Cathy bought her Chevy Tracker new in 2001, and has wanted a new car for a long time. She finally bought a new Jeep online on Tuesday, and I’m now on a week-long wander home with it.
We’ve been all over the map in thinking about what Cathy needs and wants. One of the main criteria is that it has to be able to be towed behind the motorhome on a towbar, and very, very few vehicles can. We settled on a 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, which can be summarized as a luxury off-road-capable SUV. It’s got a full load of the sort of equipment we need for the serious off-road driving we sometimes like to do – skid plates and tow hooks foremost. Cathy really likes this colour, which is called Light Brownstone Pearlcoat, but it’s not a common colour. We only found two Cherokee Trailhawks available with that colour in Alberta (where the best deals are often found), only one of which had the wheels we want.
On Tuesday, we were able to finalize a deal with Big West Dodge in Drayton Valley, about 130 kilometers southwest of Edmonton, and on Wednesday I was on the 4:50 pm Air North flight to Edmonton. It looked like it was going to be a gorgeous evening to fly.
Climbing out from Whitehorse.
At 6:15, about 40 minutes before official sunset, the sun disappeared behind a low cloud layer.
Air North goes to Calgary before Edmonton, and combined with losing an hour going east, arrival in Edmonton is at 9:50 pm. But the hotel shuttle was just loading when I walked out of the terminal, and by 10:15 I was in room #202 at the Executive Hotel Alexandra, located in a maze of hotels just a couple of kilometers from the airport.
I had a great sleep, and was pleased to find the next morning that the breakfast that’s included in the room rate ($109) was a full hot breakfast, not the continental that they advertise. I was in no hurry, so the comfortable and quiet breakfast room was the perfect spot to start the day.
I interrupted my breakfast to pop outside for a photo of this wonderful sunrise 🙂
I was going to rent a car one-way to Drayton Valley, but Big West Dodge offered to send a shuttle. I asked for a 09:30 pickup, and got a call from the driver 20 minutes before that, saying that he’d arrived. I was ready to go, and was quickly outside the lobby looking for him. It turned out that he was at the other Executive hotel a half-mile away, but by 09:20, Dennis and I were headed southwest.
I had a very pleasant ride with Dennis, and taking delivery of the Jeep was a particularly good experience. Our salesman, Shawn Legeas, spent an hour or so going through the Jeep’s systems with me. The Uconnect screen, looking like an iPad in the middle of the dash, was intimidating at first but I soon found it very easy to use – quite intuitive. While there, I met the owner of the dealership as well as several employees – apparently they don’t get many buyers from Whitehorse 🙂 Shawn and I had a photo taken for his album…
… and just after noon, I shot this photo of the Jeep as I was about to leave, to post to Facebook.
I was really looking forward to this trip! My first stop would be Hinton, to see my son and his family.
Just before 1:00 pm, with the temperature at -1°C, I could see snow falling ahead on Highway 22, and was soon into it.
Even on a nice day, there’s not much to say about Highway 16.
A photo stop east of Edson, at 1:30. Already dirty with less than 200 km on it! 🙁
When I saw these flags at Edson, I had to stop for a look.
“Flags of Remembrance” – very nice. When I posted the photo above on Facebook, a Whitehorse friend, Doug Davidge, commented that his Dad and uncle are among those honoured by this display. An article in the Edson Leader describes the display: “The Flags of Remembrance, a program of Veterans Voices of Canada, commemorates veterans from conflicts that Canadians were involved in, as well as the nation’s ranks of peacekeepers. The 128 flags displayed along the perimeter of Centennial Park from Oct. 1 til Nov. 13 represent the 128,000 Canadians who have been killed or missing in action in war or in peacekeeping ventures from the Boer War to the present. Seventy seven of the flags have been purchased for sponsorship, which includes a commemorative plaque including the details of the person honoured. Cost of sponsoring a flag is $200 and will be available until Nov. 1. Fifty per cent of the proceeds will go to the Edson Legion for its charitable work and the plaques will continue to be installed as they arrive.”
By the time I got near Hinton at 4:30, the sun had come out, and with the roads drying up, my first stop in Hinton was the car wash. Even though I knew that it would be covered by snow in a few hours 🙂
Being able to see my kids and their families is a huge bonus to buying a car in Alberta. This is our third – my Cadillac CTS, and before that my Subaru Outback, were also bought in Alberta – those ones were bought in Calgary.
As I started working on this post at 07:00, the forecast fairly heavy snow had just begun.
The weather forecast this morning is pretty much what can be expected this time of year. I don’t need to go anywhere today, except for a bit of shopping in Hinton. Tomorrow, I’ll be heading south through Jasper and down the Icefields Parkway.
The third of my hikes in the Haines Summit area last week was up an old mining road to a glacial cirque directly south of Three Guardsmen Mountain, on Saturday (October 1st).
The day started out poorly, with a mechanical problem. One of the automatic levellers on my motorhome wouldn’t retract. None of the over-ride procedures worked either, so I finally crawled under the rig and removed it. It’s a heavy bugger!
Even with the leveller problem, I still made it down to the pullout at Historic Mile 48, where a buddy from Haines was going to meet me at 10:00. It’s a great place to wait.
The pullout is also a great place to play with Bella and Tucker. Sometimes they played ball with me, sometimes it was Tucker’s “catch me” game – which Bella no longer has any hope of winning. He’s very fast, and very agile.
When I put the kids inside and walked away to take a few photos before giving up on my buddy and leaving at 11:00, Bella took her usual position in the driver’s seat 🙂
I drove north and parked on the very wide shoulder on the west side of the highway (yes, the wrong side to park on, but the only side with a shoulder) just south of Three Guardsmen Lake. The elevation here, at about Km 91 of the Haines Highway, is 955 meters (3,133 feet). The few trail reports all talk about going through a marshy area to reach the trail, but as I had expected to, I quickly found a “stepping-stone” crossing of the little creek that drains the lake, right at 11:30.
For trail details, I’ve posted the applicable section of topo map 114 P/9 (from aerial photos taken in 1979, 1980).
The place where the old mining road started wasn’t obvious for the first few hundred meters/yards, so I headed for a spot somewhere in the middle of where I expected that it would be, but couldn’t see. The brush between me and that spot, though, was pretty thick. The dogs probably had an even worse time getting through it than I did.
At 11:45, the going was still ugly but I felt that we were close to the road/trail.
11:47 – success! The trail had actually been cleared. I found when I got home that a prospecting party led by Gerry Diakow had done this work in 2011 so they could get a 6-wheel Polaris ATV up to the cirque.
We soon were out of the thick brush and had wonderful views. This was the view to the north, over Three Guardsmen Lake, at 11:54.
11:56 – The Three Guardsmen is an impressive pile of rock! The highest of the 3 peaks, Glave Peak, is 1,928 meters (6,325 feet) high.
Looking southwest at 11:57, with the Haines Highway below.
12:03 – the variety along the trail is wonderful, with spectacular views, and the slopes on both sides often carpeted with heather, lichens, and several varieties of berries.
Up, up we go! At 12:10, we were at 1,081 meters (3,547 feet). What a perfect day! There was a slight breeze, but I was soon down to my t-shirt.
The kids got a good drink at 12:16. I carry enough water for all of us, though I expected that this trail would have some water along it.
Some large level areas like this one that we reached at 12:20 aren’t visible from the highway.
Across the valley at 12:32, a good view of the ridge that we hiked on Thursday – the one that I’m calling Tina Creek Ridge. Tina Creek flows down the canyon on the right.
The view to the south at 1,200 meters elevation (3,937 feet), at 12:38.
My only selfie of the hike, at 12:42 🙂
At 12:47, we reached a creek that took some care to get across!
12:51 – the views just kept getting more and more spectacular.
To the right of centre in the next photo is Copper Butte, an old mining area that is on the “must-hike” list for next year. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time along the Haines Road now that I’ve had a good look at it.
At 1:15, we reached some snow remaining from a little storm a week or so ago.
The road ahead at 1,300 meters elevation (4,265 feet), at 1:17.
This is where we topped out at 1:37, among extensive mining exploration activity in the glacial cirque, at 1,387 meters elevation (4,551 feet). That’s 432 meters (1,418 feet) above the spot where I parked the RV – with lots of photo-stops, it took us 2 hours and 7 minutes to reach this point.
Rock from at least one of the contact zones that has been investigated was obvious. Copper was the initial draw here, but the latest (2011) exploration found copper, silver, gold, zinc, and bismuth, and well as small amounts of several other minerals. In 2011, S.G. Diakow called this the “Cold” mineral claim.
I think that Bella is looking forward to having her own deep snow at home 🙂
There were roads going much further into the cirque but because of the snow we didn’t go further. I thought about going down the creek that had presented a bit of a problem crossing because of the ice, but decided that the rocks would be too tough on the kids’ feet. At 1:48, we were heading down on a nice soft lichen-covered ridge.
At 1:53, we came to an old mining camp, protected from the wind by a berm about 10 feet high.
Among the mining camp ruins were a couple of bed frames, a few drill-core boxes, and lots of lumber from various buildings, tables and such.
I very much support responsible mining, but this sort of thing really pisses me off. It’s simply lazy and disrespectful. Many miners – or at least mining companies – are their own worst enemies.
Scouting out another hike. The access from the highway isn’t clear, but that old road – another mining road, I expect – climbs to (or close to) a communication tower that’s barely visible right on top of the mountain.
2:21 – with more direct light now, the views to the north in particular looked quite different on the way down.
On a warm summer day, it would be wonderful to just lay down on some of these slopes for a while and savour this incredible world.
At 3:00 pm, another look at the first good drinking-creek we stopped at.
A telephoto look at one of the many glaciers that form a virtual wall of ice to the south.
At 3:09, Three Guardsmen Lake is ahead, and the motorhome can be seen at the lower left.
Back into the brush at 3:14.
Looking straight up – the third Guardsman is hidden behind the peak on the right, which doesn’t have its own name. The one on the left is the highest one, Glave Peak.
Going down, I could follow the road/trail right down to see where the actual start of it is. At 3:21, we reached the bottom, at the northeast corner of a long-abandoned gravel pit. A couple of survey-tape flags mark the start of the trail.
At 3:25, another stepping-stone crossing of the creek that drains Three Guardsmen Lake, and we were soon back at the motorhome.
Within a few minutes, we were on our way towards home, 326 km (203 mi) away. This is looking north towards the Haines Summit, with Clear Creek (the creek we hiked along to reach the Samuel Glacier the day before) in the valley bottom.
The Km 110 milepost can be seen on the right in this photo.
One last photo, shot at 5:13 on the Alaska Highway with Paint Mountain ahead. This is just east of Haines Junction.
We got home just after 7:00 pm, hugely pleased with the way the final high-country hiking trip of the season had gone. Next… – well, I’m not sure yet, but I’m pretty pumped about getting into kore exploring.
On Thursday night (September 29th), I had set up camp at the Chuck Creek (Samuel Glacier) trailhead. The large, level, sheltered parking area there would be a perfect base for what I knew would be a long day on the trail.
At 06:55 on Friday morning, the view to the northeast from the door of the motorhome was quite stunning. But it was cold – about -3°C (27°F), so I was in no hurry to start hiking.
The view to the southeast at 07:28.
A couple of other campers had joined me late on Thursday night. I shot this just after 08:00. It wasn’t getting any warmer, but I finished off the article I was working on, had breakfast, and started to get ready for the hike.
This image from Google Earth shows the basic layout, from the trailhead to the right, to the glacier view where I turned around, to the left. This region is still low-resolution on Google Earth. Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window. For more detail, though it doesn’t show most of the road/trail, see the applicable section of topo map 114 P/10.
The trail is entirely within Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, but there are no highly-visible signs noting that, no park rangers, and no fees. This park of almost 1 million hectares of rugged wilderness is fairly new, just having been established on October 15, 1993, and has no services.
We finally hit the trail at about 10:20, with the temperature sitting at about freezing in the shade of Kusawak Mountain, but with no wind. There are 51 photos in this post in an attempt to show you the wide range of conditions along the trail, and each photo caption includes the time I shot the photo. In this case, it was 10:31.
Although the trail sign calls this the Chuck Creek Trail, by 10:43 we had already climbed above the Chuck Creek drainage. It’s a very short creek – a tributary of Nadahini Creek.
10:49. After the initial few hundred meters/yards of brush along the trail, the trail/road became very good, and the views were wonderful. Brush may not sound like a big deal, but it hides grizzlies, and there are a lot of them in this country. Seeing them, sometimes very close, and sometimes having to use bear-bangers, are common comments about this trail.
10:55 – damn!! This bear was very close to the road, but with the brush I couldn’t be sure exactly where the road was. But… although it looked like he was feeding, he wasn’t moving. I watched and I waited. And then I waited for another couple of minutes. No, it couldn’t be a bear. On we go, with my bear spray in my hand, the trigger guard off.
Haha – that was my bear! A bare/bear rock in shadow. But it made Tucker very nervous – he barked like hell when he first saw it. He wouldn’t go near it until I started walking around it, and then he was behind me 😉
11:01 – yes, this day rated a 10. Nice work indeed, Mother Nature!
At 11:14, it was clear that the mountains directly ahead were the ones in which the Samuel Glacier was still hiding.
11:18 – brush and one of many little creek crossings along the trail. Because of the potential of meeting a bear, Bella and Tucker had been back on-leash for a while. I still often think about our bear attack in Tumbler Ridge in late April – if they had been loose, it could have had a very different result.
11:21 – it was warming up nicely, but there was still lots of ice around.
At 11:22, the largest creek yet took some care to get across without getting wet feet.
There’s pretty much a perfect day to be out in the mountains with my very happy little girl.
I’d forgotten my tripod at home, but at 11:35, a convenient rock allowed for a selfie. With the bear spray still in my right hand because brushy stretches continued to be fairly common.
11:44 – lots of wet stretches, lots of brush. Pieces of pipe/culvert were starting to show up from the road’s mining days. The kids were often distracted by willow ptarmigan, Arctic ground squirrels, and heaven knows what other creatures.
Just before noon, it was time to get out of my base layer. It was certainly needed that morning, but was far too warm for that now. And while we were stopped anyway, eating a bit of our lunches was in order as well.
As we got packed up to start hiking again at 12:07, I could see that there was a very long stretch of brush and probably wet road ahead, and decided to take another route to avoid both.
12:35 – the new route was straight up the side of Nadahini Mountain.
12:37 – the view was much better from about 1,400 meters (4,593 feet). The batteries had died on my trail GPS (a Garmin Summit), so I’m just guessing at the altitude I reached. Up in an area where I could see bears for a very long distance, it was great to be able to let Bella and Tucker off their leashes, too – at least most of the time. Every now and then, I leashed them again when there were too many distractions for young dogs to resist.
At 12:47, Bella thought that this creek growing its own popsicles was just the best thing to play with! 🙂
12:48 – there are several gullies cutting the slopes of Nadahini Mountain and the other unnamed peaks of the Datlasaka Range, and I kept going higher avoid them. This one, though, went too high on the slope to get above, and had pretty reasonable slopes anyway, so I hiked across it.
The Mineral Lakes off to the south, at 12:53. In the vast valley that I could now see, I saw nothing moving – in particular, no bears and no caribou, both of which I expected to see.
Looking straight up another wash to the unnamed peaks at 12:55.
By 1:10, I had started angling down the slopes, as I could see that there were no bad gullies ahead. This is the view back to the east-southeast, with the Mineral Lakes on the right, and Clear Creek below. Occasionally flashes of light could be seen as sunlight reflected off the windows of vehicles on the Haines Highway towards the left of this photo.
At 1:15, I could see a large very wet area ahead, so stayed above the worst of it. More and more of the Samuel Glacier could be seen as I walked, and my goal was the top of the ridge just to the right of centre in this photo, where I expected that the toe of the glacier would be visible.
1:24 – still angling down and avoiding most of the brush, wet areas, and other obstacles. Below, I could see the guy from the white van at the trailhead heading back, and I was curious as to whether he was on a trail or just going cross-country as I was. I’d not seen any mention of a trail in this area, so I expected he was choosing his own route.
I was quite surprised to find an old Cat track at 1:39. Not surprised since it is an old mining area, but surprised that I’d not seen it mentioned in any trail description, though hikers had obviously been following it, as I did.
1:44 – the Cat track was an excellent route, as it avoided the same sort of obstacles that I wanted to avoid. So up and down we wandered across the low ridges.
By 1:49, I had left the Cat track as it was veering away from the ridge that was my goal. This odd hummocky slope has me wondering what might have caused it. The Arctic cotton grass – the white dots to the lower right – are usually a good indicator that wet ground is there.
Looking back at the only cairn I’d seen so far, at 2:00. Built in another area of hummocks near the edge of a large outwash plain, I expected that it marked the best route, especially since I’d first spotted it directly ahead on my route. As it turned out, however, I found a better route a bit higher up on the hike out.
Crossing the outwash plain at 2:04. It’s hard to imagine the volume of water that it took to create this. Wikipedia explains an outwash plain: “…also called a sandur (plural: sandurs), sandr or sandar, is a plain formed of glacial sediments deposited by meltwater outwash at the terminus of a glacier.” A creek at the western side of the outwash was hard to cross in many places without getting wet feet, but a short detour took me to an area where it split into several braids, each of which was easy to cross.
Bella and Tucker had been really good about staying with me, partly because they were always in front of me, and if they started off after anything, an immediate correction brought them back. After we crossed the outwash plain, though, they dropped behind me, and Tucker disappeared. I called and called and called, and finally spotted him near the top of a distant ridge to the north, still running hard. He finally responded to my now-frantic calls, but it took a long time for him to get back to me.
At 2:18, I reached the ridge I had been aiming for, and got the view of the Samuel Glacier that I had expected.
A closer look at the Samuel Glacier – actually, the south arm of the glacier. There was obviously so much more to see here, but I was still very upset from Tucker’s side-trip, and was also very conscious that we were no longer The Land of the Midnight Sun. I had a long trek back before the sun went behind the mountains and the world started to go dim.
The main arm of the Samuel Glacier to the north would take a fair hike to see much of, so that wasn’t an option this time.
One more shot looking to the south from the ridge, and 3 minutes after getting there, I started the hike back. I decided to leave Bella free, but Tucker had to be on a leash to keep me sane. Kids!
This is what’s left of the unnamed glacier in the Datlasaka Range that created the large outwash plain. Even the topo map, from aerial photos shot in 1979 and 1980, show it as being much larger.
2:30 – imagine the forces required to not only split that boulder that Bella is passing, but even to move the top part of it. The natural processes in glacial areas fascinate me.
We were soon back on the Cat track, and decided to follow it to the road, and the road all the way back to the trailhead. This photo was shot at 2:57.
At 3:02, we reach the first crossing of Clear Creek. I brought water shoes but had expected larger creek crossings. This was small enough that I just took my boots off and walked across barefoot. A tiny cairn, barely visible to the right of centre in this photo, indicated the start of the trail on the far side of the creek.
On the trail – the old mining road – at 3:11.
3:17 – “anybody home?” 🙂
3:18 – now well thawed by the sun, the trail was very muddy, and slippery in places.
3:22 – there was a lot of water seeping from the slope above the trail in many places.
At 3:29 we reached the main crossing of Clear Creek, which was also very easy – easier than I had expected.
On one of the truly superb sections of the trail, at 3:45. The Haines Highway cut can be seen on the distant slope.
The distinctively post-glacial landscape at 4:19. Just ahead, I saw a couple of people setting up camp far below the trail. About 15 minutes later, I heard a bang-banger, and 3-4 minutes later, a second one. That’s not good!
4:31 – Bella hates! anything that sounds like a gunshot, and the bear-bangers made it difficult to keep her with me.
At 4:43, with the highway in sight and the trailhead just a few minutes away, I had to bring Bella right back and put her on-leash to keep her safe.
Back home, at 4:55, 6 hours and 35 minutes after leaving. YukonHiking.ca says that the trail is 21 km (13 mi) long, so about 22 the route I took. Bella and Tucker were as tired as I was, and we were all soon in bed. I got up after about 2½ hours, but the kids wanted to stay in bed. I made them get up for dinner, and then they crashed again.
I was actually rather disappointed in the Samuel Glacier trail, which often just felt like a slog. I think that as an overnight hike it would be superb, but perhaps even in July when the sun is up for 18 hours or so it would be better. There’s more to see – the main arm of the Samuel Glacier in particular – so I expect that I’ll be back again.
I’m having a hard time right now. My Dad, who took me to places like this as far back as I can remember as a child, died at noon yesterday, nearing his 94th birthday. Finishing this piece has been both cathartic and upsetting, and I’ll have to see how writing about the third hike of this trip goes. And I have a lot that I want to tell you about him now, my friends….
I got home Saturday night (October 1st) from the final RV trip of the year, and it started snowing on Monday, so my high-country hiking is also probably over for the year. I spent 3 days in the Haines Summit area, and did 3 excellent hikes – a short one on Tina Creek Ridge, a 7-hour one to the Samuel Glacier, and a 4-hour one to the Three Guardsmen cirque – so I’ve got some catching up to do on the blog.
The weather forecast for Haines as I was getting ready to go Thursday morning was pretty much perfect – sunshine and light winds. I was really pumped about getting a great finish to what has been an amazing season.
By 09:40, I was well west of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, but the weather was nowhere near as good as I had expected. There was a solid ceiling of dark and threatening skies in the direction I would be heading. The Takhini River bridge at Km 1468.9 is in the dip ahead in the photo.
I usually stop at the rest area at Km 1566, seen ahead on the right. It’s a good place to walk the dogs, but I wanted to get to the summit as quickly as possible this time.
Nearing Haines Junction at 10:56. This is probably one of the most-photographed sections of the Alaska Highway – you come around a corner and wow!
The Mule Creek airstrip at Km 115. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an airplane here, but that’s probably a good thing, as it’s here for emergency use when the pass ahead is socked in and can’t be flown safely. These 4,000-foot-long emergency strips around the Yukon and northern BC were built 60-odd years ago to handle aircraft up to a DC-3.
Three Guardsmen Mountain, ahead on the right, would be constantly in view for 2 of the 3 hikes I had planned for this trip.
The start of the first hike is here, at about Km 88.6, just south of Tina Creek. This is 16 km / 10 mi north of the BC/Alaska border. The trail seems to be quite popular and the pullout is quite large, but it doesn’t seem to have a name. I’m calling it the Tina Creek Ridge Trail. It begins on either an old section of highway, or the access road for a long-abandoned pipeline – I’m not sure yet which it is.
It was time for lunch before heading out, so I took Bella and Tucker for a short walk first. This was the view from the dining nook in the RV.
After lunch, at 1:10 pm, the kids had a different idea than a hike. It would be a short hike anyway, so okay, just a little one… 🙂
At 2:25, we stated walking up the old road. My GPS gave a reading of 923 meters (3,028 feet) at the start of the trail. It actually wasn’t as nice as it looks in the photos – a very strong wind was also very cold, and I was quite heavily dressed, including gloves and toque.
Mother Nature does some impressive rock work. The kids were on long leashes until we got higher, where I had a longer view and could see a grizzly if one was around.
I soon left the road we started on, and climbed straight up the ridge, but came to another road. This really does have the feel of an old highway alignment. This is the view to the south.
We walked along this road for a little way, and you can see that it lines up perfectly with the current highway in the distance.
The higher I got, the more impressed I was by this ridge’s potential for longer hikes in the future. This was 40 minutes from leaving the RV.
I spent a lot of time just savouring the stunning 360-degree views, while Bella and Tucker explored and played.
At the lower right is an old mining claim post. At the upper right, the cirque that we’d be hiking to on Saturday.
A small dried-up pond near the top of the ridge. That would be really pretty early in the season. That’s Tucker down in the middle of it.
Higher and higher…
Another dried-up pond a few meters from the top of the ridge, much larger than the last one.
A 3-photo panorama from the top of the ridge, looking to the west at 3:20 pm. This photo can be enlarged by clicking on it. The elevation here is 1,092 meters (3,583 feet).
Up top, my feelings about future hikes here was confirmed. You could hike for days to the west and north up in this open country. Because of the nasty wind, though, we didn’t stay long this time.
At 4:20, we were driving north again, planning to camp at the Chuck Creek (Samuel Glacier) trailhead for the 2 nights. The large, level, and sheltered parking area there is very popular for camping.
An HDR image of the view to the northwest from the Haines Summit.
The view in the rearview mirror wasn’t bad, either!
Set up at the trailhead, ready for Friday’s major Adventure!
We pulled away from Dawson City just after 2:00 pm on Saturday, September 24th. I wanted to be home in Whitehorse in not much over 24 hours, but there were a few stops I wanted to make along the North Klondike Highway on the way.
Approaching the Dawson airport (CYDA), I noticed a big “X” of flashing lights on the runway. It was closed for resurfacing – meaning grading, as it’s a gravel runway. I decided to stop and have a look at the Klondike River Campground, which I hadn’t seen yet.
The Klondike River Campground is small and feels old. Sites, for a Yukon campground, are small, and the road is narrow, winding, and was heavily pot-holed. Not very big-rig friendly at all. Despite the name, I didn’t see any river access, and the location is rather odd in any case, so I can’t imagine that we’ll ever camp there. It actually doesn’t look like many other people do, either.
I had one detour to make. This is the Dempster Highway, looking north at Km 6. I wanted to see the North Fork Ditch and power plant near here, but the access road was blocked by some hunters who were after a moose in a marsh beside the road.
I didn’t get my dam or ditch up the Dempster, but I did get a damn flat tire. That’s my second flat ever in 40-odd trips on the Dempster. And the tailpipe hangar had broken, so I had some repairs to do – after our afternoon nap 🙂 I got very lucky – the tire went flat once I reached the motorhome, which I had left at the Mile 0 pullout.
At 7:25 pm, I was well down the North Klondike Highway, nearing Moose Creek Campground, where we had camped when northbound, so that would be our home for the night.
Moose Creek Campground really surprised me, because I don’t recall ever hearing anybody mention it. But everything about it is excellent, even the location for breaking up the Dawson-Whitehorse drive. It has 36 sites, with 4 pull-throughs, and the entire campground is big-rig friendly. I say it often but will say it again: at $12 per night including firewood, the Yukon system has to be the best camping value in North America.
I took site #20 at the back end of the campground again. After a couple of long dog walk/plays and then a quiet night (there was only 1 other camper overnighting in the park), we were ready to get back on the road at 08:30.
Tucker is a funny little dude. I stopped at the Stewart Crossing rest area, and he went nuts at the life-size caribou cut-out on the wall of the information building. When I took the photo, he’d quit barking and was just growling at the threat. We’ve got him to stop most of his barking, but he’s always nattering at anything that moves or might move, or is just “out there” in his imagination 🙂
The light at Five Finger Rapids was gorgeous, but I just couldn’t muster the energy to climb the 220 steps. And the steps were frosty, for an extra excuse!
By noon, I had gethomeitis, but wanted to get some photos of the Twin Lakes Campground for a campground resource I’m going to start building. Twin Lakes is probably the furthest one that gets a lot of pressure from Whitehorse weekenders – in the summer, it’s full every weekend. And with good reason – the lakes are beautiful and the campground facilities are excellent. There was only 1 camper there, a Whitehorse woman who had spent 4 nights there with her dog.
Bella has become quite a water-dog. While she won’t swim very far at all, she loves wading, and Twin Lakes was perfect for it.
I stopped at a car wash and spent $20 to get the worst of the mud and gravel off the Tracker in particular, and got home at about 3:00 pm. It was a wonderful trip. I’d been sorry to have not made it to Dawson this year, and now that’s taken care of.
Before I even got this post written, I was back on the road. As I finish writing it, I’m on Day 2 out in the wilderness along the Haines Road, near the summit, for 3 days of chilly high-country hiking. I’ll post it when I get back home.
On Friday, September 23rd, I had set up camp at the Yukon River Campground across the river from Dawson City at 4:00 pm. Although closed, the gate was open so no-services camping is allowed. I had a few hours to explore that afternoon and the next morning, and then I’d have to start back towards Whitehorse.
The Yukon River Campground is very nice. It’s the largest one in the territory, with 101 campsites, 22 of them pull-throughs to make things easy for rigs like mine. The two signs at this viewpoint talk about the peregrine falcons that nest on the cliffs opposite. In 1978, only one pair was known to breed on the Yukon River, but a recovery program that started the following year has been incredibly successful, and they’re now fairly commonly seen. When my son and I canoed from Whitehorse to Dawson in 1997, we spent a long time watching a pair of peregrine falcons teaching their young how to hunt shorebirds upriver at Minto.
I soon disconnected the Tracker from the RV, and just before 5:00 pm were on the ferry across the Yukon River to Dawson City.
The first stop on the east side of the river was the top of the Midnight Dome. This is the view looking downriver towards Eagle, Alaska.
Looking up Bonanza Creek into the Klondike goldfields, with a new industrial park being developed along the North Klondike Highway.
Back in town, I walked along Front Street to see what was new, then drove back to the ferry. The Moosehide Slide on the mountain is Dawson’s definitive geographic feature.
Back at the ferry landing at 6:10. As the river level goes up and down, which is does a lot, the loader adjusts he height of the loading ramp.
From the Midnight Dome, downtown Dawson City was backlit, so not good for photos, so I drove back up the Top of the World Highway a couple of kilometers to a viewpoint with good light.
Looking up the Klondike River from the same spot.
Halfway back down the highway to the campground, I pulled over and walked a block or so to a spot where some of the boats at the Sternwheeler Graveyard can be seen.
A fuel tanker from Fairbanks went by as I was shooting the sternwheelers, so I went down to the ferry landing to watch him load. It just barely fits, and no other vehicles are allowed on the ferry with him.
Late that evening, I decided to walk down the bank of the Yukon River to the Sternwheeler Graveyard, to get a plan for flying the drone there on Saturday morning. Along the way, somebody had created a “YUKON” title for their photo album.
Looking from the stern of 3 of the sternwheelers, back up the river to Dawson.
The Seattle No. 3. When I first visited the Sternwheeler Graveyard in 1990, you could still go through parts of the boats and some of the wheelhouses still stood – those days are long gone.
On Saturday (September 24th), it was almost noon before the sun hit the sternwheelers so it was worth launching the drone.
I’m still getting used to the controls on the drone – a DJI Phantom 3 Professional – but here’s the video I shot. The music I used is “Almost A Year Ago”, by John Deley and the 41 Players.
With that filming feeling good, I packed up, and we were back on the ferry “George Black” just after 1:00 pm. The guy loading vehicles said that they were surprised to see me drive up, that I was probably the last big RV of the year on the Top of the World Highway.
On the way south, I stopped at the “Welcome to Dawson City” pullout to fly the drone over the gold-dredge tailings. Vast areas of them are being levelled for housing and industrial lots, but I haven’t given up hope that the City will see the light and build a viewing tower with proper interpretation showing how important these piles of gravel are in Dawson City’s history. This drone flight didn’t go well at all. It lost satellite contact, then I had only erratic control of it, and as I got it close to landing, it flew into a tree. It may be damaged – I need to check it out carefully.
I had one final stop to make in Dawson, to fuel up at the North 60 commercial cardlock in the Callison industrial area. Just after 2:00 pm, we left Dawson City, probably for the last time until I return with a group in February to watch the Yukon Quest sled dog race.
With a few more short stops, we were now on our way home. I wanted to get there mid-afternoon on Sunday so could get some cleanup done on the rig and car before meeting Cathy at the airport at at 11:00 pm.
Friday, September 23rd, was mostly a day of wandering along the Top of the World Highway back to Dawson City, exploring some side roads along the way.
The world didn’t look the way I had expected it would in the morning. Despite heavy rain, strong, dry winds from the Alaskan interior had dried up everything except a few now-frozen puddles. I started the day off by driving the Tracker back towards Dawson a few k to see what photo ops dawn might present. What a place!
The land just goes on forever…
I drove back as far as the rest area at Km 86.3 (from Dawson – 18 km from the summit where I camped). The Milepost says that this was a stopping place for the McCormick Transportation Company, which I expect was hauling supplies into the Sixtymile gold district. The colour in this and the next few photos hasn’t been altered – the dawn light up there was absolutely stunning.
Heading back on the Top of the World Highway to the summit was slow, as there were a lot of photos to shoot 🙂
Km 96, which is 8 km from the summit.
Just before Km 100, I encountered by far the largest flock of willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) I’ve ever seen, and they were very vocal. There were about 50 of them on both sides of the road – there are 12 in this photo.
They’re beautiful birds, especially in Spring and Fall when they’re changing their plumage.
Nearing the summit, a rough mining road led off to the north. A large piece of equipment visible on the ridge caught my interest…
Now that’s a bloody awesome piece of equipment! A massive self-propelled gold-sluicing machine. I have a vague recollection of seeing a smilar rig somewhere, but can’t imagine where. It could even have been this one, decades ago.
After checking out the gold machine thoroughly, I had to see more of that road. This country has an amazing network of old mining roads, wandering across the barren ridges and then dropping into valleys of gold.
This is as far as I went on that road. That’s an all-day exploration ahead, and there are many more just like it.
Climbing back up the road, I spotted what appeared to be 3 graves high on the slope above! A small brass plate on the one to the left says “‘Bill’ W.E. McMillan, 1923-1987”. A Google search has come up with no information about him. My guess at this point is that the valley below was his mining operation. Are the crosses beside him for his dogs?
Looking down on the Canada/USA border posts below my camping spot.
Time for brunch. “Garcon, a table with a view, please.” Yes, indeed 🙂
Back in 1999 while I was working on the move of the gold dredge that’s now a tourist operation in Skagway, I drove a very rough road up from the dredge site in the Sixtymile district, and ended up where my motorhome was now parked. I decided to have another look along that road before leaving.
I didn’t get very far down the Sixtymile road. That puddle I’d come through had a bottom of mud that was far too deep to be playing with this late in the season. With my heart in my throat and the transer case in Low Lock, I pounded back through it, and went back to the motorhome.
Just after 12:30, I had the Tracker hooked up to the motorhome again, had packed everything up, and was headed down to Dawson City.
It was a spectacular day to be driving the Top of the World Highway. This was by far the latest I’d been on it.
By the time I got near Dawson, the Tracker had an impressive load of gravel and mud thrown up from the thawing road by the RV.
I wasn’t sure where I was going to overnight yet, but decided to drive through the Yukon River Campground, as it had been many years since I’d seen it except in the winter.
As soon as I saw this pull-through campsite right on the river, I knew that this was the perfect place to camp.
Back in Dawson City with lots more to see during the next 18 hours or so before starting for home!
Thursday didn’t go quite as planned, but I finally made it to Forty Mile, and it ended with a truly incredible experience out in the middle of nowhere on the Top of the World Highway. This is another very long post, with 39 photos.
We got off to a fairly early start, and after breakfast and a good walk from our camping spot in downtown Dawson City, were on the ferry across the Yukon River at 09:40, an hour and a half after sunrise. This short crossing is free.
at 10:10, I stopped at the Fortymile rest area, mostly so I could take the drone for a short flight.
A shot from the drone. The video that I also shot needs some editing yet.
Up, up we go – Km 28 from Dawson, at 10:35.
The view from near Km 58, just east of the junction of the Top of the World Highway and the Clinton Creek Road (it’s signed as the “Clinton Road”).
At 11:55, I was 14.4 km (8.9 mi) down the Clinton Creek Road in the Tracker, in country I’d never been in before and had virtually no information about. It was a safe bet, though, that the motorhome needed to be left up on the Top of the World Highway.
Ten minutes past noon, at km 23.9 (mile 14.9), the abandoned Clinton Creek asbestos mine came into sight (the whitish spot at the far right). Owned by the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation, it operated from 1967 until 1978. There aren’t actually any mileposts along the Clinton Road, I kept track of the mileages.
At Km 33.3, an informal sign notes the side road to the Forty Mile townsite (at least I expected that that’s what “40 Mile Site” meant). The road up to this point had been very good, but neither road from here on was big-rig friendly.
Km 1.6 of the Forty Mile Road. As you can see, the Fortymile district is exceptionally pretty country.
At Km 3.5, the Forty Mile Road ends at the Yukon River. There were several pickups parked here, and there’s an outhouse, a garbage bin, and a couple of interpretive signs at the start of an ATV trail that leads to the townsite, which is part of the Forty Mile, Fort Cudahy and Fort Constantine Historic Site, co-managed by the Yukon and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in governments.
This aerial photo on the sign hints that it’s a fairly short walk to the townsite (it tured out to be about 15 minutes). I started off with the copy of the 32-page brochure I picked up in Dawson, Forty Mile, Chëdë Dëk (pdf, 1.9 MB), in my pocket (Chëdë Dëk – “river of leaves – is the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in name for the Fortymile River).
It’s funny to see logs as the approaches to this substantial bridge on the trail – I guess no gravel/dirt was available. A fellow on an ATV stopped here to warn me that my dogs weren’t safe ahead, because a guy building a cabin at Forty Mile had two dogs that are large, aggressive, and loose. I stopped and stewed about that for a while, but decided to continue on.
This grave beside the trail isn’t mentioned in the brochure. The cemetery shown in the brochure is far from here, with no direct trail from this point.
When I saw a pair of new log cabins being built, I picked Tucker up and carried him, and shortened Bella’s leash, but no dogs came out.
The first of the 12 buildings left in Forty Mile is St. James Anglican church. It was built of round logs in 1895 by Rev. Richard J. Bowen. Some of the logs may have come from the original 1887 Buxton mission. The church was officially closed in 1935, but in the 1970s residents of Clinton Creek used it for occasional weddings, and some restoration work was done during those years.
In 1889, government surveyor William Ogilvie was in Forty Mile, and described it as a rough jumble of buildings taking up an area of about 60 acres. This photo, shot from the opposite side of the Fortymile River, was shot in 1901.
Interpretive signage at the site is very good.
The size of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) post was surprising. It was built in 1901, 3 years before the force became the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP), but the brochure and signs use that latter name.
The townsite, much of which is on a bench above the Yukon and Fortymile Rivers, is lovely, and the weather was perfect, with the temperature probably hitting about 15°C (59°F). This is the telegraph station. Built in around 1893, it also served as the post office, and the RCMP post when Corporal Claude Tidd was stationed here in 1939.
This monument commemorates the found of the Yukon Order of Pioneers (YOOP) at Forty Mile in 1894. The stated purposes of the benevolent organization were “the advancement of the great Yukon Valley, the mutual protection and benefit of its members, to unite members by the strong ties of brotherhood and to prove to the outside world that the Yukon Order of Pioneers are men of truth, honour and integrity.” Initially members were required to have come into the country before 1888. Still in existence, YOOP now requires members to have lived “within the watershed of the Yukon River, and/or the Territorial Boundaries of the Yukon Territory” for at least 20 years.
The Fortymile River is on the left, the Yukon River on the right, flowing into the distance. This view is from in front of Swanson’s Store.
Wallpaper on the walls of the Alaska Commercial Company (the AC Co) warehouse. It was built between 1895 and 1901, and because it needed to be built close to the Fortymile River for business reasons, has been damaged and even moved by floods at least twice.
Many of the visitors to Forty Mile arrive by canoe, and the small campground for them at the north end of the site is very nice, with fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses.
One of the early residents. Jack McQuesten, tried to plough his 4-acre potato and turnip farm using two young moose. The plan wasn’t successful 🙂
I only spent about an hour at Forty Mile, but it could easily have been much longer. On the way back to the car, we did get hassled by the cabin-builder’s dogs. I was carrying Tucker again, but they appeared suddenly and scared Bella. Yelling and kicking at the damn things only resulted in a half-hearted call by the owner – one left, but the other followed us at a distance for a long time. If I would have brought my bear spray, I probably would have used it on them. Asshole…
Anyway, it was mostly a very good visit, and I’m very pleased that I finally got there. At 1:50, we were almost back to the Clinton Road.
Heading north on the Clinton Road, this one-lane bridge crosses the Fortymile River just a couple of hundred meters/yards from the Forty Mile Road junction.
After the bridge, the road narrows substantially, and it becomes hard to imagine that it once served a substantial mine and community. I even wondered if I had somehow missed the road to Clinton Creek.
I was extremely surprised to come to an active mining area blocking the road as I neared Clinton Creek. This is 8.1 km from the south end of the Fortymile River bridge. I haven’t found out yet who is doing what (Midnight Sun Drilling from Whitehorse is doing the work), but that’s as close to the old mine as I could get.
Seen from the effective end of the road, an old adit from the asbestos-mining days can be seen at the upper left.
Clinton Creek, back down the road.
Even if the active mining hadn’t stopped me, this very recent large slide clearly would have if the miners hadn’t re-opened the road.
Back at the motorhome at 3:20 pm, it was time to chill and then have a nap before driving another 45 km (28 mi) up the Top of the World Highway to the summit to camp for the night.
As I drove to the summit at 6:30, the weather turned quite nasty, with an icy rain driven by high winds. I thought a few times about cancelling my high-country camp, and developed a Plan B, and then Plans C and D, in my head. Plan D, for very heavy overnight snow, involved winterizing the motorhome and abandoning it until Spring, escaping with whatever we could carry in the Tracker. The Adventures of late-Fall travel in the North! 🙂
I was very surprised to meet another Class A motorhome – at least he was going in a more sensible direction (down!).
At 6:45, we reached the summit and were soon set up, with wind shaking the rig and whistling through any openings, and with storm after storm passing by and over us. Wild!
We had dinner, went for a short walk in the rain and wind, then as I was reading at 7:50 pm, the sky started to change to the west. With some clearing that way, a good sunset could be coming. That turned out to be an understatement.
I started taking photos, and the sky to the west kept getting more and more dramatic. The extreme contrasts in light got me to start shooting bursts for later HDR image processing. This HDRI was created from a series I shot at 7:55.
Changes in the sky were rapid, and I was shooting almost constantly – this is from a series shot at 7:57. At the extreme right of the photo, the Canada/USA border posts of Little Gold Creek, Yukon, and Poker Creek, Alaska, can be seen. They were set to close for the season 3 days later, on September 25th.
I very seldom ever create extreme HDR images, but really like this one from a series shot at 7:59.
At 8:03, I turned around to see if anything else was going on, and OMG, there was a double rainbow!
The Top of the World Highway is an incredible place, and the summit is especially so. As I write this days later, I’m still quite blown away by the experience of this evening. This photo was shot at 8:07.
Looking back down the Top of the World Highway at 8:10.
By 8:19, when the series that I created the next HDR from was shot, the show was almost over, though I got a few more shots I like.
The wild weather continued through the night, with the motorhome rocking and rolling and whistling. In the morning, it was very cold – everything was frozen, but there was no snow. Life was good. Very, very good! We’d do a bit of exploring up top with the Tracker, then drive 104 km (65 mi) back to Dawson.
My first stop in Dawson City when I arrived at noon on Wednesday (September 21st) was the Visitor Reception Centre. I had decided that the ghost towns of Forty Mile and Clinton Creek would be the first destinations, and I wanted to find out if they had any information about either site. Other than having an excellent brochure about the Forty Mile townsite, the answer was no.
As I was about to leave, the woman I was talking to mentioned a new model railway layout in a back room. That I had to see.
The railway layout shows various parts of the Klondike Mines Railway, and the detail is superb. I took a photo with my camera, posted it on Facebook, and one of my friends quickly said that it wasn’t new, that it was built years ago by a fellow from Vancouver. I had heard about a layout in North Vancouver, and Google quickly confirmed that this was indeed the layout bult by Brian Pate. Four years ago, Michael Gates published an article about the layout, and Brian has his own very detailed Web site about the railway and construction of the model.
The fact that the railway model was now in the Visitor Reception Centre (VRC) made me think that Brian had perhaps died, but no, he’s just down-sizing, and the railway has now joined his large model of Dredge No. 4, which has been in the VRC for many years.
While some of the structures are educated guesses as to what the originals looked like, as no photos are known to exist, Brian’s Web site has close-up photos of his models with photos of the original buildings, and the detail really does have to be seen to be believed.
The new home of the model railway is, I hope, temporary, as it’s really not suitable. To visit it, you have to walk in front of people watching films, and the room isn’t nearly large enough. But it’s great to have it here.
I learned at the VRC that the Gold Rush Campground in downtown Dawson allows RV parking for free after they close (services have all been shut off, of course). It was too late in the day to start for Forty Mile, so the location was perfect for a day of walking and other exploring, as it was when we stayed there last June.
Bella and Tucker were now ready for a long walk, so we went to the south end of downtown, to the mouth of the Klondike River (“Klondyke” is a historic spelling). From there, we walked back along the high dyke that protects the town from the Yukon River.
There are interpretive signs everywhere in Dawson. This one, in front of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment, describes the Government Reserve where all government buildings were located in the early years.
With the kids happy and ready for a nap, it was time for lunch for me, and I went to the Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel, for the hundredth time or so over the years 🙂 Despite the fact that the hotel has passed from the Van Nostrand family into the hands of a Yukon investment/development company, the character of the place hasn’t changed.
After a leisurely lunch, I went back to the motorhome to get Bella and Tucker, and we continued our walk. This building beside the Palace Grand Theatre has seen many uses over the years. For 3 years or so in the 1990s, it was the apartment for Atlas Tours’s highway drivers and local guides, and I spent many nights here. Now, it’s the Cat’s Pyjamas Travellers Hostel.
While I don’t think that this broken-backed building is actually part of the hostel, in Dawson you never know! The rate, $32/night, sounds good for a location like this.
One of the most loveable of Dawson’s old-timers was Newt Webster. He died in about 2010, in his 90s, but right until his last summer, he could be found most evenings sitting on the steps of the Masonic Lodge, across from Diamond Tooth Gertie’s casino, greeting visitors and locals. His photo still looks out from the lodge to the casino.
Newt came to Dawson in 1937, and was a collector. By the time I met him in the early 1990s, his house was so full of stuff that he had had to move a trailer onto the property to live in. At least that was his story 🙂 He would never show me any of his collection, but you could see through the windows that the house was indeed full of something.
In business, timing is everything, and it’s really nice to see that Husky Bus was in the right place at the right time with the right service.
The Dawson City Post Office, then and now. While the old building stands, the operating post office has been in several other locations since moving out of this building in 1923, and is now a couple of hundred meters/yards to the left. This building, built in 1900, was designed by Thomas W. Fuller, who later became Chief Architect of the Department of Public Works.
At about 5:00, we went back to the RV, got the Tracker, and drove about 20 km (12 mi) out into the Klondike goldfields, to Dredge No. 4, at Claim No. 17 Below Discovery on Bonanza Creek. That’s close to the spot where its buckets quit scooping gold-bearing gravel in 1960.
The bow section of the hull is currently being rebuilt, with timbers sawed at an on-site mill. I started taking tourists through the dredge in 1990, when it was sitting at about a 20-degree angle, filled with mud and ice, but was as complete as the workers walked away. The next summer, Parks Canada began the massive job of raising it, stabilizing it, and restoring it.
The dredge was a great place to launch the drone. The last time I got this view was 31 years ago when I flew my Cessna over her. The video I shot will take some time to edit.
The gold mine just up Bonanza Creek from the dredge was going full tilt. In the 26 years I’ve been watching the property it’s been abandoned, and then had small crews for a few years, but this is the largest operation I’ve seen on it yet. Gold being at $1,332 USD at the moment continues to keep miners active.
There’s apparently been an awful spell of vehicles and equipment being stolen and/or vandalized in the Dawson area. Just down from the dredge, this hoe and loader were torched.
There’s some amazing equipment, such as this tiny bulldozer and oddly-configured tractor.
This early McLaughlin touring would be quite a car if a guy had $100,000 or so to put into it!
I’m not sure what goes on at Leo’s Corner when he’s there.
Leo certainly has a quirky sense of humour, though – his signposts are pretty interesting 🙂
A quiet spot along the Bonanza Creek Road as we headed back to Dawson, with the road winding between a couple of ponds in the dredge tailings. The distant hills were the site of a large hydraulic gold-mining operation 20-odd years ago – it was very interesting to watch.
Some Dawson miners go out of their way to be jerks. A couple of weeks ago, Michel Vincent and Michael Heydorf applied to the Yukon Surface Rights Board to evict several families living in the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation subdivision, which their gold claims overlap. This photo shows their claim and part of the subdivision. The Yukon clearly needs to revise some of the regulations, which regularly cause problems.
I don’t yet know who the artist is who paints the city’s compost bins, but they’re beautiful.
This guy has apparently had no luck getting the copper pipe stolen from his building returned – the sign has been there for a long time.
I had planned to go out for a good dinner and then to Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, but with Cathy not there, just couldn’t get into it. As the sun set at 8:00 pm, the kids and I went for a final walk, along the waterfront, always an interesting place. Some of this raft-home from the summer is being salvaged.
The freight barge Amelia Lupine, with the Dawson ferry crossing the river behind her. We’d start Thursday with a ride on the ferry.
As we got back to the motorhome, this ambulance went screaming by. That’s certainly an unusual sight here.
The plan for Thursday was to visit Forty Mile and Clinton Creek ghost towns, and camp somewhere along the Top of the World Highway, perhaps at the summit, though the high chance of getting snow overnight at altitude made that a “maybe” still.
I got home yesterday afternoon from 6 days in the RV, exploring along the North Klondike and Top of the World Highways, and in Dawson City. I had only very brief Internet accessibility in Dawson, so didn’t post or even write any blogs. It was a great trip and I have a lot to tell you about, though.
I got away from Whitehorse fairly late, after an interview with a couple of researchers from UBC. Since I was going through Whitehorse anyway, we used my motorhome as the meeting room, which was pretty cool – well, it would have been if not for Molly, who dropped nasty a bomb in the litter box and didn’t bury it. *sigh*
I had only the vaguest of plans for the week. Dawson was the general goal, and I had to be back to pick Cathy up at the airport at 11:00 pm on Sunday. Other than that, whatever caught my interest along the way would determine the actual route and timing.
By 11:00, I was heading north on the North Klondike Highway, which most locals still call the Mayo Road. That name goes back to the 1940s when the road went to the silver mining district of Mayo, not to Dawson. At the bottom of the curve ahead in the photo is Horse Creek, which is at Km 212 (the kilometer posts mark the mileage from the ferry terminal in Skagway).
The Fall colours are almost finished now, but there were still some bright patches along Fox Lake. With summer traffic long gone, the highway was very quiet, though I did meet 3 rental RVs headed south.
The Fox Lake Burn, too, provided some colour. A forest fire started by careless campers on the Canada Day weekend (July 1st) in 1998 burned all summer, eventually destroying 45,000 acres of the spruce/pine forest that had been here. Human-caused fires in the Yukon are generally in or near communities or along roads, so are spotted and extinguished fairly quickly – this one was an exception. The brochure “Driving the Fire Belt” describes this and other fires along the North Klondike Highway.
At the summit at Km 272, we stopped at the Fox Lake Burn rest area and went on the interesting 20-minute interpretive walk.
Several signs along the trail tell the story of the fire, and its short and long-term effects on the plants and creatures that live here.
Most people don’t realize how dry the Yukon is – many south-facing slopes support only grasses and sage. That and the short growing season combine to make re-growth after a fire extremely slow.
At 2:00, we reached Montague Roadhouse, a spot that I usually stop at. The timing this day was perfect, because Tucker had let me know that it was past our afternoon nap time. So we stayed in this pullout for quite a while 🙂
During our after-nap walk around the roadhouse property, I was both surprised and pleased to see that a couple of layers of logs have been recently added to the walls of the roadhouse. The Montague Roadhouse operated into the 1940s, and when it was closed, the roof was removed and used on the Carmacks Roadhouse, which still stands as a complete building.
About 15 km (10 mi) south of Carmacks, at 2:35.
We stopped at the Carmacks rest area for another walk. None of the fur-kids are big fans of the driving part of the RV trips. It’s the walks and other adventures that Bella and Tucker love, so I make sure that they get lots of them – and they’re good for me as well, of course. Molly seldom gets outside, but she’s happy just having her family close.
The Yukon River bridge at Carmacks. I really like the style of these old bridges, and have been sad to see almost all of them on the Alaska Highway replaced by wider but boring concrete structures.
At the bottom of the hill ahead, the Campbell Highway leads east to Faro, Ross River, and Watson Lake. The hill, Tantalus Butte, was the site of a series of coal mines that started operating in the 1920s, with the last one closing in 1967.
We reached the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site, another place that I seldom just drive by, at 3:15. Both the view and the history of this site keep me coming back year after year. The weather forecast had called for sunshine, but clouds were moving in, and the light for photography was poor.
The stairs down to the rapids overlook are great exercise, but with the poor light, I decided to delay that until Sunday, on the drive home. Various reports put the number of steps at around 220-230, and it’s been years since I counted.
Almost all the leaves had fallen from the trees by the time we reached Km 470, north of Pelly Crossing, at 4:20.
At 5:15, it was about time to stop for the day. It would have also been a great time to be lazy and have a cafe meal, but my long-time friend Maja had had a busy season at Moose Creek Lodge, and had closed for the season a couple of days earlier. I’ll be seeing her again when she opens the lodge for the Yukon Quest sled dog race, though, as I’ll be guiding another tour following the 2017 race.
Looking north from Moose Creek Lodge, the highway crosses Moose Creek just ahead, and just past that is Moose Creek Campground. While the campground closed on September 15th, I hoped that it would be one of the ones that didn’t lock the gate.
The gate at the campground was indeed open 🙂
By 5:30 we were set up in site #20, a huge pull-through at the back end of the campground. I don’t recall ever hearing anybody mention Moose Creek Campground, but it’s very nice.
The road is wide and the sites are very large so it’s big-rig friendly, the facilities are all in excellent condition, and it’s quite far off the highway to keep noise down.
I used to wonder why some – perhaps most – of the parks close and lock the gates off-season. At Moose Creek, I saw why. Garbage bins full of household trash, signs on the firewood sheds stating “Firewood Protected by Theft Proof Coded Flakes” (whatever that means exactly), and picnic tables chained to the ground. So our parks have to be protected from theft and vandalism by locals – how bloody sad is that? Strangely, as if to confirm what I was writing at 05:30 in the morning, a pickup truck drove past my site. There’s no possible good reason for a pickup with no camper on it to be at the back end of the campground almost 3 hours before sunrise.
After getting the kids dinner, Bella and Tucker and I went out to explore more of the campground. We soon found a network of trails – one main interpretive trail along the bench above Moose Creek, and some side trails.
The trails vary from a very old road as seen in this photo – a wood-cutting road is my guess – to narrow paths.
These stairs lead down to Moose Creek and on to the Stewart River, about a half-hour walk.
There are several interpretive signs about the ecosystem and the birds and animals who live here. I was surprised by how steep the slope is, and how far down the creek is.
The second-growth spruce forest is lovely, with a thick carpet of moose. I expect that the original forest was logged to power the sternwheelers that ran the Stewart River.
It was a peaceful night as usual, with all the kids snuggled up with me on the bed. The established order in the motorhome, which is different than the one at home, is that Tucker sleeps half on me, often on my shoulder, Bella takes the other pillow, and Molly is tucked up to one of my legs.
On Wednesday morning, while I waited for sunrise, I read through the manual for my drone again, as I planned to do some flying and am still not very comfortable with its abilities and limitations.
I was in no hurry to get on the road, so it was 09:30 by the time we reached Gravel Lake rest area, only 61 km (38 mi) from the campground.
The Tintina Trench viewpoint and rest area at Km 655.2, at 10:20.
At 10:40, I reached the Dempster Highway junction and had to decide whether some of the Dempster Highway was on the itinerary or not. The road reports a couple of days before had been quite bad due to a lot of rain. I’d think about it while fueling up.
When the AFD (Alberta Fuel Distributors) cardlock opened at the former location of the Klondike River Lodge, it was dramatically the cheapest fuel in the Dawson area. I don’t know whether it still is, but filled up at $1.239 anyway. Before heading south, I’d fill at the North 60 commercial cardlock and could see who’s the cheapest – at North 60, you don’t know what the price is until the invoice arrives in the mail.
The flashing sign at Mile 0 pointed out structural problems with the one-lane bridge over the Klondike River ahead, and the fact that the campground at Tombstone was closed.
The highway sign had other important information as well. If it had been dated, I might have gone for a look 🙂
An AFD fuel tanker on the Klondike River bridge. They’ve sure done well since moving north.
I decided against the Dempster. There were too many other sites to visit, including some I’d not been to yet. At 11:45, I stopped at the unique “Welcome to Dawson” sign.
Dawson City is a wonderful place to just wander, and that was the basic plan for the rest of day.