Yukon RVing: Tombstone Mountain Campground

I ended my last post at the Dempster Junction fuel stop late Saturday afternoon. Cathy and I had been looking forward to getting back on the Dempster Highway for a long time, and Tombstone Campground at Km 71.7 was our planned home for the next two nights.

At 4:40 pm, we started up the highway by crossing the Klondike River on this one-lane bridge. The large sign on the right says: “Notice. There are no emergency medical services on the Yukon section of the Dempster Highway. Drive with care.”

One lane bridge on the Dempster Highway, Yukon
The road ahead and the Ogilvie Mountains at Km 26. The 2014 edition of The Milepost that I carry says that the first 5 miles (8 km) of the highway are chipsealed, but that’s no longer true – there’s less than 1 km of sealing. Most of the road had recently had calcium chloride laid for dust control, though, and it packs the gravel down to be as smooth as asphalt. We met The Milepost’s camper truck further up the highway, so the next edition will have that information updated.

Km 26, Dempster Highway, Yukon
It’s a short drive to Tombstone, with the Ogilvie Mountains making it ever-more-spectacular. I was shocked by the size of the new interpretive center at Km 71.5, which we reached at 5:40. Well, it’s new to me – it actually opened at the very end of the 2009 season. The last time I was on the highway (in 2008), there was just this little interpretive center located in the campground.

Dempster Interpretive Centre, Yukon
Tombstone Territorial Park Campground, a.k.a. Tombstone Mountain Campground.

Tombstone Territorial Park Campground, a.k.a. Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
We made a loop around the campground looking for the best site, and on the second pass picked #28, a nearly level, wide open site. None of the 36 sites in the campground are pull-through sites, but since we were unhooking the Tracker to go exploring anyway, that didn’t matter. The nightly fee is $12, but we have an annual pass for Yukon campgrounds, so there was no charge.

When we had finished getting our rig and camp set up at 6:20, this was the view out the front windows. Yes, quite nice :)

The view from our RV at Tombstone Campground, Yukon
Cathy decided a couple of weeks ago that a batch of margaritas would be a great way to celebrate each evening of our new RVing life, and Tombstone was our first test of the idea. Yes, I agree :) The littlest family member joined us shortly after I shot this photo.

Margarita time at Tombstone Campground, Yukon
The sites are all very well spaced, but only a few have views like this. Most people seem to prefer being in the forest. Outhouses and garbage cans are plentiful and clean, there’s lots of firewood available, and there’s a large picnic shelter for tenters if the weather turns bad.

Motorhome and 4x4 at Tombstone Campground, Yukon
There’s a short trail through the forest to the interpretive centre, which closes at 5:00 pm, and we took Monty and Bella over so Bella in particular could have a run and ball-play in the large, now-empty parking lot.

Dogs Monty and Bella at Tombstone Park
The sun was still high in the sky at 7:50. It dipped below the mountains at about 10:00 pm, but official sunset was a few minutes before 01:00 am, so we really were in The Land of the Midnight Sun.

The sun was still high in the sky at 7:50 pm
When we camped at Haines over Easter, Monty discovered that he really likes to sleep in camp chairs, so I bought him his own deluxe padded chair, which he loves. Poor Bella has to make do with a carpet, as if she was a dog :)

Husky Monty asleep in a camp chair
On Sunday morning, I did a bit of a photography walk to get more shots around the park, including this view of the entrance, looking south along the highway.

Tombstone Mountain Campground, Yukon
There’s very little traffic on the Dempster Highway, and even the noise of large trucks is barely noticeable from our campsite. We were going to walk the dogs over to the interpretive centre along the road, but luckily it occurred to Cathy that the calcium chloride dust control is corrosive so would be hard on their feet.

Freight truck on the Dempster Highway, Yukon

Sunday was our day to take a drive up the highway, to at least Chapman Lake, at Km 116. That will be the next post.

Yukon RVing: Carmacks

We’ve just returned home from 9 days on the roads of the Yukon with the RV – our longest trip with it yet. I had little Internet access during that time (and didn’t do any blog writing in any case), so I’m playing catch-up now. Part 1 of the journal takes us from our home in Whitehorse to Carmacks and then to the junction of the North Klondike and Dempster Highways.

It had been a tough week, and I didn’t quite have the rig ready to go on Friday morning. We didn’t get away from home until 12:30, and although it was sunny, the forecast was for thunderstorms through the afternoon and evening. As we reached the airport at Whitehorse, it didn’t look very promising ahead.

Storms clouds over the Alaska Highway at Whitehorse, Yukon
We had some more shopping and other errands to do in Whitehorse, and then stopped at Braeburn Lodge to pick up one of Steve’s massive cinnamon buns. With a series of thunderstorms and 2 long sections of construction, it was a slow trip north, and we didn’t reach Carmacks, only 196 kilometers (122 miles) from home, until almost 4:30. While not my usual way of travelling, this was perfect for our new life – we’ve decided that averaging about 150 miles per day is a good pace.

Welcome to Carmacks, Yukon
Our first stop in Carmacks, where the weather had improved dramatically, was at the little visitor information booth at the south approach to town. The woman on duty didn’t have the Yukon Gold Explorer’s Passports we wanted to start the trip with (more about that later), so next we went to the Tage Cho Hudan Interpretive Centre towards the north end of town, which she said would have it.

Tage Cho Hudan Interpretive Centre - Carmacks, Yukon
I had never visited this interpretive centre before – one of the very few I’d missed. It’s small, but the exhibits are very good, and it’s worth a stop. I found a diorama showing how the early people killed woolly mammoths to be particularly interesting. Admission is free, but we added to the donation box at the door.

Tage Cho Hudan Interpretive Centre - Carmacks, Yukon
This is my new Explorer’s Passport, with the Tage Cho Hudan Interpretive Centre page and stamp. There are 35 sites around the Yukon that participate in this program. At most of them, you get your passport stamped (at a few you just write down the site number), and at the end of your Yukon visit (or season, in our case), you can drop off an entry for a chance to win one of several prizes of Klondike placer gold. I don’t know that I’ve ever entered the contest, but collecting the stamps is fun, and as intended, is a great way to get us in the door of places we haven’t been to before, or not recently.

Yukon Gold Explorer's Passport

We had decided to stay at the Hotel Carmacks RV Park, mostly because it’s on the 2-kilometer-long boardwalk along the Yukon River. With a Good Sam discount, the pull-through full-service site was $37.80 with tax, and I opted to get the hi-speed Internet access for $10 as I’d seen many complaints about the regular access. While not spacious, the site was almost level, had a picnic table, and there was an unobstructed view of the river. The park has 30 sites in total.

Our first walk was along the boardwalk to the northeast (upriver) to the old government campground. Once one of the largest campgrounds in the Yukon, it was abandoned perhaps a dozen years ago, for reasons I can only guess at. Among the high-quality facilities that were abandoned is this large visitor center.

Abandoned visitor center at Carmacks, Yukon
Much sadder is the fact that few people ever see this memorial in front of the abandoned visitor center. It honours 4 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who were killed when their de Havilland Beaver, CF-MPO, crashed at Carmacks while attempting to land on July 13, 1963. Killed were Sgt. Morley K. Laughland, Cst. Proctor L. A. Malcolm, Cst. William J. D. Annand, and Cpl. Robert Wiliam Asbil. There have been very few police officers killed in the Yukon since the first 20 members of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) arrived in 1895, and this tragedy stunned the entire country. See my Yukon Peace Officer Honour Roll for a complete list.

RCMP memorial at Carmacks, Yukon
One of the attractions of the campground was this large eddy that allowed canoeists to safely land to camp or re-stock their supplies. This is the half-way point on the river from Whitehorse to Dawson City. It’s now been 18 years since my son and I made that trip, and I’d sure like to do it again (see my account of that 10-day 1997 trip, “Our Time Machine is a Canoe“).

Eddy for canoeists to land at Carmacks, Yukon
It appears that the campground still gets some semi-official use by boaters, as the area around the picnic shelter has been cleared.

Picnic shelter at the abandoned Carmacks campground
For Cathy and the dogs and I, though, the former campground was just a very nice place to go for a long walk on dirt roads lined with fragrant wild roses.

Wild roses at Carmacks, Yukon
Saturday was a lazy morning, setting the tone for this holiday. When I finally got moving, I went around the campground for some photos of the facilities. Most other RVers had already left.

Carmacks Hotel RV Park, Yukon
The laundry and bathroom facilities are very nice – large, bright and spotlessly clean.

Carmacks Hotel RV Park, Yukon
By 10:00 or so, it was time for another long walk, to see the other half of the boardwalk. It was certainly a beautiful morning to do it.

The boardwalk at Carmacks, Yukon
Continuing north after lunch, a stop to see my long-time friend Maja at Moose Creek Lodge, another 200 km north, is always a must for us.

Moose Creek Lodge, Yukon
As well as a visit, an afternoon snack was in order, and my soup and Cathy’s pie were both excellent as always. This was the view from my seat, processed as an HDR image.

Moose Creek Lodge, Yukon
At one of our stops to walk the dogs, at the Gravel Lake rest area, the dwarf dogwood (Cornus canadensis) were plentiful and in beautiful condition.

Flowers at Gravel Lake, Yukon
Our campsite for Saturday would be at Tombstone Park up the Dempster Highway, but I’m going to stop this post at the gas cardlock at the junction of the Dempster and North Klondike Highways, which we reached at 4:30. This stop is worth noting because this cardlock has broken the long-standing fuel price gouging in the Dawson area. We paid $1.249 per liter for gas, only 5 cents more than at most stations in Whitehorse. Until this AFD (Alberta Fuel Distributors) operation opened (2 years ago, I think), you could expect to pay 30-50 cents more per liter in Dawson than in Whitehorse.┬áThere is a downside, though, and that’s that the cardlock system is lengthy, complicated and confusing – the first twice I tried to use it on previous trips, I gave up.

AFD gas cardlock at Dempster Junction, Yukon

Hiking to the upper Venus Silver Mine, Yukon

On Thursday I returned to the historic Venus silver mine, but this time planning on a full day of exploring, with the 1905-1909 Venus No. 2 workings being the goal. There was a larger goal as well, to see if I still have enough passion about this mine (these mines, actually) to re-write my book about them and get it back into print.

With a forecast for a mostly-sunny day, I was away from the house just after 9:30, and at 10:50, started hiking up the gated mine access road at Km 82.2 of the South Klondike Highway.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Twenty minutes later I reached the junction where I had turned left on my hike 2 weeks ago. This time I went to the right, and 5 minutes later reached the area where I’d start going vertical, though I wasn’t sure exactly where yet. This building was the mine manager’s office for the Venus mine operation whose 2 main adits tapped an ore body at a much lower elevation in the 1970s.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I wanted to get close to the route of the 2,500 foot long aerial tramway that took the silver ore from the mine to the wharf and later the concentrator on the lakeshore, and the base of the rocks in the center of this photo looked like a good place to start.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Starting up, at 11:25. I was hiking alone as I almost always do. My “safety partner” on these hikes is always Spot, my Satellite GPS Messenger. Some of you have no doubt noticed that I seldom take either dog with me. The reason is simply that the country I usually go into is simply too hard, dangerous and/or dry (no drinkable water) for Monty and Bella and I need to focus on taking care of myself.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
While historic ruins were my main reason for being here, the views are a big part of what makes this slope so rewarding to hike. Just around that rock face, though, the route went vertical and there was no time to enjoy the view or take pictures. It was a hands-and-feet scramble up about 400 feet of mostly juniper and loose rock with the odd firm rock for relief.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The piece of wood in the foreground was a claim post from the main staking of this slope in 1905. Some of these posts on the mountain have Roman numerals carved into them that are still legible after 110 years, but this one was too badly weathered.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Flowers were quite plentiful, including a few Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa Fisch). Alaska’s state flower, the Alpine forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris) was by far the most prevalent flower, but there were close to a dozen species in bloom.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Within 25 minutes of starting up, the views of the mine workings were excellent, though a ravine full of brush kept me from the tramway route. I could have fought through it, but it wasn’t that important – there was plenty to see anyway.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The piece of land sticking out into the lake to the north is the delta of Pooley Creek, the site of several support operations for the Venus and other mines over the years, including the warehouse and shop for the Venus in the 1970s. Now privately owned, one of my friends’ private home is the only building in use.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The view to the south, along Windy Arm and the South Klondike Highway towards Skagway.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
At 12:30 I was at the mine and it was time for a leisurely lunch break – “a table with a view please, garcon” :) The collapsed building I’m standing on was the bunkhouse and cookhouse. My younger readers may have a hard time understanding how incredibly good it feels to be able to get to places like this at 64 years old. When I first started hiking this mountain 25 years ago it was a given that I’d be able to get wherever I wanted. That’s no longer true – now I celebrate days like this.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Time to dig into the details. The elevation of the mine is about 3,100 feet, 950 vertical feet above the lake. The building in this photo was a small shop which included a forge.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
This is the location that really excites me at this site – the control station for the aerial tramway. Imagine working here not just on a spectacular day like this, but when you’re in thick clouds with an icy rain or snow being driven in by a strong wind. Today, every step needs to be considered, with hazards everywhere.

Aerial tramway control station at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Ore storage bins flank the tramway control station. Depending on the quality of the ore being brought out, some would go straight into the bins, some would have to be hand-sorted so that only the high grade ore was sent down the tramway. That was particularly true in the early days when the ore was all shipped out. Once the concentrator was put into operation, lower qualities were sent down.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Inside the workshop beside the adit, with the blacksmith’s forge still in place.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
This once-level area used to have tracks running its length – this is where the hand sorting of the ore was done before sending the ore cars out to the storage bins. I need to check my photos from the 1990s, but I’m quite sure that the tracks were still in place then, and that subsequent slumping of the slope resulted in this wreckage.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The adit. In mining terminology, an adit is open at one end (and is by far the most common form of drilling on a sloped property), while a tunnel is open at both ends. A shaft is vertical. This is by far the best-preserved of the many adits on Montana Mountain. No, I’ve never been in it – having worked far underground at the Granduc copper mine, I have great respect for such places. To bring out the detail, this is an HDR image created with 3 photos with varied exposures.

The adit at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Finding garbage at a site like this really upsets me. What is wrong with people who come to a place like this and then trash it? I packed it all out.

Garbage at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
And I mean this sort of juvenile disrespect as well.

Grafitti at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
This is the route the ore took from the adit or sorting area to the storage bins. Any volunteers to push the ore cars out there? Nobody was ever killed at the Venus mine.

Ore dump at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The very dry climate has allowed even items like this to survive.

Century-old boot at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
A broad view of the site from the end of the ore sorting area.

The historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Looking down over the only standing tramway tower to the highway and the concentrator.

The historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Even some of the door hinges made from heavy belting are still intact. Metal hinges were used on the doors at some of the other Conrad mines in the area.

Hand made door hinge at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
No photos seem to exist of the construction of any of these mines. After the huge timbers were brought to the beach below by sternwheeler, how did the men get them up here? A winch was probably used for many of them, but how did they get the winch up? The slope is certainly too steep for any sort of animal assistance. As much as I know about these mines, there are still lots of questions to try to find answers to.

The high-level railway at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
High on the cliff directly above the adit, a telephone poole still stands. All of the Conrad mines were connected by a private telephone system by 1906, and some of the trails along the telephone lines on this slope in particular can still be walked.

Telephone pole at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I started back down just after 1:30, and got a closer look at the tramway tower, which is under 20 feet tall, one of the smallest on the mountain.

Tramway tower at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I took a slightly different route down, preferring small scree slopes interspersed with firm rock to the juniper-covered slopes I came up on. I had a fairly constant nag on the way down that I should have kept exploring, but I had come with no detailed plan beyond getting to the main workings, and was basically happy with the day.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
My route down took me to the same rock face I had identified as a good starting point on the way up, and only took 40 minutes. At 2:40 I was back to the car, with 164 photos saved in the camera.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
My broader goal of trying to re-kindle the passion I once had for these mines worked. I’m now anxious to get back up there as soon as possible, and have started to develop a much broader plan of exploration and a much longer day. I shot this photo of the site while flying with my friend Kyle Cameron 2 years ago when he invited me to join him and his partner to explore an old logging operation nearby (see “Flight to Yukon History” from August 2013). In this photo and others, the telephone line and other trails can be seen for the next outing.

Aerial photo of the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
A couple of days ago, one of my readers pointed me to a project he’s involved in, Track Kit, which provides mapping of hikes and other trips – this is my first test of the system, which creates a track using the waypoints my Spot creates. It will take me a while to fine-tune the output, but it looks like a very useful tool. The map is interactive – just click on it to enlarge it, get lat/longs, move around, etc.

Tomorrow afternoon I’m flying to Kelowna for a week to help my Dad move, but I’ll be back #ExploringYukon soon. A week to Dawson City and back with the family in the RV is the next plan :)

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon

After spending a couple of hours exploring the old concentrator for the Venus silver mine, I felt the need for something different, so drove half a mile and went for a steep hike above the 1970s Venus workings, towards some Dall sheep and mountain goats that could be seen from the highway. I didn’t really have any particular goal in mind, though – I might reach the sheep and/or goats, I might make it to the 1906 mine workings, or I might just get some good exercise.

The gated mine access road is located at Km 82.2 of the South Klondike Highway, 0.9 km south of the concentrator. There was another car parked at the road/trailhead, which rather surprised me – this trail doesn’t see much use, during the week at least. I parked my car a couple of minutes past 2:00 pm and headed up, for the first time in about 5 years. About 10 minutes up, I met the driver of the other car, a solo young woman, and we chatted very briefly about how far up she’d gone. At the upper end of her hike, she came around a rock to find herself 30 feet from a mountain goat!

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Half an hour of walking brought me to some patches of snow. It must have been very deep to survive the warm weather we’ve had for a couple of weeks – the temperature was about 22° C (72° F) when I reached it.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Just before reaching the snow, the road splits. Both the road to the left which I took and the one to the right go to mine workings. To access the 1906 mine workings, seen in this photo, the right turn is a better choice.

The historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Brush has started to block the views from lower parts of the road in recent years, but a few minutes past the road junction, the views are wonderful.

Hiking at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
At 2:40 I reached a 1970s working area that was partially cleaned up in 2009-2010. There’s still a fair bit of garbage there – pipes, hoses, belts, machinery parts, etc – and the adit has been blasted shut. The drill core trays remain but have been picked over for good samples and the data plates that used to be on the boxes are all gone.

Drill core trays at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Another look at what’s left from the 1970s. The historian and environmentalist parts of my brain never have come to an understanding about sites such as this, with one side being very accepting of it and the other side thinking that it’s a disgraceful way to treat the world.

Mining garbage at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
I reached the end of the road at 2:45 – a bird of some sort had become a meal here. An obvious hiking route leads steeply up the mountain from the road here, trending northward towards the 1906 adit.

A bird kill at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
The view from the hiking trail to the south over Windy Arm.

Hiking above Windy Arm, Yukon
At 3:00 I decided to stop – the route from there became quite rough through avalanche willows in a rocky gorge, and I just wasn’t up to the fight. At the upper left of the photo are 3 of the Dall sheep I saw from the highway.

Dall sheep at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon
Yes, this was the view I wanted – a spectacular location to be able to reach in an hour of mostly easy walking.

Hiking overlooking Windy Arm, Yukon
I only spent a few minutes resting and savouring the views, then started back down. This is the adit that I mentioned above had been blasted shut. Prior to 2009 it was possible to walk into it, though not far if I remember correctly.

A closed adit at the historic Venus Silver Mine, Yukon

At 4:00 I reached my car and headed home, very pleased with the results of the day, both mentally and photographically :)

Exploring the Yukon’s Historic Venus Silver Mill

Regular readers here have seen many photos of the old mill for the Venus silver mine over the years, and I decided on the spur of the moment on May 13th to show you much more of it. And “more” turned out to be much more – there are 34 photos in this post :)

Both of the pulloffs near the mill were blocked in 2007 to discourage people from going into the mill, so it’s about a half-mile walk from the nearest parking now. The government’s Venus Mill brochure has a banner stating: “The mill and slope are unstable and dangerous. Please do not stop at this site – it is closed to the public.” The mill and to a lesser degree even the hike to it, are indeed dangerous, and unlike most of my trip reports, this one isn’t meant to encourage anyone else to repeat it. In fact I told myself that this would be my last time – that I’ve taken all the photos of the interior that I need.

It was noon by the time I was ready to start walking. This was as perfect a day as I’ve ever seen on Windy Arm, with superb reflections, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature about 22°C (72°F).

The South Klondike Highway along Windy Arm, Yukon
The view up from the parking spot to Dail Peak is pretty impressive, too!

Dail Peak, above Windy Arm, Yukon
There is no good route down to the beach – the slopes are all steep and unstable and there’s thick brush at the bottom of some.

A calm day on Windy Arm, Yukon
This was the mine that supplied ore to the mill using an aerial tramway, one tower of which can be seen in the photo.

The historic Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Until it was washed away by exceptionally high water in 2006, a log warehouse, built in about 1905 during the early stages of development of the silver mine, stood here (see it and the mill manager’s house in this article). Now only the ruins of a stone-and-log dock show where it was.

The location of a log warehouse for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
A closer look at the warehouse dock. This 100 yards or so is one of the very few stretches of easy walking along the shore near the mine.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
There are a few artifacts remaining around the warehouse site, including an ore car and this piece from a pump or compressor.

Artifacts near the historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Only a few boards remain from the large assay office and mill manager’s house, which collapsed in the Spring of 2005.

Not much remains of the mill manager's house at the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Now things get really interesting! The mill, with the mine that fed it at the upper left. Many of the descriptions of the mill that follow are cut-and-pasted from my book about the mines, Fractured Veins & Broken Dreams. By 1908, the glory days of the Conrad mines were over, and the timing of the construction of the concentrator could hardly have been worse. Due to huge increases in the production of silver around the world, the price had dropped 20% during the year, to a new low of barely over 50 cents per ounce.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
The slope below the dock is littered with artifacts. In 1995 or ’96 I went scuba diving along and down that slope, looking to add more detail for my book about the mines. While there was lots of material, I didn’t find anything notable.

Artifacts at the historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
When it opened in the Fall of 1908, the concentrator was powered by a 75 horsepower gasoline engine and this 100-horsepower boiler, but within a few weeks a Pelton water-wheel had arrived from Fairbanks, Morse & Company, and had been installed at the foot of Pooley Canyon to supply electrical power.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
As with all of Colonel Conrad’s other purchases, the concentrator, with a price tag of $60,000, was the most modern available at the time; it was also to be the first large concentrator in the Yukon, with a capacity of 100 tons per day. The extensive sampling and testing that had been conducted over the past two years had convinced Conrad and Vance that the most appropriate mill would be one using the Washoe process of pan-amalgamation. This process, which had become the most widely-used milling method in the United States since its development in Nevada in 1861, was likely chosen due to the high percentage of sulphides in the majority of the Windy Arm ores; the Washoe process gave particularly high yields with such ores.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
This support beam is stamped with the initials of one of the 4 companies Conrad was operating under – the Canadian Yukon Mining Company. Most of his Windy Arm mining properties, though, were operated by the Yukon District Gold Mines.

A support beam in the historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Given the slope it was built on, and the fact that it was built 107 years ago, much of the concentrator is in remarkably good condition.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
In the concentration process, a series of crushers reduced the ore to a size which would then allow the constituents of the ore to be separated by specific gravity. This “funnel” delivered a specific size rock to the sorting tables.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
The view out one of the many windows.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
This is a Wilfley table, which held about two tons of very fine ore known as slimes. The tables were steamed-heated before adding mercury to pick up the silver. Despite all the precautions taken in the selection of the concentrator design, however, the ore was so heavily oxidized that it broke up readily, and losses were unacceptably high. In November, the concentrator was shut down until it could be modified to rectify the problem. With some minor modifications to the mill, it was back in operation in December, and concentrates were being shipped out. Although some improvement in the recovery rate was noticed, it was still not what was hoped for, and the process was modified again several times over the winter.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
As I was climbing up through the concentrator, I was seeing machinery in the opposite order to which the ore would pass through it. The next 2 photos are different angles on one of the sorting trommels and related machinery.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Looking up about 30 feet to a wooden drive wheel, which would have had a belt powering some of the sorting equipment.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
I seldom shoot black-and-white photos, but it seems to work for this shot through a collapsed part of the roof.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
The largest engine in the mill was built by Gates Iron Works of Chicago.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Another of the sorting trommels.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
I couldn’t get near it, but I believe that this is a a Huntington crushing mill, used for the final crushing before concentration.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
The machinery was changed several times over the years, and I expect it would take an expert in historic mining machinery to figure out what the pieces that are left did.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
The upper sections of the concentrator are too steep to a solo explorer to climb through – this shot was taken from outside.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
This photo of the entire south side of the mill is a panorama created by stacking 3 photos vertically. The concentrator was last used in 1919. In 1918, a new group of miners from Montana, operating as the Montana-Yukon Mining Company, had taken over the Venus mine. In May, they installed an oil flotation system in the old concentrator in an attempt to increase the silver recovery. By late June 1918, the mill was working at full capacity, and 800 sacks of concentrates were shipped out. The machinery at the concentrator was modified several times; in July 1918, a Hardinge mill and 2 double-deck Diester sliming tables were ordered, to increase the capacity of the mill, and a power plant that Colonel Conrad had installed at MacDonald Creek was moved to Pooley Canyon to provide more reliable electrical power than the Pelton water wheel had been able to supply. With more modifications, partially financed by Willard Phelps, the mill operated through the 1919 season with a crew of 15 in the mill, plus a few woodcutters, but then closed permanently.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
After reaching the top, I went back down the outside of the north side of the mill to about half-way, then went inside to see more details such as this little spout from a wooden tank.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
A final up-close look at the the south side.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
Descending back down to the lake, it was a real pleasure to see flowers growing on the slope.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
This odd structure is a slickenside, caused by frictional movement between rocks along the two sides of a fault. That sort of movement is part of what ultimately caused all the mines in this area to fail.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
It just looks like a piece of rusty wire on the beach, buit this is from the private telephone system that connected all of the mines and related buildings from 1905 on.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon
With one final perfect reflection, my exploration and photo-documenting of the concentrator was finished.

The historic mill for the Venus Silver Mine on Windy Arm, Yukon

Once I got back to the car, I decided to hike up to the Venus mine – but that’s another story :)

A 5-Day RV Weekend in Skagway, Alaska

For most Yukoners, the Victoria Day weekend is the first camping weekend of the season. For us this year, it was the third camping weekend, having spent Easter at Haines and then the first weekend of May at Skagway, but as with many of our neighbours, Skagway was once again our destination. Cathy has lots of holidays banked, so took off both the day before and the day after – having 5 days helped make it a really great RV weekend!

The weather forecast for both the Yukon and Skagway was amazing, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 20s C (low 70s F). The Victoria Day weekend in Skagway has the reputation of being extremely busy with Yukoners, and it used to be a rowdy weekend to the point that the RCMP sent some members down to help out the Skagway police. Wanting to beat the crowds at the border was the main reason Cathy took the Friday off, and we were the only vehicle at the border crossing. A particularly friendly Customs officer welcomed us to the United States, and by noon we had paid $160 for 4 nights at the Pullen Creek RV Park and were getting set up at site #44, which is the “overflow” parking, actually part of the marina parking lot.

We had stayed at Garden City RV Park the last time down, and while it was fine, we wanted a different experience this time. We wanted to be able to walk most places, and we wanted an awesome view. Okay, we wanted an even more awesome view! There were no cruise ships in, so Skagway was very quiet so far, but expecting to soon lose the empty spot beside us, I took this photo at 2:30 as we were unwinding with a couple of cold Alaska beer.

RVing at Skagway, Alaska
Having accomplished absolutely nothing on Friday other than getting to Skagway – a perfect list of accomplishments to start a holiday – I was up early on Saturday to greet the first cruise ships. This was shot at 05:36, with the Celebrity Millennium approaching the Railroad Dock on the left and Holland America’s Volendam heading for the Broadway Dock.

Cruise ships at Skagway, Alaska
“The Millie” was just getting tied up to the dock by the time I had walked over there 15 minutes later. Watching the ships always brings back great memories, and that’s particularly true with ships like this one, as we spent a week on her, sailing from Vancouver to Alaska and back with 4 friends from Ontario in June 2012.

Cruise ship Celebrity Millennium at Skagway, Alaska
The third ship of the day, the Golden Princess, approaches at 6:10. Most of the ships report a 07:00 arrival time in their itineraries, but in reality can be there as much as 3 hours earlier than that.

Cruise ship Golden Princess nears Skagway, Alaska
The 3 ships brought 6,070 people to town, so the helicopter fleet over at Temsco was fairly busy taking people flightseeing and for some, dogsledding on the Denver Glacier a few minutes north.

Temsco helicopters at Skagway, Alaska
We did a lot of walking on Saturday, and drove over to Dyea for a while. Dyea was extremely busy, with hundreds of Yukoners camped out on the flats as well as in the 2 campgrounds. While we could camp at the NPS campground, the bridge over the Taiya River is too low for our rig, so the city campground and the flats aren’t options for us. We’re still new to RVing, but love being able to come back to a fully-equipped home after a walk.

Motorhome at Skagway, Alaska
This is what the main part of the Pullen Creek RV Park looks like, with trees and larger sites, but no view.

Pullen Creek RV Park, Skagway, Alaska
On one of our walks I noticed that both of the custom parlour cars were hooked up for a run. I heard later that Princess cruise passengers can book a luxury train trip, I assume at a substantial premium over the regular fare. I got to ride in one of these beautiful cars last September – you can see the inside of the cars in the blog post from that trip.

WP&YR custom parlor cars at Skagway, Alaska
We intended to go to restaurants for most dinners, and on Saturday night we went to the closest one, a new Mexican cafe called Pescaritos. It was called Harbor House for a couple of years, and Stowaway Cafe for many years before that. I thought that it was an excellent meal at a reasonable price but Cathy was less impressed, mostly due to the rather limited menu. The service was excellent, as was the view. You can see the menu on their Facebook page. We got an outside table, and having a very active hummingbird feeder beside our table was fun :)

Hummingbird in Skagway, Alaska
It was quite chilly by the time we left Pescaritos, so sat in the motorhome and watched the world go by when we got back – including watching the ships leave in this photo. This is certainly one of the things that Molly enjoys most about RVing – there’s always lots to see.

Cat in an RV window at Skagway, Alaska
I decided to take Bella on a much longer walk on Sunday – one that neither Cathy nor Monty would be likely to enjoy. I drove to the Pioneer Cemetery, and then we walked up an ATV trail that runs alongside the tracks. Near Mile 3 I noticed a road going off into the forest – something to check out later.

White Pass rail line at Mile 3 near Skagway, Alaska
Near Mile 4, this tunnel that I’d never seen on any of my many train trips caught my attention. This sort of tunnel was typically used for dynamite storage during the construction days 115 years ago.

Dynamite storage tunnel beside the WP&YR tracks near Skagway, Alaska
Just north of Mile 4, we met this train. While I enjoyed the encounter, it terrified poor Bella, and that was the end of our walk, as the ATV trail ended here and the tracks were the only place to walk.

A WP&YR train near Skagway, Alaska
Walking back towards town, it was clear that the road I had seen earlier was actually a section of abandoned rail line about a mile long, and it looked like a pleasant shaded walk. Not far down that trail, I noticed another tunnel, but this one far above the tracks, perhaps 100 feet or so. A mine? I really have no idea.

A mystery tunnel near Skagway, Alaska
This really was a pleasant place to walk. I still almost always keep Bella on an extenda-leash, as she’s quite impulsive and I don’t trust completely that she won’t take off chasing something. In open areas she can run free, but not in a forest where she could quickly vanish. On the 20-foot lead she still has enough freedom to do lots of exploring, and there were plenty of good smells for her along this trail.

Walking my dog on a section of abandoned rail line near Skagway, Alaska
This time of year is wonderful for people like me who love waterfalls. This one is on Reid Creek just 100 yards down the ATV trail from the Pioneer Cemetery.

Waterfall near Skagway, Alaska
Monday was the only day that we had a planned activity – we had booked our annual Victoria Day train ride for 08:15. There was some sort of delay down at the docks, and the train didn’t arrive to pick us up until 08:40.

WP&YR train at Skagway, Alaska
We were underway within a few minutes. The expansion of the White Pass yard where they store the passenger cars seems to just keep getting larger.

Expansion of the WP&YR car storage yard at Skagway, Alaska
I have taken literally thousands of photos on past WP&YR trips, so sat inside with Cathy most of the time on this one. I can never have too many pictures of some spots such as Clifton, though :)

Clifton, on the WP&YR rail line near Skagway, Alaska
Bridal Veil Falls was certainly taking away a whole lot of melted snow!

Bridal Veil Falls as seen from the WP&YR rail line near Skagway, Alaska
This day was as perfect as any I’ve ever seen for riding the train. As many times as I’ve seen them, these mountains still thrill me.

Spectacular peaks along the WP&YR rail line near Skagway, Alaska
Tunnel Mountain is “the” iconic photo spot on the entire line.

Tunnel Mountain on the WP&YR rail line in Alaska
We had a lengthy delay at the summit before starting back down to Skagway. One of the passengers had dropped his cell phone off the train a couple of miles south, and they actually sent the locomotive back down to retrieve it for him!

White Pass & Yukon Route train in snow near the summit

That night, we went to the Skagway Fish Company for dinner. Several years before the fire that wiped the restaurant out 2 years ago, the halibut portions had gotten so small that I quit going, and this was their opportunity to convince me to return. We expected to be able to eat outside, but instead were seated inside, which has little atmosphere compared to the old place or to the Skagway Brewing Company, which has been my Skagway go-to place for halibut since I quit “Fishco”. My halibut and chips, though, was very good, and Cathy’s stuffed halibut was even better. Add excellent service, and they almost made up for not seating us outside – we were told that the outside tables aren’t licensed for food service (really???).

Tuesday was the first 10,000+ passenger day of the season, with 4 large ships in. When I shot this at 05:48, the Grand Princess was just joining the Crown Princess, Celebrity Summit and Noordam.

Cruise ships at Skagway, Alaska
Our plan was to head home about noon, so as well as several dogs walks, I went for a short photography walk. These women in National Park Service uniforms were doing some work on the roof of one of the many NPS buildings in town.

NPS building maintenance in Skagway, Alaska
There’s more work being done around Locomotive 195 which sits behind the museum, but I don’t know to what end. Several old trucks have been set on a new line of track, and a lot of brush has been cut, though.

WP&YR steam locomotive 195 at Skagway, Alaska
Locomotive #195 was one of 11 Mikado style 2-8-2s ordered from Baldwin by the US Army when they took over the White Pass & Yukon Route during WWII – it was built in February 1943. Nicknamed “MacArthur”, these engines were significant contributors to the speedy construction of what is now the Aaska Highway.

WP&YR steam locomotive 195 at Skagway, Alaska
Broadway gets to be a very busy place with 4 ships in. You only need to walk a block off Broadway, though, to find quiet spots – as many merchants trying to avoid the high-rent district have discovered over the years.

Skagway, Alaska
We packed up and were headed north just before noon as planned. There was a long stretch of re-surfacing being done north of the Yukon Suspension Bridge, but the delay was minimal, and we were home just after 3:00.

Skagway, Alaska

The only problem with having a wonderful weekend by extending it to 5 days is that now I want 7-days ones! :)

Enjoying Spring on the Beach at Dyea, Alaska

The vast, almost always empty beach at Dyea is one of my favourite places to go as Spring approaches. The real Spring, not the one on the calendar that bears no resemblance to the Northern one :) On Wednesday, the dogs and I went down for the day, and it was wonderful.

I had some errands to run, so it was after 11:00 by the time we reached Windy Arm. I was surprised to see that there’s already a fair bit of open water – even the large lakes may be ice-free much earlier than usual.

Spring ice on Windy Arm, Yukon><br />
Monty and Bella had a good romp at our usual stop on Tutshi Lake. Bella was trying to break some of the ice by stomping on it with both feet but didn’t have much luck. She does that on the puddles at home every morning – it’s a pretty funny game to watch.<br />
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The White Pass railway crews have gotten the tracks and part of the bus parking lot at Fraser cleared now.

Spring snow clearing on the WP&YR rail line at Fraser, BC
The clearing doesn’t progress down the tracks towards Skagway very far yet. This year, you can ride the train to and from Fraser between May 5th and September 24th. Cathy and I are looking forward to our almost-annual train ride on the Victoria Day long weekend (May 16-18 this year).

Spring snow clearing on the WP&YR rail line at Fraser, BC
These pilings are from an incredibly long wharf that was built at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush. They’re the main sign now that a town once existed here.

Century-old wharf pilings at Dyea, Alaska
This is what that wharf looked like in 1898.This sign is at a pulloff on the new section of the Dyea Road right across the Taiya River from the townsite.

Dyea, Alaska in 1898
We reached the water just as an extremely low tide had started to turn. With the very shallow gradient of the beach, it comes in very quickly. During the Gold Rush, before the wharf was built, many people lost everything when their goods were dropped on the beach and they couldn’t move it fast enough.

Beach at Dyea, Alaska
Bella is pretty fast, but she can’t keep up with Monty, even at 12 years old. She learned about salt water quickly – I didn’t see her try a drink from the sea at all this time, unlike our Easter weekend at Haines :)

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
A strong, cold wind out of the north forced me to keep my jacket on except in this little sheltered area along the western cliffs.

The beach at Dyea, Alaska
There are some really nice waterfalls along those cliffs – none very large, but some very pretty.

Waterfall at Dyea, Alaska
The little trickle coming out of a crack in the granite is only about a foot high.

Waterfall at Dyea, Alaska
I love these cliffs – they have great characer, and lots of variety.

Cliffs along the beach at Dyea, Alaska
Bella is getting more and more adventurous, and yet is showing good judgment, a trait that’s really important in the places I take my dogs. She carefully checked out the route back down from this spot rather than diving off the side as I’ve seen some dogs do.

Sheltie on the beachside cliffs at Dyea, Alaska
In a still photo it looks like Monty is in for the kill, but they’re just playing (he’s still got some good moves in him!).

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
This was shot just seconds after the one above – haha!

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
On the way out, I drove through the very nice campground at the new Dyea Flats Recreation Site. There are only 6 sites and they’re small (our 31-foot rig might just barely fit), but they’re free so far.

Campground at Dyea Flats Recreation Site
Back to winter, overlooking the Thompson River just south of Fraser.

The WP&YR rail line crosses the Thompson River
From the highway, the ice at the beach where I always let the dogs run looks like it’s going to break up any day now.

Spring ice on Tutshi Lake, BC
I love pressure ridges, but the route down to this one on Tutshi Lake looked too difficult, so I just enjoyed it from afar :)

Pressure ridge of ice on Tutshi Lake, BC
Windy Arm is looking quite Spring-y right at the BC/Yukon border.

Windy Arm, on the BC/Yukon border
I stopped for a minute at the historic Venus silver mill, mostly to remind myself that I need to get through it again this year.

The historic Venus silver mill, Yukon
When I saw these 3 swans on the Nares River at Carcross, I made a little detour. Somehow I missed the migration this year – I won’t let that happen again.

It’s Friday afternoon as I post this, and I’m 1,000 miles away from the Yukon, in Kelowna, BC. More about that in a day or two :)

Whitehorse at Night

Friday night was intended to be another night of aurora photography. Despite a great forecast, the aurora never showed in any photograph-worthy way, but I did rediscover a side of Whitehorse that I hadn’t seen in many years. There will certainly be other nights like this, as it’s a very different world than the one I used to know.

My drive into town at midnight was just meant to kill time until some decent aurora began – although there were some of the vaporous clouds of aurora as the night before had ended with, there was nothing worth photographing.

I had taken some photos of the Yukon Theatre the previous day, so went there first to get some night shots. It appears to be the last Whitehorse business still using old-style neon tube lights, and I expect it to be bulldozed in the very near future. I haven’t been inside the building in probably 20 years, but people who have say that it’s in terrible condition, and Landmark is apparently just sucking the last few dollars out of it before closing it.

Yukon Theatre, Whitehorse, Yukon, at night
The peeling paint visible in this photo shows the lack of maintenance that continues inside and is prompting complaints in every possible venue – the reviews at Tribute.ca are appalling. Cool sign, though :)

Yukon Theatre, Whitehorse, Yukon, at night

I went over to The Wharf on the Yukon River, where the sky was dark enough to check on the aurora, and when the sky was still black, decided to continue seeing what Whitehorse at night is like now.

In the early and mid 1990s, I saw a lot of the city at night. Both driving taxi for Yellow Cabs and later as an RCMP Auxiliary constable, nighttime was when my services were needed. Although it had calmed down a bit from when I first saw Whitehorse in 1985, it was still a pretty wild town at night, and some of the bars from those days are legendary – The Roadhouse, 60 Below, Joe’s, the Taku, the Capital…

Now, although there were a fair number of young people walking around or just hanging around, there was virtually no traffic other than a handful of taxis. The Edgewater was never much of a nighttime action place, but was completely quiet. The people seen in the distance are outside the Capital, which was a very busy place at midnight on the Fridays of 20 years ago, both inside and outside.

Edgewater Hotel, Whitehorse, Yukon, at night
The 98 is the last of the old-time bars, though my impression is that even it is much calmer than it used to be. The manager for 30-odd years, Barney Roberge, was a real gentleman but was also as colourful as the bar. The 98 (“The Breakfast Club”) was one of my regular spots to drink, as it opened as I got off night taxi shifts (you can’t get a beer there until 9:00am now). This is another place that I expect to disappear any time now.

98 Hotel, Whitehorse, Yukon, at night
Looking for more subjects, I saw a huge dust cloud up towards the north end of town, which I narrowed down to this sweeper cleaning up the Qwanlin Mall parking lot. When my daughter first arrived in Whitehorse, her comment when I showed her the mall was “That’s not a mall!!”), and it has even fewer stores now – the #1 hit on Google for “Qwanlin Mall” is this hilarious video about it :)

Whitehorse, Yukon, at night
Back in the old days, “the KK” was one of the hottest bars in town. It was one of the most common bars to do bar checks of (looking for underage drinking and over-serving, mostly) when I was in uniform. It’s sure quiet now except early on “Wing Night”.

Whitehorse, Yukon, at night
I decided to go out to the Yukon River Bridge just in case a very brief good aurora display happened, but this was as good as it got. The trees are lit up by the lights of a semi that was there for a half-hour or so. At 02:30 I gave up and went home to bed.

Faint aurora near Whitehorse, Yukon

So, no aurora, and yet a very interesting night that brought back a flood of good memories (and yes, some not so good). With a plan, I’ll be going back into Whitehorse at night for a better look.

Last Aurora Night of the Season?

I was quite excited about the opportunity to photograph the latest aurora I’ve ever seen on Thursday night. Although the weather forecast when I went to bed at 8:00 pm indicated that I might have to do some searching for clear skies, the aurora forecast for strong (level 4) displays would make it worth putting some miles on.

When I woke up at 11:00, the skies were mostly clear, much better than forecast. With high hopes that the aurora would be strong enough to be seen over the city lights, I started the night off just before midnight at my favourite overlook on the Long Lake Road. No luck, though – the aurora was much too faint for this to work.

Whitehorse, Yukon, at night
Obviously darkness was needed, so I headed down the Alaska Highway to my most common shooting location, the Yukon River Bridge. I stopped for a few minutes at Macrae, though, and got a few shots of the aurora over the highway.

Aurora borealis over the Alaska Highway
By 01:00 I was up on the ridge above the bridge, hoping that good displays would appear. Clouds began to move in from the south, though, and a friend in Whitehorse posted on the Yukon Aurora Alert page that clouds were also moving in from the west-northwest.

Aurora borealis in the Yukon
It takes a lot of patience to get vehicles on even the busiest highway in the Yukon at night :)

Aurora borealis over the Alaska Highway at the Yukon River
As the clouds got thick enough that I was about to give up, a strong display arrived and lasted for a few minutes. When it faded, I packed up and started west on the highway to what I hoped would be clearer skies.

Less than a kilometer down the road, I did a U-turn as another strong show started. I took this opportunity to shoot some images showing how to manipulate aurora photos. I don’t like “Photoshopped” aurora photos, but they’re very popular. A camera setting isn’t exactly Photoshopping, but the concept is the same – you’re just manipulating the image before shooting instead of after. The most common manipulation is increasing the green far beyond what it actually looks like, by setting the camera’s White Balance to Daylight.

Photographing the aurora with White Balance in Daylight setting
The aurora went flat after that, and although I did find clear skies, no display that was really worth photographing appeared. The displays turned to the vaporous, extremely fast-moving ones that we see occasionally. Although interesting, they make for very poor photos. This final image was shot at ISO 5000 with an 8-second exposure in an attempt to show you what they look like.

I had a nap for an hour before starting the drive home. I was back in bed at 05:30. It was a good night but not a great night, and I had high hopes for Friday night, with another level 4 aurora forecast.

First Motorcycle Ride of the Season

I finally got out on a real ride today, way later than usual. Just too much going on. Well, I actually was out on the bike for an hour or so the day before we went Haines over Easter, but an hour doesn’t really count :)

The plan today was to spend 3-4 hours doing the Tagish-Carcross loop, with lunch at the new Jake’s Diner, an hour down the Alaska Highway, to start the ride off right, then some time with some of the thousands of migrating swans at the Tagish Bridge before finishing the ride home.

A few minutes from home, I stopped to shoot a selfie at the Yukon River Bridge rest area on the Alaska Highway.

Murray on his VStar motorcycle at the Yukon River Bridge
Not much has changed yet at Jake’s Diner, which just re-opened after being closed for 2, maybe 3 years. I know the woman who now runs it, Lisa Armstrong, from when she was cooking in Carcross – her baking in particular is exceptional.

Jake's Diner, Alaska Highway, Yukon
Bob the Moose announces the daily special, which today was grilled cheese sandwich and salmon chowder. The bowl of chowder was both huge and excellent, and with coffee the entire bill was $9.92 – excellent value! Jake’s is definitely back on my list of regular stops :)

Jake's Diner, Alaska Highway, Yukon
The diner has a really funny design that only lets 4 people (2 tables) enjoy this spectacular view. As you can see from the first inside photo, there are no other windows. Maybe Lisa will add an outside patio (hint, hint!) :)

Jake's Diner, Alaska Highway, Yukon

A fellow about my age in a pickup had pulled up to the diner beside me when I arrived, and commented that it was pretty early to be out on a motorcycle. We got chatting, and he agreed that if you’re dressed like I was, there was no reason to not be out. It was 4°C (39°F) when I left home, and I hadn’t been even slightly cold.

As I got near the Tagish River Bridge, the wind which had been pounding me all the way greatly increased, and the only swans visible from the bridge were 60-70 barely visible in a sheltered bay to the north. What a disappointment!

It was a great day to be on the bike even without swans, though – this was the view along the Tagish Road as I neared Carcross.

Tagish Road, Yukon, by motorcycle

I checked a couple of possible swan locations near Carcross, but the wind had driven them from both places.

I’m hoping for an early Spring, though the warming seems to have stalled at the moment. The breakup of the ice on Emerald Lake, though, does seem to be a bit further advanced than normal for mid-April.

Frozen Emerald Lake, Yukon
One final photo looking back to Brute Mountain at Carcross. It’s certainly still Winter up there!

After a great day, I’m hoping for an even better night. The forecast is for a very strong aurora tonight, so I’ll be back on the road in about 3 hours :)