Watson Lake to Whitehorse with a Jeep load of rescue puppies

Some of my regular readers have been wondering when rescue puppies were going to appear on the blog again. Here are the first, and there will be lots more coming over the next few months πŸ™‚

On Saturday, there was a request on the Yukon Animal Rescue Network (YARN) Facebook page for someone to shuttle 5 or more puppies from the Watson Lake shelter to foster homes in Whitehorse. I offered to do it on Sunday.

Just before 08:00, I left home for the shelter 425 km down the Alaska Highway. With my preferred dog hauler, the Tracker, still in the shop, I took Cathy’s Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep has a lower rear cargo area, but is a lot more comfortable. I shot this photo as soon as I turned onto the Alaska Highway.

The Alaska Highway from our Jeep
The weather forecast called for a bit of everything along the way – sun, cloud, and showers.

The Alaska Highway south of Whitehorse
I made a stop for fuel at the commercial cardlock in Watson Lake, stopped for lunch, then went over to the shelter.

North 60 fuel cardlock in Watson Lake, Yukon
It took a while to figure out crates for the 7 puppies I was going to take, from 2 litters. I had misjudged, and the large crates I had taken were an inch too high to set up. Four crates may actually be safer, but it’s harder to comfort the puppies if that’s needed.

Four rescue puppy crates in the Jeep
Here are the puppies I took – this is Benny and Joon, about 10 weeks old. Joon has a shoulder injury of some sort. It doesn’t appear serious to me, but she needs to see a vet about it.

Yukon rescue puppies
The other 5, the Marble litter, are about 8 weeks old, and quite small. Judging by my Tucker, they’ll be about 25 pounds. This is Aggie.

Yukon rescue puppy

Yukon rescue puppy
Peewee was the favourite at the shelter.

Yukon rescue puppy

Yukon rescue puppy
And Steely. Getting everything set up takes a bit of time. It was too busy to get any photos (most of the puppy photos here are by YARN), but I did get some puppy-snuggles in.

Yukon rescue puppy
Poor Joon was not happy, and she let me know about it in very clear tones. She cried and howled for half an hour or so. I stopped and brought her crate up to the passenger’s seat, we had little chat about how awesome her life was going to be, and she calmed right down. Every now and then I could feel her looking at me, so I looked at her and reassured her, and it was okay for the rest of the 4 1/2-hour drive. She is so sweet.

Once I got Joon settled, it was a quiet trip. With great scenery and a good Blues station playing on Sirius, helping these fur-babies was a really fine way to spend an afternoon.

I dropped Benny and Joon at their foster home in town, then brought the Marbles out to a family near my home. Benny was adopted immediately – love at first sight – and the other 6 are available through the YARN Web site.

My contribution to these puppies was a total of about 12 hours. In mid-October, once the camping season is over, Cathy and I will start watching for another litter to foster. Letting some of the last litter go to new homes was so heart-breaking that we weren’t sure that we could do it again (I still sometimes get wet eyes thinking about the one I called Peanut), but we’re going to.

The RCMP Musical Ride returns to Whitehorse

This year, the world-famous RCMP Musical Ride is on a cross-country tour in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, visiting all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory. On August 12th and 13th, they performed 3 shows in Whitehorse, but they were also visible around town in other ways.

The last time (the only other time) that the Musical Ride was in Whitehorse was in 1995. They performed at Rotary Park then, but neither parking nor seating areas were really large enough. This year, a field was prepared for them beside the Canada Games Centre.

Cathy bought our tickets as soon as they were available. There aren’t many events you can go to for $11 anymore.

Tickets for the RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
We parked at the Canada Games Centre and got in line just before 11:30 for the 1:00 performance, and at noon the “gates” opened.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Cathy got a front-row seat (we brought our own comfortable folding chairs), and I was behind a small child who was beside her. By 1:00, the area around the field was well filled by several hundred people.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Yukon favourites Hank Karr & the Canucks provided entertainment. When they sang “After Yukon“, a pretty fair percentage of the audience knew the words and could sing along when he asked us to πŸ™‚

Hank Karr & the Canucks at the RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
The opening “horse” act was the Spirit Riders 4-H Horse Club. It was great to see them out there. I’ve ever met a 4-H kid I didn’t like, and they put on an excellent performance.

Spirit Riders 4-H Horse Club at the RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Each of the Spirit Riders’ horses had a maple leaf on the rump. I thought that the Musical Ride horses had a maple leaf that was created by back-brushing the hair, but they didn’t this time.

Spirit Riders 4-H Horse Club at the RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
At 1:55, the Musical Ride could be seen through the trees as they walked up Hamilton Boulevard from their stabes a kilometer away at Takhini Arena.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
The underpass used by cross-country skiers made an impressive entrance for them, though my view was blocked a bit.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
This entrance put a lump in my throat. I see people complain about the cost – I don’t care what it costs to instill the sort of pride this does in many people.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Inspector Patrick Egan is the Officer in Charge of the Musical Ride. He rides Piper, a 20-year-old gelding who is in his 14th year with the Musical Ride.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
I put this photo as my Facebook cover photo right after the show.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Manoeuvres get increasingly complex. Some, the fleur de lis in particular would be awesome to see from the air.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Being a member of the Musical Ride is now a 3-year term, though it used to be indeterminate and a few members have been there for many years. Each of the riders is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – they each come from regular policing duties, and return to regular policing duties after the 3 years is up. This is Constable Renée Everett joined the RCMP in 2009. Originally from Ottawa, this is her second year as a member of the Musical Ride. She rides Gendarme, an 8-year-old gelding in his third year with the Musical Ride.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Some of the members look very serious during the performance, but Corporal Amber Kasper was more often smiling. Originally from Maple Ridge, BC, she joined the RCMP in 2009, and has been a member of the Musical Ride since 2014. She rides Idalia, a 6-year-old mare in her first year with the Musical Ride.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
A bit of video is probably needed to get a proper feeling for the Musical Ride, so I shot 40 seconds of it.

This is the extremely complex fleur de lis formation.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
The dome formation.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
And to finish off the performance, the charge!

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Heather Jones was the oficial event photographer. Here, she’s starting the VIP portraits.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Each of the riders and their horse take up a position around the field to let people ask questions and meet the horses. The horses, even beyond their abilities in action, are amazing – they seem to take anything and everything in stride.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
At 2:45, the Musical Ride formed up again and filed out of the field.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Cathy and I walked out to Hamilton Boulevard to watch them walk back towards the stables.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
A visit to the stables was our next stop after giving them half an hour to get settled. It was pretty cool to see the arena converted this way.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
Each of the Musical Ride members has their own “hockey card” that are very popular collectibles. I scanned Constable Sarah MacQuarrie’s to show you what they look like.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon
One final photo, of one of the 3 semi-trailer rigs that take the horses from place to place. Depending on the distance involved, riders take a bus or fly.

RCMP Musical Ride in Whitehorse, Yukon

Today, August 14th, the Musical Ride is travelling to Skagway, Alaska, to perform. The weather forecast for Skagway isn’t bad – hopefully the 50% chance of showers turns to 0%. They then have a very long haul to Burnaby, BC, for the next performance on August 18th.

RVing Dawson, Five Finger Rapids, and home

Leaving Tombstone Park on Sunday, August 6th, was supposed to lead to another multi-day adventure, but the Tracker broke down and after a night at Five Finger Rapids, I’m now I’m back home instead.

Following my last hike during Geology Weekend at Tombstone, we drove to the Dawson airport so Cathy could fly home while I continued wandering. At 3:55, her Air North plane arrived, one of their new ATR 42-300 turboprops. A few minutes later, Cathy went into the terminal, and I drove into Dawson.

This was Day 10 on the road without services, and I had various tanks on the RV to empty or fill before continuing on. I thought about just taking care of the waste, water, and fuel tanks, but decided to check into the Gold Rush Campground downtown, as I wasn’t really finished with Dawson City yet.

Gold Rush Campground, Dawson City
It ain’t much but it serves the purpose. The sites are very small and not very level, for $49 per night. It’s the only RV park that lets you easily walk anywhere in Dawson, though.

Gold Rush Campground, Dawson City
I started by walking to the Eldorado Hotel for dinner, leaving the air conditioners roaring to keep the RV cool (it was about 30C/86F). Once the sun had dipped below the mountain to the west enough to put the trail along the Yukon River in shade, I took Bella and Tucker for a long walk. The Flora Dora Hotel is one of my favourite buildings in Dawson πŸ™‚ It closed about 30 years ago, but it’s great to see that the owner has a sense of humour that makes it one of the most-photographed buildings in town.

Flora Dora Hotel, Dawson City
The next morning, I walked over to the YOOP Eight Avenue Cemetery, final resting spot of many members of the Yukon Order of Pioneers. I took a few photos during the walk.

YOOP Eight Avenue Cemetery, Dawson City
The cemetery entrance. Most of the cemeteries in Dawson are grouped together up on the hill, and few people know that this one exists. My goal was to take photos of every one of the graves and markers this morning.

YOOP Eight Avenue Cemetery, Dawson City
Some of the headboards are pretty much rotted away. I think that it’s a safe bet that there are records for each burial in this particular cemetery.

“Joseph E. DeLage. Died March 17, 1903, age 53. He loved his dogs.”

Joseph E. DeLage. Died March 17, 1903, age 53. He loved his dogs.

I had only been working for about 10 minutes when I started talking to a couple from BC. It turned into a very long conversation, and I eventually had to leave to get the motorhome out of the campground by the 11:00 checkout time. So much for that project…

Stopping for fuel and dog walks, actually getting on the road took a while. Then the Tintina Trench viewpoint was a perfect location for a long lunch stop.

RV at Tintina Trench viewpoint, Yukon
While it’s being towed, the Tracker has to be started every 200 miles to keep fluid circulating in the transfer case. I stopped at the Stewart River rest area to do that. The river is very low – odd when the Yukon River is very high.

The Stewart River, Yukon
The Tracker wouldn’t start – the starter just spun without engaging the engine! Dust was very thick in the engine compartment, so I hauled a few buckets of water up from the river to clean it off for a look. My Haynes manual said that it’s a clutch inside the starter that has died, and there’s no remedy except to replace the starter. That put an end to my wandering – we had to get home πŸ™

Dead Tracker
A road sweeper getting excess gravel off a section of new chipseal along the North Klondike Highway.

A road sweeper getting excess gravel off a section of new chipseal along the North Klondike Highway
I decided to park overnight at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site. A couple from California asked me if that was legal, and when I replied that it was, they joined me. Another RV joined us sometime after I went to bed. Just before 06:00 the next morning, I took the next photo as the full moon was about to set.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site
It was a gorgeous morning. I wanted to hike down to the rapids viewpoint, but had to wait for the sun to come up further to get the light I wanted. In the meantime, dog walks and other photography filled the time nicely.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site
One of the reasons that I wanted to hike down to the rapids viewpoint was to get a count of the number of steps in the stairs – a few different numbers appear in various accounts online.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site
At 08:50, the light I wanted had arrived, and I started down the stairs. It’s too many stairs for Bella in particular, so I left both dogs in the motorhome.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site
There are some wonderful rock formatins along “the fingers”, including this large arch. While most visitors stop to see the view at the upper viewpoint, few make the hike down.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site
One you make it down the 226 steps on two sets of stairs (162 on the upper set, 64 on the lower set), most of the trail is really nice, with minimal grade. Then there’s a steep rocky section and 7 more steps up to the rapids viewpoint.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site
One final photo shot as I started the walk back to the parking lot. By 10:00 we were on the final leg home.

Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site

I dropped the Tracker off at the GM dealer (it’s handy being able to tow your own broken-down vehicle!), and am now just waiting for it to be fixed so I can get away again. The next destination will be wherever there’s sun – perhaps down the Alaska Highway in the Muncho Lake area.

Tombstone Rocks! – Geology Weekend in Tombstone Park

From Thursday, August 3rd, until Saturday the 5th, we camped at Tombstone Mountain Campground, and attended a few of the events during “Tombstone Rocks”, a Tombstone Park Geology Weekend. There was some awesome hiking and I’ll be back for more next year, but next time, I’ll try to keep notes!

The first event that we attended was on Friday night, and it began with Leyla Weston, Outreach Geologist at the Yukon Geological Survey (YGS), showing us the basics of tectonic plate movement, using a box filled with layers of flour, jello, and I don’t know what else. The folds appeared in those materials pretty much as they have in the rocks around us, which I thought was really cool.

 Leyla Weston, Outreach Geologist at the Yukon Geological Survey
We then moved inside a picnic shelter with black-out curtains, for a Powerpoint presentation by Don Murphy, Geology Emeritus at YGS. It was great to see the room full.

The presentation started off on a sad note for me, and for some others including Don. I hadn’t heard that geologist Charlie Roots had died of ALS last year. He was a great help to me while I was researching and writing my book about mining on Montana Mountain, ensuring that my explanations of the complex geology were correctly simplified from his and other geologists’ work in the area. It was also Charlie who started this Tombstone Geology Weekend program.

Geologist Charlie Roots, 1955-2016
On with the program. Don and Leyla explained the basics of the formation of the mountains in the Tombstone area, and also described the physically demanding process of creating geology maps. A large
geology map of the Tombstone area is online – it’s a 124MB download. I went to bed that night with my head loaded with new information! πŸ™‚

Goldensides Trail

On Saturday morning, about 15 people met at the picnic shelter and we car-pooled up to the Goldensides trailhead again. It was much nicer in the sunshine!!

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
The light was perfect for showing many of the features that Don and Leyla were talking about.

Tombstone mountains, Yukon
Way up on an outcropping of bedrock chert, the geological map came out and the explanations of what we were seeing got into much more detail. While I remember the basics, I want much more now.

Don Murphy on a geology walk in Tombstone Park, Yukon
Yukon Parks interpreter Olivia was on hand to explain some of the natural stuff beyond the rocks – including plants, animals, and glaciers. I hope that there’s a glacier section on this weekend next year.

Yukon Parks interpreter Olivia in Tombstone Park
The view to the northeast, with the sun reflecting off chert and slate slopes.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
The variety in the terrain is quite incredible. In this photo, you can see both folding of sedimentary layers in the foreground, and igneous intrusions of syenite which date to 92 million years ago.

Geology in Tombstone Park
A lunch break at the top, with lots of talking.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
I headed back down the trail at 12:45.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
Assessing a block of chert alongside the trail. As I walked, I was watching for a similar block that had a layer that Don said was caused by an underwater avalanche, but couldn’t find it again.

Chert along the Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
To the left is the outcropping of chert where we had our first major talk.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon

Charlie Canyon Trail

The next hike was supposed to start at 2:00 pm, but we had run late on the Goldensides ones, so it was a bit late. This one was to Charlie’s Canyon, one of Charlie Roots’ favourites because it gives people a glimpse at what a geologist does while mapping, crashing through brush and hoping for a moose trail to ease the route.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
The crossing of Charcoal Creek saw all sorts of answers to the problem, from barefoot crossing while carrying boots, to waterproofed boots, and attempts to jump it. Two of us were wearing sports sandals and just walked across πŸ™‚

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
Charlie’s Canyon is a surprisingly complex location, in a geologic way. Complex enough that I can’t even attempt to pass any useful information on to you yet.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
Most of the hikers had done the Goldensides trail, and everyone’s enthusiasm was still high. Don or Leyla never tired of explaining how a certain rock people found was formed.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
Don somehow found the microscopic remains of some of the radiolarians that help create chert, on the 60-foot-high canyon walls. Most of us had a look at them with hand lenses – even Leyla had never seen them “in the wild” like this.

Charlie's Canyon, Tombstone Park
That evening, Cathy and I drove down to the Grizzly Creek trailhead, to be sure that the motorhome would fit for the hike on Sunday morning. Cathy was flying home that afternoon and I didn’t want to take time away from the trail to drive back to the campground to get the motorhome. Due to new parking lot improvements with a large RV area, it would fit. The next photo was shot right at the Km 60 post as I drove back to the campground.

Km 60, Dempster Highway, Yukon
Back at our campsite, a very confident snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) came to visit us for the second evening. I was amazed at how close he came, even with 2 dogs (I was very pleased with both Bella’s and Tucker’s calm reaction to the hare, too).

Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) at Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon

Grizzly Creek Trail

At 10:00 on Sunday morning, another group of about 15 people had gathered at the Grizzly Creek trailhead. All but 3 of the group were new to the Geology Weekend events, so the 40-minute introduction to the area started with the basics.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
At Km 1.5 of the trail, we took a break and Don and Leyla explained more about the area’s geology. This spot on Cairnes Creek is the last spot where water bottles can be filled – the trail starts to climb fairly steeply soon after.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
While YukonHiking.ca rates the trail as Easy, they’re the only ones who do. Yukon Parks says: “Many people are not prepared for the level of difficulty they encounter on this trail. …From [Km 1.5] it’s a steady and relentless climb through willow and dwarf birch and then finally through rocky terrain to the Mount Monolith Lookout [at Km 3]”. Some of our group turned back at around the time the next photo was shot, at 11:25.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
There was a rest stop at “the first lookout”, and Don was noticeably pleased when everybody said that they were going to continue another 20 minutes to the main lookout where he wanted to do his talk.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
The start of the final climb.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
Yes, it is that steep. And it was very warm, 24C/75F perhaps.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
This, however, is the reward. I’m calling this one of the finest views I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world, for a variety of scenic and emotional reasons. Mount Monolith is the one with “the finger” πŸ™‚

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
I very seldom hike with other people – my passion is for solo wilderness travel. Being in a location like this, on a day like this, with a group of like-minded people, though, made this a very special experience.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
Don Murphy was clearly in his element. He may be retired, but he still lives and breathes rocks.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
Looking to the north-east from the lookout, to Fold Mountain. From this vantage point, those ridges of Keno Hill quartzite can be followed quite clearly from Fold Mountain, across two valleys and far up towards Mount Monolith.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon

I had to head down at 12:45 to get Cathy to the airport. When I went to thank Don and Leyla for an awesome weekend, they asked if I’d be interested in working with them on a Geology & History Weekend on Montana Mountain next year. Wow – would I ever!

Hiking back to the car alone, I could take many more photos than I did on the way up. The trail requires you to watch your footing quite closely.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
On the way up, I hadn’t noticed that the trail climbs up a glacial esker and runs along the top of it for a few hundred yards/meters. Eskers are one of my favourite glacial landforms – each is unique, and I love the way they wander across the land. There are also 2 blow-down areas, where every tree has been knocked down by micro-burst wind events, over areas of about 1 and 3 acres.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon
Back at the trailhead, 25 minutes early. It was exactly 3 hours round trip.

Grizzly Creek trail, Tombstone Park, Yukon

From there, the Dawson airport was the next stop, and then, to an RV park in Dawson for the night. This was Day 10 on the road without services, and I had various tanks on the RV to empty or fill before continuing on for another few days.

Tombstone Mountain Campground and some Dempster Highway exploring

On Thursday, August 3rd, we left Dawson and headed north for Tombstone Mountain Campground for a 3-night stay. We had timed the Tombstone part of the trip to be there for “Tombstone Rocks”, a Tombstone Park Geology Weekend, but Cathy also got to see a part of the Dempster Highway she hadn’t yet seen.

We stopped and made lunch at the start of the Dempster Highway. The tiny one-lane bridge over the Klondike River is being “rehabilitated” at a cost of $3.325 million. That’s a shocking bill for what’s basically a Bailey Bridge!

Rehabilitation of the Dempster Highway bridge over the Klondike River - $3.325 million
When we arrived at the Tombstone Mountain Campground just after 2:00 pm, it was already almost full. Unhooking the Tracker in the parking lot at the campground entrance so the trailer behind us wasn’t delayed cost us the camp site that I wanted (they took it), but we got a site with a great view anyway. The campground has a good mix of forest and open sites, and there are no “bad” sites at all. We were very pleased to find once again that there were very few bugs of any kind – I’m tempted to say that there were no bugs, but there were a few.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
I started my hiking with one guided by a Yukon Parks interpreter that evening. We met at the campground at 7 pm, and carpooled 2 km up the Dempster Highway to the Goldensides trailhead. The hike is fairly easy – 4 km (2.5 mi) round trip, with an elevation gain of 210 meters (689 feet).

Goldensides trailhead, Tombstone Park
The light was quite flat for photography, but the clouds produced some cool HDR effects.

View from the Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park
We had a big group – 26 of us, with an age range of about 10 to 75 years.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park
Our guide, Ella Parker, was very good. Her passion for the park is contagious.

Yukon Parks interpreter Ella Parker at Tombstone Park
The views are spectacular right from the trailhead, and get even better very quickly. The next photo is looking down the Dempster Highway, with the campground and interpretive centre visible in the foreground.

The Dempster Highway, with the Tombstone Campground and interpretive centre visible
Ella made a few stops to explain various things. The white spot down on the North Klondike River is ice – it generally lasts for most of the summer and is a good place to spot animals.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park
Ella was explaining how when she and her Dad were hiking along the Blackstone River, he had suddenly stripped down to his underwear and waded out into the river. A few seconds later, he was holding a whole mastodon tusk over his head! They sent the location to the Yukon palaeontologist with their InReach, and put it back.

Yukon Parks interpreter Ella Parker at Tombstone Park
As we were on our way back down right at 9:00 pm, some wonderful light appeared for a few minutes.

Goldensides trail, Tombstone Park, at 9:00 pm
I started Friday off by exploring the campground and then walking to the interpretive centre. With no camp sites left by about 3 pm on Thursday, people were camped in the entrance parking lot, at the picnic shelter, and over at the interpretive centre.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
The registration desk is in the centre of this photo of the entrance area. Our camp site was about 40 meters/yards to the right.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
The next 2 photos show one of the group camping areas – the group that was there had already packed up and left by 8:40 when I shot the photos.

Group camping area at Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon

Group camping area at Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
The trail to the interpretive centre crosses over Charcoal Creek on a bridge.

Charcoal Creek, Tombstone Park, Yukon
The Tombstone Interpretive Centre isn’t large, but there’s a lot of information well displayed inside the bright, welcoming, space.

Tombstone Interpretive Centre, Yukon
At about 11:00, we decided to take a drive up the Dempster Highway, looking for animals and anything else that might catch our interest. We had no particular turn-around spot in mind, it would be a casual wander. Fireweed brightened up the dull day in many places.

Fireweed in bloom along the Yukon's Dempster Highway
The view to the north from North Fork Pass, which is the highest point on the highway at 1,300 meters (4,265 feet).

North Fork Pass, Dempster Highway
Dramatic lighting on some of the peaks.

Peaks along the Dempster Highway
The view to the north at the Km 96 post. The country changes quickly north of North Fork Pass, and I always suggest that people go to at least Chapman Lake (Km 116) to see the difference.

Km 96 on the Dempster Highway, Yukon
This communications tower, painted to blend into the hills, is accessed by a side road about a kilometer long.

Communications tower along the Dempster Highway, Yukon
From the communications tower, the vast views are wonderful. This is an HDR image.

Along the Dempster Highway
We turned around at this point just north of Windy Pass, at about Km 158. It’s a really unique area, and is now the furthest north that Cathy has been on the Dempster. My plan for next year is to drive right to Tuktoyaktuk on the new road, though, to complete her Dempster experience.

North of Windy Pass, Dempster Highway, Yukon
Looking south to Windy Pass.

Windy Pass, Dempster Highway, Yukon
The view to the west from Windy Summit, which is 1,060 meters high (3,478 feet).

Windy Pass, Dempster Highway, Yukon

We went to our first Geology Weekend presentation that evening, but I’ll tell you about that in the next post, to keep all the Geology Weekend information together.

We woke up on Saturday morning (August 5th) in glorious sunshine. As well as a long dog walk, I went to re-shoot some of the photos that I’d shot on the previous cloudy days. The light on the foxtails along the highway was great.

Foxtails along the Dempster Highway, Yukon
These muddy footprints along the highway give an indication of what the conditions can be like when it’s wet.

Muddy footprints along the Dempster Highway, Yukon
The interpretive centre.

Tombstone Interpretive Centre
The interpretive centre parking area.

Tombstone Interpretive Centre parking area
And “Dog Parking” at the interpretive centre, with tie-out chain, water bowl, and cleanup bags. There’s separate “parking” for 4 dogs.

Dog Parking at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre

Then, it was all about rocks for the rest of the weekend. Yes, Tombstone Rocks! πŸ™‚

Relaxing and poking around Dawson City

Cathy and I had 3 nights (July 31st and August 1st and 2nd) and 2 full days to explore the Dawson area. We didn’t have any plans, but saw a little bit of a lot, and spent a lot of time just relaxing at the Yukon River Campground in West Dawson.

We were in campsite #42, a large pull-through right on the Yukon River.

Camp site #42 at the Yukon River Campground in Dawson City, Yukon
The view of the river from the campsite was good, but a short trail from the campsite leads to the riverbank. Peregrine falcons and gulls nest on those cliffs. We saw gulls constantly, but no falcons.

The Yukon River in front of the Yukon River Campground
Our first destination was the Midnight Dome, on Monday night (July 31st). This was the view down the Yukon River from the 887-meter (2,911-foot) summit at 7:35 pm.

The Yukon River from the Midnight Dome at Dawson City
Looking over Dawson City and up the Yukon River.

Looking over Dawson City and up the Yukon River from the Midnight Dome
We watching a hang-glider prepare his gear and launch, and a few minute slater, land on the waterfront park in downtown Dawson. We had just missed his previous launch which resulted almost immediately in a spectacular crash into the top of a tree. Apparently only his pride was injured πŸ™‚

Hang glider launches from the Midnight Dome at Dawson City
We finished our evening with a walk along the river dyke. The city has done a great job making this pile of gravel into a lovely, people-friendly place. This photo was taken at 8:50 pm, just before te sun dipped behind the mountain to the west.

Dawson City waterfront
On Tuesday afternoon we took the free ferry back across the river again. Our first destination was the Bonanza Creek Road. Both Claim #6, where you can pan for gold for free, and Dredge No. 4, seen in the photo, were very busy.

Dredge No. 4, Dawson City
The cemeteries above Dawson City were our next stop. We took a walk through the upper part of St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery.

St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Dawson City
There are many babies and children in the cemetery. Catherine Mary A. MacDonald died on August 31, 1905, at the age of 2 years, 6 months.

St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Dawson City
It was very warm, and Cathy wanted to find a shady spot to walk, but I made a short stop to pay my respects at the grave of my friend Ken Spotswood, in the YOOP Cemetery (Yukon Order of Pioneers).

Headstone for Ken Spotswood at the YOOP Cemetery (Yukon Order of Pioneers) at Dawson City

The YOOP Cemetery (Yukon Order of Pioneers) at Dawson City
The skies were threatening as we crossed the Yukon River back to the campground at 3:20, but the rain never arrived.

Ferry across the Yukon River at Dawson City, Yukon
We went back into Dawson Tuesday night, for a fabulous dinner at our favourite restaurant, The Drunken Goat Taverna. We shared the Poikilia, which is an assortment of Greek specialities – lamb chops, Greek style ribs, chicken breast, garides, spanakopita, tiropita, pita bread with feta dip, and a Greek salad. It’s a bit spendy at $77.95 (which seems like a huge increase since the last time we had it), but it’s best as a meal for 4, so we took plenty of leftovers back to the RV!

On Wednesday morning, the situation at the Dawson side of the ferry was a mess. Two RV caravans were trying to get to the Top of the World Highway, and it apparently hadn’t occurred to anybody in those caravans to assign times for each rig. We talked to one woman who drove the couple’s “toad” (the towed car) across and then waited for more than 4 hours for her husband to get across.

RVs at the Dawson ferry crossing
We certainly weren’t going to take a ferry, so headed up the Top of the World Highway. This was the view ahead at Km 30.

Top of the World Highway, Yukon
We went to the summit, a few hundred meters from the Alaska border, then headed southwest on an old mining road that goes into the Sixty Mile gold mining area. I hadn’t been on the road since I came out on it when I was working on the gold dredge that’s now a tourist attraction in Skagway (I was researching its history for the new owner).

This is spectacular country, with ghosts everywhere. Almost every valley bottom has been mined over the past 120 years.

The Sixty Mile gold district, Yukon
The road got too small and rough for comfort after about half an hour, so we headed back to the highway. The next photo shows the Canada/USA (Yukon/Alaska) border crossing.

Canada/USA border crossing on the Top of the World Highway
Looking down the Top of the World Highway from the summit towards Dawson as we started back down, at 1:20 pm.

the Top of the World Highway
By 4:00 most of the RVs had made it across the ferry, so we went back into Dawson to visit the Dawson City Firefighters Museum. Did we ever luck in – their freshly-restored steam fire engine had just been unloaded from the shipping container!

Dawson City Firefighters Museum
The quality of the restoration of this 1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump is absolutely superb. I expect that this is the finest example of its type in the world now. The restoration was done by Stan Uher of Classic Coachworks in Bleinheim, Ontario. It took over 1,400 hours and 18 months to complete. The cost was $250,000, of which some $50,000 was for nickel plating. Many of these steam pumps are now copper – once the nickel/corroded nickel has ben stripped off, it’s just too expensive to re-do. Most of the money for the restoration came from Dawson’s volunteer firefighters donating the stipends they get for attending fires, for several years. To me, that says a lot about Dawson, and is a significant part of the story.

1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump at the Dawson City Firefighters Museum
I went around and around, over and under this magnificent machine, and the quality is consistently perfect.

1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump at the Dawson City Firefighters Museum
It wasn’t possible to restore the fire engine to operating status, as parts of the boiler such as the water sight glass seen in the next photo don’t meet current standards.

1898 Clapp & Jones steam pump at the Dawson City Firefighters Museum
This painting on the wall hints at what the steam pump would have looked like in operation. It must have been very impressive.

Dawson City Firefighters Museum
After the Firefighters Museum, we went to the Visitor Information Centre so I could use the wifi, and get another look at the incredibly detailed model of the Klondike Mines Railway that’s pretty much hidden in a back room (temporarily, I hope).

Incredibly detailed model of the Klondike Mines Railway
I often don’t realize that Cathy has never seen sights that I’ve been to many times. The Sternwheeler Graveyard is one of those places, so after having dinner at our campsite, we walked down the riverbank to see it.

Sternwheeler Graveyard in Dawson, Yukon
Before leaving the campground on Thursday morning, I walked around the entire campground taking photos for my campground guide. There’s a huge variation in the quality of campsites – some are quite awful (tight and very un-level), while others have great character, such as this terraced pull-through one on the upper level.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson
The riverfront sites are all very nice, ranging from tenting sights such as the one in the next photo, to large pull-throughs such as the one we were in.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson
Just after 11:30, we boarded the ferry for the last time, and after a bit of grocery shopping, headed north towards Tombstone Territorial Park.

Dawson ferry

RVing North – from Whitehorse to Keno and Dawson

On Friday evening, July 28th, Cathy and I headed north for 9 days of exploring and relaxing. We camped for 2 nights en route to Dawson City, including a detour to Mayo and Keno City. On Sunday, Cathy will fly home from Dawson and I’ll wander for another week or so on the way home.

Cathy took the Tracker to work on Friday, and when she got off work, I met her in downtown Whitehorse a couple of blocks from her office. A few minutes later, the Tracker was hooked up to the motorhome and we were on our way.

We went an hour and half up the North Klondike Highway to the Twin Lakes Campground, a particularly lovely campground. There are 26 camp sites, 9 of them pull-throughs, and a boat launch. The campground was about half full (most of the campers were Yukoners), and completely quiet – a perfect place to start the week off. A huge bonus was that we were already out of what seems like the never-ending clouds and rain in Whitehorse. This must be the wettest July in history in Whitehorse.

Twin Lakes Campground, Yukon
We got away fairly early on Saturday morning (just after 09:00), and right at 10:00, crossed the Yukon River Bridge at Carmacks, which is getting a new deck.

Building a new deck on the Yukon River Bridge at Carmacks
At 12:30, the Visitor Information Centre pullout at Stewart Crossing was a handy place to have lunch. Although there’s a Visitor Information Centre here, I think I’ve seen it open twice in the past 27 years πŸ™‚ I had a nice chat with a family from Merritt, BC, who were on a whirlwind tour of the north, perhaps to get away from the heat and forest fire smoke.

Visitor Information Centre pullout at Stewart Crossing
Our destination for Saturday was the Five Mile Lake Campground just north of Mayo. I’ve driven through it and the adjacent Recreation Site, but hadn’t camped here yet. There are 20 camp sites, 3 of which are pull-throughs.

Five Mile Lake Campground just north of Mayo, Yukon
We set up in site #7, a pull-through right in front of the beach access. The sites at Five Mile Lake Campground are huge, some to a ridiculous degree. Our motorhome-car combination is 51 feet long, and many of the sites could hold 4 of our rigs.

Five Mile Lake Campground just north of Mayo, Yukon
A small sandy beach has been created on Five Mile Lake, and although this photo taken early Sunday morning shows it as being peaceful, we won’t be back to this campground on a weekend. It’s packed with locals about 16 hours a day, and between screaming/crying kids and the constant cruising of locals’ vehicles, the noise is incessant. Some of the camp sites seemed to have many other vehicles visiting. I didn’t understand why the Recreation Site wasn’t being used as intended, but when I went over there for a look, found that it’s been all but abandoned, and no sandy beach has been created – it just has the natural grassy/marshy shore. Using the campground for day use is unfortunately a no-brainer. As a campground, though, it was only about half full, and as at Twin Lakes, most of the campers were Yukoners.

Five Mile Lake Campground just north of Mayo, Yukon
On Sunday, we drove to the old silver-mining town Keno City, about 60 km away. On the way, I was pleased to see that a small rest area has been created at the Minto Bridge. There are outhouses, one picnic table, good level river access for launching small boats, and a huge parking lot.

Minto Bridge, Yukon
We had a look at the Keno Community Club Campground. It’s fairly rustic, built for smaller RVs, and costs $15 per night. Many of the sites were occupied, but my impression was that most were people working in the area, not recreational campers. The photo shows the turn-around at the end of the campground.

Keno Community Club Campground
We had a couple of ideas for Keno, the first being a drive to the signpost near the top of Keno Hill. It was erected at an elevation of 1,849 meters / 6,065 feet. The drive up is spectacular. With care, it can be driven in a regular car, but having an SUV is better.

The view from the road up Keno Hill
The mountains around Keno are dotted with silver and gold mines dating from recent years to back a century.

Abandoned mine year Keno City, Yukon
It was nice to see that a porta-potty has ben placed near the signpost, as most visitors come up here, either simply for the view, or to go hiking.

Porta-potty on Keno Hill
As soon as I started to turn around at the top, I felt a flat tire. Well poop. That set a new record as my highest-altitude flat tire ever πŸ™‚ But, a few minutes later, it was fixed and life was good.

Flat tire on top of Keno Hill
The famous Keno Hil signpost can be seen on the right. The rock cairn, which strangely was built on a now-rotting wooden base, holds a brass plaque dedicated to geologist and mining engineer Alfred Kirk Schellinger, who staked the “Keno” silver claim here on July 29, 1919.

A distant look at the most-photographed of the old mining cabins on Keno Hill. Although there was plenty of sunshine all around us, one large and very dark cloud kept the top of Keno Hill in deep shadow.

Mining cabin on Keno Hill
On the way back down the hill, I made a detour to show Cathy my favourite mine on Keno Hill. From this adit, a railway runs out…

Abandoned mine on Keno Hill
…and this ore car was used to dump waste rock that had been blasted in the adit. The side-dumping ore carrier has been removed, probably now in somebody’s back-yard collection of cool stuff.

Mining ore cart on Keno Hill, Yukon
This large placer gold mine in a valley near the bottom of Keno Hill worked until about 10 years ago, if I remember correctly.

Placer gold mine near Keno City, Yukon
We had hoped to have a pizza lunch and chat with my friend Mike Mancini, but the sign on the door said that he was closed until 5 pm. We drove over to the pub, but an aggressive dog tied up at the entrance halted that plan. So we drove back to Five Mile Lake and made our own lunch.

On Monday morning, the condition of the beach at Five Mile Lake was bloody appalling. Garbage, various articles of clothing, and lots of toys were scattered everywhere. That sort of lack of respect makes me nuts. We soon left for Dawson.

I made a quick stop at a tire repair on the way into Dawson City, and just after 2:30 were ready to board to ferry George Black. It would take us across the Yukon River to the campground.

Ferry George Black on the Yukon River at Dawson
The ferry captain waited a few minutes for the paddlewheel tour boat Klondike Spirit to clear our path. I was happy to sit and watch her go by.

Once on the west side of the river, we were soon set up in site #42 at the Yukon River Campground, the largest campground in the Yukon. It’s a large pull-through site right on the river, fairly close to outhouses and firewood. We’re here for 3 nights, then will head up the Dempster Highway to Tombstone Mountain Campground for 3 nights.

We can watch boats go by on the river right from our camp site, but a short trail leads down to the riverbank for clear views. We’ve been surprised by the number of boats going by. In the last photo in this post, the Klondike Spirit has just passed the village of Moosehide.

Now, we have a couple of days to explore more of the Dawson area.

A 6-day RV/hiking trip: Haines Summit and Kluane

On Friday, July 21st, I took the motorhome to the Haines Summit for a few days of hiking with friends from Haines and Anchorage. Mother Nature wasn’t very cooperative despite a fairly good weather forecast, but we got about 50 km of hiking done, much of it on trails that were new to me.

I’m just going to report briefly on the various routes and trails we hiked, but there are still 49 photos in this post.

I had several delays getting out of Whitehorse, but at 1:10 on Friday I was almost through the construction on the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse.

Construction on the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse
Southbound on the Haines Highway at 3:30, nearing the Haines Summit, with the skies now cloudy and the windshield well covered with bugs.

The Haines Highway
I was running very late, and had said that I’d pick Ryan up at the Haines Airport (he flew in from Anchorage), so I disconnected the Tracker at the summit and headed down. I had managed to get a message relayed to him so he knew that I was going to be almost an hour late. On the way back up the hill, I stopped to get some photos of the old bridge that leads into the Porcupine gold mining district – it’s being replaced by a concrete structure. Fans of gold mining reality TV shows may recognize that bridge as the one leading to the gold claim where Parker Schnabel and his grandpa started mining.

Bridge across the Porcupine River near Haines
The road leading to the location where I wanted to set the RV was too rough, but I found a spot close by. It was well off the Haines Highway, with spectacular views.

RV near the Haines Summit
Once I got set up, Ryan and I went exploring to the east. I was disappointed to see this damage across the tundra. It could have been decades ago that the truck got stuck – this sort of thing will never heal.

Damage on the tundra near the Haines Summit
Looking back towards the highway. The light-coloured lines towards the upper right were on my list of places to hike to – they had intrigued me for decades.

Hiking near the Haines Summit
This ATV trail leads towards the Clayton Creek valley. It was 8:15 when I shot the next photo, and we turned back a few minutes later. Shortly after we got back to the RV, Greg arrived to join us.

This ATV trail leads towards the Clayton Creek valley near the Haines Summit

Clear Creek Terraces

The weather wasn’t great on Saturday morning, so I suggested that we keep our elevation low for the first hike. The terraces that I mentioned above, which I’m calling the Clear Creek Terraces, would be perfect. The route starts with a crossing of Dick Creek, beside the highway just above the spot where it joins Clear Creek. We got off to a late start – the next photo was shot at 11:40.

Crossing Dick Creek near the Haines Summit
Gaining some elevation, the peaks called The Three Guardsmen seem to be even more impressive than they are from the highway.

The Three Guardsmen near the Haines Summit
The ascent was more difficult that I had expected, with a lot of brush to navigate around or push through, and some deep gullies that aren’t seen from the highway. Once we reached the terraces, this willow ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus spent a couple of minutes leading us away from her chicks.

willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) near the Haines Summit
The Clear Creek Terraces, at 1:20. They are clearly what I had expected – beach terraces from one of the post-glacial lakes that have covered the region. The main one, seen in the next photo, is almost 2 km long and up to 200 meters/yards wide.

The Clear Creek Terraces, near the Haines Summit
We made an attempt to get higher, to some alpine lakes and possibly glaciers that show on the topographical maps. Thick, high brush stopped us on each possible route, though. There were some lovely spots between the brush, though, and wild flowers of many types were abundant.

Hiking near the Haines Summit

That had been an interesting hike. I won’t go back to the terraces, but the high-alpine lakes and possible glaciers still intrigue me, and I’ll keep looking for a good route to them.

Kelsall Lake

After dinner, with deteriorating weather, we drove out towards Kelsall Lake, a few miles north of the summit, and about 5 miles east of the highway. The road runs down an impressive glacier-carved valley. This photo was shot at 8:20 pm.

The road to Kelsall Lake
We got stopped by this washout, and a fairly deep creek crossing just beyond. In dry weather, the Tracker could handle this, but it was very wet and sloppy.

Washout on the road to Kelsall Lake
Just after we got back to the RV, all hell broke loose weather-wise, with high winds and torrential rain. When I took the next photo just before 06:00 on Sunday, there was a misty rain and near-zero visibility. This wasn’t in the forecast πŸ™

The rain stopped at about 10:00 and with low clouds, I suggested that we go for a look at a small lake hidden just north of our camping spot. We could have walked to the best access route, but took the lazy way.

Hiking near the Haines Summit
On a dry day this would be a really nice hike, but the vey thick reindeer moss very quickly soaked us.

Reindeer moss hillside near the Haines Summit
It only took 15 minutes to reach this view of the unnamed lake. Very nice. I definitely will come back here on a nice day.

Hiking back to the highway. Greg and I went back to the car, while Ryan went cross-country to the motorhome. We all arrived back at about the same time.

Hiking near the Haines Summit

Tina Creek Communications Tower

With the weather improving very slightly, and we decided to try for the communications tower located on an unnamed mountain right above us. We left the car at 11:35, and by noon we were well on our way up the old road that leads most of the way to it (the tower is now maintained by helicopter).

The trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
The road follows Tina Creek up for the initial fairly steep climb from the highway, and then as it nearly levels out. Tina Creek isn’t visible very often, but we went over the have a look at its small but dramatic canyon at 12:35.

The trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
Even in late July, winter isn’t far away this year.

Snow on Tina Creek, BC
Just past the canyon seen above, the road starts climbing again, though the grade is generally not very steep. There are some wonderful rock formations at one point. The weather had been really erratic. Just after I shot this photo at 1:00, a really nasty rain storm moved into the valley behind us, and I was afraid that we were going to hit with a storm like the one that hammered us the night before. Luckily, it dissipated before hitting us.

The trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
Three mining roads led off the one we were on, and there were several small lakes. Regardless of how the rest of this hike went, I knew that I’ll be back to do some more exploring here.

The trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
The summit where the communications tower is located was always in cloud, and at 2:15, we were about to enter the clouds as well, at about 4,500 feet elevation.

The trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
There were lots of wildflowers all along the trail, and the leaves of these Arctic lupine gathered some of the moisture from the clouds.

Arctic lupine along the trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
The ends and a few orange stakes mark the general route to the tower from there. There were some large snow patches, one of which we had to cross. Postholing into it is always a possibility, but the snow was luckily still firm enough to hold us. Just past that snow, this ptarmigan let us get quite close. I don’t think they see many humans.

Ptarmigan on the trail to the Tina Creek communications tower
We reached the summit at 2:55 – 3 hours and 20 minutes from the car, but we’d stopped a lot. The communications tower setup consists of the tower, 3 fuel tanks, and a large shelter for workers. The view on a nice day is no doubt spectacular.

The Tina Creek communications tower
Heading back down.

We angled steeply down the hillside rather than take the long road route back.

Tina Creek valley
Heather and reindeer moss.

Just above the canyon we had stopped at, I spotted a mining claim post and went for a look. The last number of the year on the tag was missing, but it was done in 1970-something, by J.P. Craft.

Mining claim post in the Tina Creek valley
I had seen a very impressive canyon on Tina Creek when I climbed up to a cirque below The Three Guardsmen last year, and made a detour for a close look at it. Yes, it certainly is impressive!

Tina Creek canyon
We got back to car just after 5:00 – just under 2 hours from the summit. Back at the motorhome, I pulled out the barbecue and grilled up some hamburgers for our dinner. The lazing around in the sunshine that we’d hoped for didn’t happen, though.

Monday morning was very dreary, with thick fog and a misty rain. I was sure that there was sunshine not too far away, and had to get out of there. I though about packing up the motorhome and move camp, but with no idea whether the sunshine was 10 miles away or 100, decided to just take the Tracker.

Kluane Lake

We had to go almost to Haines Junction to find the sunshine and then decided to keep going out to Klane Lake for the day’s hiking. We started at the Soldier’s Summit Trail, where Parks Canada has set up a couple of Red Chairs.

Red Chairs above the Soldier's Summit Trail, Yukon
We decided to keep climbing up Sheep Mountain above Soldier’s Summit. That offered great views of the Slims River Flats as well as the lake.

This was what we had expected a lot of on this trip, and we stayed at this spot for a long time before going back down.

Looking over Kluane Lake from high above Soldier's Summit
I hadn’t yet explored the former Fish Heart Island (with the new, lower lake level, it’s no longer an island), so that was our next destination.

Slim's River Flats, Yukon
The summit of Fish Heart Island offers wonderful views, and although we didn’t see anyone else, the trail to it is quite well travelled.

The summit of Fish Heart Island, Kluane Lake
A quiet bay on the north side of Fish Heart Island offered a great place for a dip. A very quick dip – Kluane Lake never warms up!

Skinnydipping in Kluane Lake, Yukon
The water pump in my motorhome had died, and the guys wanted to get cleaned up, so we went to the swimming pool at Haines Junction, where nice showers are available for $2. Then, we had a good dinner at Frosty’s before heading back on the Haines Highway to our camp at the summit. At 10:05 pm, we were nearing a wall of cloud.

10 pm on the Haines Highway
The view back to the north at 10:20.

10:20 pm sunset on the Haines Highway

St. Elias Lake Trail

With fog totally enveloping our camp again on Tuesday morning, I opted to move the motorhome north as far as necessary to get out of it. We stopped at the St. Elias Lake trailhead in Kluane National Park, and made breakfast, with the wall of cloud just to the south of us.

Wall of cloud along the Haines Highway
The St. Elias Lake trail is 7.6 km (4.8 mi) return, with a 120-meter (400-foot) elevation gain. That would be a nice way to start te day, regardless of how the weather went.

St. Elias Lake trail, Kluane National Park
St. Elias Lake is lovely. There are 4 tent pads, a food cache, and an outhouse at the lake. The crystal-clear water is very cold. A large meadow makes me think that there used to be some sort of commercial activity here – probably mining exploration.

St. Elias Lake, Kluane National Park
After the St. Elias Lake hike, we kept going north towards the blue skies we could see. At Dezadeash Lake Campground, I set up camp, as there are a few trails close by.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
We ended up spending the rest of the day on the Rock Glacier Trail. We hiked far above the interpretive are where most people turn around, and laid in the sun enjoying the view.

Rock Glacier Trail, Kluane National Park
This little guy seemed to be enjoying the sunshine, too πŸ™‚

Back at Dezadeash Lake Campground, a screaming wind limited our enjoyment of the sunshine that evening, but it was still a huge improvement over our summit camp.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
Wednesday morning, 05:56 – sunrise over Dezadeash Lake. Although that looks like a nice day was coming, the sun was actually just peeking through a small hole in a cloudy sky. Greg and Ryan had to get home, and left for Haines quite early. I left soon after, and was home by about 11:00.

I only had one full day at home before hitting the road again. On Friday evening (July 28th), Cathy and I headed north. I’m finishing writing this blog 5 days after the hiking trip ended, and I expect to be able to post it when we reach Dawson City this afternoon. This current trip has and will take us to Mayo, Keno, Dawson, and up the Dempster Highway possibly as far as the Arctic Circle before Cathy flies home from Dawson. After she leaves, I’m going to keep exploring for another week or so – destination(s) unknown at this point.

A drive to Skagway, with lots of changes to see

I took a drive to Skagway on Tuesday. I hadn’t been down since April 19th, which must make it one of the longest stretches without a Skagway trip in the past 25 years. It turned out to be an important day, as I saw a couple of significant changes along the highway, so I’ve updated and posted a new edition of my e-book commonly called “Murray’s Guide“.

It was a cloudy, chilly, rather dreary morning when I left Whitehorse just before 08:30, but by the time I reached the Venus Mine on Windy Arm, it had gotten quite nice. It was still only 8°C/46°F, though – it hasn’t exactly been the July I was hoping for.

Venus Mine on Windy Arm
From the hill dropping down to Tutshi Lake, I could see a thick cloud bank down towards Skagway.

Tutshi Lake, BC
Work began on May 17th to replace the unique William Moore Bridge with a concrete “dam” structure, and is well underway now. The Alaska Department of Transportation summary of the project states: “The Alaska Department of Transportation, in cooperation with Hamilton Construction, LLC, is working to replace the Captain William Henry Moore Bridge on the Klondike Highway near Skagway. Upon completion, a roller-compacted concrete (RCC) structure will carry traffic over William Moore Creek and replace the aging bridge. Rock excavation required for the RCC structure will allow the State to straighten the roadway and build a new wayside parking lot south of the bridge. There will be no future access across the old bridge, but the structure will remain in place as a testament to the ingenuity and hard work of the Klondike Highway pioneers. This project is expected to be complete by the end of August 2018. This project will shutdown due to seasonal weather restrictions in the fall of 2017. Construction will resume after the spring thaw in 2018.” The new crossing is really ugly, but I’m pleased that the current bridge is going to be saved as an historic site.

Work is well underway to replace the unique William Moore Bridge
There were 4 large and very large cruise ships docked in Skagway, but the streets were surprisingly quiet when I shot the next photo from in front of the post office at 10:15. Most of the few people out walking were dressed for Fall.

A cruise ship dominates Skagway, Alaska
The Coral Princess and Celebrity’s Solstice were at the Railroad Dock. The Coral Princess can carry up to 2,590 passengers and 900 crew members, and the Solstice can carry up to 3,145 passengers and 1,253 crew members. Seeing them brought back some good memories – I worked on the Coral Princess as ship naturalist for 3 weeks in 2010, and sailed to Hawaii on the Solstice in 2014.

The Coral Princess and Celebrity's Solstice at the Railroad Dock in Skagway, Alaska
At the Broadway Dock, Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam which can carry up to 2,529 passengers and 929 crew members, and at the Ore Dock, the Ruby Princess, which can carry up to 3,782 passengers and 1,200 crew members. So, these 4 ships could carry 16,328 people into a town of about 1,000 residents.

Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam and the Ruby Princess in Skagway, Alaska
I did a loop around town to see what’s new, and then stopped at the White Pass & Yukon Route railway’s Shops, where restoration work has started on 4 passenger cars. This one, called Lake Kluane, was built in 1893 and came to the WP&YR in 1937.

White Pass & Yukon Route railway passenger car being restored
On the way north, the clouds had lifted enough so I could get some photos of the bridge work. The vast majority of people who drive the highway never see the spectacular gorge that’s being filled in, but I used to stop there fairly often. The gorge is only 110 feet wide, but 180 feet deep (the William Moore Bridge deck is about 250 feet long).

William Moore Bridge on the South Klondike Highway
I made a stop at Tutshi Sled Dog Tours, operated by famous Yukon Quest and Iditarod musher (and long-time friend) Michelle Phillips, and had a nice visit.

Tutshi Sled Dog Tours
I also had a nice puppy fix πŸ™‚ These pups are old enough to be weaned, but mom clearly doesn’t mind.

Husky puppies at Tutshi Sled Dog Tours
The last time I saw Dail Peak (in April) there was still plenty of snow, and Windy Arm was still frozen.

Dail Peak on the South Klondike Highway
I saw one of these signs at the border crossing back into Canada, but didn’t get a close look. This is the stupidest, most tourism-unfriendly sign I’ve ever seen posted in the Yukon, and I want to know who in hell gave the Carcross Tagish First Nation permission to pretend that they have any authority to make regulations on the highway. Absolutely “don’t feed or get close to the bears”, but Do Not Stop for Bear Viewing – kiss my ***. Grrrrr…….

Do Not Stop for Bear Viewing in the Yukon
On the way south I had noticed some signs beside the road going into an old gravel pit beside the historic Conrad townsite. I stopped for a look, expecting that they were “No Camping” signs. But “Active Placer Mine” was a surprise. Yesterday, an email query about Conrad that was first sent to the Yukon News, then to historian Michael Gates, was passed on to me. It was from the guy who staked this claim – I love small towns! So yes, it is a new placer gold claim, and it is going to be worked this year in a small way. There actually is gold there – I’ve been sending people there to pan for decades. I won’t do it anymore, but Wes is liable to have his hands full policing that.

Placer gold claim at Conrad, Yukon
On the Alaska Highway, more changes are happening just a couple of miles from my home. The intersection of the Alaska Highway and the South Klondike Highway (known as the Carcross Corner), and business access roads there, are being completely re-designed.

Construction on the Alaska Highway at the Carcross Corner

Today is going to be a busy day, getting the motorhome ready to go out again. I’m going down to the Haines Summit tomorrow morning for 5 days, hosting a hiking club based in Anchorage. There’s no cell or Internet access down there, so I’ll be “going black” for most of those 5 days πŸ™‚

Back to Fort Selkirk on Canada’s Parks Day

Fort Selkirk is one of the most significant historic sites in the Yukon, and countless millions of dollars have been spent there in the past couple of decades. Few people will ever see the site, though, as you need to have a boat to get there. Each year on Canada’s Parks Day, Yukon Parks supplies those boats, and I returned to Fort Selkirk for my third visit last weekend.

The distance is a bit off and the time is way off on the map below, but you can still see the road part of the route by clicking on it to open an interactive version in a new window.

Map of the route from Whitehorse to Fort Selkirk, Yukon
It takes well over 4 hours to drive the 394 km from my home to the boat launch on the Pelly River at the historic Pelly Farm. I wanted to get the first boat at 10:00, so I was about to turn onto the Alaska Highway when I shot the first photo at 05:40.

Fireweed Drive and the Alaska Highway, south of Whitehorse
The last hour is 51 km on a dirt road that follows the Pelly River down from Pelly Crossing on the North Klondike Highway. I took my car the last time I drove in, in 2013, but asked to borrow Cathy’s Jeep this time. Sweet ride πŸ™‚ As always, SPOT was on the dash so Cathy knows where I am, and I have the ability to call for help.

Jeep Cherokee on the North Klondike Highway
There are some lovely views over the Pelly River from the dirt road. I shot the next photo a few minutes before 09:00.

The Pelly River from the dirt road that leads to Pelly Farm
At the 26-km point, there’s a sign noting that you’re halfway, and Yukon Parks put up a sign confirming that this is the right road. The first time in, many people must wonder about that – I sure appreciated the confirmation four years ago.

Parks Day at Fort Selkirk - sign on the dirt road that leads to Pelly Farm
We’ve had a great deal of rain this summer, and the road was much rougher than I remember it, but it was still not too bad. I had thought about taking the motorhome in, and I’m glad that I didn’t do that, though.

The dirt road that leads to Pelly Farm
At 09:50, yes, We Made It! πŸ™‚

You Made It sign at the Pelly Farm
The Pelly Farm started during the Klondike Gold Rush, and as the Pelly River Ranch, Dale and Sue Bradley still grow vegetables, beef, chickens and eggs that sell in Dawson, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks, and Whitehorse.

Pelly River Ranch
I had met friends from Whitehorse at Pelly Crossing, and they followed me in from there. A few photo stops, and staying out my dust, put them a bit behind me, but as soon as they arrived, we got signed in, and we were on the first boat as planned.

The sign-in table for Fort Selkirk boats
In 2013, there were 2 boats running and there were some lengthy delays. This year, 4 boats were available. We headed down the Pelly River at 10:15.

Boats ready to go down the Pelly River to Fort Selkirk
Boat driver Dale’s border collie, Snoopy, clearly knows his way around boats, and immediately took the command position so that everyone could be herded properly πŸ™‚

Border collie on the Pelly River boat
There are impressive basalt cliffs along the lower Pelly River, and when the cliffs turn north, you know that you’ve reached the Yukon River. With the many channels, it’s not otherwise clear for a couple of minutes yet.

Basalt cliffs at the junction of the Pelly and Yukon Rivers
Nearing Fort Selkirk at 10:30.

Crossing the Yukon River to Fort Selkirk

In the days when the Yukon River was the primary highway in the Yukon, Fort Selkirk was a vibrant trading community. When highways made the sternwheelers obsolete, though, Fort Selkirk was soon all but abandoned. The community is now a kilometre-long historic site that stretches along the bank of the Yukon River, with 2 cemeteries in the forest, one at each end of the townsite.

My main focusses for the day were the cemeteries, and the distant farm, which I had never seen. I also wanted to see what was new in the townsite, though, and to spend time with Karla and Emily. We started our tour at the interpretive centre in the Stone House, which was built by government telegraph operator Charlie Stone in 1935.

Stone House, Fort Selkirk, Yukon
This map in the Stone house shows the different ways of reaching Fort Selkirk a century ago. They include the Dalton Trail from Haines coming in from the south, the Yukon Telegraph Line running through Fort Selkirk, and the Winter Road providing access from Dawson and Whitehorse.

Map of the roads and trail in the area around Fort Selkirk, Yukon
Following my visit to Fort Selkirk in 2013, I posted 52 photos on the blog, and I’m trying to minimize duplication as much as I can on this post. But some buildings like St. Andrews Anglican Church, need to be posted agin. Built in 1931 of materials from the Yukon Field Force barracks, it’s the most elaborate one at Fort Selkirk, and the only one which was designed by an architect. The last resident minister there, Kathleen Cowaret, moved to Minto in 1953.

St. Andrews Anglican Church, Fort Selkirk, Yukon
This is an HDR image of the interior of St. Luke’s.

St. Andrews Anglican Church, Fort Selkirk, Yukon
Emily asked if she could ring the church bell. The rope even had duct tape wrapped around it to make it more comfortable for bell-ringers, so sure. I loved hearing it – it added a lot to the town for a few seconds πŸ™‚

The bell at St. Andrews Anglican Church, Fort Selkirk, Yukon
The next view of St. Luke’s is from the upper story of the Anglican rectory.

Fort Selkirk, Yukon
The kitchen in the Anglican rectory. There has been very little interior restoration done in any of the buildings.

The kitchen in the Anglican rectory at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
When I was here in 2013, the river was washing away the bank in front of the school, and it’s now about 40 feet back from its former position. Built in 1892, it’s the oldest known standing structure in the Yukon. I had started to notice that there are now fewer artifacts in the buildings than there used to be.

Schoolhouse in Fort Selkirk, Yukon
The Coward Cabin was built in 1898 as the Yukon Field Force officer’s residence and is one of only 3 remaining Yukon Field Force buildings. Moved from the Field Force complex and modified in the 1920s by Alex Coward, it’s a lovely home.

Fort Selkirk, Yukon
My favourite artifact is this old truck, which is pretty well hidden and I expect many visitors don’t see it.

Old truck at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
The Jas. Smart Mfg. Co. Ltd., of Brockville, Ontario, made all manner of metal products, but is best known for their well and cistern pumps like this very attractive one.

Jas. Smart Mfg. Co. well pump at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
Fort Selkirk is a wonderful place to be able to share with friends πŸ™‚

Fort Selkirk, Yukon
At the upriver end of Fort Selkirk now, we were in the are where the Yukon Field Force, a Canadian Army unit formed during the Klondike Gold Rush, were based. No buildings remain. Although the sign on the trail says “Field Force Cemetery“, that is just a plot with 3 graves, within the non-Native Fort Selkirk Cemetery.

Trail to the Yukon Field Force Cemetery at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
This is a visitor’s first view of the cemetery.

Fort Selkirk Cemetery, Yukon
Only 6 of the graves have legible names on stone or wooden markers. Looking back to the 2013 photo of this marker, I found a couple more letters to the left of “…ulmer, aged 52 years”, and was able to quickly track down Henry Bulmer, Jr. – from Montreal, he was manager for the Canadian Yukon Lumber Company, and died of peritonitis on August 9th, 1899.

Fort Selkirk, Yukon
“In memory of our darling baby
Wade T. Blaker
Son of Mr. & Mrs. Blaker
Born at Ft. Selkirk Dec. 1st, 1898
Died Mch 7th, 1899
Age three months 6 days”

Fort Selkirk, Yukon
While I was documenting all of the grave markers, Karla found a big bumblebee slowly working through the fireweed.

Photographing a bumblebee in fireweed at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
I got distracted by him for a couple of minutes, too πŸ™‚

A bumblebee in fireweed at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
This is the Yukon Field Force Cemetery.

Yukon Field Force Cemetery at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
This may be my favourite photo from the day. It was that sort of day – just out enjoying our amazing world. And Snoopy was happy to join us πŸ™‚

Girl and her dog at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
Time was passing quickly – it was well after 1:00 when we started walking back through the townsite.

Fort Selkirk, Yukon
While poking around behind the old Danny Roberts cabin, Karla found this awesome moose skull.

Moose skull at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
The final building we went to was the St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church. Built along the waterfront in 1898, this was the second Catholic Church in the Yukon – the log building uses French style piece-en-piece construction, which is unusual in the territory. It was moved to this site in 1942 by Father Bobillier.

St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church at Fort Selkirk, Yukon

St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
Beside St. Francis Xavier is the trail leading to the Fort Selkirk First Nation Cemetery.

Trail leading to the Fort Selkirk First Nation Cemetery, Yukon
The first view of the cemetery, which has about 80 graves visible.

Fort Selkirk First Nation Cemetery, Yukon
Many of the graves have been painted in recent years, but only about 5 have names visible.

Fort Selkirk First Nation Cemetery, Yukon
Most of the graves are tagged for identification. I don’t know if the Selkirk First Nation can put names to those numbers.

Fort Selkirk First Nation Cemetery, Yukon
A few of the graves have “spirit houses” on them.

Fort Selkirk, Yukon

After visiting the First Nation Cemetery, Karla and Emily headed for the boat launch, to go home, while I went to see if I could find the farm. I got vague directions, but after a couple of kilometers walking away from the river, I decided that just didn’t make sense, and went back to the townsite. I met a woman from Historic Sites who said that there’s nothing at all to see at the farm, just an open field, but I had been on the right trail – the farm is 3.5 km from the townsite, far from the river.

At 2:15 I was the boat launch, but was in no hurry, so waited and talked to the boat driver for a while until other people showed up.

The boat landing at Fort Selkirk, Yukon
I didn’t catch my boat driver’s first name, but he’s a younger brother of famous Fort Selkirk guide Danny Roberts, who died in 2000. My driver was born in Fort Selkirk in 1941, and has no end of stories – a very interesting fellow, as was his brother, who I talked to in 1997.

Heading back into the Pelly River.

Baslat cliffs at the mouth of the Pelly River
The drive back to the highway.

One final photo of one of the 2 stretches of re-surfacing.

Construction on the North Klondike Highway

With a cinnamon bun stop at Braeburn Lodge, I got home at 7:30, 14 hours after leaving home. I was soon in bed – it had been a wonderful day exploring my Yukon!