An Afternoon in Teslin, Yukon

The weather forecast yesterday morning was good for that day but then we’re in for a long spell of cloudy, wet days so I decided to take the motorcycle east down the Alaska Highway for a few hours. The probable destination was Teslin, 163 kilometers (101 miles) from home.

My riding day would get off to a late start due to an appointment with my chiropractor, but the silver lining (beyond my back feeling better) was that I finally saw the Edelweiss Air A-330 that arrives in Whitehorse from Switzerland every Monday during the summer.

Edelweiss Air A-330 at Whitehorse, Yukon

Why Teslin? It’s mostly a matter of exploring – although I’ve been through Teslin, many, many times, I’ve spent very little time in Teslin beyond getting fuel and a having a meal. And it’s a beautiful drive, with 2 large and many small lakes, and 1 large river crossing. The photo below is the first of the large lakes, Marsh Lake, taken while straddling my bike on the shoulder of the Alaska Highway at 1:13pm.

Marsh Lake, Yukon

I stopped at Jake’s Corner for gas, and had to wait for a woman to finish filling a pickup bed full of tanks and gas cans – her bill was over $700! It was sunny and I was in no hurry, though, so that 10-15 minutes didn’t disturb me in the least.

After that I didn’t stop until I reached the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre at Km 1248. I’ve looked at the exterior a couple of times since it was built in 2001 but have never taken the time to go through it.

Exterior of the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre - Teslin, Yukon

Another stamp for my Explorer’s Passport. The admission fee is $5, or $4 for seniors (60 and over) – I really should save a dollar when I can but didn’t say anything. 🙂

Explorer's Passport page for the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre - Teslin, Yukon

Above each display case is a plexiglass “cone of sound”. You push a button on the case to hear commentary, and the cone directs the sound to you with little spill-over to distract other people.

Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre - Teslin, Yukon

This beautiful Tlingit Frog Man mask is by Arthur Johnston, a young artist from Teslin who has only been carving since 2002.

Tlingit Frog Man mask at Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre - Teslin, Yukon

After viewing the artifacts I asked one of the staff to turn on the film that’s currently being shown – Carol Geddes’ wonderful 23-minute “Two Winters: Tales from Above the Earth”. Inspired by the stories told by Yukon elders, this Rotoscope animation tells of a family’s struggle to survive an extended period of winter that resulted from the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1816.

A still from Carol Geddes' film 'Two Winters'

In the story, the legend of Earth Mother giving various animals their characteristics is told. This part of the film was particularly interesting to me, as the site of this legend is now known as Carcross.

A still from Carol Geddes' film 'Two Winters'

Between the lake and the main building is a boat house (and fish camp) that I don’t recall seeing before. Several boat types are here, both old and new, including this spectacular canoe.

Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre - Teslin, Yukon

The fine gravel beach that the facility is located on is one of the prettier ones in the Yukon. It alone makes a visit to the centre worthwhile 🙂

Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre - Teslin, Yukon

I left the Tlingit center a few minutes before 4 pm – the next stop was this viewpoint just over a kilometer further down the highway.

Teslin Lake viewpoint

There are several interpretive signs here with information about the area’s nature and history.

Teslin Lake viewpoint

The “Welcome to Teslin” sign for southbound travellers. There were a surprising number of bikes on the highway yesterday, both motorized and the pedal kind.

A closer look at the sign.

Welcome to Teslin, Yukon sign

A few minutes past 4, I reached the George Johnston Museum. I’d visited this museum many years ago, and really liked it, so was looking forward to seeing it again.

Another stamp added 🙂 The admission price here is $4.

Explorer's Passport stamp for the George Johnston Museum - Teslin, Yukon

George Johnston is a legendary figure in the Yukon, and I’m surprised that nobody has written a book about him yet. His fame today is due largely to his skill as a photographer, and to his purchase of a 1928 Chevrolet in 1928 when Teslin had no roads.

George Johnston Museum

When George realized that the dark Chevy made him very obvious when he was hunting wolves and other animals on frozen Teslin Lake with the car, he painted it with white house paint.

George Johnston Museum

The little hunting boat in this exhibit was made from a single moose hide stretched over a spruce frame. Seams were patched with spruce pitch and grease. It could be made in one day by someone with experience and could last for several years if stored properly.

George Johnston Museum

Back outside, this was one of Taylor & Drury’s early stores in Teslin.

Taylor & Drury store at the George Johnston Museum

After leaving the museum I decided to see what was at the demonstration forest a few miles south of town. I rode a half-mile or so down the rough road into the forest but never did figure it out. As I was nearing the highway again, the skies opened up with a torrential rain – I was fairly well-geared for rain but I still don’t like it! The shot below shows the viewpoint above Teslin, taken at 5:00pm.

The Alaska Highway at Teslin, Yukon

I had planned on having dinner at Teslin but there were far too many vehicles at the Yukon Motel where the restaurant is so I changed the fuel-and-dinner stop to Johnsons Crossing Lodge, 52 km back towards home. On the way, I did a bit of touring around the village, stopping first at the little park and boat launch by the Nisutlin Bay Bridge.

Next I found the particularly attractive little RCMP detachment, and this unique Catholic church.

A unique old church at Teslin, Yukon

I found this very colourful old garage on a back road near the Teslin airport. On my first visit to the Yukon back in 1985, 3 of us had set up our tents under the wing of my little Cessna here.

A very colourful old garage at Teslin, Yukon

I was met at the gas pumps at Johnsons Crossing Lodge by signs saying that they had no fuel (but to come in for some free bannock). I had thought about that possibility and had lots of fuel left to get me to Jake’s Corner, so continued on.

While I would have liked to help out the folks at Johnsons Crossing in my small way, Jake’s absolutely has the best burger value in the territory right now – check out the size of that loaded burger, with fries and coffee, all for $12.50! There’s enough food there for 2 normal people – but yes, I ate it all 🙂

A very funny thing happened between Jake’s and the Yukon River bridge – a beaver was crossing the highway! By the time my brain had figured out what it was, it was too late to shift to “I should get a photo of that!” before I was past him.

That was an excellent day – mostly fine weather, two excellent little museums, capped off with good grub. As I write this it’s much cooler and a light rain is falling, making those photographs look even better! 🙂


An Afternoon in Teslin, Yukon — 4 Comments

  1. A great presentation. Very interesting for me to see the changes since I lived there over the period 1957 to 1965. Many thanks. George Johnston, his brother Frank and Frank’s wife Jenny were close personal friends. I worked as a radio operator for the Department of Transport at the airport. I built the “colorful garage” out of scrap salvaged from the military dump on the airport. As you can tell the color choices for shingles was very limited. Our house was directly in from of the garage however the garage is just outside of the airport property boundary. That’s probably why it wasn’t demolished like the rest of the airport buildings.

  2. Jake’s Corner:
    I recommend the copious helpings of clam chowder there! The interior of the cafe is not fancy, but the food is good.