RV camping at Kluane Lake for the Discovery Day long weekend

In the Yukon, the discovery of gold that led to the Klondike Gold Rush is celebrated by Discovery Day, a statutory holiday and long weekend. After discussing a few options, we eventually decided to go back to the Congdon Creek Campground on Kluane Lake for the long weekend – it’s our favourite campground overall.

One of the things that helped make Kluane Lake our destination was the weather forecast, even though it’s seldom accurate (and turned out once again not to be).

Kluane Lake weather forecast

I decided that, given the great weather forecast, I’d stay beyond the weekend to do some hiking, perhaps at the Haines Summit. To make that possible, I’d take the motorhome and Tracker out early on Friday, and Cathy would drive her Jeep out when she got off work.

I left Whitehorse at about 12:30, and an hour later met this unfortunate semi on the Alaska Highway. He had pulled over too far onto the shoulder, and sunk in. He had apparently already hitchhiked to Haines Junction where he could get cell service and call for help – when Cathy came by, the truck was gone.

Soft shoulder on the Alaska Highway
2:00 pm – I never tire of seeing those mountains getting closer.

Kluane Range
I stopped at the Kluane Range Rest Area at Km 1566 to take this shot so I could post it on Facebook from Haines Junction. The message I posted with it was “In a few minutes I’ll be entering the dark zone for some hiking and bear-hunting. See you in a week or so 🙂 ”

Kluane Range Rest Area at Km 1566 of the Alaska Highway
We’re at the Congdon Creek Campground so often that it’s starting to feel like a second home 🙂 There were no lakefront sites available, but with a fairly strong wind blowing, that wasn’t a bad thing. I was soon set up in site #26 at the top of the forest loop.

Congdon Creek Campground, Alaska Highway
By 4:00 Bella, Tucker, and I were on the beach. The dogs don’t much like the rocks in front of the campground, so I drove a mile west to where there’s plenty of sand to play on. A couple of guys were enjoying the beach on their ATVs, too.

ATVs on the beach of Kluane Lake, Yukon
Let ‘er rip!! Bella had no chance of catching Tucker, who had a particularly fine stick, apparently 🙂

Dogs playing on the beach at Kluane Lake
We then took a slow drive back down the Alaska Highway in search of bears or anything else interesting. Seeing a Highways worker dealing with graffiti on a rock at Sheep Mountain, I stopped to talk to him. He said that in his 18 years working there, this was the first time the mountain has been tagged. “It’s usually just the outhouses.” I hope that the taggers break an axle in a pothole that this guy could have patched if he wasn’t dealing with this sort of stupidity.

Graffiti on a rock at Sheep Mountain
Stopping at the historic Alex Fisher cabin, I was pleased to see that the sculpture by Kelly Wroot was still in place. The “Error” message glued to the computer screen that made the original message clear is now gone, though – it said “Error. Cultural Identity not found.”, with buttons for “Accept Change” and “Try again”.


This location at Slims River Flats made me think that the level of Kluane Lake is still dropping, though slightly – perhaps 6 inches.

Kluane Lake at Slims River Flats
The boat launch at Km 1651.9 now has the end of the concrete ramp well marked.

Boat launch on Kluane Lake at Km 1651.9 o the Alaska Highway
When I went by this RV boondocking at Horseshoe Bay the first time, a couple of people were swimming in the lake. I expect that it was a very short swim – Kluane Lake never warms up.

RV boondocking at Horseshoe Bay on Kluane Lake
There’s not much left of Horseshoe Bay anymore.

Horseshoe Bay on Kluane Lake

Back at the campground, Cathy joined us just after 7:30. After a little break, we all went out bear-hunting.

At 9:00 pm, just a couple of kilometers east of the campground, we met a moose grazing willows along the side of the Alaska Highway. I took a couple of “insurance” shots with my regular 24-105mm lens in case she left, then switched to my new 100-400mm lens.


The next 3 photos were shot at 400, 312, and 286mm. I don’t recall ever seeing a moose stripping the leaves off willow branches the way she was. We spent quite a while with her, then returned to the campground and went to bed.

Cow moose browsing willows along the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake

Cow moose browsing willows along the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake

Cow moose browsing willows along the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake


Exploring more of Faro – Van Gorder Falls and Mount Mye

My first look at the Faro area and Drury Creek Campground in particular on July 26th caused me to cancel the Alaska part of the trip and return for a better look from August 2nd until the 6th. This post, the final one about the trip, describes some of what I saw in Faro during the return visit.

The first photo shows Mitchell Road, which runs 10 km to Faro, from Km 414.3 of the Robert Campbell Highway.

Mitchell Road, the access road to Faro, Yukon
A scenic pond along Mitchell Road a few hundred meters from the Campbell Highway.

A scenic pond along Mitchell Road, the access road to Faro, Yukon
The extensive network of hiking and multi-use trails around Faro was a large part of what caused me to return. The first one that Tucker and I hiked was the short one to Van Gorder Falls. There are several possible access points to the trail, but I chose to park at the upper end of the John Connelly RV Park – from there, it’s 1.2 km to the waterfall.

Van Gorder Falls Trail - Faro, Yukon
The trail is described as being self-maintained, but it’s in generally excellent condition. Stairs and benches make some of the grades easier, and there are several interpretive panels. The feeling for the first part of the trail is rather unusual, as its route is along a light-industrial area and crosses a road.

Van Gorder Falls Trail - Faro, Yukon
Although the day was warming up in a hurry, the trail is mostly shaded.

Van Gorder Falls Trail - Faro, Yukon
Twenty minutes after leaving the campground, we arrived at the viewing deck high above Van Gorder Falls, which was named after Del Charles Van Gorder, a pioneer gold miner and trapper who later ran the Taylor & Drury trading post at Pelly Banks from 1910 until 1944 and then the company’s post at Ross River until 1949.

Van Gorder Falls, Faro, Yukon
A closer look from the viewing deck. Although I like to get to the bottom of waterfalls whenever possible, I saw no way to get there.

Van Gorder Falls, Faro, Yukon
Back in town, I drove around for a look. The population of Faro as of March 2018 was 415, so probably 80% of the buildings are empty. The condition of the buildings varies greatly – some look pretty good, others are derelict. Many are for sale – the Town has a page that lists all the properties for sale, at prices starting at $5,400 for a 3-unit townhouse building – yes, that’s $5,400 for the whole building. For $135,000, you can buy an operating bed-and-breakfast.

Abandoned apartment building in Faro, Yukon

Abandoned townhouse building in Faro, Yukon
In part of the lower section of Faro, there’s quite a contrast between the single-family-home side of the street, almost fully occupied, and the apartment side of the street, fully abandoned except for one which has been turned into the Faro Studio Hotel.

Residential street in Faro, Yukon
Downtown Faro as I knew it 25 years ago is gone – the hotel burned and the commercial complex is all empty. I went back to the visitor centre to find out where the grocery store and liquor store are hidden now, to stock up before going back to the motorhome.


I did find one section of Faro that looks quite normal – that is, almost fully occupied. The single-family-home section on the uppermost part of town has a few homes for sale, but is in generally good condition.

From upper Faro, I headed into the wilderness to the east, to the Mount Mye Sheep Centre. It’s located 8 km up the Blind Creek Road, seen in the next photo.

Blind Creek Road, Faro
Things were quiet at the Mount Mye Sheep Centre when I was there, but in a few weeks, Fannin sheep (or Fannin’s sheep) will be returning to the mountain slope it faces. At about the same time, thousands of sandhill cranes will be on their southward migration overhead. I will note here that, although the tourism page says: “Being in one of the most densely populated wildlife corridors, you will most likely encounter many species of wildlife during your visit in Faro”, I saw no animals larger than a squirrel during my 5 days in the area.

Mount Mye Sheep Centre, Faro
Back in Faro, here’s a look at the 9-hole golf course that runs through the middle of town. The level of maintenance of many spaces in Faro – notably the lawns and parks – is very high. Surprising given the fairly small tax base.

Faro golf course
The 1960s Bombardier Muskeg in the photo below is sitting in front of what I think was a mechanical shop in the mine days. Posting this photo in my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group got the response that a couple are still working in the Klondike gold fields – a story and photos about one working on Stowe Creek in 1980-81 can be seen on Robin Trethewey’s Hotspring Lodge site.

1960s Bombardier Muskeg tracked vehicle
I wanted to see more of the Faro Mine if possible, so the next trail on my list was the Moose Trail. The visitor centre has a handout about it, but its not very accurate. On my 3rd pass along the road near the possible starting point, I found the trailhead, an ATV trail at Km 15.9 of the mine road.

Moose Trail at Faro, Yukon
Seven minutes from the mine road, I could see what I expected was the mine’s haul road ahead.

Moose Trail at Faro, Yukon
The ATV trail provides easy access to the haul road.

Moose Trail at Faro, Yukon
The haul road is huge, and provided a useful view over the mine property. The ATV trail then goes down into the forest again, and eventually leads to the back side of Mount Mye. It looks like a superb ATV trip.

Moose Trail at Faro, Yukon
At 3:30, it was time to get my errands done and get back to Drury Creek Campground where Bella and Molly were waiting for Tucker and I. First, I found the liquor store in a cul-de-sac with the school and recreation centre (and an empty strip mall). Then, I topped up the Tracker’s gas tank – the gas station in the next photo has been a 24-hour cardlock but that system died back in May and is now manned during the day.

Faro gas station
The tough business to find was the grocery store, even with directions. There’s no sign, and I eventually walked into what turned out to be the manager’s office. But I found what I wanted in a real old-time “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it” store 🙂


We’ve been back home for a few days now. This 13-night trip turned out to be very different than the one I had planned. The upper map of the 2 below shows the planned route, the lower one is the actual route as a result of cancelling Alaska in favour of Faro.

Maps of Yukon RV trip

Not counting the well-stocked RV cupboards that I departed with, our total expenses were $1,592.28 – almost half of that was for fuel and much of the rest was for Cathy’s flights to and from Dawson. I paid for parking/camping for 1 night of the 13 – roadside stops and my Yukon Parks annual pass (which is free for Yukon seniors) covered the rest.

Fuel for the RV – 659.60
Fuel for the Tracker – 100.54
Camping (1 night in Carmacks) – 37.80
Sani-dump (1 in Dawson) – 5.00
Meals – 180.68 (118.38 of that was 1 meal in Dawson)
Groceries – 41.96
Wine, coolers – 34.70
Car wash – 22.00
Flights for Cathy – 510.00

With Fall having now arrived in Whitehorse (it was 1 degree below freezing yesterday morning), I’m running out of time for more exploring, but have a few ideas yet.



Four Nights at Drury Creek Campground on Little Salmon Lake

The final stop on our 14-day wander around the Yukon was Drury Creek Campground on Little Salmon Lake. We spent 4 nights there, from August 2nd until the 6th, and made a couple of drives to explore more of Faro, as well as shorter drives to explore other places.

Driving east on the Robert Campbell Highway from Carmacks, I was worried that things may have changed since my last visit to Drury Creek Campground, and we wouldn’t be able to get a good campsite. I was quite shocked to find the campground empty, except for one site, #10, the one I had camped at the week previous. While my initial plan had been to take site #10 again, site #8, the first one on the left in the first photo, looked great.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
A soon as I parked the rig, I let Bella and Tucker out, and they were in the water immediately. The word “beach” gets Tucker excited, and his new-found excitement about water is fun to watch. By the time I had our campsite set up, Bella was the one still playing in the water.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
I took the next photo with my phone so I could post it on Facebook when I went into Faro the next day.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
Although it doesn’t look like it in the next photo, it was still very warm – probably about 26°C (79°F). Having a bit of cloud move in wasn’t unwelcome.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
That afternoon, the dogs and I took a drive to see a couple of places further east along the highway. The first was a rest area at the junction of the highway and Mitchell Road, which leads to Faro.

Rest area on the Robert Campbell Highway, Yukon
Then we drove 5 km back to the Fisheye Lake recreation area.

Fisheye Lake recreation area, Yukon
Fisheye Lake with its dock, change rooms, outhouses, and small sandy beach, looked like a nice place to spend a hot day. There apparently used to be a campground here, though I couldn’t find where it was.

Fisheye Lake recreation area, Yukon
Looking back at the beach and changing-house from the end of the dock. The small waves were making the dock rock enough that neither Bella or Tucker were very happy about being asked to go out on it.

Fisheye Lake recreation area, Yukon
Up the road from the beach, a sign pointed down to a boat launch and picnic area. Like some other lakes I saw in the region, Fisheye Lake was much higher than normal, and access to the picnic area was underwater.

Fisheye Lake recreation area, Yukon
Back on the beach at Drury Creek Campground at 5:40 pm.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
The view down Little Salmon Lake from the beach in front of my campsite.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
By 8:00 pm, smoke from one or more of the wildfires burning moved in and added some colour to the sky.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
Tucker and I spent much of Friday, August 3rd, exploring more of Faro, but I’ll tell you about that in my next and final post about this trip. As I got near the campground that evening, wildfire smoke appeared again, and by the time I got to the campground at 5:40 pm, it was scary thick. I sent Cathy a text via the satellite capabilities of my inReach – she checked the fire reports and replied that she couldn’t see anything in our area.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
When Tucker and I went to Faro, Bella and Molly had gotten left behind in the motorhome because of the heat. Bella was happy to get back onto the beach when we returned.

My shelty-cross Bella at Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
After she got off work Friday evening, Cathy made the 297-km, 3½-hour drive north to join us. We were treated to a very colourful sunset – the next photo was shot at 9:10 pm.

A wildfire-coloured sunset at Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
On Saturday morning, the wildfire smoke had cleared, and there were some very interesting clouds to the east.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon

Cathy and I went into Faro for a look around on Saturday, but it was mostly a quiet day of just enjoying this wonderful place, and playing with the dogs. The lake was warm enough that I even went swimming. Having seen the photo I posted on Facebook, a friend from Whitehorse drove her motorhome up, and was able to get campsite #9 beside us.

After dinner, 4 loons joined us.

Loons on Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
By 9:00 pm it had gotten windy and started raining, so we moved inside the RV.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
Bella was okay with moving inside – it was past her preferred bedtime anyway 🙂

My shelty-cross Bella chilling in the RV
The weather had improved on Sunday morning – the next photo shows what our combined campsite looked like.

Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
Cathy and I drove down to the Little Salmon Lake Campground for a look. As it had been when I was there a week previous, it was quite busy. Well, it was quite busy by Yukon standards! 🙂 The Drury Creek Campground was a better choice for us.

Little Salmon Lake Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon

Little Salmon Lake Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon

Cathy had to return to Whitehorse Sunday evening, and after she left, the rain returned. For a while, it came down in buckets!

On Monday morning, it was still raining. Shortly after breakfast, I started back towards Whitehorse, while our friend planned to move to Faro to camp for another day or two.

A rainy morning at Drury Creek Campground - Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
My plan had been to explore the Frenchman Lake Road and see the 3 campgrounds along it. I stopped at the Columbian Disaster rest area and unhooked the Tracker to do that, but as I was loading dogs and gear, the rain got heavier. I decided to wait for a while and see if it improved, but by noon I had given up and was heading for home. The final photo was shot on the Robert Campbell Highway as we neared Carmacks.

Westbound on the Robert Campbell Highway near Carmacks


A detour to see Ethel Lake Campground, and on to Carmacks

Day 9 of this RV trip – Wednesday, August 1st – was spent on a 50-kilometer detour to see remote Ethel Lake Campground, after which I went to a full-service RV park at Carmacks so I could plug into electricity and have the air conditioners running to deal with the heat.

At the junction of the North Klondike Highway and the Ethel Lake Road, there’s a pullout with plenty of room to park the motorhome and unhook the Tracker for the drive in. I had little idea of what to expect except that all the information I’d seen said that it wasn’t suitable for large vehicles. Among the warning signs at the start of the road is the one seen below: “Caution – narrow, winding road next 24 km”.

The start of the road to Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon - 'Caution - narrow, winding road next 24 km'
I found the road to be better than what the signs led me to believe, though some of the hills clearly got very bad in wet weather. Much of the road, though, just wanders up and down through the forest, with occasional broader views.

Along the road to Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The final 5 km of so was the worst part of the road, with some very steep and very soft sections, including the water damage seen in the next photo.

Water damage to the road to Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
Nearing the lake, I discovered that there are quite a few First Nations cabins at Ethel Lake. I expect that none are permanent residences. The sign at this junction reads: “Welcome to Ethel Lake. This lake is very important to the Nacho Nyäk Dun, both spiritually and for food. Please respect this lake and its surroundings.”

Welcome to Ethel Lake, Yukon><br />
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At 12:35, we reached the Ethel Lake Campground. It took 45 minutes to get there from the highway, though I made a few short stops.<br />
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Here’s an aerial view of the road and Ethel Lake area. Click on the image to open an interactive map.

Google Maps image of Ethel Lake, Yukon
The campground is set up in a single line along the lakeshore, with a turnaround loop at the east end.

Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The campground contains the usual amenities, including this picnic shelter.

Picnic shelter at Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The boat launch ramp is in pretty good condition – certainly good enough for the size of boats that will be towed in over that road.

Boat launch ramp at Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
All of the 10 spacious sites are back-in.

Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
The only RV there was a rental pickup/camper rig.

Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon
Ethel Lake is a conservation water – the daily catch and possession limits are 2 lake trout, 4 Arctic grayling, and 4 pike.

Fishing at Ethel Lake Campground, Yukon

We didn’t stay at Ethel Lake very long – my curiosity had been satisfied, and it was so hot that Bella wasn’t interested in playing with Tucker, even in the water. The drive back to the highway reaffirmed my initial thoughts that although I could get the motorhome to Ethel Lake, I probably never will. When I worked for the Canadian Army, I drove a semi loaded with a tank (the armoured kind, not the fuel/water kind) on worse roads than that, but as I don’t fish, Ethel Lake just isn’t reason enough to take the motorhome in.

Back on the highway with the Tracker in tow, I stopped at Pelly Crossing for a while to do a basic cleaning of the motorhome and Tracker at a new car wash there. The wet calcium chloride I picked up a coating of on the Dempster Highway is nasty stuff once it dries, and I couldn’t touch anything without getting dirty. It was a well-spent $22.

My day went sour shortly after leaving Pelly Crossing. A white pickup towing 6 red canoes, heading north near Minto, was doing 100+ in an area posted at 70 because of the loose gravel, where responsible drivers slow to 50-60 when meeting other vehicles. The rock his vehicle tossed into my windshield cost me $2,400.


I had thought that we would camp overnight at the Tatchun Creek Campground, but it was too hot. I decided that we needed a full-service RV park, so checked in at the Carmacks Hotel RV Park. The Environment Canada report said that Carmacks was the hot spot in the Yukon at 5:00 pm, at 29.9°C / 85.8°F. With all the RVs running all of their air conditioners, the power blew shortly after I arrived, but the maintenance guy had us back online within about 15 minutes.

Carmacks Hotel RV Park
The riverfront boardwalk at Carmacks is a lovely walk, but our walk soon after arriving was a very short one.

Yukon River bridge at Carmacks
With the sun setting at 10:15, it was cooling off enough to go for a longer walk along the river.


The next day, we’d head east on the Robert Campbell Highway, back to Drury Creek Campground.



From Dawson to Moose Creek Campground and Moose Creek Lodge

On Day 8 of this RV trip – Tuesday, July 31st – I left the Dawson airport at about 4:20 pm after dropping Cathy off so she could fly home. I was heading back to the Robert Campbell Highway for some more exploring, and the first stop on the way would be at Moose Creek Campground that evening.

Southbound on the North Klondike Highway, along the Klondike River.

Southbound on the North Klondike Highway, along the Klondike River
Thirty minutes south of the airport, I came to the first section of construction. Automation is even replacing flagpeople. This was a short delay.

Construction on the North Klondike Highway, Yukon
Another section of construction an hour south of the airport resulted in a much longer delay – about 15 minutes.

Construction on the North Klondike Highway, Yukon

I was hoping to have dinner at Moose Creek Lodge, but I got there at 6:00 and they were closed – breakfast and lunch are the meals they focus on. So, I drove a few hundred meters back to Moose Creek Campground.

I was soon set up in site #15, a spacious, fairly level pull-through. Of the 36 campsites at Moose Creek, 4 are pull-throughs. We had hit about a dozen kilometers of freshly-laid calcium chloride on the Dempster Highway (for dust control), and the RV and Tracker were both thickly coated in the stuff. Once we reached the airport, I threw a few buckets of water on the back of the motorhome to clear my camera so I could see the Tracker again.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
At site #15, the picnic table and firepit are below the parking area, while at most they’re on the same level.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
Moose Creek Campground is very nice but gets little use. There were about 10 sites occupied that night.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
Bella and Tucker and I went for a couple of long walks around the campground the evening we arrived, then the next morning, hiked for about 3 kilometers on a network of interpretive trails that go along Moose Creek as far as the Stewart River, and along a ridge above the creek.

Interpretive trail map at Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
The set of stairs in the next photo takes hikers from the campground level down to Moose Creek, where the Moose Creek Loop trail leads around and back up onto the ridge and campground level.

Stairs on an interpretive trail at Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
Moose Creek wasn’t suitable for the dogs to play in.

Moose Creek interpretive trail
“Ponds and pools of water collect on the surface in this area because of underlying permafrost. This provides excellent habitat for mosquitoes.” The mosquitoes were quite bad, but not terrible – certainly not bad enough to reduce our enjoyment of the hike.

Interpretive panel about mosquitoes at Moose Creek, Yukon
The interpretive panel seen in the next photo describes some of the bird sounds you may hear along the trail.

trail at Moose Creek, Yukon
Once back up on the campground level, the “Upper Ridge” trail runs along the top of a steep slope for a few hundred meters.

The Upper Ridge trail at Moose Creek, Yukon
After the hike, I got the fur-kids breakfast, and then got the rig set up for the short drive back to Moose Creek Lodge where I wanted to have breakfast.


Moose Creek Lodge has been a regular stop for me since I arrived in the Yukon – both with my tour buses and when I was travelling independently. The owner, Maja Nafzger, has been my friend for many years, and having a brief visit with her is part of the reason I stop.

Moose Creek Lodge, Yukon
This morning, a hearty breakfast was the proper way to start off what promised to be a busy day.

Breakfast at Moose Creek Lodge, Yukon
The next photo shows the view to the north on the North Klondike Highway from the lodge as I was about to head south at 10:00.

The North Klondike Highway, from Moose Creek Lodge

A few minutes later, I’d unhook the Tracker and head in to remote Ethel Lake Campground.



Exploring the Dempster Highway – hiking Lil Creek Canyon

We had a short day available at the Tombstone Mountain Campground on Day 8 of this RV trip – Tuesday, July 31st. We had to leave by about 2:00 pm to get Cathy to the Dawson airport, but that gave me just enough time for another short hike, down into the Lil Creek Canyon just north of the campground.

I left the campground just after 10:30, and my first stop was just 2 kilometers up the Dempster Highway, at the Tombstone Range viewpoint, Km 74.0.

Tombstone Range viewpoint, Km 74.0 of the Dempster Highway
I climbed up above the viewpoint for most of the photos I shot there. The next photo looks back to the south – the campground is in the centre.

The view to the south from the Tombstone Range viewpoint, Km 74.0 of the Dempster Highway
The next photo is a fairly radical HDR image of the scene at the Tombstone viewpoint, making it look rather like a painting.

A fairly radical HDR image of the scene at the Tombstone viewpoint
The next photo looks to the north over Lil Creek Canyon, from about Km 75.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Going back 20-30 years when I was fairly regularly running tours up the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, Lil Creek was a common stop of interest in my early-season tours, as deep ice forms on the upstream side of the highway (seen in the next photo), and the ice canyons that form in the spring were a unique attraction for many of my guests.

Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
The view down Lil Creek from the highway.

Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
All along the edge of the highway at the Lil Creek crossing were the distinctive tracks of caribou.

Caribou track at Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
The next photo shows a caribou leg at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre. You can see the structure that makes the tracks so distinctive. The ankle also makes a distinctive “click” when the caribou walks.


At 11:00, I was down on the creek bed. The large lower culvert handles the normal flow of Lil Creek, while the smaller, higher one takes the water flowing over the ice buildup each spring.

Culverts on Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Just downstream from the highway, an unnamed creek about the same size as Lil Creek enters from the north.

Unnamed creek flowing into Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
At the flow levels during my hike, the two creeks took quite a distance to fully join.

Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
This was definitely a hike for water shoes – crossing the many creek channels and even walking down them wasn’t optional.

Keen sport sandals on a Yukon creek crossing
After finding the previous day that all of the usual ice on the North Klondike River had melted, I had no expectation of finding any on Lil Creek, but soon encountered a few small accumulations of it.

Ice Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
I thought that encountering caribou and grizzly were fairly strong possibilities in the canyon, and a can of bear spray was in a pocket right at my right hand.

Hiking in Lil Creek Canyon in July - Dempster Highway, Yukon
According to the Yukon Bedrock Geology map, this section of Lil Creek cuts through the Road River group which is comprised of black shale and chert, dolomitic siltstone, calcareous shale, and buff platy limestone. It formed during the Ordovician period about 488 million years ago, when this area was covered by a warm, shallow sea.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
The canyon gets particularly interesting when you reach two faults and intrusions of the older Narchilla formation, comprised of interbedded maroon and apple-green slate, siltstone, sandstone. This formation formed during the Ediacaran period about 550 million years ago.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
The colours in the rocks of the second Narchilla-formation intrusion are even more dramatic and richer.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Now that I’m home and can do some research, I really want to hike the canyon with a geologist. While I can get the basics, there are no doubt some fascinating stories in those layers.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Just thirty minutes from when I first got my feet wet with Lil Creek water, I had almost reached the point where I had decided before starting that I would stop.

Hiking Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Once thick vegetation reduced the sight-lines to a few meters, it was time to focus on the area upstream for the short time I had available. The view beyond was intriguing, though – next time! 🙂

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
The maroon sandstone here had a great deal of variety. Some layers were cardboard-thin, and the entire layer had grey-blue sandstone intruding in many places.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
It amazes me that some plants can gain a foothold in places like this, with no perceptible soil and an extremely harsh climate.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
The next photo shows a broader view of the grey-blue and maroon sandstone together.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
A closer look.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
And there’s some lovely design work by Mother Nature.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
At 11:40, I began walking back up the creek.

Hiking Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
I got distracted by more photo ops, though. Here’s the maroon sandstone part of the wall of Lil Creek Canyon, as seen with a Lensball.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
I wondered what this would look like on a wet day, so splashed some water on the sandstone. A day with light rain might have some pretty amazing photographic possibilities.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
There are some large granite boulders that don’t fit into the geology narrative that I have so far, which is entirely sedimentary.

Hiking Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Almost back to the car, at 12:10. That hour and 10 minutes had proved to be even more interesting than I had expected. I wonder how many other people think about what this creek is like up close as they drive by…

Lil Creek - Dempster Highway, Yukon
Back on the highway, this view into Lil Creek made more sense to me. Below the area of vegetation where I stopped, there’s another colourful intrusion that will make a longer hike worthwhile, perhaps next year during my drive to Tuktoyaktuk.

Lil Creek Canyon - Dempster Highway, Yukon
I had just enough time left for a quick look at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, to see if there was anything new. There wasn’t, but I re-read many of the panels.


The Friends of Dempster Country had set up a “lemonade stand” in the interpretive centre. One was iced Labrador tea, and the other was infused water with fireweed and yarrow. I hadn’t brought any money with me, so can’t tell you what either tasted like.


Back at the campground, it was a little after 2:00 pm by the time we had lunch and got ready to go. That got us to the Dawson airport in good time for Cathy’s flight back to Whitehorse. Unfortunately her plane was again delayed (for an hour this time, they said), but it was too hot to wait and I wanted to get to Moose Creek Lodge for dinner, so I headed south at 4:20.




Exploring the Dempster Highway – playing on the Blackstone River

On Day 7 of this RV trip – Monday, July 30 – the main activity of the day, following my hike on the North Klondike River Trail, was driving up the Dempster Highway about 50 kilometers. While we just poked slowly along looking for wildlife or anything else that might be of interest, the main focus was a spot on the Blackstone River that’s great for playing with the dogs.

The light wasn’t particularly good for photos for a while after we left the campground just before 11:30, but most of the clouds cleared north of North Form Pass. After going past the little lake in the first photo, I stopped, backed up, and walked a way to get a few shots. The Arctic cottongrass (Eriophorum callitrix) was the feature that made it special for me – it’s one of my favourite northern plants, and it doesn’t grow in very many places that we travel.

Arctic cottongrass along the Dempster Highway, Yukon
The section of the Dempster Highway that we drove was in generally good condition, but the gravel on some parts was loose. When I saw a fuel tanker coming across one of those loose, rock-spraying sections, I just pulled over and let him go by.

Fuel tanker on the Dempster Highway, Yukon
The place I had in mind to play was a short stretch of the Blackstone River where it changes from a narrow channel to a broad braided stream. That’s at about Km 120 (the campground is at Km 71.5).

Blackstone River, Yukon
The next photo shows the view north on the Dempster Highway at the same spot as the photo of the Blackstone River above.

The Dempster Highway at about Km 120
Even beyond the dog-play options, this is a particularly beautiful stretch of the Blackstone, especially with the Arctic cottongrass at its peak.

Arctic cottongrass along the Blackstone River, Yukon
As soon as we got beyond the big rocks, the kids were in! Most of the riverbed varied from fine gravel to soft mud – with shallow water, a perfect playground.

Dogs playing in the Blackstone River, Yukon
As he often does, Tucker set up a racetrack that Bella was supposed to chase him on. She gave it a good try, but he’s extremely fast 🙂

Dogs playing in the Blackstone River, Yukon
Tucker just discovered a week previous that in the right conditions, he loves playing in the water. The Blackstone River had those conditions, and he had a ball, in deeper and deeper water.

Dogs playing in the Blackstone River, Yukon

Dogs playing in the Blackstone River, Yukon
Turning away from dogs, this is a particularly beautiful section of the river. This was the view looking upstream (to the south).

Blackstone River, Yukon
The kids and I could have stayed there for hours, but the big rocks between the car and the water were too much for Cathy’s bum knee and she had to return to the Tracker to wait. So when Bella and Tucker tired out, instead of laying in the sun savouring this incredible world, we returned to the car.

Playing in the Blackstone River, Yukon
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a vast expanse of Arctic cottongrass. Have I mentioned how much I love that plant? 🙂

Arctic cottongrass along the Blackstone River, Yukon
The mountains along the Dempster are mostly quite similar, but two of them are studded with amazing jagged outcroppings. I’d like to climb up for a closer look, but the brush between the highway and those open slopes is quite ugly. Maybe some day…


Back at the campground, we had an enjoyable evening just soaking up the wonderful vibe of Tombstone Park.

Cathy rarely shows up in photos I post here, but that evening, she wanted a photo to send to her parents. There was certainly no better place to shoot it than at one of our favourite places in the Yukon.

Cathy Dyson with her dogs at Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon

Our time at Tombstone was short – the next afternoon, Cathy would fly home from Dawson and I’d head south again, towards Little Salmon Lake and Faro.



Hiking the North Klondike River Trail, and the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail

On July 30th and 31st, I hiked the North Klondike River Trail and the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, in Tombstone Territorial Park. The trails both start at the same point at the northwest edge of the Tombstone Mountain Campground. The North Klondike River Trail is 3.4 km return, the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail is primarily a 500-meter loop.

The first photo shows the information kiosk at the trailhead for both trails.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The trail map shows the first part of the North Klondike River Trail, with the Arctic Interpretive Trail looping off it.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
I took Bella and Tucker with me on the first long hike, and hoped to let them play in the river, but the banks were too steep. Too bad – the water was beautiful.

The North Klondike River, Tombstone Territorial Park
The mountain views in every direction in this area are stunning. From left to right are Cathedral Mountain, Whitecrown Mountain and Incline Mountain, part of the Cloudy Range.

Cathedral Mountain, Whitecrown Mountain and Incline Mountain, part of the Cloudy Range
The trail soon leaves the forest and wanders through subalpine brush, mostly willows.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
There’s a lengthy section of boardwalk, across what I assume is a wet area early in the season, though it was very dry when we were there. A short section of the trail is an overflow creek bed at times – the water has cut it down almost a foot for about 50 meters.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
Thirty minutes from the trailhead, the North Klondike River changes character is a big way, becoming a broad braided river, with most of the riverbed now dry.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
I thought about hiking up the riverbed instead of staying on the trail, but the open gravel area doesn’t go very far.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The trail never gets far from the Dempster Highway. I was very surprised to see a tour bus go by – tours that include the Dempster used to be common (I drove many of them), but are rare now. Perhaps the new road to Tuktoyaktuk will encourage more interest by tour companies.

Tour bus on the Dempster Highway, Yukon
Looking across the braided channel to the southwest – I think that’s Rockcandy Mountain.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The trail suddenly ends at this bare patch of gravel above the river, 35 minutes from the trailhead. There are parts for a bench laying there, but it’s never been assembled and looks like it’s been there for a while. A couple of vague trails continued, one down to the river and one through the brush, but with no idea where they might lead (and neither appeared likely to have an interesting destination), I opted not to follow either.

The North Klondike River Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park

We were back at the motorhome just after 11:30 (an hour and 15 minutes after leaving), having been slowed from our usual pace when we got caught behind a very popular Nature Hike. We filled the rest of that day by driving up the Dempster Highway about 50 km, but I’ll tell you about that in the next post. The next morning, I hiked the short Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, without Bella and Tucker so I could stop more often to read signs (they don’t enjoy that).

I left our campsite at 09:35, expecting the walk to take about 45 minutes. The trail begins on the same path as the North Klondike River Trail.

Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
There are 5 interpretive panels along the trail. This one talks about moose and caribou and the signs to watch for that show they’ve been there. A small non-migratory herd of caribou live in the campground area year-round.

Moose and caribou interpretive panel on the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
I was walking light – the only non-photographic gear I had taken was a can of bear spray, easily accessible in a side pocket of my shorts. I hadn’t seen any sign of bears on my longer hike the previous day.

Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The mountain in the background, Goldensides, has what I expect is the most popular hiking trail in Tombstone Territorial Park. I went on a geology-focussed guided hike on it during Geology Week last year.

Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
In the spring this valley bursts into life. Birds sing as they establish nesting territories.
Some of them have travelled from southern wintering grounds as far away as Brazil. Others you may recognize from your own yard; although here, where they breed, they are more vocal and may be more colourful.
Because of the short season, birds as well as flowers have a brief burst of colourful activity. This synchronous behaviour is another arctic adaptation.


Tundra birds interpretive panel on the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The trail has a surprising amount of variety of both terrain and vegetation in a short distance.

Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The flowers and plants along this trail use a variety of ways to adapt to the harsh arctic environment. Some plants, like Woolly Lousewort, have a dense layer of surface hairs that trap in the heat like a fur coat. Stems and leaves may be dark in colour to help absorb sunlight. To avoid the wind, many arctic plants, like dwarf birch, grow close to the ground, in mats, or dwarfed, where leaf layers trap warm air.


Subarctic vegetation interpretive panel on the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
I was really pleased with the interpretive panels. There was a lot of information presented, but not too much, and most included various prompts to look further and closer as you walk the trail and drive the Dempster Highway.

Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
Permafrost is permanently frozen ground. The warmth of the summer is not enough to counteract the long dark cold of winter.
Vegetation is vitally important because of its insulating role. If vegetation is removed, the underlaying permafrost begins to melt and the ground sinks. This is known as thermokarst.
Notice how this trail is wet and sunken in places. This is what happens when the natural layer of vegetation is removed.
This was an important consideration in construction of the Dempster Highway. An insulating gravel layer was built under the length of the roadway to prevent thawing.


Tundra and permafrost interpretive panel on the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
The interpretive panels don’t neglect even the little creatures that seldom get mentioned in such interpretation:
Evidence is everywhere of the profusion of small mammals. Lemmings, voles and other small animals are a vitally important link in the arctic food chain. You can see their trails in the moss and lichens. Notice how they cut under logs and shrubs. Small mammals like lemmings travel under cover because they are prey for many birds and mammals such as foxes.
Watch the corners of cottongrass and sedge tussocks for lemming nests where females nurse their young.


Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park
There are two side trails that could use some signage, as both are useful parts of the trail. One goes to the bank of the North Klondike River, which would be a great location for another interpretive panel.

Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail, Tombstone Territorial Park

Even with all of my stops, the Edge of the Arctic Interpretive Trail only took 30 minutes – a nice walk to start the busy day off.



A day in Dawson City and on to Tombstone Territorial Park

On Day 4 of this RV trip – Friday, July 27th – Cathy flew into Dawson to join the fur-kids and me. After being unable to find a campsite at the Yukon River Campground, we drove 14 km up the Top of the World Highway and parked at a rest area there.

With a broad mountain view, this was a good spot to park. The border is closed from midnight until 08:00 so there’s no traffic at night, and not much even during the day.

RV parked at a rest area on the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Saturday morning was glorious from our camping spot, though it soon clouded over. The next photo was shot at 06:15 – it’s underexposed to better show the colours, and the sundog to the far left.

A colourful morning sky along the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Among the earliest traffic past our spot were two fellows driving tractors from Arlington, Washington, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. This was the third time I’d encountered them – first on the Alaska Highway near Teslin, then on the North Klondike near Pelly Crossing. Their Driving for Diabetes project is raising money for juvenile diabetes research. The lead tractor was a John Deere, followed by this New Holland.

Driving for Diabetes project tractor on the Top of the World Highway
By the time we reach the Dawson ferry to cross the Yukon River back into town, it was raining quite hard. A fleet of small boats was still shuttling people down the river to the Moosehide Gathering, though. A couple we talked to the next day said that they stood in line for 2 hours to get a boat.

Crossing the Yukon River at Dawson

I started at the visitor centre, where I hooked up to the wifi and got a couple of blog posts posted. While I did that, Cathy went shopping for “something sparkly” – she wasn’t successful.

The rain eased off when we reached the Farmers’ Market just after 11:00. While I took the dogs for a walk, Cathy browsed the produce and arts and crafts, then the dogs and I joined her briefly to pick up some beets and pickles to take back to the motohome.

Beets and pickles from the Dawson Farmers' Market
Almost-clear skies had returned when we got up on Sunday morning, and the forecast was calling for clear and 28°C in Dawson. The next photo was shot from the viewing deck at the rest area we were parked at. It looks up the Yukon River, and has interpretive panels about the Fortymile caribou herd.

The view up the Yukon River from the Fortymile caribou rest area
At 11:15, we were back on the ferry, on our way to the Dempster Highway and Tombstone Territorial Park. Having been on the road with no services (and no expenses) for 5 nights, I made a brief stop at the Goldrush Campground in downtown Dawson to use their sanidump ($5).


The Tombstone Mountain Campground is one of our favourites. The views are spectacular in every direction, there are excellent interpretive programs, and it just has a good vibe.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
There are a broad range of campsites, including some walk-ins, some for groups, and some posted as being for large vehicles. We were surprised by how full the campground was at about 2:00 pm, but we got a very spacious site for a 2-night stay.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
As well as the other features, very well-maintained outhouses and free firewood, all for $12 per night. Annual camping passes for Yukon residents are $50, or free for Yukon seniors. Pretty amazing, though a current study being done may change that.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
A simple lunch of peanut butter and jam sandwiches (with peach jam picked up a a farmers’ market in Cochrane, Alberta, a few weeks ago) resulted in a bonus for Bella – an empty peanut butter jar! 🙂


Sunday evening was wonderful. I built a campfire and Cathy cooked cherry pies over it while Tucker and I enjoyed the warm sun.


We had no real plans for our stay at Tombstone. I’d do some hiking, with or without dogs depending on the temperature, and we’d drive up the Dempster Highway a ways.



Drury Creek Campground, and on to Dawson City

Day 3 of this RV trip – Thursday, July 26th – was an eventful one, and this is the third post where I talk about parts of that day. After exploring a bit of Faro, we had left just before 4:30, with the idea that that we would spend the night at the next attractive place we came to.

At 4:55, we got our first view of Little Salmon Lake, from Km 465.9 of the Robert Campbell Highway. A friend in Whitehorse is a big fan of Little Salmon, so I had high hopes for the 2 campgrounds on it.

Little Salmon Lake, Yukon
At Km 468.1, I turned onto the short access road to Drury Creek Campground, near the east end of of Little Salmon Lake.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
The information and registration kiosk is the first thing you come to…

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
…then a firewood shed and picnic shelter, standard Yukon campground facilities. To the right of these on a short loop road is a single outhouse, the only one in the park.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
Campsite #2 is one of 5 spacious pull-through sites. Four others could be termed pull-throughs, as they’re alongside the road. Only 1 of the 10 sites is a back-in site.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
Two of the campsites along the road are on the right side of this large gravel area.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
Campsites #8 and 9, right on the lakeshore, were being straddled by a pickup/camper/boat combination. Then I saw #10, a secluded back-in past the boat launch. I filled out one of the campground registration forms I carry with me, posted it on the site to stake my claim, and hurriedly unhooked the Tracker.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
At 5:15, I had the motorhome set up and this was my view. Wow! Then I moved the Tracker over to the site.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
With our own private beach, getting wet was the first order of business. It was after the kids’ normal dinner time, but the lake was their #1 priority as well.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
Bella will follow me almost anywhere in the water 🙂

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
Bella and I waded most of the way across Drury Creek, which was right beside our campsite…


…but when the combination of water depth and current speed went beyond Bella’s comfort level, she waded and swam back to the motorhome.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon

Two German couples in rental truck-and-camper units seemed to have asked the fellow in sites 8 and 9 what his plans were – he left, and they took those sites. When I took the dogs on a walk around the campground, none of the other sites were occupied. We had a very quiet night.

The next photo shows the view out the front window at 04:45 on Friday morning. This was going to be a tough place to leave, and I was now seriously thinking about cancelling the Alaska part of this trip and returning to Drury Creek.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
The kids were back in the water early. It seemed to be the perfect beach for them – fine gravel, a very gradual grade, and fairly warm water.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
By 07:00 the sun was very warm, and I moved my chair over to the boat launch to enjoy my second pot of coffee there while Bella and Tucker continued playing.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
I had never seen the kids – Tucker in particular – quite like this. Usually Tucker tires of the water very quickly, but he was loving this place, playing with Bella, chasing sticks I threw into the water, stamping around just to make the water splash…

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
…and then up on the beach tearing around like a madman on a circular racetrack he created, with about 10 feet of water to run through on it. I’m not sure which of us was happier, though – Tucker, or me watching him loving his life. 🙂

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
Eventually they played out, and laid down to dry out and chew on sticks.

Drury Creek Campground, Yukon
I started to worry about the time – I wanted to get to the Dawson airport well before Cathy’s 4:10 arrival so I could get some cleaning done. At 08:45, we left Drury Creek and continued westbound on the Campbell Highway – we’d been having so much fun, I hadn’t even had breakfast.


I made a brief detour into the Little Salmon Lake Campground, but after what we had just experienced, I was quite shocked by what I found there. It was extremely busy, the sites seemed to be small and poorly laid out, and there was no loop road, just a cul de sac with barely enough room to turn around in.

All of my other plans for exploring the west end of the Campbell Highway went out the window – I was now just focussed on getting to Dawson.

Westbound on the Robert Campbell Highway east of Carmacks
At 10:30, I turned north on the North Klondike Highway. A few minutes later, I stopped for a light brunch – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and juice. I made another brief stop at Stewart Crossing for a load of fuel, but the further north I got, the rougher the road was, so it wasn’t as quick a trip as I’d planned.

Northbound on the North Klondike Highway

Shortly after arriving at the Dawson airport,opening up the slides and getting ready to do a cleaning, I got a text from Cathy. Their plane had problems with some instruments and they had returned to Whitehorse. They get another plane ready as soon as possible.

I decided to drive in to the Yukon River Campground and get a campsite, then return to the airport when I had a new arrival time. It felt great to be back in Dawson, and to be back on the ferry to the campground and the Top of the World Highway.


The campground produced another surprise. The rapidly-growing Moosehide Gathering was underway, and the 100-site campground was full. Well, not quite full, but the few sites remaining were not suitable for a rig the size of ours. After 2 circuits of the very rough loop road, I parked the motorhome at a wide spot on the campground road, unhooked the Tracker, and returned to the airport, a bit stressed by the surprises.

Cathy did arrive just before 5:30 on a different plane, and we were soon on our way. The plan was now to return to the campground, get the motorhome, and drive 14 kilometers up the Top of the World Highway and park at a rest area there.