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. |
At noon today, 153 people in 66 canoes and kayaks headed down the choppy Yukon River with a strong tailwind, to start the Yukon River Quest, a 715 km (444 miles) race from Whitehorse to Dawson City. “The Race to the Midnight Sun” is the world’s longest annual canoe and kayak race.
| The day started out to be quite lovely, with a light breeze down the river and lots of sun. This photo was shot at The Wharf, one of the anchors of the $43-million Whitehorse Waterfront Revitalization project, designed to re-connect the city with the river that used to be its reason for existing. |
| Looking up the river at very early preparations for the start. |
| I spent almost 2 hours wandering around among the boats, paddlers and support crews – both the colours and the energy were captivating. |
Strategy is a big part of winning a race like this – or even of finishing it.
| There are paddlers from 13 countries among the 66 teams – the members of this team being from Japan, with a Voyageur canoe. There are also paddlers from Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States. |
| One of the final canoes goes to its designated spot on the beach. |
| Having a map of the river in front of you isn’t so you don’t get lost, it’s simply a comfort to most people to know where you are. |
| I love the design of the race bibs. |
| This photo was shot at 11:15, when the stress level was near maxing out for some folks out as all the final adjustments were being made. |
| A sense of humour like this is a great tool to carry with you on the river, regardless of the speed you travel at! |
| Derek Greidanus from Okotoks, Alberta, chats with a reporter from local radio station CKRW. |
| A wonderful display of colours and shapes. |
| This is my adopted team – Brent Coyne from Kelowna, BC and John McDonald from Vancouver. I’ll be meeting them on the riverbank with their truck keys and a couple of cold Yukon beers when they arrive in Dawson |
| This is the only home-crafted “classic” canoe in the race – the GoPro camera mounted high should produce some great video It’s being paddled by Lukas Stutzer and Alex Buetow from Anchorage. Alex finished this year’s Iditarod sled dog race – an adventurer through and through, apparently! |
| Checking out how some people rig their boats – some go for the clean look, others want everything they might need close to hand. |
| With 5 minutes until the start, the banks of the river were nicely filled with people – perhaps 600 in total. |
| Philippe Heitz from Basel, Switzerland, and Arthur Sucker from Rorschwihr, Haut Rhin, France, were one of the first teams off the bank. |
| The start was very exciting, with dozens of boats launching within a few seconds. About 20 boats launched into the main river current rather than this back channel – they were swept downstream very quickly! |
| And there they go – the next scheduled stop is at Carmacks, about the half-way point, where there’s a mandatory 7-hour stop. |
| It’s great to be able to see where each team is, thanks to the Spot GPS Messengers that each boat carries. For me, it will make it easy to know when to start driving to Dawson with Brent and John’s truck (probably midday Friday). Click on the image below to see the live reporting. |
Seeing all those people heading off on that Great Adventure makes me even more sure that I need to do that trip again. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since my son and I did it, in 10 days rather than the 3 or so that most of the racers would prefer. The comment that I made upon returning from our trip, that it “will surely remain one of the most memorable journeys of my life” has been proven to be true – I’ve spent countless hours since then telling people about some of the incredible experiences Steve and I had, and about how life-changing it was. You can read about some of those adventures in the story that I posted in August 1997, Our Time Machine is a Canoe.
My plan on Monday was to meet the tour group that I worked with in Whitehorse when they got off their ship in Skagway. Well, somehow we missed each other, but the fur-kids and I had a great day in the sunshine anyway.
| We were away from the house just after 06:00 to give a bit of free time (ie photo stops ) and still be in Skagway by 08:30. The sky was incredibly clear, and Summit Lake was lit up beautifully. |
| The peaks beyond Summit Lake don’t often stand out like this. |
| I’m getting really hungry to get back into the high country, but temperatures are staying quite low and the snow is melting very slowly. |
| The dogs and I spent about 40 minutes at the Railroad Dock, met a lot of people, but missed my group. Back at the WP&YR station, though, I was thrilled to see steam engine #73 just heading out of town, particularly when I saw that my long-time friend (and former Carcross neighbour) Brian was the engineer. Poor little Bella was much less pleased to see/hear it! |
| I couldn’t resist driving back up the pass a ways to see more of steam – just far enough so I wouldn’t have to go through Customs again getting back to Skagway. The train has just passed Rocky Point in this photo. |
| It’s even more impressive when the engineer pours the coal to it (oil, actually) to climb a steeper grade. |
| It was low tide, and I decided that the beach at Yakutania Point would be a great place to place with the dogs. I got distracted a bit by the airport, and chatting to some visitors who were on the Rhapsody of the Seas. |
| The view down Taiya Inlet at the mouth of the Skagway River. |
| The kids had a ball playing in the soft sand! |
| And Bella loves water! |
| Monty enjoying a calm moment |
| Another new experience for Bella – the wonderful sights and smells of the intertidal zone. |
| Although we had the beach to ourselves, the rounded granite of Yakutania Point above the beach was a popular spot. I could hear by their voices that some of the folks were enjoying watching the dogs playing. |
| What an amazing day to be flying – this plane was just doing the scheduled Wings of Alaska flight from Skagway to Juneau. |
| With the dogs well played out, I went back to the Railroad Dock to meet an old friend, and to get a shot of the beautiful little, ultra-luxury, Silver Shadow, which comes to Skagway every Monday this season. |
It was a very short day, as I have a lot of work to do at home. By 11:15 Yukon time, we were on our way – both dogs slept all the way home. Despite missing my meeting, this day, short as it was, was a 10.
In June 1979, the very popular TV series “The Love Boat” came north for a 2-episode, 2-hour, story about a wedding charter. Instead of the usual ship used in the series, the Pacific Princess, they used her sister ship the Island Princess for this story, and their budget for the shoot was a record $1.6 million. In the show, Juneau (Mendenhall Glacier in particular), Skagway, Glacier Bay and Sitka are visited. You can watch the entire show and see more information over at my “Cruise Explorer’s World” blog – just click on the photo below.
What? FALL?? Summer has just barely arrived!
Yes, that’s true, of course, but I can never pass up a good deal for future projects, and one of those deals just crossed my desk. Come Fall, I’ll be back into historic research, and one of the primary tools I use is historic Alaska newspapers.
More and more often, I find some material I want on Newspaper.com (not surprising, since they have over 70 million pages online now, and millions of new pages are added every month), but I’ve been balking at the $80 per year subscription to access the material. The offer that just arrived, though, is good enough to get me on board – instead of $79.95 for an annual subscription, it’s $49.95
Okay, that’s a big chunk of Fall taken care of – now I can get back to planning some hikes for the eventual day when the snow is gone from the high country.
Although I haven’t posted here much lately, it’s not because there’s nothing going on. It’s not all exciting stuff, and not even all happy stuff, but it keeps me busy.
| One of my greatest joys is certainly Bella. Watching her grow up has been wonderful – she’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and Monty adores her. This photo was taken 3 days ago – she had just found this treasure out in the “back 40″ Bella is currently having a few down days, as she was at the vet’s yesterday to have a hernia repaired – as I write this, she’s having a painkiller-assisted nap under my desk. |
| A few months ago, a long-time friend whose family operates Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke, asked me to be their Whitehorse guide when they came through on a Yukon/Alaska tour/cruise. I ended up spending almost 2 days with them instead of a few hours, and then wished that I could keep going with them. I shot this photo of Spot helping my guests understand sled dogs better during Yukon mushing legend Frank Turner’s presentation at his kennel. |
| We love our view of Golden Horn, but it’s always been a bit of a nag that I could make it even better without losing any of the privacy we enjoy. Last Friday, I went logging, and this is the result – a broader view of Golden Horn, and a few weeks of free heat next winter. That’s a Yukon-style win-win! |
| Working on Web sites is a never-ending project, and re-writing all my community guides is the main background project after writing new articles. A big part of each of those guides is the photo album, and I’ve just finished Ketchikan. For me, it’s a lot of fun looking back at my many visits, and hopefully others will find them useful for planning their upcoming visits, or to trigger memories of past visits. Click on the screenshot below to go to the Ketchikan album. |
| I have to end this post on a sad note. Today in Moncton, New Brunswick, a regimental funeral service is being held for the three RCMP constables killed there on June 4th – Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, Douglas James Larche and Dave Joseph Ross. Perhaps only other members of the RCMP family can understand the deep level of pain that this tragedy has caused. I can’t even describe what it meant to meet the mother of Constable Anthony Gordon when I attended the memorial in Mayerthorpe, Alberta just 3 months ago. When I joined the RCMP as an Auxiliary officer, one of the first things we were warned about is that there are people out there who want to hurt a cop, and none of them will see or care about that tiny “Auxiliary” badge on our uniforms. Having 2 young family members currently serving in the Force makes this national tragedy even more deeply personal. The photo shows the flags at half-mast at RCMP “M” Division headquarters in Whitehorse. |
I drove to Skagway yesterday, and as the focus turned out to be mostly trains, I’ve posted the photojournal (9 photos) at my RailsNorth site – click on the screenshot below to see it.