Late-Fall exploring along the Top of the World Highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yukon River Campground, Dawson

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



Comments

Late-Fall exploring along the Top of the World Highway — 11 Comments

  1. Was the ’99 dredge moved from the left side. I think I was told that was part of the original Orbanski operation??? He was from Manitoba and more wild history from N Manitoba when I worked up there,!but he was never there when we stayed. Not sure if these people are even alive the Brisboise Bros from Drayton Valley. Had a
    nephew come to work for us at White R but he was hauling blasted rock with semi and pup off hoe above the corner of tthe old bridge to be spread on new widening but instead went right off the side of
    the ROW across the original road through a considerable amount of heavy bush down the bank stopping with front tires in White River.. sometimes first days are last days of work. Result: passenger mirror ripped off.

    • It was Jimmy Lynch’s dredge on Big Gold Creek – brought there in 1946 by Yukon Explorations Ltd. Sounds like that kid got very lucky on his first/last day of work!

  2. When we drove the Alaska Highway in 1973, someone told us that people referred to the ptarmigans as “dingy” (with a hard g, not a soft one) because they weren’t the brightest birds on the planet. But they were really pretty!

  3. Love traveling with you. The top of the world is wonderful in good weather. The last time we were there the weather was terrible rain & fog could not see anything.

    • Always nice having you along, Bruce. I’ve driven the ToW a few times on days like that – it’s sure disappointing when you know what’s out there!

  4. Great pictures and wonderfull light. It’s hard to beat a breakfast nook with such a view.

    • Thanks, Maureen. Yes, it’s a pretty fine way to start a day off. And photos can only hint at just how powerful a place it is, as well as being beautiful.

  5. Absolutely beautiful!!! One day I will take that drive. For now I will just drool over your photos!

  6. I can see you repeating this trip at some point w the new more capable trail vehicle, right?

    Funny how I have been to or near some of these places over the years but my interest and focus was on something else… that highway is a must return trip, would love to do it on the ADV bike w the ‘motorhome in tow’, as a sagwagon…that’d be my ticket for sure!

    • The Jeep isn’t really any more capable, if I had left the off-road tires on the Tracker. It was a bad time of year to be pushing my luck. Now that the Tracker isn’t Cathy’s daily driver, I probably won’t put “summers” on it anymore.