The Dempster Highway, more Dawson City, and more Yukon Quest

After a very busy day on Wednesday, yesterday had lots of free time to explore Dawson City, but we also went up the Dempster Highway about 30 km, and over the ice road to the Yukon Quest dog camp again.

The weather at 10:00 was iffy, but it can change so quickly over time and area that I decided to go up the Dempster Highway for a look. I was hoping to get to North Fork Pass, but with limited visibility and a rough road, this is as far as we went. The road surface felt like it must have melted sometime recently – normally the road is like good pavement this time of year.

Dempster Highway in February
On the way back to Dawson, we made a stop at Mile 0 of the Dempster Highway, which offers a few good photo ops.

Dempster Highway in February

Dempster Highway sign in February
We got back to Dawson City for lunch, then had free time to wander before going to see the next Yukon Quest musher at the restart. This view of the Red Feather Saloon complex was shot from the front door of our hotel, the Eldorado.

The Red Feather Saloon complex in Dawson City, Yukon
This is the Masonic Lodge, originally a Carnegie Library, that we went through on Wednesday. The Carnegie Library, which opened in August 1904, was called the most elaborate building in Dawson. It didn’t survive the sharp decline in Dawson’s population, and closed in 1921. The abandoned building was bought by the Masonic Lodge (Yukon Lodge No. 45) in 1932 for $400.

The Masonic Lodge, originally a Carnegie Library, in Dawson City
Up on Eight Avenue is one of the two YOOP (Yukon Order of Pioneers) cemeteries in Dawson. A high percentage of the most prominent pioneers are buried here.

YOOP cemetery in Dawson City

Yukon Order of Pioneers cemetery in Dawson City, Yukon
The last remaining Westmark Hotel in the Yukon is in Dawson. Once a dominant player in Dawson’s tourist industry, Holland America, owner of the Westmark, now brings few people in. The hotel got so large that it’s now pretty much a white elephant, open for about 4 months a year.

The last remaining Westmark Hotel in the Yukon, in Dawson City
While there are some lovely building restorations in Dawson City, there are also some that are beyond restoration, The saddest of those is St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, built in 1901. It’s considered to be “a very good example of High Victorian Gothic architecture interpreted in wood.”

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Dawson City

At 2:00, we drove the ice road across the Yukon River to the dog camp where Yukon Quest musher Katherine Keith would soon start the next leg of her 1,000-mile trek to Fairbanks. The restart line as at the far, downriver, end of the Yukon River Campground, so we got to have a look at each of the camps of the mushers who are still here.

Looking into most of the dog tents, it’s hard or impossible to tell that there are dogs under the straw, blankets, or other insulators.

A Yukon Quest team resting in Dawson City
This is the camp of Rob Cooke, who was the first person to sign up for Yukon Quest 2017.

Musher Rob Cooke's camp in Dawson City
During the 36-hour mandatory layover, the handlers need to take each of the dogs for regular walks.

A Yukon Quest dog being taken for a walk
The earliest that Katherine Keith could leave was 3:44, and we had lots of time to get a good spot to watch her departure.

The restart line in Dawson City
I suggested that we go down onto the Yukon River and continue on to the Sternwheeler Graveyard to get photos of Katherine in front of the steamboat wreckage.

Sternwheeler Graveyard in Dawson City
Photos like this 🙂

Sternwheeler Graveyard in Dawson City
Katherine Keith, departing in 6th place, with 12 dogs. Although she’s a Yukon Quest rookie, she’s completed the Iditarod twice.

Katherine Keith, Yukon Quest 2017
Next stop, Eagle, Alaska. We heard that temperatures of -50 are ahead for her. Brrrr!

Katherine Keith leaves Dawson City in Yukon Quest 2017
We got back to the van just before 4:30. This beautiful husky/collie cross was at the truck beside the van.

A husky at Dawson City, Yukon

I had planned to meet the final musher Hank DeBruin when he arrived in Dawson, but my 11:00 alarm didn’t go off, and when I woke up just before midnight, he was just arriving. He came in with only 8 of his 14 dogs left, so I think the race is over for them.

In less than 3 hours, at 08:00, we’re heading back to Whitehorse.


The Dempster Highway, more Dawson City, and more Yukon Quest — 1 Comment