in the chair I’d hauled down and enjoyed the sun. Clouds covered it occasionally, but not enough to be an issue in my enjoyment of the place. The broad views are spectacular, but sometimes the patterns in little puddles are interesting as well.

Leaves in a tiny puddle in backcountry BC
We got almost 2 great hours on the beach, but at 12:50 the building storm to the north was encroaching and I decided to pack up.

An encroaching summer storm on Summit Lake, BC
At 1:00 we were back to the rocky climb back to the car, and I knew it would give me trouble.

The trail from Summit Lake back to the highway
Departure time is always the cue for one more hard play! 🙂

My dogs Bella and Tucker playing in the BC wilderness
In the high country of the White Pass, Spring is just getting started – the carpet of wildflowers that happens is a few weeks away yet.

Spring buds in the White Pass
I had to stop 3 or 4 times to rest on the short walk to the Jeep, and it started to rain lightly just before we reached it. It was sunny to the south, though, so I decided to go down to the William Moore Bridge to see if everything was completed. The next photo is a distant view, right at 1:30.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway
This is the best spot to get a good look at both the old bridge and the new one, which was just completed last fall. In August, I drove down to do a proper documentation of its almost-complete status, before crews arrived for the day and made that impossible. You can see the blog post that resulted (with a few of the dozens of photos I shot) here.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway
The new Captain William Henry Moore Wayside at the bridges is about 95% complete, and I’m very impressed. After initial plans to demolish it, the old bridge is now managed by the National Park Service as a historic site.

The new Captain William Henry Moore Wayside, South Klondike Highway
Last fall, I was really upset that somebody had stolen the plaque marking the opening of the South Klondike Highway from its rock at the summit. But I discovered that it’s been refurbished and is in place at the new wayside.

Plaque marking the opening of the South Klondike Highway
There was a lot of blasting required to clear an approach to the new bridge on the south side. It exposed a particularly impressive dike of darker rock in the granite. At 1:50, we started a slow drive towards home.

Rock cut at the new William Moore Bridge on the South Klondike Highway
Back up just north of the summit, it was looking like Winter was making a bit of a return to the peaks to the east.

Storm in the peaks of the White Pass
When I spotted a fairly level patch of snow, I stopped to give the kids another play. Snow is always fun to play in, but especially in June 🙂

My dogs Bella and Tucker playing in June snow

The official part of passing back through the Customs post was quick and simple – the pleasant chat with the officer took much longer 🙂

At 2:20 I pulled into large pullout, with two little waterfalls across the road. I couldn’t continue without having a nap, and the music of the waterfalls, uninterrupted by traffic, was perfect for that. I slept for about 45 minutes and then was ready to get back on the road.

A little waterfall along the South Klondike Highway

At 3:20, I made a U-turn to go back to see a particularly handsome young black bear just north of the Yukon Suspension Bridge. I couldn’t get Tucker to stop screaming, though, so that planned visit didn’t work out.

A mile further north, another U-turn got me to a spot where I sometimes walk to a particularly scenic stretch of the Tutshi River (pronounced Too-shy), at Km 49.4 of the highway. It was a short stop so the kids stayed in the Jeep.

Tutshi River, BC
The next view of the road ahead was shot right at the Km 52 milepost.

Km 52 of the South Klondike Highway
Yet another U-turn to get some photos of this very luxurious patch of flowers on the shoulder of the highway.

Flowers along the South Klondike Highway
Km 57 – you see why I never get tired of this drive 🙂

Km 57 of the South Klondike Highway
At 3:50, we met two 2-year-old sibling bears who I’ve been watching since they were babies. One is the usual black, the other is called a cinnamon bear. Tucker was very impressed! I’m not sure whether he’s forgotten his wildlife viewing manners, though, or whether he’s realized he’s a Bear Dog and his role in the world is to scare bears away (he’s very good at it – OMG what a scream he has!). Okay, no more bear stops when Tucker is along 🙁

Cinnamon bear on the South Klondike Highway

Black bear on the South Klondike Highway

At Km 77.9, Dail Peak dominates the world ahead. The BC/Yukon border angles across just this side of the peak.

Dail Peak, Yukon
Looking to the right at Km 79, down Windy Arm of Tagish Lake.

Windy Arm of Tagish Lake
I think there are 13 mountain goats up near the head of Pooley Canyon in this photo. Shimmering heat waves made good shots impossible at that distance (400mm). It was now 4:10.

13 mountain goats up near the head of Pooley Canyon, Yukon
I pulled over at Carcross to send Cathy a text that we were safe and almost home. Looking back, a couple of fellows were still at work doing some final touches on the new Nares River bridge there.

Final touches on the new Nares River bridge at Carcross

The day couldn’t have gone much better. It’ll serve as an incentive to get the motorhome ready for a trip back down there.

Getting out: a drive to Tagish

I haven’t been getting out much, but last Wednesday (May 20th) I got a call from a fellow in Tagish, offering me a collection of aerial photos, maps, and other material that he had acquired. That was all the reason I needed for a drive. And Bella and Tucker were very happy when I asked if they wanted to go in the car :)(

Prairie crocuses have started to bloom on my property, and I took a few photos of them while I waited for the time we’d agreed upon.

Prairie crocuses in the Yukon
At 12:15 we were well down the South Klondike Highway, with Montana Mountain, which towers over Carcross, ahead.

The South Klondike Highway, with Montana Mountain, which towers over Carcross, ahead
I made a quick stop at Emerald Lake. Calm mornings produce the best photos, but this was okay.

Emerald Lake, Yukon
There had been fresh snow that morning on Montana Mountain, down to about 5,500 feet elevation.

Fresh snow on Montana Mountain in late May
I drove past the Carcross Desert, then made a U-turn to see what this sign said. All the small Yukon communities have made it very clear that visitors are not welcome during this COVID-19 situation. We have, though, had no active cases in the Yukon for about a month now.

Visitors are not welcome at the Carcross Desert
Heading east on the Tagish Road, with Caribou Mountain filling my view. Caribou Mountain was also the dominant element in the view from my cabin at Carcross.

Heading east on the Tagish Road, with Caribou Mountain filling my view.
I don’t recall seeing this “Welcome to Tagish” sign before. I really like it – but I’d probably like pretty much anything with a swan on it 🙂

Welcome to Tagish sign

I had a very nice visit in Tagish, and left with 3 boxes full of photos, maps, and documents. By the time I left, I wasn’t feeling very good, and expected to have to take a nap somewere along the way home.

I made a short stop at the Tagish Cemetery, which I have barely started documenting. I took enough photos to serve as a prompt that I need to get down and do it properly when I’m able.

Tagish Cemetery
This grave marker is pretty cool. I don’t know what the significance of the shape is, but Edward Cooper died in 1992 at the age of 50: “He loved the Yukon. Resting in the land he loved.”

Tagish Cemetery: Edward Cooper died in 1992 at the age of 50
I decided to make the entire loop, so continued east on the Tagish Road. As I got near the intersection with the Alaska Highway at Jake’s Corner, the light got very nice, and I made 3 brief stops.

Along the Tagish Road, Yukon

Along the Tagish Road, Yukon

I made it home without having to stop for a nap, but there were no more photo stops. I was great to get out, and I’ve had a wonderful reaction to the first of the aerial photos I posted in my Yukon History and Abandoned Places group.

A day trip to the Takhini River and Kusawa Lake, Yukon

On Monday, I got a call from a friend asking if I’d like to go to Kusawa Lake. Yes, I certainly would! We usually take our dogs but decided not to today.

We didn’t get away until 1:00, but I wasn’t feeling up to a long day anyway. It was wonderful to see lots of leaves coming out on the trees out Mendenhall way, half an hour west of Whitehorse.

The green of Spring along the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse.
It’s always wonderful to see the wild horses along the highway. However, Karla and I had seen photos of a new foal with a mare who has markings just like this one. Where was her baby?? It wasn’t until I got home that I could check the photos of the mare and foal and saw that it was a mare with very similar markings. What a relief that was! There are a few stories about where these horses came from but nobody knows for sure.

Wild horses along the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse
Ahead on the left in the next photo is the Takhini Valley Rest Area at Km 1487 – 2 km past that, we turned onto the gravel Kusawa Lake Road and headed south.

Approaching the Takhini Valley Rest Area at Km 1487 of the Alaska Highway
At 2:10, we stopped across the road from the Takhini River Campground to photograph some Prairie crocuses. All Yukon campgrounds are still closed as a COVID-19 precaution.

Prairie crocuses along the Takhini River
Fun with crocuses and my lensball 🙂 I’m back to needing a cane to walk, complicating photography somewhat.

This was a 10/10 day, and there were a few people out enjoying it, most just on day trips, but some campers as well.

Spring along the Takhini River, Yukon
At 2:30 we found a good spot for a picnic, above the foot of still-frozen Kusawa Lake and the head of the Takhini River.

The foot of still-frozen Kusawa Lake and the head of the Takhini River
The water was so clear! It looked shallow enough to be able to walk across to the beautiful big beach on the far side.

The Takhini River
This was an absolutely superb spot to spend some mental-health time.

Reflections in Kusawa Lake, Yukon
There is clearly some awesome hiking on top of one of the mountains to the east, and we figured out a way to get there, for some future very long day.

Awesome hiking on top of a mountain to the east of the Takhini River
This was precisely what the doctor ordered. Nature is medicine.

Murray chilling along the Takhini River, Yukon
By 3:30 I couldn’t stand it any more – that water just looked too inviting. Karla wasn’t as convinced as I was that I could get back up once we got down to the river but agreed to go with me.

A sandy trail down to the Takhini River, Yukon
Yes, this was even better 🙂

Takhini River, Yukon

Takhini River, Yukon

I was too unsteady to prove my theory that the river was shallow enough to walk across, but I got far enough to be convinced of it. With the frozen lake only 100 meters/yards away, the water was quite chilly 🙂 (Karla shot this photo and the one above of me sitting)

Murray wading in the Takhini River, Yukon
By 4:00 I was getting very tired, and it was time to go. Here’s one last photo looking south to the head of Kusawa Lake. I had seen a trail that might be easier than the one we came down. The climb, barefoot on a soft, sandy trail, turned out to be not as tough as I thought it might be.

Frozen Kusawa Lake
Signs of Spring back up top.

Signs of Spring at Kusawa Lake
At 4:20 we were almost back to the truck.

Access to the Takhini River and Kusawa Lake

The day was simply perfect.

Although my osteopath’s office isn’t open yet, she saw me on an emergency basis 2 days after this outing. When I got home from seeing her, I slept for over 4 hours and was useless the rest of the day. I felt clearer the next day and even better the next day then sort of stabilized. I’m back on the right path, but I have no idea yet how to deal with this long term, when it takes very little activity to put me back in a very bad place. I really need to get back into the mountains, but for now, outings like this will be pretty much it.

Everything right now – the virus and my injury – would be infinitely more difficult if I lived in a city hit hard by the virus. I’m always thankful to live in the Yukon, but especially now. We have no active cases, and none of the 11 cases has been sick enough to even be hospitalized. Yesterday, our Chief Medical Officer announced plans to start opening everything back up – it will be a very slow, very cautious process, and it seems to be supported by the vast majority of Yukoners. We certainly have every reason to keep believing that Dr. Hanley and his team know what they’re doing.

Stay well, stay safe, my friends 🙂

It’s a strange world – I hope you’re all okay

Like many of you, I’m hoping that what’s going on is just a bad dream and soon I’ll wake up and life will be normal again. I’m not looking forward any further than tomorrow – things are changing too fast. Cathy and I are okay, and I hope you all are as well.

Winter is just ending here in Whitehorse. This is the period of the most dramatic change of the year, and I thought you might like to see what that has looked like over the past month. And I’ll also tell you a little bit about how the virus situation looks in the Yukon today.

March 22. Winter was still here (the first photo is in my back yard). Snow – even heavy snow – is common this time of year, but most of us have had about enough of it.

Snowstorm in Whitehorse in in late March.
March 25. I find looking close at the beauty of the world is good therapy when “the big picture” gets chaotic and scary. These icicles were hanging by my front door.

March 31. The melt had started, so this was about the deepest the snow piles got. I try to keep my decks clear all winter.

Deep snow around my decks
April 1. I took Tucker and Bella down to the Yukon River bridge for a bit of a walk. It would have been such an awesome day to hit the road (the Alaska Highway in this case). I had planned to be on the road for my 8-9-week season-opener RV about now, but that of course has been cancelled.

The Yukon River bridge, Alaska Highway.
The kids were happy to get out for a bit. Every walking place in town had a few cars parked, but it’s easy to find places like this with nobody around.

My dogs Tucker and Bella playing in the snow.
The Lewes River dam, just downstream from the bridge. The water was incredibly clear.

The Lewes River dam
April 4. There were a lot of happy birds in the feeder today. These are Common redpolls (Carduelis flammea). We don’t get birds very often for some reason, while other people in Whitehorse get lots.

Common redpolls at my feeder.
After getting all excited by birds (she sometimes gets quite noisy), Molly always needs to chill, and a snuggle is particularly welcome.

Snuggling with my cat, Molly
April 8. We haven’t sat in the memorial garden much this Spring yet…

Our memorial garden, buried deep in snow.
April 7. There were some wonderful frost feathers on the deck glass this morning. A frost dragon?

Frost feathers
April 8. With the temperature up to +5°C, the woodpile looked like a much healthier place to be than Facebook.

Working on the woodpile in the Spring
Now the wood room in the basement is in good shape. I was still firing up the wood stove every day at this point.

The wood room in my basement
April 12. I saw my weather station hit +9°C yesterday, but Spring feels like it might be a long way away yet. That’s a 12-inch ruler below Tucker – I dug a little area down to the grass yesterday afternoon so I can keep en eye on the progress.

Deep snow in my yard on April 12th
April 14. I posted on Facebook that “there’s still 3 blocks of snow and ice in the way of getting my bike to dry roads.” Two hours later, the City grader showed up 🙂

Grader clearing the last of the snow from our road
Then it was time to get the bike polished up – now Spring is here! We don’t have any driving restrictions other than a request to stay out of our smaller communities. The importance of social distancing is the primary message here. The Yukon Government says: “Maintain safe physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) between people even when you’re enjoying the outdoors.”

Washing my motorcycle - Spring is here
April 17. The biggest part of the job of getting my summer wheels on is getting them from the barn to the driveway! Despite the way the back yard looked, the roads were bare and dry, though.

Getting my summer wheels out from the barn, through the deep snow

I thought that my health was back to about 90% of normal, but as the weather warmed up and I got more active, I discovered that I’m very fragile. I made myself quite sick a week ago, and I’m still “off” – dizzy, headaches, muscle pains, etc, etc. With my therapist shut down for the foreseeable future, I’m searching for other answers, but the main one has to be to slow down.

Tucker enjoys tv time because it means snuggles, but sometimes a particular show will get his attention 🙂 The closed captioning is for me, the deaf one, not Tucker, the really smart one!

My dog Tucker watching tv
April 19. As we were having breakfast, I spotted this fox bedded down in the forest. I bought a game cam a few months ago, but haven’t set it up yet, partly because I’m not sure which is the best way to point it.

A fox bedded down in my forest
We decided to go for a long drive to watch swans, which our first major sign that Spring has arrived. The Tagish Bridge provided what we were looking for, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Swans at the Tagish Bridge, Yukon
I find watching swans to be very therapeutic. They do make me miss my cabin at Carcross, though – they were a significant part of my life there, as for many weeks each year I could always see and hear them. I loved listening to them chatting, especially first thing each morning.

Swans at the Tagish Bridge, Yukon

Swans at the Tagish Bridge, Yukon

The news of the mass shooting in Nova Scotia on April 19th was my breaking point. I still have no words, only tears, and can’t bear to read the details… 🙁

Mass shooting in Nova Scotia on April 18, 2020
April 20. There are a fair number of businesses in the Whitehorse area offering online shopping now. We really like Firebean coffees, so I ordered 3 pounds, and picked it up from an honour-system box on the porch of their home the next evening. I really hope that #supportlocal is an idea that continues when things get back to normal.

Firebean coffees
April 21. I went out for groceries, and this is what the Alaska Highway looked like at 06:50, normally the start of “rush hour.” I shop almost exclusively at Save-On Foods now, and go during their seniors hour from 07:00-08:00, once a week or even 10 days.

Earth Day (April 22nd) didn’t seem to get as much attention as it has is recent years. Many reports, though, show that Mother Earth is loving the shutdown, with greatly-reduced pollution, and animals moving into now-quiet urban areas.

Earth Day (April 22nd)
All Yukon campgrounds and related facilities are closed until further notice, though the hiking trails at campgrounds like Wolf Creek just a mile from my home are open and popular.

Wolf Creek Campground - COVID-19 closure
Though many projects have been shut down, a few are continuing. The electric vehicle charging station at the Yukon Transportation Museum looks great now.

The electric vehicle charging station at the Yukon Transportation Museum.
One of my neighbours posted on her Facebook page that she and her dad had set up signs on the Alaska Highway thanking truckers for keeping our store shelves fairly well stocked. Last night I took a short drive to get some photos of them. The highway is very quiet – I waited just over 20 minutes for this truck to come along. With even the most basic services – coffee, meals, showers – getting tougher and tougher for truckers to access, appreciation is a big deal. Nice work, Kate White 🙂

Thank you, truckers - Alaska Highway signs

As of yesterday, we have 3 active cases of COVID-19, all of them doing well at home. We’ve had a total of 11 cases but 8 have recovered. All have been related to travel, or contact with those travellers. With the Whitehorse airport all but shut down, our biggest challenge is people driving up the highway to Alaska, and regulations there get tighter and tighter. Drivers now get stopped at the Yukon border and have to give a bunch of information about their trip. If they are allowed to proceed, they then can only be in the Yukon for 24 hours – and getting through the Yukon is a 938 km drive, so there’s little time to dawdle.

I know that some of my readers are in areas that are being badly hit by the virus, and I expect that many of you are out of work. I hope that you’re all okay. Each of us has a different situation, and each of us will react in a different way. Please be kind to yourself, and to those around you.

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.