On Friday, my long journey home from Arizona to the Yukon began with a 04:00 wakeup call, and a 04:30 shuttle to the airport with a particularly friendly driver.
By 05:45 when I shot this photo from the departure lounge at PHX, I was ready to get going, hoping for some great photo ops, though knowing that forest fire smoke and/or clouds could eliminate most or even all of them.
By our scheduled 06:00 departure time, the Alaska Airlines 737 was just about to lift off the runway into the beautiful dawn sky.
The earth soon started to vanish into the murk, and I went to sleep for a couple of hours…
…waking up as the smoke started to dissipate in eastern Washington, a few minutes before 08:00.
Looking up the Columbia River from Boardman.
West of Yakima, the agricultural area meets the desert hills and then the pine forests.
I thought that this location would really stand out on Google Earth but nope, I can’t find it – near Yakima somewhere.
A look at the different worlds on the opposite sides of the Cascade Mountains – cool, foggy valleys on the west while the east side goes up in flames.
Looking through a hole in the clouds at Seattle Center. The Space Needle has always been special to me, as I won a trip to the 1962 World’s Fair, which it was built for, in a contest among Vancouver Province paperboys.
I had a layover of just over 3 hours in Seattle, which was okay. I added quite a few new planes to my collection, plus this 1960s Volkswagen pickup that was driving across the service area.
The best of the aircraft I added was this new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, JA827A, from ANA – All Nippon Airways.
It turned into a rather ugly morning at SEA, with lots of stressed out people because of weather delays (SFO was closed due to fog), mechanical problems and oversold flights. I only had a gate change, though, and at 11:40 was once again taxiing toward the active runway.
While taxiing, I saw this unique tool the Fire Rescue department at Sea-Tac uses – an aircraft mock-up designed for approach, entry and tactics training on the airfield.
Over the San Juan Islands, with Vashon Island on the left and Maury Island on the right.
There are some impressive mountains on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
We climbed up over a cloud layer for a while, and the next place I could see through a break in the clouds was Wrangell, Alaska. Just north of Wrangell, the 21-mile-long LeConte Glacier flows into LeConte Bay.
Nearing Juneau at 1:00 pm, this is Taku Arm, with the massive Taku Glacier on the left and the East Twin Glacier in the distance.
The captain announced that we were going to make a spectacular approach down Gastineau Channel, then rescinded that because of a medevac plane in our way, then said that the medevac had been expedited and we were back on for the Gastineau Channel approach. It was indeed impressive. Nicely played, Alaska Airlines!
After a couple of days of desert heat, the air in Juneau was soooo refreshing!
This was the busiest I’ve ever seen the Juneau airport.
I was pleased to see that we’d been assigned a 10-passenger Cessna Caravan for the next leg, Wings of Alaska to Skagway.
We took off at our scheduled 2:30, and 5 minutes later were looking down on the Herbert Glacier.
A close look at the Eagle Glacier.
I take a lot of photos on these flights, but no photo can really show you what this country is like – it’s something you have to experience. And year after year, I want to experience it over and over again
Berners Bay was in the news a lot a few years ago because of protests against a new gold mine, but it’s a name not heard much anymore.
The Kensington Mine that caused all the fuss started production in the summer of 2010, currently has 318 employees and in 2013 produced 114,821 ounces of gold. The gold belt that the mine is on has been mined off and on in small ways for almost 120 years now – the Kensington is by far the largest so far.
I was surprised to see this small, long-abandoned mine high above and to the south of the Kensington – there’s a helicopter pad, a loader, and an adit going into the mountain has water flowing out of it.
More ice, more granite, more waterfalls
All too soon, at 3:05, we were looking down on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway’s Shops at Skagway as we made the final tight turn to land.
Within a few minutes, I had my bags packed into the Tracker and was headed home. As I drove north of Carcross, the weather changed dramatically. Nice welcome home – thanks loads, Mother Nature!
I got home about 6:00 pm, with a lot of catching up to do before my son and his family arrive for a visit in a few days, and a few days after they leave, I’ll be flying back to Phoenix again
Wednesday was planned to be a very exciting, very busy day – confirming purchase of the motorhome, getting a lot of export/import paperwork started, and perhaps even getting the rig packed for the trip back to the Yukon. It didn’t turn out that way, though.
I really like the design of the hotel – both my room and the public spaces. The main entry door is to the left of the reception desk seen in this photo.
The only downside to the hotel is that there is only one restaurant nearby, a Ruby Tuesday located right behind the hotel. It has excellent food and service, though. This pathway behind the hotel was very pleasant even in the heat of midday.
Back at the hotel after breakfast, I went up to the 6th floor to see if the view was much better than from the 3rd. Maybe a bit, but not enough to change rooms. That’s Ruby Tuesday at the lower left. In the center is a Shell gas station that was very handy for fueling up my rental car.
The hotel’s pool area, though very nice, didn’t get much use.
With daily high temperatures in the 105-110F range, I had expected Phoenix to be quite quiet, but that wasn’t the case. I hadn’t made a car reservation, and ended up taking a shuttle back to the airport when 2 off-airport locations I called didn’t have anything available. The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Rental Car Center is an extremely impressive facility, a bit intimidating at first because of the size, but extremely friendly and efficient.
Once I got my car, a black Charger, I drove about 15 miles to La Mesa RV to see what I hoped would be my new motorhome. I was quite stunned by the size of the operation – it is massive! My first guess was that the Delivery Center would be the place to go. It wasn’t, but I was soon taken to the person who could show the rig to me.
It didn’t take me very long to confirm that the motorhome that Cathy and I had found online was as described, and that we would finalize the deal as quickly as possible. It’s a 2007 Fleetwood Terra LX 31M, a 31-foot-long “baby Class A”. A lot like a smaller version of the tour buses I drove for so many years. It would take a couple of days to get the rig registered in my name, the export paperwork had to be faxed to the border crossing at Sweetgrass, Montana, 72 hours before my arrival there, and a mechanic was already at work doing some upgrades we had agreed on.
After calling Cathy to get the payment wired, and getting all the paperwork started, I decided to do some tire-kicking while in the midst of such an amazing variety of RVs. The MSRP on this new Freightliner-powered Itasca Meridian is $394,868 – it’s quite nice inside
With that stress out of the way, it was time to relax a bit. Before leaving home, I had contacted Shangri La Ranch, a little RV park/resort a half-hour north in New River, and that was my next stop. It turned out, though, that this is a very quiet place except on the weekends, and there was no place to get a drink or a snack. So, after about 3 hours of enjoying the sun and heat and pool, and chatting with some of the permanent residents of the property, I continued on my exploration of the country.
When I was looking to buy a new car last year, the final 2 cars on the list were an AWD Charger and an AWD Cadillac CTS. I had never driven a Charger (or a CTS), though, so the rental was a great time to see if I’d made the right choice. I had, but the Charger is fun to drive. Driving the very aggressive-looking black Charger with Texas plates through the desert, though, I really felt like I should be “packing”
There’s not a lot of bird life – rather like the Yukon – but this White-winged Dove was a new one for me.
I wandered around the country north of Phoenix until almost sunset, then headed back to the hotel to get some work done on the computer and plan out the next day’s activities.
I got a call first thing Thursday morning that changed everything. La Mesa had discovered that one of the air conditioners on the motorhome was dead, and a new one had to be shipped from Indiana. That meant a delay of about 10 days, so I would have to fly back home, and return in a couple of weeks to get it. I was disappointed, but in some ways it took a lot of pressure off, as the trip in 2 weeks wouldn’t have to be done in a hurry as this one did due to family arriving in Whitehorse for a visit. I booked flights back home starting very early Friday morning.
Thursday was now to be simply a touring day. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright has been a hero of mine for as long as I can remember – I was already a fan when he died in 1959 at the age of 91. A desk clerk at the Aloft had reminded me that Taliesin West, his winter home and school from 1937 until 1959, was just north of Scottsdale, and that was a must-visit while I was in the area.
I booked a 90-minute tour of the property ($32 for seniors), and it ran a fair bit longer than that due to most people’s high level of interest. For an artist, it’s an exciting property to experience. It felt like a cathedral in the sense that you know that every aspect, from the grandest to the tiniest, has been designed or placed with a specific effect in mind.
This tiny space is one of many examples of Wright’s use of “compress and release” – taking you from a tight space (such as undersized doors) into a grander space. It’s also a perfect example of his “organic architecture” concept of integrating design and nature. I converted 3 photos into this HDR image to enhance the textures.
I spent almost 3 hours at Taliesin West, and would have liked to stay longer. Next time I’ll take the longer tour. I had planned on writing a separate post about Taliesin West, but there just aren’t enough hours in my days right now. There are a huge number of books about Frank Lloyd Wright, but, exercising a great deal of self-control, I left with only a small interpretive guide to the property that I bought to read while waiting for my tour to begin.
Just a short drive from Taliesin West, I stopped a couple of times to compare architectural styles being used in the red rocks that border Scottsdale to the north. The bottom house could be sitting anywhere, the top one is in a position of power, and the centre one is very much in keeping with Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas, beautifully blending in with the mountain.
This entire subdivision blends in nicely with the mountain, with no individual element really standing out.
To keep Friday morning as easy as possible before a 06:00 flight to Seattle, I returned my car, took a shuttle bus back to the airport, and and called the hotel shuttle.
I saw this sign on the shuttle bus between the car rental center and the airport. No, I’m definitely not in Canada anymore. A forgotten weapon???
Pueblo Grande is a 1,500-year-old Hohokam village site with a partially excavated platform mound, a ballcourt, and several replicated houses. The Aloft hotel is at the upper right of this photo – very convenient. The 2/3-mile trail closed at 4:30, so my visit would be much shorter than I’d like, but much better than not seeing it at all. There are many interpretive signs along the trail, explaining about Hohokam culture in general, and the specific parts of the site being seen at that point.
I took a shortcut off the trail at 4:30, and then had 15 minutes to see the excellent displays inside the museum. Again, not enough time, but better than nothing.
I would have liked to take a ride on the light rail system that runs in front of the hotel, but I found the Web site to be very confusing. Now that I’m home, I see that they have a trip planner that makes it very easy to figure out, though. Maybe next time.
With a 04:00 wakeup call Friday morning, I was in bed early, ready for another long day of travel.
I returned yesterday evening from a marathon 4-day trip to Phoenix and back. This was the final step in starting a new stage in our lives, buying a motorhome and focussing on slowing down and seeing the North in great detail instead of travelling abroad. The plan for this trip was to fly down, confirm the purchase of a rig we hadn’t seen, and drive it home. That didn’t quite work out, but more about that later – it was an amazing trip. Yesterday morning it was 96°F, this morning I’m wearing fleece.
I had decided to go down a more interesting way than what I’d usually do, which is flying from Whitehorse to Vancouver, and then on to wherever, all in jets. This time I’d drive to Skagway, take a tiny plane to Juneau, and then switch to jets on routes I don’t often see.
The weather forecasts showed a bit of everything for the route on Tuesday, not surprising on a route of some 3,540 km (2,200 miles). It was certainly beautiful when I passed through Carcross at 09:10.
The South Klondike Highway had been closed by landslides a couple of weeks ago, and crews are still hard at work clearing the incredible amount of gravel that came down at Tutshi Lake.
Clouds formed and got thicker as I drove south. I don’t know what caused this lengthy lineup at Canada Customs at Fraser. Through the White Pass, visibility dropped to 20-30 feet for a couple of miles, and although I knew logically that the visibility would be okay at sea level, I did get a bit anxious that my flight may not be able to get away from Skagway.
I love little airports! Okay, I love any airport, but especially little ones.
My first flight of the day was to be 45 minutes to Juneau in Wings of Alaska’s 1984 Cessna 207A Skywagon N62AK.
At 09:50 Alaska time, off we went. I would be a very busy day in Skagway with 4 large cruise ships in.
The Katzehin River, which flows into Chilkoot Inlet from the Meade Glacier, 27 km (17 miles) south of Skagway.
We skirted a rain shower as we arrived at Juneau. That’s the Mendenhall Glacier in the background.
I had 3 hours to kill in Juneau, and had planned on having a good brunch, but the cafe has been closed and a new restaurant is still under construction, so all that was available was a snack bar. Oh well, there are always more planes to add to my collection, many of which I post at Airport-data.com.
There are artifacts and photos from Alaska’s aviation past all over the airport – this wall is in the departure lounge.
The next leg, from Juneau to Seattle, was in a beautiful new 181-passenger Boeing 737-900ER, N413AS. It was delivered to Alaska Airlines last May. The Recaro seats in this aircraft are extremely comfortable.
While there was some cloud south of Juneau, there were lots of breaks, too. This photo shows the Baird Glacier, and the smaller North Baird Glacier, flowing into Thomas Bay north of Petersburg.
Even from 37,000 feet, the cliffs in the Misty Fiords National Monument area east of Ketchikan are unmistakable. My 2 flights into Misty Fiords in a de Havilland Beaver rank very high among my best flights ever – you can see the 2012 flight here.
Looking up the Skeena River to Terrace, BC.
This was the first of many forest fires we saw on Tuesday – the closer one was near Eutsuk Lake, south of Terrace, the further one was at the Chelaslie River.
This is one of the very few places in BC that I haven’t really seen yet – Bella Coola. My first attempt to drive in, in about 1970, was blocked by a landslide, and when I flew in in about 1985 all I saw was the airport. Bella Coola, of course, is very high of the list of places I must see up close
I look down on scenes like this one immediately south of Bella Coola and see incredible hiking destinations.
At the lower right is the head of Knight Inlet, one of the longest fjords in BC at about 125 km (78 miles). At the head of the Dais Glacier feeding it (the smaller of 2) is the highest peak in BC’s Coast Mountains, Mount Waddington, at 4,019 meters (13,186 feet).
The longest arm in the next photo is Toba Inlet, just north of Powell River, BC.
At 4:30 pm, we passed by Vancouver while descending to Seattle. That’s an angle that I don’t think I’ever ever seen Vancouver from before. Downtown Vancouver is centre left, the green peninsula below it is home to the University of British Columbia, and the muddy water is from the Fraser River.
The industrial Port of Tacoma, located where the Puyallup River flows into Commencement Bay.
I had an hour and 50 minutes to connect at Seattle, but a last-minute change in departure gates meant that a lot of us had to take a train to another terminal, so there wasn’t a lot of time to spare.
For the flight to Phoenix, we were assigned N569AS, one of Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737-890 ETOPS 75th anniversary aircraft, “Starliner 75″. The ETOPS designation on this aircraft is interesting (well, it is to plane geeks ) – ETOPS is an acronym for Extended Range Twin Operations, an FAA rule that allows twin-engined airliners to fly long-distance routes – in Alaska Airlines’ case, to Hawaii.
In the cabin of N569AS, you could read many factoids from Alaska Airlines history along the luggage compartments.
At 7:10 pm, we were looking down on Mount Rainier, the most impressive peak along the coast at 4,392 meters (14,411 feet). It’s also considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the large glaciers on it, and the fairly densely populated valleys below.
At 7:30, we were beside the forest fires that would soon blot out any views of the ground for the rest of the flight.
Ten minutes after passing the fires seen in the photo above, the smoke from all the fires along the west coast seemed to join, and within minutes the ground was all but invisible.
At 10:40, we were just a minute or so from landing in Phoenix. The last time I was in Phoenix about a dozen years ago, I was just passing quickly through on the way to Quartzsite to help man a Tourism Yukon booth at the annual RV show, and hadn’t paid any attention to how large it is. Knowing I was going to have to drive around in it this time, I sure noticed now!
I knew that I wouldn’t have much time in Hinton, but for a few reasons, it was even shorter than I’d expected. I went out for breakfast with the kids and at 09:30 was on the road.
In Hinton, you can smell the economy (the pulp mill – “the smell of money”), and you can see it, with oil/gas field equipment clogging some of the roads, like this lineup in front of several motels and the gas station where I loaded up the tank. Given the amount of gas I used on this trip, I sure can’t object to the guys who work to dig up more of it being in the way
Alberta Highway 40 is the scenic route north as long as your rig has enough power to deal with a lot of hills. The only things that I don’t like about 40 is that there are no shoulders along most of it (this photo shows one of the few stretches that does), and there are very few pullouts (a.k.a photo stops).
I had to pass quickly through Grande Cache this time, but I had a good look around 4 months ago – see Exploring to and around Grande Cache. I did make a short stop at the excellent Visitor Centre, though.
Crossing the Smoky River just north of Grande Cache, with the large coal fields just ahead.
Dropping down to Grande Prairie just after 1:00 pm.
Grande Prairie – turn left for Home! The motorhome I was driving has a range of over 800 km on a tank, so efficient fuel stops are really easy to plan – in this case I could get to the last town in Alberta before crossing over to much higher BC gas prices.
I hadn’t yet gotten photos of the Beaverlodge beaver in good weather, so I took a few minutes and rectified that
I stopped in Dawson Creek to see a friend at Tourism, but she gets Sundays off. At the same location, this “record shot” of the trip was mandatory.
From the main “Start of the Alaska Highway” signs, I made the short walk to the Mile 0 sign downtown – another place that I don’t have many summer photos of.
I was long overdue for lunch, so backtracked a half-mile to a 1950s-themed diner I’d seen. Good choice – everything about Stuie’s Diner was top notch, from the decor to the food, service and prices.
Stuie’s Classic, a loaded double-patty beauty, is a heck of a burger for $12.99 – yuuuuum!
My plan in the morning was to get to Fort Nelson, as the weather forecast appeared to be good for the spectacular Summit Lake / Muncho Lake area and then would start raining. I fueled up in Fort Nelson but then kept going, and this was my reward – this was shot from Steamboat Summit at 10:26, right at sunset.
I stopped on the side of the highway and got a great sleep. I’d been watching for a parking spot were I could hear the Tetsa River all night, but didn’t find it. By 08:00 Monday, I was at Summit Lake, extremely pleased to find that the weather forecast had been accurate. Ever since I hit the Alaska Highway I’d been surprised by how quiet it was, and there were only half a dozen camp sites occupied at Summit Lake, one of the prime spots on the highway.
Look up, look waaaay up! I’d been driving by these mountains for 25 years, never able to see the top. Today would change that
The 2,015-meter (6,611 foot) summit of Summit Peak, a.k.a. Mount St. Paul E2, 3½ hours later, via the Summit Peak Trail. This was one of the best one-day hikes I’ve ever done, and I’ve written a separate post about it, at ExploreBC, as I shot 190 photos in the 5½ hours the round trip took!
The flowers were great at the start of the trail, too. The 2 on the right are Mountain Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora).
From Summit Lake, GPS directions to get home are pretty basic – drive 795 km and turn left into the Mary Lake subdivision where our home is.
Stone sheep at the west end of Muncho Lake – they all calmly walked by me, about 15 feet away.
The colour differences in Stone sheep can be quite dramatic, even in what appears to be siblings.
Stone sheep rams about half an hour further west.
A stop at Liard Hot Springs is a must, and I was happy to pay the $5 day use fee even though I wasn’t sure whether I’d go for a dip or just take pictures. I did go in, but only for a few minutes – hot water on a warm day didn’t really work for me. It’s much nicer in the winter.
The Hanging Gardens were the feature I really wanted to photograph, as I hadn’t seen them in the summer in many years. They were a huge disappointment – vegetation now covers the tufa terraces that used to make it a wonderful feature.
I’ve never seen so much wildlife along the highway except in mid-winter. Not huge numbers of animals, but great variety. There were Stone sheep, bison, porcupines, moose, deer, and bears – 2 grizzlies and a LOT of black bears! I didn’t stop for many, but backed up a long way to spend a couple of minutes with this momma and her babies.
I reached the “Welcome to the Yukon” sign at Watson Lake at 9:00 pm as I’d hoped, for another record shot.
A vehicle of some sort going down the gravel access road beside the highway through Watson Lake left quite a dust trail. I drove another half an hour and then stopped for a nap at the rest area near the Stewart-Cassiar Highway junction.The rest area was ringed with “No Camping. No Overnight Parking” signs. Whatever…
I didn’t sleep particularly well, and was soon back on the road, reaching Teslin just before 05:00 Tuesday.
Less than 2 hours after leaving Teslin, I was back with Cathy and the fur-kids, well before she had to leave for work. She left for Vancouver the following morning (that was the primary thing that made this such a rush trip). I got the motorhome cleaned up, and my friends were very pleased to have it in their driveway well before they expected to. Now, Cathy and I need to get one instead of just shopping for one week after week, month after month – what a great way to travel!
From Sicamous, there are two reasonable routes to Hinton – the one through Kamloops and north on Hwy 5 is 658 km, the other up the Icefields Parkway through the heart of the Rockies. The Icefields Parkway route is 53 km shorter, though it takes about the same time, or longer if you’re a photographer. The 35 photos in the post is just a hint of what I shot
At about 6:00 pm on Friday I pulled away from Sicamous in the beautiful 29-foot Newmar motorhome, and headed towards the Rockies on Highway 1, the Trans Canada.
Although this was a rush trip for several reasons, I did allow myself some play time, and decided to start with a stop at Craigellachie. That is the site where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven by Lord Strathcona on November 7, 1885. The sign seen here was one of a large series of historic makers that were installed all over the province when I was a little guy, just before BC’s centennial in 1958.
A life-size painting of the driving of the Last Spike, with the site’s gift shop in the background. A tour bus load of Japanese was there when I arrived, but they pulled out about 10 minutes later and I had it almost to myself.
The main monument at Craigellachie, with a CPR caboose that you can go through.
I stopped for a quick fast-food dinner at Revelstoke, and reached Rogers Pass at 8:30. In the rapidly-fading light, I took a photo of the rig before I got it dirty Rogers Pass is the site where Prime Minister John Diefenbaker officially opened the Trans-Canada Highway in 1962.
The beautifully-designed Rogers Pass Memory Garden, in the foreground, is a fairly recent installation, having been unveiled on August 15, 2010. It is “in honour of all those who have toiled and sacrificed to keep Rogers Pass open for safe travel”. The garden has several important features, including a bell from an 1907 steam locomotive that visitors are encourage to ring (gently, I hope).
I was very surprised to find the Glacier Park Lodge boarded up. A quick Google showed that the lodge opened in 1968 with a 42-year lease, but it had become run down, got very poor reviews, and was closed at the end of the 2012 summer season.
I pulled into a rest area 10 km east of Golden at about 11:00 pm Friday night, and was raring to get back on the road at 05:20 am when I took this photo of the rest area.
This was the view back towards Golden from the rest area.
Looking east to the very impressive Park Bridge (a.k.a. the 10 Mile Bridge). Opened in 2007, the 405-metre-long span crosses the Kicking Horse River. Its pier number 4 is the tallest ever built in Canada, at 90 meters (295 feet).
This very impressive rock cut at the east end of the Park Bridge is what made the construction of the bridge possible.
Heading east on the Trans-Canada at 05:43…
I stopped for a few minutes at Field a few minutes after 6 just because the light was so pretty.
I’ve been stopping at the Spiral Tunnels viewpoint for 40 years now, and it always interests me (open the link to read about it). I got lucky and a train came by right after I arrived.
Since I last stopped, there are a few more interpretive signs at the viewpoint, and this very cool model of the tunnels.
This stone and steel bridge on Big Hill just north of the Spiral Tunnels viewpoint was originally the railway bridge. After the Spiral Tunnels were opened in 1909, this grade was eventually abandoned and the bridge, with a concrete roadbed, became the highway bridge. It’s no longer safe to even walk across, and is fenced off.
I lost an hour crossing into Alberta but by 9:00 am, after paying $8.30 for a day-use pass, was well up the Icefield Parkway. I had stopped at Lake Louise for breakfast but was unable to find anything open except for a coffee and muffin place.
The first stop I made was at the Bow Lake viewing area at Km 34 (see map), which was fairly busy with a busload of Japanese visitors and a few RVs and cars.
The is the view back to the south from the Bow Lake viewing area.
The historic 16-room Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake was built by Jimmy Simpson and his family, and opened in 1950. The name is the Stoney Plain Indian word for pine marten, a small animal common in the area.
Aaaaaah – a quiet spot on Bow Lake near the lodge, away from the tourists. There actually weren’t that many tourists once a bus left – perhaps 100 – and few left the main roadway.
Weeping Wall is at Km 106. It wasn’t as impressive as when I drove the highway in May 2013, but is still pretty cool.
At Km 122, Sunwapta Pass, the boundary between Banff and Jasper National Parks, tops out at 2,030 meters, and offers a stunning view to the south.
Bridal Veil Falls is just north of the viewpoint that the photo above was shot from.
Even though the parking lots were only half full, the Columbia Icefield Centre was shockingly crowded. I had expected to be able to get a good lunch there, but not a chance was I getting into those long lineups.
The Columbia Icefield as seen from the Centre, with hikers in the lower part of the photo, and the huge glacier tour buses in the upper centre.
The 1937 Bombardier snowmobile outside the Centre made the short stop worthwhile, Yes, I am easy to amuse
Some day Cathy and I will be able to spend a week on this road instead of a few hours. Bloody awesome!
I almost drove by the Athabasca Falls turnoff at Km 198, since I had been there just a few months ago, but at the last second decided to go for another look. Good idea – the flow was the highest I’d seen in many years.
The big bonus at Athabasca Falls was getting into this old river channel, which is closed off-season because of ice and snow buildups that make it too dangerous.
By the time I reached Jasper at 1:30, I was really hungry, and went to the De’d Dog Bar & Grill for another of their delicious Big Game Burgers (ground elk, venison and bison). I had expected it to be extremely busy and wondered whether I’d even get a seat, but there were only a handful of people, and nobody was watching the World Cup game that was on every TV.
The long walk back to the motorhome took me by the historic Parks Canada building. Designed by A. M. Calderon using cobblestone and timbers and completed in 1914, it was the first major building in Jasper.
I reached my son and his family’s home in Hinton at 3:00 pm, with one primary focus. This is what I’d been trying to arrange for the past 7 weeks – the chance to be a grandpa to Brock. A bottle, a burp, and a fine snuggle – life is good
I got home very early Tuesday morning from another big adventure across British Columbia and the Alberta Rockies by air and land, bringing a new motorhome to Whitehorse for friends. I didn’t have time to post while I was on the road, but this is the first of probably 4 posts about it.
On Thursday evening, I boarded one of Air North’s 122-passenger Boeing 737-500s for the flight to Kelowna via Vancouver. At 17:12 we lined up to take off on runway 14R…
Whenever the chance arises, I check out the old Whitehorse Copper site to see if the project to reprocess the tailings to extract magnetite has begun. Not yet, it seems.
We climbed into the clouds as we passed over Cowley Lake, just to the southeast of Whitehorse. The long-abandoned tracks of the WP&YR railway can be seen crossing the ends of both arms of the lake.
I got a lucky break and the sky cleared as we passed over the Stikine River. The village of Telegraph Creek can be seen right at the bottom of the photo, which looks downriver (to the west).
I never get bored of flying over the Coastal Mountains. Glaciers in particular fascinate me.
Approaching the Sunshine Coast as we descended into Vancouver at 19:04.
About 2/3 of the passengers got off in Vancouver, and the seats were all refilled as the airplane’s fuel tanks were topped up.
This 5-minute video shows our takeoff and the climbout over the Fraser Valley as far as Mission.
Mount Baker, in Washington State, pokes her head up above the clouds.
Harrison Lake, so close to Vancouver and yet accessible only by old logging roads or not at all. When I lived in Vancouver, especially through the 1970s, I used to spend a fair bit of time in that gorgeous backcountry.
In BC’s drybelt Interior, the highway known as the Okanagan Connector or Coquihalla Connector runs vertically through the center of this photo.
We landed in Kelowna at 20:50. I’d sure like to get a good look through the ever-growing number of Convairs sitting at Kelowna Flightcraft waiting for conversions and upgrades.
My sister and her hubby picked me up and took me over to spend the night with my Dad. We awoke to a beautiful morning on Friday – what a day to start the driving part of the adventure!
At 3:00 pm, I met Howie, the fellow who owned the motorhome my friends bought, and 3 hours later, I pulled away from Sicamous in the beautiful 29-foot Newmar, planning on driving for about 4 hours that night.
It’s taken me a long time to write up my visit to this Vancouver-area mining museum back in April, but the article was finally posted on my ExploreBC blog this morning. Click on the screenshot below to read it.
Part 3 of the 3-part series about my trip to Dawson City following the Yukon River Quest, and back to Whitehorse, covers the flight home in one of Air North’s Hawker Siddeley HS748s. As I mentioned in the first post about this trip, I had originally planned on returning to Whitehorse on Husky Bus, but the cost for the 7-hour ride is $115 with taxes. For $204, I booked a flight which would get me back to the big city in 70 minutes.
I asked the Eldorado Hotel to run me out to the airport at 12:15 on Saturday, and had a great chat with the driver during the 15-minute ride. Check-in at YDA is about as easy as it’s possible to be. No fuss, no stress, no lineups, no security – just flying the way it was 20 years ago.
Holland America has switched from moving its passengers between Dawson City and Fairbanks by motorcoach, to a chartered Air North Boeing 737-200 (that carries 120 passengers). The jet, however, was damaged by a sewage pump truck at Fairbanks a week ago, so two 40-passenger Hawker Siddeley 748 turboprops are handling the flights until repairs are made. In the hour I was at the airport, I saw 3 different Hawker Siddeleys – that must make YDA the HS748 capital of the world for a couple of weeks
With all passengers ready to go, we loaded up C-FAGI and were on the takeoff roll at 13:18, almost half an hour early. Unfortunately, there were only 6 passengers on the 40-passenger aircraft. This is the first year that Saturday service has been offered to/from Dawson, and it apparently hasn’t worked. The flight on Sunday, on the other hand, only had 1 seat still available.
Within a few seconds, we were banking over the Klondike River Valley for the 70-minute run to Whitehorse. I was very surprised to discover that we would even get lunch on the flight – an excellent wrap, not just a tiny bag of pretzels!
For the first 10 minutes or so of the flight, there were placer gold mining properties in many of the valleys we crossed over – some currently being worked, some very old. I kicked myself for not having my Spot GPS with me in the cabin so I could figure out where these properties are.
This property has been dredged (dredge tailings are unmistakeable from the air).
Passing over the Stewart River, looking downstream towards the Yukon River. The amount of land we passed over that, on my side of the plane, had no sign that humans had ever set foot there – no roads, no trails, no power lines, no survey cuts – was quite remarkable.
Towards the upper right is the site of the former Mount Nansen gold and silver mine, 60 km west of Carmacks. Abandoned by BYG Natural Resources Inc. in 1999, this is a property with such an awful history that it gives all hardrock mines a bad name. I’m very much a supporter of responsible mining – the kind that companies like BYG, which went into receivership 5 years after abandoning Mount Nansen, don’t do.
The nearest large lake to the west is Aishihik, with Sekulmun Lake behind it. The gravel/dirt Aishihik Road runs north from Historic Mile 995 on the Alaska Highway to and a bit beyond the head of Aishihik Lake. There is no road access to Sekulmun Lake.
The Pilot Mountain complex, in the Miners Range west of the head of Lake Laberge. There is a significant population of Dall sheep on the mountain – about 150-175 animals.
Looking southwest across the Takhini River, with the Alaska Highway running along the far side of the valley.
The Takhini River has some impressive bends – it might be quicker to portage across the narrows at one point than to canoe around the bends!
Low over Porter Creek, on final to land.
The Canada Games Centre is in the upper centre of the photo, the main Yukon post office in the lower centre.
On the ground at Whitehorse at 2:30, beside a couple of Air Tindi de Havilland DHC-7-102 Dash 7s, C-GFFL and C-GCEV, in Whitehorse on a charter.
Well, that was quite an adventure in just 29 hours. Maybe not as much of an adventure as the Yukon River Quest paddlers had, but much easier to recover from
Part 2 of the 3-part series about my trip to Dawson City following the Yukon River Quest, and back to Whitehorse, covers more exploration of Dawson, and more race arrivals.
My next destination after leaving the finish line at 8:40 pm on Friday (see Part 1) was the cemeteries high on the hillside overlooking Dawson. The area reserved for members of the Yukon Order of Pioneers is of particular interest to me.
Grave markers range from very simple to quirky to very nice modern types.
I always visit the police section, where most of the 21 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and its antecedents, the North West Mounted Police and Royal North West Mounted Police, who have been killed in the line of duty, are buried. See the Yukon Peace Officer Honour Roll for more information about them.
While an enormous amount of restoration work has been done throughout the cemetery complex (and a couple of others closer to town), many graves are dilapidated. This once-lovely example of a tinsmith’s art marks the grave of John Frank, who died on May 15, 1903.
The two graves below have no markings noting who was buried there …
I drove up the Midnight Dome to see the Midnight Sun, but got sidetracked just before reaching the summit, and went up the now-unmarked Fire Tower Road, which goes much higher than the Dome Road.
The view to the north from the top of the Fire Tower Road, at 9:58 pm.
Starting back down to the main road at 10:10 pm. Even after 25 years of seeing it, this scene still thrills me deeply.
The view to the southwest from the Midnight Dome, looking up the Yukon River with Dawson City right below.
I was expecting my guys to arrive anytime after 06:00 Saturday, so was in bed just after 11 pm and up at 05:00. It was a chilly morning with a bit of fog still hanging when I shot this at 05:48 on the walk over to the finish line.
Here’s a unique little houseboat moored in the river.
Working and playing on the Yukon River – the Amelia Lupine heads upriver with a load of mining equipment, and Alex Campbell and Scott Whitmore (team #48) arrive in 23rd place in the River Quest.
By 07:00 the collection of boats on the beach was looking good.
Team Sunshine, from Japan, arrives in 24th place (3rd in the 8-boat Voyageur class), at 07:04.
The reactions among Team Sunshine members to reaching the finish line ranged from tears to jubilation.
Race volunteers help Al Ramey and Jolaine Percival, from Ladysmith, BC, following their 25th-place finish, 90 seconds behind Team Sunshine. Their time from Whitehorse was 57 hours, 7 minutes, 36 seconds.
While I went back to the hotel to bring my team’s truck down to the river, I missed the arrival of Voyageur Team Whoa and my friend Yvonne Kinsey, on the left, but it was great to see her and the team getting their stuff organized.
Team Whoa wasted no time in getting their canoe loaded onto a custom trailer and heading off for well-deserved sleep.
A better look at that funky little houseboat. I’d be willing to bet that the occupant speaks German
My adopted team – John McDonald from Vancouver and Brent Coyne from Kelowna – arrives in 29th position, and can still smile!
It takes some adjusting to land, and a while to get the adrenalin buzz off.
One of the first duties for many paddlers is to phone home.
By 09:00 the beach was getting to be quite full. That’s team #49, “A55″, arriving in 31st place. What a glorious morning to see Dawson for the first time!
Thanks to one of the many interpretive signs along the waterfront, we can see what the Yukon River Quest finish line looked like in 1898!
As they hadn’t planned on getting to Dawson so quickly, the guys had no hotel reservations for a couple of days, but while they rested in my room, I was able, in a very full town, to find them a room at the Westmark. Once they were settled, I had another couple of hours to wander before catching the shuttle to the airport.
A prospector down on the riverbank with his faithful little husky helping guard his rockerbox. My little buddy Nanook hadn’t been travelling with me for a while, so I decided he should get out and see some more of the world on this trip
This incredibly detailed model of a gold dredge at the Visitor Reception Centre fascinates me.
Also at the Visitor Reception Centre, Nanook checked out some climbing opportunities.
On the way back to the Eldorado Hotel for an early lunch, I got some more shots of the Westminster Hotel, “Romance Capital of the Yukon”. In an overnight sorta way!
Dawson City really is a photographer’s gold mine. Cathy and I have decided that we want to spend a week here in the very near future, hopefully in our new motorhome.
To finish off, an HDR image of the most famous building in Dawson, Strait’s Auction House, often called the Ammunition Store.
The Yukon River Quest, a 715 km (444 mile) race from Whitehorse to Dawson City, was a lot of fun for me this year. On Wednesday, I watched the start, when 153 people in 66 canoes and kayaks headed down the choppy Yukon River. On Friday and Saturday, I drove a pickup belonging to one of the paddlers to Dawson City, helped them get settled, then flew back to Whitehorse.
After editing, I have 497 photos in this file, so I’ve broken this report up into 3 parts so I can show you some of the highlights of the trip – of the highway, Dawson City, the race and the flight home – with about 15% of those photos.
I left the house at 9:30 Friday morning so I’d have lots of time for unexpected things that I might happen upon. The paddlers had said that they wanted the truck in Dawson on the 29th (Sunday), but that made no sense to me, so I wanted to be there by late Friday. This is the view north from about Km 212 of the North Klondike Highway, which connects Whitehorse and Dawson City. Mileages on the highway are from Skagway, as the North and South Klondike are officially one highway.
I topped off the gas tank at Carmacks, usually the last reasonably-priced fuel on the highway (it was $1.539), then went over to Coal Mine Campground, where the racers had a 7-hour mandatory stop. The race action was over there, and most people had moved on, but recreational paddlers often stop here as well. I’ll note here that although the 24 hours of daylight makes this time of year perfect for the race, the high water makes it the worst time of year for a camping trip, because all the best camping spots, the gravel bars out in the middle of the river where there are no bears and no mosquitoes, are underwater.
Although I had a huge breakfast so lunch wouldn’t be necessary, Coal Mine makes great burgers and I couldn’t pass up a Swiss mushroom burger for $8.25.
I planned to get some exercise on this trip, and there’s no better place for that than Five Finger Rapids.
This is where the exercise comes in – 219 stairs and a trail that lead to a viewpoint right over the Five Fingers cliffs. Going down is easy enough
The view from the viewing deck is excellent…
…but little side trails offer even better ones.
Okay, here’s where the real exercise happens. How fast can you get up them?
I spent about 40 minutes at Five Finger Rapids, then continued north. I’d heard that the highway was in very poor condition, but didn’t find that at all – it’s perfectly normal. There’s been a lot of recent patching of potholes, so it may have been bad in recent weeks, though. There’s a new bridge going in at Tatchun Creek.
Just north of the Tintina Trench Rest Area at Km 655.2 there’s a section of highway (about 3 km long) that was bypassed over 20 years ago but is still in good shape, so I drive it every now and then just because I can.
Dempster Corner, at Km 674.6, is where the Dempster Highway to the Arctic meets the North Klondike.
The start of the Dempster. I’ve driven it perhaps 30 times, and really want to do it again soon. Some significant parts of “The Magic & the Mystery” are just up that road a bit!
The Klondike River Lodge at Dempster Corner burned on the last day of 2012, but a new fuel cardlock has recently been opened by AFD, with very low prices ($1.429).
It started raining just after I left Dempster Corner, and by the time I reached the Klondike River Bridge it was coming down in buckets. As the rain got heavier and heavier, I kept thinking how awful that would be for paddlers on the river.
The race finish line was my first stop in Dawson City, but it was still raining and there were no boats due, so there was nobody visible, though I heard voices from inside the tent.
Next stop was my hotel. I’d booked “the Eldo” simply because that’s where my adopted team was booked (and they have an airport shuttle). The main building was full but I got a room in the annex, seen in this photo.
Room 244, $124 with taxes. I’ve stayed at most of Dawson’s hotels over the years, at the Eldorado many times year round, and always feel like I’ve gotten good value here.
Walking back to the finish line, with the rain almost stopped, I was extremely surprised to find the Midnight Sun Hotel boarded up and for sale. Through the 1990s, this was the hotel that I stayed at most often with my tour groups. It’s always closed for the winter, but this year just never re-opened.
I had originally planned on returning to Whitehorse on Husky Bus, but the cost for the 7-hour ride is $115 with taxes. For $204, I booked a flight on Air North, which would get me back to the big city in 70 minutes. And the last time I flew back from Dawson was in 1992, in an Air North DC-3, so flying was all plusses.
At 7:20 pm, there was a good crowd at the finish line, as the winning boat was expected any minute.
At 19:30:32, boat #35 crossed the finish line, with a time of 45 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds from Whitehorse. It this photo, they’re continuing a few hundred meters to the takeout area in an eddy below the dock.
The winners, Steve King and Shaun Thrower, make the final few paddle strokes to hit the beach.
Shaun signs the race form to make their arrival official.
Shaun “Percy” Thrower on the left and Steve King are both from Hereford, Herefordshire, United Kingdom. In what many people would suppose is a young person’s game, Shaun is 53 years old and Steve 41. Steve’s stated reason for entering the race includes this wonderful sentence: “To have a lovely time with my bestest mate, to suffer like I have never suffered before.”
At 8:40 pm, I took one more shot of the pullout area, and headed off for some exploring. With sunset at midnight:49, running out of light wasn’t really an issue! Yes, it really is The Land of the Midnight Sun
“I’ll just be a minute, sweetie”. I love Dawson City! The old Flora Dora is getting pretty rough, and is probably beyond restoration now except by someone with very deep pockets.