Start of the Yukon Quest

Today was simply an amazing day. The energy at the start of the Yukon Quest, combined with clear skies and energizing cold, makes for a superb Yukon Adventure.

Jeremy and I took our guests over to the starting area at 9:30 so they’d have lots of time to check out the team preparations before the staging area is closed to the public so final race preparations can be done in peace. It costs $2,000 to enter the Quest ($2,500 for late entries – after December 5th), but it can quickly be seen that that’s a drop in the bucket of the expenses that are incurred in running a team. This outfit belongs to Joar Leifseth Ulsom from Norway.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom's outfit at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
It’s great to see Jeff King back this year. A true mushing legend, he’s run the Yukon Quest 7 times, but the last time was in 1990. He won the race in 1989. He’s got a great-looking outfit that attracts a lot of attention.

Jeff King's team at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
I really like to see that the race vets are always very visible. The 13-person team, led by Dr. Nina Hansen, watches over the health of the dogs throughout the race, at all hours of the day and night.

Race vets at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Ed Hopkins has run the Quest 4 times since 1993, as well as many other races. His wife, Michelle Phillips, is also a professional musher who has run both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod several times. Summer visitors to Carcross, Yukon, can see and ride with their teams at Caribou Crossing.

Ed Hopkins at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Looks aren’t considered important by most North American mushers, but Rob Cooke’s team is beautiful!

Rob Cooke's team at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
The calm before the storm.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Allen Moore, having drawn bib #1, started the race off at 11:00. These dogs are well aware of what’s ahead, and are so excited – I love watching them. Most people probably expect that mushing is a young person’s sport because it’s so demanding, but Allen, from Two Rivers, Alaska, is one of several mushers in this year’s race who are in their 50s.

Allen Moore, first away at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
So my friends at Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke can see their sponsorship dollars at work, here’s Normand Casavant of Whitehorse. This is his 5th Yukon Quest – his best finish so far has been 7th in 2013.

Normand Casavant at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Nicolas Vanier increases the wind chill for him and his team, rushing through the mist created by thousands of people and some open water on the Yukon River. The temperature then was about -33°C (-27°F).

Nicolas Vanier at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
With many people online commenting that anyone who goes outside in this sort of temperature is basically nuts, this was the scene at Shipyards Park! Is the craziness of it all part of the attraction? :)

The crowd at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
A look from the other direction – a team about to leave for Fairbanks.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Torsten Kohnert from Sweden placed 6th in his rookie Quest last year.

Torsten Kohnert from Sweden at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Among the 10 rookies in this year’s race is Ryne Olson from Two Rivers, Alaska. She’s only been mushing for 5 years, and when asked why she entered the Quest, her response was “To show the young team how much fun a 1000 mile race can be and make sure everyone has a positive attitude when I cross the finish line.”

Ryne Olson at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
One of Ed Hopkins’ dogs looked like he wanted to make a stop for some Timbits on the way by, but it’s a safe bet that there will be some special treats for them all in Fairbanks :)

Ed Hopkins at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Rob Cooke’s dogs look even better like this, don’t they?

Rob Cooke's team at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Whoops! The first mishap – there was too much goofing around on the trailer behind Rob Cooke, and they dumped going down onto the river. The recovery took less than 2 seconds, though. Several of the mushers had that sort of “celebrity rider” along for the first 1¼ miles.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Mike Ellis runs a gorgeous team of purebred Siberians. Sibes are often called “Slowberians” because the breeding has gone towards looks rather than performance, but although Mike has had some problems, he’s also had some good finishes, and any musher who wins the Vet’s Choice Award has my admiration.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
The final musher, #26, Hugh Neff, was on his way at 12:15. Jeremy and I took our guests back to the Edgewater Hotel for a short break, I went and fueled my van up, and at 1:00, we drove out to see a friend of Jeremy’s who has property on the Takhini River, along the race course. We arrived just as the first team was going by.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Several of us hiked down the steep bank and across the river the watch the teams go by up close.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Looking back at the cabin, where some neighbours were joining the party.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Tamra Reynolds’ team was looking good as they went by. Tamra, running her first Quest, is from Mount Lorne, just south of Whitehorse.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
The old and the new head up the Takhini River – the fluffy dogs and what used to be often called the “iron dog”.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Here comes Torsten Kohnert. In the 25 or so miles between the start line and this spot, there had already been a lot of changes in position. As I write this 18 hours after the start, though, Torsten is still in #14 position, where he started.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Brian Wilmshurst had Ed Hopkins close behind him. Starting in 20th position, Ed is now 2nd! Whoohoo! (Ed and I have known each other for many years :) )

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
The smile on Ryne Olson’s face says it all. The passion that everyone involved has for this sport really is contagious. I don’t know that I’d want to do 1,000 miles, but the 300 would be a good start – if I was 20 years younger :)

Yukon Quest 2015 musher Ryne Olson and her team on the Takhini River
I’m going to finish today’s post with this photo of Tony Angelo’s gorgeous team of Siberians.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River

Current Standings

Live Tracking

Starting a 12-Day Yukon Quest Tour

On Wednesday, I began a tour based around the Yukon Quest sled dog race. Organized by Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke, it will take a group of 16 people, mostly from Ontario, from Whitehorse to Skagway and Haines and then to Dawson City for 3 nights during the race’s mandatory 36-hour layover.

Over the past few days I’d gotten a lot of gear ready for the group, and had our 2 vans and luggage trailer at the Whitehorse airport for their arrival at 3:05 Wednesday afternoon. It was a superb day to start showing off the territory!

Winter tour vans at the Whitehorse airport
Our first outing was the Yukon Quest’s Meet the Mushers event at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre on Wednesday evening. There was a great turnout, and wonderful energy to start this exciting tour off on the right foot. Getting all the mushers to sign a program or poster was a big part of that event for many. All of our guests sponsored a musher of their choice, and all joined the 1,000 Mile Club, which, for $350, includes a special Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile Club jacket. This is not a superficial look at the race, we’re getting right into it :)

Yukon Quest's Meet the Mushers event

Yukon Quest's Meet the Mushers event
While the mushers met their fans inside, the business of taking care of the dogs continued outside in the parking lot with the temperature at -34°C (-29°F). The volunteer dog handlers are a huge part of this race.

Yukon Quest dog handlers taking care of a team on a bitterly cold night
We spent a few hours seeing Whitehorse on Thursday. Our final stop was the Yukon Transportation Museum, which opened up for us, and gave the folks a good look at how people got around the territory in days past, including seeing the importance of dogs in that.

Dog sledding artifacts at the Yukon Transportation Museum
The airplane hanging in the main exhibit hall is a replica of a Ryan B-1 monoplane called “Queen of the Yukon”. She was sister ship to the “Spirit of St. Louis” that Charles Lindbergh used for the first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1927. The original “Queen of the Yukon” was destroyed in a crash at Whitehorse on May 5, 1928.

The main hall in the Yukon Transportation Museum
On Thursday night, we joined over 400 other people at the Yukon Quest Start Banquet. This is when the starting positions and bib numbers are pulled. Of course, the dogs are close by and well taken care of.

Race huskies being cared for in the hotel parking lot at the Yukon Quest Start Banquet
This group of young fiddlers, members of Fiddleheads, entertained us with some great music before the bib draws. Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke sponsored bib #3, which was drawn by Normand Casavant, a 51-year-old Yukon Quest veteran from Whitehorse.

Fiddleheads playing at the Yukon Quest Start Banquet
On Friday, we were scheduled to go dog sledding on Lake Laberge with Cathers Adventures. That despite this weather forecast and many comments online about staying inside and keeping pets indoors!

Extreme cold warning for Whitehorse, Yukon
Arctic gear had been rented for each of our guests to make this adventure possible. Here, well-dressed Ned Cathers stands by to assist in the fairly lengthy process of getting prepared.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
Practise makes getting heavy gear on much quicker, so I had lots of time to take photos as well as assisting with boots in particular :)

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
While the humans got ready, 24 patient huskies waited for us. I went down and livened things up by doing my best husky howl, which almost every one of the dogs was happy to join in! :)

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
After the choir practice, there was time for a bit more relaxation before the excitement really started.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
The final countdown to getting out on the lake.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
The rest of the dogs and sleds arrive from Cathers’ base on the opposite side of the lake.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
Let’s go!!!! :)

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
The thrill of starting across the lake is incredible. The dogs were so noisy as we got ready, and as soon as they started working, there wasn’t not a sound, it was all business. We had one person driving each team and one person on the sled bundled up in sleeping bags. After our lunch stop, we’d switch places for the return. I drove the outgoing leg. I love working with the dogs, cuddling the ones who want it before and after a run, (a few don’t, and that’s okay), and talking to them as we travelled along at an easy 8-10 mph pace. We had one little guy in our team who kept looking back as if to be sure that he was doing it right, and I was happy to yell to him that he was doing “Good Work!” :)

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
The last mile or so before our lunch stop in a sheltered bay was bitterly cold as we were going directly into a strong northwest wind – the wind chill might have been even lower than the forecast -44. But I didn’t hear any complaints – everyone seemed to love the adventure.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
A broad shot of our camp, taken after I helped a couple of dogs who had gotten tangled in their lines so badly they couldn’t lay down.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
Jeremy Van Dyke took care of one of the first camp duties, settling up a toilet in a private spot off in the forest. How to actually use it at these temperatures was a common topic of conversation for a while :)

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
One of the Cathers crew started a fire…

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
…while the dogs curled up to keep warm and rest.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
A bit of foot care being taken care of by an expert.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
Frosty and happy :) A few people have told me that they had family and friends tell them that they were nuts to come on this trip – nobody yet has said that their family and friends were right!

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
A gourmet kitchen, Yukon style. Hot dogs and smokies cooked over an open fire, with hot chocolate and hot apple cider to wash it down. I would like to do it again today, but there’s a race starting at 11!

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
It was the dogs who decided that it was time to get going again. Listen to them in this short video!

The teams were started out with good spacing – to me it really enhances the experience to not have anyone else really close.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
Seeing their pack-mates going got many of the others really excited.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon
By the time we got back to the parking lot, most people were really tired, but a bit of teamwork soon got everyone into our warm vans for the drive back to the city. As we pulled away, the dogs and crew were heading back across the lake to their base.

Dog sledding on Lake Laberge, Yukon

I told some of my guests that I’d post this last night but I was too tired, and just had a glass of wine with Cathy and went to bed early.

Today is the event of the tour – the start of the Yukon Quest at 11:00 at Shipyards Park in downtown Whitehorse. We’ll be at the start line by about 9:30, and it looks like it’s going to be sunny and about -31°C (-24°F) for the start – pretty much perfect.

A Spectacular Winter Drive, and Getting Ready for a Tour

I went to Skagway yesterday on a bitterly cold but 10/10 day, and today I’m getting ready to pick up a group of people from Ontario. This afternoon, we start 12 days of touring the Yukon and a bit of Alaska, with the Yukon Quest sled dog race being the primary focus.

First, though, a puppy picture :) Bella may be growing up physically but she’s still just a baby in many ways. She loves having a “soother” when she wakes up, and this giraffe stuffie is one of her favourites.

The temperature was sitting at -34°C (-29°F) and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I left home just before 10:30 yesterday. The temperature bottomed out at Robinson (as is often the case) at -36C (-33F), and had warmed up 1 degree at Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake, Yukon, at -35 degrees
From the fog at Bove Island, it appears that there was still open water until last night.

Fog at Bove Island, Yukon, at -34 degrees
Ptarmigan Point stopped me as it often does. This was shot and processed as an HDR image. The temperature was climbing much slower than I had expected – it was still -29C here (-20F).

Ptarmigan Point on the South Klondike Highway
I didn’t stay in Skagway for long – although it was beautiful, it was still -9°C (+16F) and windy, so a short walk was enough. Both the gulls and harbour seals seemed to be enjoying both the sunshine and some sort of dining experience at the mouth of the Skagway River.

gulls and harbour seals at Skagway
There were a lot of ore trucks on the highway – I probably met a dozen on my way north. I expect that there was a blockage at the mine (from the recent heavy snow is my guess) and they’re running hard to catch up now. The one in the distance is seen from Km 50.4.

Ore truck on the South Klondike Highway
We made our usual stop at Tutshi Lake, but it, too, was a short stop. The humidity must be very high, judging both by how cold it felt, and by the thick frost-feathers on everything.

This is the motorcycle jacket I went to Skagway to pick up. Now I’d like to get some good use out of it by having Mother Nature raise the temperature 130 degrees Fahrenheit (the forecast was for a wind chill of -62F yesterday morning). 130 degrees warmer to get comfortable – that’s a bit bizarre, isn’t it?

Murray's new motorcycle jacket
There’s a lot to do to get ready for a tour like this, both physically and mentally. Among the many jobs was buying thermos bottles for each guest and washing them. Hot liquids will be very welcome at the temperatures we’re going to be travelling in.

Getting Thermos bottles ready for a winter tour
By 10:00 this morning I had picked up one of the vans, the luggage trailer, and special Yukon Quest jackets for each of our guests. After a photo stop at the SS Klondike, it was home to load more gear, mostly in the vehicle care and emergency categories.

Journeys by Van Dyke tour van at the SS Klondike in Whitehorse at -33C

I’ve now got another van to pick up and get both to the airport for the group’s 3:05 arrival. Let the fun begin :)

Things I Should Have Done – Gold Mining

I’m sure that you’ve all heard some of the quotes that say that when you get older, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. The list of things I didn’t do seems quite small, so I’m okay with that, but a couple of long-time friends have their placer gold mine down near Dawson for sale, and I’ve been thinking a lot that I should have tried that for a season or two. Hey, if Tod Hoffman can do it… :)

Placer gold and I have been been friends since I was just a little guy – since my Dad caught gold fever during British Columbia’s Centennial in 1958. Gold panning for me, though, was like fishing – I don’t like fishing, just catching, and the bang for the buck was just never there with gold panning other than Dad and I had some wonderful days together. In this photo, Dad is showing my brother-in-law Warren how the magic happens, on his claim on the Fraser River at Spuzzum, BC.

My father showing my brother-in-law how to pan for gold on the Fraser River at Spuzzum, BC

The proliferation of gold mining shows on TV has certainly caught the interest of a lot of people, and I’m on that list. Just from guiding tours through the Klondike gold fields for 20+ years, I know more about placer gold than some of the people in these shows seem to!

And now my friends tease with the gold mine they have for sale at Frisco Creek, 72 miles upriver from Dawson City. It’s ready to go, and look at the nuggets in that pan on their page! I certainly never saw anything like those in my pans.

Placer gold mine for sale at Frisco Creek, Yukon

But no, I think I’ll leave large-scale gold mining on the list of things I didn’t do. I have lots of other plans for the coming summer :)

An Icy “Spring” Day at Dyea, Alaska

We continue to have an extremely warm winter with little snow. To say that it’s been an easy winter so far is an understatement, despite a few days of deep cold that brought with it great photo ops :)

When I saw these forecasts yesterday, it looked like a great day to go to Skagway for an early preview of Spring, as well as to pick up a dash cam I’d ordered.

Weather reports for Whitehorse and Skagway
Okay, maybe not a great day to go down! :) It was -2°C (28°F) when I left home, +2C (36F) here at Carcross, then sat at 0C (32F) for most the the drive to Skagway. This photo was shot at 10:03, which was 7 minutes after sunrise.

Highway ice warning at Carcross, Yukon
There was not only slush and black ice, there was glare ice as well. The parking area at Tutshi Lake was so slippery that I couldn’t walk on it. I pulled the car over to the snow so the dogs had something non-slippery to step out onto. It’s pretty funny that we drive in ice that’s too slippery to walk on.

Ice on the parking lot at Tutshi Lake, BC
There’s no ice on Tutshi Lake yet, and on Tagish Lake the ice is starting to break up! There’s some pretty interesting shore ice, though.

Shore ice on Tutshi Lake, BC
Bella and Monty stayed off the rocks, which were glazed with ice and very hard to walk on. The snow was on about 3 inches deep, but fun especially for the little one :)

Dogs playing at Tutshi Lake, BC
Wonderful fog/cloud layers at Skagway, where it was only +2C and stayed there – not nearly as good as forecast, but there was very little moisture falling from the sky so I considered that a good trade. This is the Skagway River, with the airport in the distance.

A foggy winter day at Skagway, Alaska
Skagway is one of those towns that still has some real character if you look down the side streets. This place has been under construction for about 20 years :)

Funky home in Skagway, Alaska
A look at the Skagway City Hall from the viewpoint on the Dyea Road. I had stopped for lunch at The Station, and was on my way to Dyea just before 1:00 om Yukon time.

Skagway city hall in a winter fog
The colour of the water in Nahku Bay is sometimes stunning in the winter. In other seasons the water isn’t clear enough to show the colour, I think. There’s been no manipulation of any kind to this image – that’s actually what it looked like!

Stunning colour of the water at Nahku Bay, Alaska
The Dyea Road was a sloppy mess! Getting out for photos didn’t do my carpets in the car any good, and the dogs weren’t allowed out.

The muddy Dyea Road, Alaska
I really do love the Taiya River estuary any time of the year. The tide was exceptionally low, so the flats would be dried out enough to walk on.

Taiya River estuary, Alaska
The ice on the road out to Dyea Flats was terrible! If another vehicle came along so we both had to move off the centre crown of the road, things could have gotten ugly. But, nobody else was crazy enough to be out there :)

Road to Dyea Flats, covered in thick ice
The wharf pilings from 1897 when the booming town of Dyea was battling with Skagway to be the gateway to the Klondike gold fields still leave me shaking my head at what was accomplished back then in the middle of nowhere.

Wharf pilings from the Klondike Gold Rush
This shot gives you a glimpse at what makes this one of my favourite places in Alaska.

Dyea Flats, Alaska
Bella resting after a hard play on the beach.

My sheltie Bella at Dyea, Alaska
We made it back to the main road without metting anyone on the ice road – *phew*! LOL! This is looking down the Taiya River from the bridge.

Taiya River, Alaska
Monty waiting patiently while I took a few shots from the bridge.

Before leaving the bridge, I decided to hook up the dash cam to see how it works. I love it! This 16 minutes is, in real time, the drive from the Taiya River bridge to the South Klondike Highway just north of Skagway. I didn’t set the time, and I don’t know yet what all the “8”s at the start of the time stamp are.

KARA / KMA Speedway at Whitehorse, Yukon

Just a few hundred yards from my quiet property is an abandoned stock car race track. The K.M.A. Speedway closed permanently in 2004, but this 3/8 mile semi-banked dirt oval provided Whitehorse residents with a lot of fun and excitement for over 30 years. Races were held by the Klondike Auto Racing Association (KARA) from 1969 until 1989, and then by the Klondike Motorsport Association (KMA) from 1993 until 2004.

I’ve posted an article with over 40 photos on my main site, but as I’ve already heard from 2 fellows who used to race there, am posting this as the blog is a great place to chat about it.

This photo was shot in 1993. Because of my job driving tour bus, getting a Sunday off in Whitehorse was an extremely rare event, so I only attended a couple of races.

KMA Speedway at Whitehorse, Yukon
In 2010, I took my Subaru for a lap around the track, and then in 2013 did a proper photo record of what’s left there.

Abandoned stock car race track at Whitehorse, Yukon

I’m always very pleased when the stuff I post brings back good memories for people, and this article appears to already be doing that. If any of you have photos from the early days that you’d like to share, I’d be happy to post them for you – just reply here.

Life at 36 Degrees Below Zero

I really like it when Mother Nature drops the temperature far below zero, to bitterly-cold levels. It’s exciting. While I may not like every aspect of deep cold, recent posts by Yukoners on various social media sites show that many of us consider the cold to be more exciting or at least invigorating than anything negative. The woman standing beside her frozen car outside the nurses’ residence phoning for help yesterday would no doubt have some negative feelings, and 2 mornings of the last 4, our water has been frozen up and it has taken several hours to get it running again, but overall it’s still fun.

It’s -36.9°C (-34.4°F) at our home in rural Whitehorse as I start writing this – we’re usually a bit colder than the Whitehorse airport when the official measurements are taken. This is forecast to be the last day of a short cold spell (5 days or so), then we’ll be back to slightly above normal temperatures.

A Week of January Weather in Whitehorse, Yukon

Yesterday morning, 20 minutes after the 10:01 sunrise, the temperature had bottomed out at -35.9°C (-32.6°F). I hadn’t been out for any Frigid Foto Fun in a couple of years, so this was a good opportunity to do it. And Monty and Bella spent far too much time in the house over the holidays, so they were raring to go.

-35.9 degrees in Whitehorse, Yukon
My first destination was the Yukon River Bridge (a.k.a. the Lewes River Bridge) on the Alaska Highway 9 miles east. The cold spot for the day was just a couple of miles east on the Alaska Highway, where it hit -38°C (-36.4°F).

-38 degrees on the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse
As expected, there was mist in the air at the Yukon River Bridge, from the open (unfrozen) water. Although most people call this “ice fog”, it’s actually “steam fog”, which forms when cold air moves over warmer water – the more of a temperature difference, the thicker the fog.

The Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway
There are very few of the old arched bridges left on the Alaska Highway – most have been replaced by concrete spans, which are really boring, photographically speaking. This is one of the subjects that I wish I had done a much better job of recording over the past 25 years.

The Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway
The sign on what many people call the Marsh Lake Dam calls it the “Lewes River Control Structure”, but whatever you call it, I really like taking photos of it. Well, I just like being around it – both the colour and the power of the water are wonderful in any season.

Lewes River Control Structure on the Yukon River
A high view of the control structure, processed as an HDR image to minimize the darkness of the shadows.

Marsh Lake Dam on the Yukon River
It was actually downtown Whitehorse that was intended as the primary photo subject for the day, but on the way there I got side-tracked by the look of the cloud being produced by the snow-making equipment on the Mount Sima ski hill.

Snow-making on the Mount Sima ski hill at Whitehorse, Yukon
Mount Sima is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. It also closes when the temperature at the top is below -25°C (-13°F), but some pretty interesting temperatures inversions happen there – right now it’s -36.9 at my house, -18 at the top of Mount Sima.

Mount Sima ski hill, Whitehorse
I finally reached downtown Whitehorse at 12:25, and with the temperature still at -34°C (-29.2°F) the Yukon River was steaming beautifully.

Winter steam fog on the Yukon River at Whitehorse

Winter steam fog on the Yukon River at Whitehorse
The trees around the sternwheel steamer SS Klondike have a very thick coating of frost.

Hoar frost on trees at Whitehorse, Yukon
Next, I drove out the Long Lake Road to my favourite overlook of the city. Even at these temperatures, there were lots of people out walking, and I saw one person on a bicycle (several people commute on bikes in any weather).

Ice fog along the Yukon River in Whitehorse
Looking down the Yukon River, with Shipyards Park on the opposite side.

A winter look at Shipyards Park in Whitehorse
We don’t have “snow days” or “cold days” in Whitehorse – even the kindergarten classes still get their daily walks :)

Kindergarten class out for a walk at -34 degrees
Looking up the river to downtown, with a plume of “smoke” from every furnace and kitchen vent, and even open doors.

Back on the bank of the Yukon River with lots of ice whispering by, the fog hides the buildings of downtown Whitehorse.

Downtown Whitehorse and the icy Yukon River in a winter fog
I drove over to the Whitehorse power dam looking for more photo ops, but didn’t really find much. The plume of steam/smoke is from a diesel power generator. With the river flow steadily decreasing as it freezes, more and more electricity needs to be produced that way instead of with hydro turbines.

Power generation on the Yukon River in the winter
Looking down on the Riverdale residential area. From there I went downtown, but with the temperature warmed up to -31C, the photos I was looking for had disappeared.

A winter scene at Riverdale in Whitehorse
The official low at the Whitehorse airport yesterday was -34.4°C (-29.9°F), still a long way from the record for that day, -46.7°C (-52.1°F), which was set in 1966. The record high for that day was +5°C (+41°F), set in 1958. The lowest temperature I’ve ever seen on a thermometer was in my back yard on the morning of January 30, 2008. Even though the thermometer was bottomed out, the temperature probably didn’t go below -50C.

-50 in Whitehorse, Yukon

It’s warmed up to -36.2, so I think I’ll go out and watch the sunrise this morning :)

Shooting HDR Images (High Dynamic Range)

I’m not usually one for photography “gimmicks”, usually referred to as “Photoshopping”, but there are times when a simple technique, creating HDR images, can get the image you know is in front of you but the camera just isn’t capturing.

Yesterday’s sunrise was a good example. To get the incredible colours of the sky, the exposure resulted in the foreground being dark, and the foreground was a significant component of the image I wanted.


The answer is to bracket at least 3 shots at different exposures and then use software to combine them to get an HDR image.

Setting my Canon EOS 7D to bracket images just takes a couple of seconds, then switch the shutter to High Speed Drive, and you’re ready to go. The red-bordered lines in the image below show the normal exposure and the degree of under- and over-exposure that will be shot

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse
The next 3 shots are the bracketed ones that would then be used at home to create the HDR.

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse
I use Photomatix Essentials ($39) and really like it – it’s a simple drag-and-drop, and offers a broad set of options to convert your images to, from minor to drastic. There are many others, though, starting at about $5.00 to test the idea. Click on the HDR image below to open a much larger version in a new window.

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse - HDR image
Just as the sun was rising (at 10:11), I shot another series of bracketed images from one of my favourite viewpoints over Whitehorse, on the Long Lake Road. The exposure bracketing on these was not as wide as on the sunrise images above.

Winter sunrise over the Yukon River at Whitehorse

Winter sunrise over the Yukon River at Whitehorse

Winter sunrise over the Yukon River at Whitehorse
Again, click on the HDR image below to open a much larger version in a new window.

Winter sunrise over the Yukon River at Whitehorse - HDR image

If you’re in a situation where there’s strong contrast between the light and dark areas, give this technique a try – I think you’ll like it. Another subject that it works very well with is building interiors.

Even the Darkest Days in the Yukon are Beautiful

The shortest and darkest day of the year is only 2 days away now, and yesterday I took the dogs to Skagway for the day. As you’ll see, I hope, the stories about how dark and dreary mid-winter in the Yukon is are just not true :)

This is the road we live on in Mary Lake, a “rural residential” part of Whitehorse, at 09:14 – sunrise was 53 minutes away, at 10:07. The temperature was -22°C (-8°F), about normal for this time of year and a good temperature for a road trip.

A winter pre-dawn in Mary Lake, Whitehorse
Lake Bennett hasn’t frozen over yet, so there was quite a wall of fog over the lake at Carcross.

Winter fog at Carcross, Yukon
As we got near Tagish Lake there was lots of hoar frost from the fog that’s been hanging there for weeks, adding to the spectacular mountain scenery.

Winter on the Yukon's South Klondike Highway
From this distance I couldn’t tell if the lake around Bove Island was frozen or not, but it turned out that it was, probably just the previous night, and had no snow on it yet.

Winter at Bove Island, Yukon
With Windy Arm of Tagish Lake very recently frozen, there was still a bit of fog hanging around, but that just added more interest to the views.

Winter on the South Klondike Highway along Windy Arm
Looking up through the mist at one of the towers for an aerial tramway that ran to the Vault silver mine in 1905-1906.

Aerial tramway tower in the Yukon
The Venus silver mine mill. In recent years the warehouse and mill manager’s house have floated away during extremely high water, and collapsed, respectively. The log warehouse used to be on the snow-covered point seen right behind the mill, and the mill manager’s house was between the mill and that point.

The Venus silver mine mill
Tutshi Lake was still completely open, so there was lots of mist rising off it. With the temperature up to -9°C (+16°F), it was a good place for playtime for the kids, and they embraced it :)

Tutshi Lake, BC - unfrozen in mid-December
My little girl, Bella, can always make both me and her big brother smile. Life is just such fun! At 13 months she may not really be a puppy anymore, but she still thinks that she is :)

My puppy, Bella, playing in the snow
But when Bella gets him going, you’d never think that Monty is 12 years old, either!

Murray's dogs, Monty and Bella, playing in the snow

Murray's dogs, Monty and Bella, playing in the snow
Seeing those smiles makes me feel extremely good. I often wonder if they remember anything from their previous lives (they’re both rescues).

Murray's dogs, Monty and Bella, playing in the snow

Yukon dogs playing in the snow
Heading up into the White Pass, Monty was stretched out on the back seat, while Bella enjoyed her co-pilot’s position.

This 7-minute video takes you from the BC/Alaska border at the White Pass summit down to the William Moore Bridge. The temperature at the summit was -9°C (+15°F), and cloud and blowing snow were both reducing visibility.

In Skagway, I met 2 long-time friends at the post office, a wonderful way to start our short visit. Although the temperature was right at the freezing mark and there was a lot of ice around, Skagway just may not get a white Christmas! The ice was so bad down at the Small Boat Harbour that Monty slipped and hurt himself getting out of the car. I haven’t heard Monty cry more than 2 or 3 other times in his life :( He’s okay now.

No white Christmas for Skagway, Alaska?
The owners of The Station Restaurant and Bar and Morning Wood Hotel have started a very large expansion which will have a bar with no food service, and motel rooms. It’s always great to see a well-run business do well. My lunch there was excellent as always.

The Station Restaurant and Bar and Morning Wood Hotel, Skagway, Alaska
With sunset coming at 3:47, we didn’t dawdle in Skagway, and were back on the road north just before 1:00 pm Yukon time. This is the view northbound along Tutshi Lake just south of the beach the dogs and I play at.

Tutshi Lake, BC in the winter
The light was perfect for shooting HDR images (High Dynamic Range), and I did a few on the way home. This shows the beach we play at.

HDR image of Tutshi Lake, BC in the winter
The mostly-frozen waterfalls below the Venus mine were even more beautiful than the last time I was down, and I spent a few minutes shooting there.

Frozen waterfall along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The peaks above those waterfalls are always worthy of note as well.

Dramatic peaks along along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
Bove Island in HDR.

HDR image of Bove Island, Yukon
With a bit of daylight left, we stopped in at Carcross and went for a short walk to make sure that Monty was okay.

Carcross is a very quiet place in the winter, but it’s a great stop for any photographer.

We got home about 20 minutes before sunset. The days may be short, but they can be as wonderful as the longer ones :)

Flying Home to Whitehorse from Vancouver

Sunday morning was a sad/happy time. Sad because I had to say goodbye to my niece as she starts the next phase of her life far from the Yukon, happy because I was flying home.

We were in no huge hurry to get moving, and the White Spot restaurant downstairs in the Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel didn’t see us until after 08:00. A “Chorizo & Goat Cheese Omelette” caught my attention, and it was deeeelicious! It’s made with chorizo sausage, sauteed zucchini, bell peppers and arugula with BC goat cheese and a special blend of cheeses, topped with Arrabbiata sauce, for $11.99 including sourdough toast and chunky potatoes. I’ll be trying this one at home some day soon :)

Chorizo & Goat Cheese Omelette at White Spot
After breakfast, Bobbie headed for the ferry to Vancouver Island, and at 9:30 I caught the hotel shuttle to YVR for my 11:15 flight.

Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel
Check-in at the Air North counter was dead simple – I only had a little daypack to carry on. At security, a litte whoops! – I had missed one of the beer I had put in my pack when we arrived at our Vancouver hotel.

I usually spend my spare time at airports taking pictures, but this time I found a quiet spot and worked on editing the photos I’d taken during the trip. I had the camera on high-speed drive during the Fraser Canyon section, so had a lot of images to go through and delete.

Planes at YVR
Our departure was delayed by 20 minutes due to a bag being loaded and then the passenger not showing for the flight. At 11:35, though, we were on our way to the active runway.

Vancouver International Airport, YVR
On the way to the airport, I heard people complaining on the radio about how cold it was (just below freezing), but climb-out was stunning. This is such an incredible piece of coastline.

Climbout from YVR

Aerial view of the BC coast
Air North has new coffee cups – “The Best Brew with the Best View”. Truth in advertising! The coffee is from Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters –

Air North and
It was cloudy for much of the flight, but I got enough views of the ground to keep me happy. The Japanese guy beside me wanted to see out, but I suppose had taken the middle seat to keep his wife happy with her aisle seat. If I don’t get a window, I’m just not flying except under extreme duress :) Cathy often says that she wants the window, and my response is always that she’s welcome to have the window seat in front of or behind me.

The view from an Air North flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse
The view to the south over Carcross as we descended into Whitehorse. Mid-December and Lake Bennett isn’t frozen yet – that’s crazy.

Looping around Whitehorse to land into the south wind. That’s the Riverdale residential area at the bottom left, downtown at middle right, and the airport across the upper center.

Cathy, Monty and Bella met me at the airport, and by 2:30 we were settled down enjoying a glass of wine. It was a great trip in so many ways – mostly, I would have felt awful saying goodbye to Bobbie in Whitehorse. But that’s the last road trip except for day trips to Skagway, Kluane, etc until Spring arrives and the motorhome gets fired up again.