It’s an Easy Winter So Far

The fur-kids and I were due for a road trip yesterday, and just by coincidence, I had a couple of packages to pick up at the Skagway post office. The weather forecast called for a dull day, but there’s still little snow and the temperature was a mild -11°C (+12°F) when we left the house at 08:40, an hour and 11 minutes before sunrise.

As this was “rush hour” towards Whitehorse, we met almost a dozen vehicles in the first 20 miles or so :) , and then it got very quiet as usual. Near Emerald Lake, a couple of particularly fine looking mule deer, a buck and a doe, were at the side of the road, but it was still too dark to get any photos so I didn’t stop.

Winter dawn on the South Klondike Highway
South of Carcross at 09:30, at the gates that are used to close the highway in the event of landslides, avalanches or other problems. The thick, low cloud kept it very dark even though the sun was up there somewhere.

Gates on the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
A few hundred feet south of the Yukon/BC border, this young bull moose was at the side of the road. I stopped and rolled the passenger side windows down. Bella and Monty were wonderful, not making any sound at all for the several minutes we stayed with him. Very, very special.

Young bull moose at the BC / Yukon border

Young bull moose at the BC / Yukon border
A few hundred feet further down the highway, I stopped to get this photo of our black-and-white world. This is near the south end of Windy Arm – the land on the left is the delta of Dail Creek, and was the site of the little town of Wynton during the 1905-1906 silver mining rush.

Winter view of Windy Arm, BC
We stopped for our usual walk on the beach at Tutshi Lake, whose level has now started to drop.

Tutshi Lake, BC
Right the the summit of the White Pass, we drove out of the low cloud, and although the weather report had said that it was cloudy in Skagway, it was lovely!

White Pass, Alaska, in the winter

My stop in Skagway was very short. Although the temperature was just one degree below freezing, a strong north wind was making it very cold. We made a short walk in the forest and then headed north again.

This crew was cleaning up a bit of snow between the William Moore Bridge and the summit.

Rotary snow plow working in the White Pass, Alaska
The best tree frosting along the highway was at Log Cabin, so I stopped there to let the kids have another run and to get some photos of the trees.

Frosted trees at Log Cabin, BC
The view north up Windy Arm. To have this little snow in early December is quite surprising, but must be wonderful for all the mountain goats and Dall sheep that live on that slope.

Windy Arm in the winter
An icy waterfall below the historic Venus silver mine prompted me to switch to video mode for a minute. Clicking on the image below will open the video in a new window.


Beside the waterfall above, this little seep coming out of the rocks caught my attention.

Ice coming out of what looks like solid rock
Looking up to the 1905-1906 workings of the Venus silver mine, with the twin cables of an aerial tramway dropping towards the concentrator right beside the highway.


The Bove Island viewpoint, with frosted trees and swirling mists on the lake, was worth a stop. Scenes like this make me really wish that the Yukon’s tourism slogan was still “The Magic & the Mystery” – it may be gone as a slogan, but that’s still what the territory is to me. If you Google term, you’ll see that lot of other people feel that way as well.


The swirling mist looked like it might be good for another short video. As above, clicking on the image below will open the video in a new window.


We were back home by 2:00 pm, and managed to get a fair bit of Web work done before my niece came over to discuss our trip next week. On Thursday, I’m helping her to move back to southern BC – she’s not a big fan of winter driving, and I am. It’ll be a very quick trip (3 days, then I’ll fly home), but I might take a photo or 2 to show you :)



Web Site Changes

For the past week, my view has been variations of this sort of screen, as I move almost 30,000 Web site files to new servers.


In my continuing move towards retirement, I’ve closed both my travel and Web site hosting businesses, and moved my own sites to new, much smaller/cheaper server space (at Westhost, the company I’ve been with since 2001). ExploreNorth alone, though, consists of 24,090 files taking up 1.48GB of space. If I had a T1 line and good software it would be a big job, but with Yukon-style Internet service and really awful Mac software, it’s mind-numbing.

As part of these moves, you’ll see some changes, and you may have tried to reach some sites that were unavailable. This blog in particular has some issues – what was supposed to be a seamless move turned out to not be, and I’ve got a few hours yet to get it back the way it was. BUT, I’m almost finished! :) I’m taking the day off today to go to Skagway – I deserve a better view for a few hours. ttyl!



Great Light for a Drive to Skagway

An hour after getting home from my 12-hour, 538-kilometer aurora-viewing drive to Kluane Lake, I was back on the road to Skagway. I had an exciting eBay win to pick up at the post office, and hey, it was sunny – what more reason do I need? :)

Starting down the South Klondike at 09:40, 32 minutes after sunrise.
South Klondike Highway on a winter morning
Bove Island. The 90%-plus humidity has resulted in a lot of fog and low cloud, which in turn has resulted in some wonderful hoar frost along the highway.
Bove Island, on the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
This view of Tutshi Lake had a dramatic contrast between the light and dark areas, so worked nicely as an HDR image, combining 3 images shot at different exposures.
Tutshi Lake in the winter
The light was wonderful, and I found myself stopping a lot. The low clouds and blue shadow with the winding gold road here got a few shots.
South Klondike Highway, BC
Some interesting patterns have formed in the lake ice.
Patterns on a frozen lake
After my long night on the road I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic, but after picking up my mail I got a few shots of the WP&YR’s first locomotive, #52 (originally #2), which was recently moved to a position of honour beside the rotary snow plow on one of the most visible pieces of property in Skagway.
WP&YR steam locomotive #52
This 2-6-0 engine was built by Brooks Locomotive Works in 1881 for the Utah & Northern Railroad; it was sold in 1890 to Columbia & Puget Sound and sold again in 1898 to the WP&YR. After working the main line for many years, in 1931 it was moved to Taku to run on a 2½-mile long line connecting Tagish Lake and Atlin Lake. On the Atlin Lake side, the steamboat M/V Tarahne would carry guests to and from the railway’s large and luxurious Atlin Inn.
WP&YR steam locomotive #52
Broadway after the end of another cruise ships season – calm again! :)
Skagway in the winter
A deep cold last week froze all the waterfalls, but temperatures slightly above freezing have got the water flowing again.
Winter waterfall in Alaska's White Pass
Waterfalls fascinate me, especially when there’s ice as well as water.
Winter waterfall near Skagway, Alaska
Hoar frost and spectacular peaks – it’s quite a drive.
South Klondike Highway, BC

I was back home by 2:30, and went straight to bed without opening my prize package. When I got up, though, opening it was my first priority.

This collection from the estate of Francois S. Brodeur was what had me so excited. He was a member of Company A, 340th Engineers and served on the Alaska Highway and in the Pacific. The two lower books were printed specifically for 340th members – “Lower Post or Freeze” is one of the rarest of construction-era books and I’ve been looking for a copy for many years – it has scores of photos I’ve never seen before. The letter is a 1978 letter of sympathy to his widow, signed by the governor of Rhode Island.

[Nov. 20 edit – I’ve started to put some of the significant information from “Lower Post or Freeze” online – first, the unit history on the Alcan project, and photos and names of every member that served in the regiment on that project (over 1,200). It starts with the history here.]

My “to-do” list seems a mile long at the moment – it’s tough to set the right priorities at times. But, I’ll see what I can get accomplished today. Isn’t retirement supposed to be when you sit back and watch TV a lot? :)



To Kluane Lake for Aurora Borealis Viewing

As our changing climate makes cloudy skies the norm during a Whitehorse winter, aurora borealis viewing gets less and less likely. Yesterday, once again seeing the frustrating combination of great aurora forecasts and cloudy skies, I decided to drive to wherever the sky was clear so I could see the lights. When I left the house at about 8:30 pm, I had Kluane Lake in mind (going by the weather reports and forecasts) but was open to almost anything, nearer or further.

At 10:00 I drove past the Otter Falls Cutoff and was surprised to see it open, as I’d only seen 2 other vehicles since leaving Whitehorse. I drove another mile and then did a U-turn, deciding to go back to top off my gas tank, refill my coffee mug and get a bag of junk food. I asked what time they closed, and the very pleasant young clerk said that they’re now open 24/7 year round. I can’t imagine how that could possibly be economically viable, but was happy to spend a few dollars to help keep them open.
Otter Falls Cutoff, Yukon
The sky still wasn’t clear, but the road was dry, I had great music to listen to, and fresh coffee and junk food beside me – a great night to just keep going as far as I needed to.
Music in the Cadillac

There were some dramatic temperature shifts as I drove towards Kluane Lake. At Km 1627 at 11:10 pm, the temperature was -1°C (30°F). Three minutes later, with no elevation change, it had plummeted to -9°C (16°F), then as I dropped down to Kluane Lake from Boutillier Summit, the temperature climbed back to -1C.

I pulled into the large parking lot on the lakeshore at Horseshoe Bay across from the Soldiers Summit trail at 11:30, but although the temperature was still -1C, the ground blizzard (snow picked up by the wind) made both viewing and photography all but impossible except for this video shot from inside the car.


I did some more scouting around the head of the lake for aurora shooting locations, but there were no lights yet, so I went back to a large parking lot on the beach at Km 1642, out of the direct line of the wind, and went to sleep for almost 3 hours.

I woke up just after 03:00. There was just the slightest hint of aurora glow, so I fired the car up to get everything warm again, then decided to try some real night photography. To use the camera on “B” (Bulb) setting for extremely long exposures (longer than 30 seconds with my camera), a remote shutter release is really needed, as even your heartbeat will transfer to the camera while you’re holding the shutter down. I’ve had remote releases for most of my cameras, but haven’t yet got one for the Canon EOS 7D. But anyway, I tried a few times, and this 72-second exposure at ISO 1600 turned out quite well. That’s a jet making the straight line across the sky. This is not Photoshopped in any way – as with all of my photos except when I state otherwise, this is what I saw.
Sheep Mountain and Kluane Lake on a winter night
At 03:40, a band of aurora finally appeared! I took a few shots from the parking lot and then drove towards Sheep Mountain, hoping that the wind had died.
Aurora borealis at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The view to the south from the Slim’s River delta was stunning, and I tried a few more night shots, as the wind had almost died. The exposure for this one was 48 seconds. Most of the images I shot were discarded because the camera moved a bit while the shutter was open, and this one is far from perfect but it’s good enough to show you the view.
Kluane Range at night
Back near Soldiers Summit at 0:400, having not seen another vehicle in the past hour, I stopped in the middle of the highway, set my tripod up beside the car, and took a few shots. This one was the best to show the snow being swirled around by the wind at this very exposed location.
Aurora borealis along the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake
There was still enough wind at the Horseshoe Bay viewpoint to shake even my heavy Manfrotto tripod, but I got a few good shots of the Northern Lights with the moon. The lights across the lake are at the Kluane Bed & Breakfast.
Northern Lights over Kluane Lake, Yukon
Aurora borealis over Kluane Lake, Yukon
Another photo shot from the parking lot, looking to the south. This one was shot at 30 seconds, making it very dark, then Photoshopped to this point which is about what it looked like to my eye.
Kluane Range at night
A truck went by as I was about to leave Horseshoe Bay, so I waited for a few minutes to get some photos of his headlights lighting up the highway on the far side of the lake. The aurora was already fading. This had certainly not been the night I had hoped for.
Kluane Lake, Yukon, at night
I went back to the parking lot where I had slept, and the aurora returned briefly at 05:00.
Aurora borealis at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
As I drove back towards Whitehorse, I could occasionally see the aurora out the side window, so stopped at the large parking lot at Bear Creek Summit for a few more photos. This is the highest point on the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, at 1,004 meters (3,294 feet) – that’s 1 meter higher than Boutillier Summit.
Northern Lights at Bear Creek Summit, Yukon
At Haines Junction, I made a detour down the Haines Highway with a specific shot in mind. The aurora was quite faint, but this is basically what I had in mind – to get the “Welcome to Haines Junction” sign to show up, I shone my headlamp on it for 1/3 of the 30-second exposure.
Back on the Alaska Highway, I stopped at a viewpoint that I do a lot of shooting at, at Km 1566, at 06:30. The aurora was gone, but I took several “night” shots. Most of the ones I shot with the tripod were deleted due to camera movement, but this 48-second one was shot with the camera on the trunk of my car – a much more stable base. I should have thought of that a few hours ago!
The Alaska Highway and Kluane Range on a winter night
After only seeing 4 or 5 vehicles in about 8 hours, it was quite a shock to get back to Whitehorse as “rush hour” was starting at 08:00.
The Alaska Highway at Whitehorse during a winter sunrise

I got home just as Cathy was leaving for work, 12 hours after I had left on this little adventure. Normal people would call it a day and go to bed, but as the sun came up, I knew that the road to Skagway would be awesome!


Bringing Yukon / Alaska History to Life

About a dozen years ago, I purchased a 16mm film shot in 1949 by a woman on an Alaska-Yukon trip. The 52-minute reel is probaby the second of three films covering her cruise from Seattle or Vancouver to Skagway, week-long trip down the Yukon River to Dawson City by sternwheeler, and back to Seattle or Vancouver. This is a period that is not well recorded on film, and her travels by train and sternwheeler show some fascinating aspects of life then. Dawson City is particularly well recorded, but all along the route, there are significant scenes from our history.

I’ve just started a campaign at Kickstarter to raise $1,200 to have a high-resolution digital copy made of it, do a fair bit of editing, and add narration, sounds and possibly period music to it. The film will then be posted on Youtube to be viewed or downloaded by anyone for free. More information can be seen at the Kickstarter page (click the link above or the graphic below), and 76 images and more information about the film itself, can be seen at my RailsNorth site.


Driving from Winter at Whitehorse to Fall at Dyea

On Saturday, Cathy and I took the dogs for a walk along the waterfront trail in Whitehorse. It seemed like a good idea, but with the kids on leashes and the trail very icy, it wasn’t much fun for anyone. So yesterday, I took Monty and Bella to Dyea for a good ice-free blowout run or 2. We had a ball!

The forecast was for some cloud, some sun in both Whitehorse and Skagway, and the temperatures were going to be fairly mild. It was -8°C (+18°F) when we left home about 15 minutes before the 08:31 sunrise, and 15 minutes later it had dropped to -13C (+9F) at Robinson.

We stopped for the usual run at Tutshi Lake, then at 09:35 I caught this truck down by the Yukon Suspension Bridge.
Winter trucking on the South Klondike Highway, BC
The White Pass & Yukon Route tracks at Log Cabin. Only 5 months or so until they start clearing that white stuff off the tracks for another season :)
The White Pass & Yukon Route tracks at Log Cabin, BC
Unlike my drive to Skagway 10 days ago, there was a fair bit of traffic yesterday. This truck was at Ptarmigan Point, at about Km 39.
Winter trucking on the South Klondike Highway, BC
Things are very quiet at Fraser for a few months now, although the Highways crews are busier than in the summer. This is one of several HDR images I created from yesterday’s 205 photos.
Fraser, BC, in the early winter
No, I never do get tired of this drive!
The South Klondike Highway near the White Pass summit
By 10:00 Alaska time, I was heading up the Dyea Road. It’s been a very long time since I’d been to Dyea (well, over a year), and among other things, I was curious to see whether the major road reconstruction was finished.
Dyea Road sign
Nahku Bay was lovely.
Nahku Bay, Alaska
It was a truck day :) I was already pulled off into a viewpoint, so let him come by – easy choice, actually, as that’s the narrowest part of the road and there’s no room for both of us.
Truck on the Dyea Road
The reconstruction is finished – I won’t miss that piece of the road climbing and winding up at all.
Reconstruction on the Dyea Road
On the new section of the road, there’s a new viewpoint and interpretive sign.
Interpretive sign on the Dyea Road
The rainforest along the road out to the historic Dyea townsite and flats is always beautiful, and yesterday’s light made it even better.
Winding road through the forest at Dyea, Alaska
I was just going to go out to the beach, but on the way in I noticed that it was a very high tide, so decided to walk through the old townsite and let the water come down a bit so we’d have more room to play. A townsite walking tour brochure that I hadn’t seen before made it an even better idea.
Trail through the historic Dyea townsite
It looks groomed, but the only caretaker here is Mother Nature. Nice work, Mom! Monty and Bella went nuts – the forest smells are wonderful even to me, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like to a dog’s super-smeller.
Forest trail at Dyea, Alaska
Snow covers pretty much all the ground in the Yukon now – Southeast Alaska is much more interesting.
The most-photographed artifact at Dyea is certainly the false front from the A.M. Gregg real estate office, on what had been Main Street during the gold rush. No other recognizable building pieces remain in what had been a town of 8,000 people.
False front from the A.M. Gregg real estate office at Dyea, Alaska
Driving out to the tidal flats, I was surprised to see this new sign. There’s been a lot of work being done out there in recent years, and this explains why.
Dyea Flats Municipal Recreation Area, Alaska
Nelson Slough, from the one-lane bridge over it.
Nelson Slough, at Dyea, Alaska
Mud-bogging used to be a fairly popular pastime on the flats – it’s now strongly discouraged.
No more mud-bogging on the Dyea Flats
Bella and Monty were already tired from all the running they did at the townsite, but were up for more on the tidal flats, still wet from high tide!
Dogs running at Dyea
Monty has almost infinite patience with his puppy. He has corrected her at times, but it’s very uncommon, and a smile is a more usual reaction to her silliness.
Much of the road out to the beach has been raised with new gravel, but you can see from the driftwood how high the winter tides get, so it will certainly not last very long. There’s still a large muddy area, but I found a route through it and got the car right to the beach.
Road to the beach at Dyea
There was a strong, icy-cold breeze blowing down the valley from the Yukon, so the beach wasn’t as warm as I’d hoped it might be, but it was still wonderful.
The beach at Dyea
A special moment with Monty.
A special moment with my old husky, Monty
We didn’t stay on the beach very long – I should have brought a picnic. By noon I was back on the Dyea Road, stopping to get this photo looking down Taiya Inlet.
Gorgeous light in Taiya Inlet, Alaska
And a similar shot from the viewpoint above Nahku Bay.
Nahku Bay, Alaska

I stopped for lunch at the Morning Wood pub, and was joined by a local who also has a passion for old mines in particular. It’s always great to be able to swap stories about mines and experiences getting into them, and though he has a new baby, Matt and I might even be able to get together for an outing when it warms up again.

Back to winter. It won’t be long before Summit Lake is as white as the land around it.
Summit Lake in the White Pass
Looking back towards the White Pass summit. Yes, that glare does show that the road is covered with ice.
Icy South Klondike Highway near White Pass summit
A closer look at Summit Lake.
Summit Lake, in the White Pass
One final shot of the road, looking back to the south between Fraser and Log Cabin.
After a day like that, both Bella and Monty are happy to have a “down” day today :)
My Sheltie Bella sleeping
My husky Monty sleeping


Collecting and Sharing Yukon & Alaska History

The subject of Northern history shows up a fair bit on this blog, and a lot on my main Web site (ExploreNorth), but I’ve never really shown you what my passion for history looks like at home. With the weather not being very conducive to outside activities, I’m spending a lot of time with my collection lately.

Getting down to start a review of what’s here, a few days ago. For space reasons, it’s now mostly paper (most of the actual artifacts have been donated to 2 Yukon museums), but the thousands of pieces of paper range from photographs and brochures to books and official documents. Anything that relates to the Yukon, Alaska or Arctic has been the broad focus since my serious collecting started 17 years ago.
Murray sorting through his historic papers
One of the subjects that I have a lot of material from is the Yukon Quest sled dog race. This racer’s bib from the 1993 race is the prize in that category.
1993 Yukon Quest racer's bib
If there’s a subject that I just never tire of, it’s early transportation. In the past few days, I’ve put this entire 24-page guide to the Richardson and Steese Highways from 1931 online – you can see it here.
The Richardson and Steese Highways in 1931
I come across some surprising material in my searches. Until the mid-1970s, the U.S. Highway 287 Association promoted U.S. Route 287 as the best tourist route to Alaska. That, too, is now online (though only partly, because it’s size is impossible for me to deal with effectively), here.
In 1985, during the celebration of the National Parks of Canada Centennial, the Klondike Heritage Mail Run carried special envelopes between Seattle and Dawson City via the Chilkoot Pass, and they received special cancellations at several points. As of yesterday, you can see that story here.
And finally, one piece from much further back in the collection – a 1905 grant to allow a Dawson-area placer gold miner to divert water to a group of claims on Trail Gulch.

The two oldest documents in the collection are a 20-page summary/review of a 2-volume history of Greenland, published in The Annual Review of 1793, and an order to ships from the British Admiralty in 1836 (may be signed by John Barrow, who went on to be in charge of all Arctic expeditions). [A hi-res pdf copy of the 1793 review (148MB) can now be seen at my public Dropbox folder.]

I have months and months worth of work/pleasure in the basement yet – enough for several winters :) Much of it will end up on ExploreNorth, some of it on the Facebook pages of several groups I belong to, and some of it on eBay as I pare the collection down to a more manageable size.


Getting into Winter Mode with a Drive to Skagway

It’s hard to believe that it’s only 12 days ago that we were on Waikiki Beach. My head has been having a hard time adjusting, and I needed to do something to get myself into winter mode, so I drove to Skagway with the fur-kids yesterday. It’s been almost 5 weeks since they had a road-trip, too, so I knew that they’d enjoy it.

Winter has made brief visits over the past 3 weeks, and back on the 8th or so, a heavy dump of snow did a lot of damage to trees on our property – some terminally bent like these 2, some much larger ones snapped right off. Most of the snow has melted, but the weather forecast for yesterday called for snow flurries in Whitehorse and afternoon showers in Skagway – not great, but not bad either.
Our snowy back yard in the Yukon
We didn’t get away until after 09:00, with the temperature sitting at -5°C (23°F). The light was generally flat, but had enough variety to be quite pretty down the South Klondike Highway.
South Klondike Highway north of Carcross, Yukon
Looking south along Windy Arm. The highway had started to get quite slippery by this point, with frozen rain covering everything. It’s rather funny that I sometimes don’t notice how slippery a road is until I step out onto it – although my car grips nicely at times like this, my shoes don’t.
Snowy mountains along Windy Arm, Yukon
When I stopped to take the photo above, at Pooley Creek, I was very pleased to see a lot of mountain goats above me – at least 15 of them. Poachers were taking a toll on this population a few years ago, but they seem to be doing very well now. Hopefully the poachers ended up in jail (though I know that they didn’t get arrested for poaching), or better yet, dead.
Mountain goats on Montana Mountain, Yukon
Morning mist at the south end of the dead-calm lake (Windy Arm).
Morning mist on dead-calm Windy Arm, Yukon
Looking back at Dail Peak. To me, this is one of the most scenic spots on the entire highway – I love that mountain, and the curve of the highway. You’d never guess it from this side, but it’s actually quite easy to get almost to the top of Dail.
Dail Peak
I initially stopped at Log Cabin to get another photo of the peak in the centre of this photo – a peak whose name (if it has one) I’ve never been able to figure out. But it was so nice there that I decided to take the kids for a long walk down the tracks.
Log Cabin, BC
The start of the very long Log Cabin siding north of the highway crossing.
Log Cabin siding on the WP&YR
That’s the sort of view that makes me want to walk and walk and walk… but I had neither the gear nor the time to continue further this day.
Log Cabin siding on the WP&YR
I did have time, though, to slow down. Bella and I both enjoyed frozen puddles – me to take photos of them, and Bella to jump on them, probably just to hear the noise :)
Frozen puddle
The humidity must be quite high to get such good frosting on everything.
Frosted leaves
A brief stop to get a shot of the Canada Customs (sorry, CBSA) post at Fraser.
Canada Customs at Fraser, BC
Beautiful moody light at Summit Lake.
Beautiful moody light at Summit Lake, White Pass, BC

The road condition remained quite poor all the way to Skagway, and I didn’t meet a single vehicle on the 90-minute drive between Carcross and Skagway.

I picked up my mail in Skagway, then went for a wander. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a freighter sitting at the Railroad Dock before. I thought at first that it might be a tanker.
Freighter Nordana Madeleine in Skagway, Alaska
But then saw the hatch cover being lowered, so knew it was cargo. Googling when I got home, I see that the Nordana Madeleine is a new ship (built in China in 2009), and heavy-lift cargo is one of her specialties. She’s based in Denmark.
Heavy-lift cargo ship Nordana Madeleine in Skagway, Alaska
“Come on, guys, back in the car!” :)
Monty and Bella running
Driving around to the Railroad Dock, I saw a crew measuring the height of cables over the road, and when I got to the dock, I saw why. I assume that these are fuel tanks for the White Pass shops – it will be an interesting move to get them through town!
Freighter Nordana Madeleine at the Railroad Dock in Skagway, Alaska
Ahhh – Skagway is quiet for a few months again.
A quiet early-winter day on Broadway in Skagway
Heading back up the hill, I stopped at a few waterfalls. This is the time of year to savour that sound, because it’ll be getting silent very soon now as Father Winter locks everything up in his icy vault.
Waterfall in the White Pass, Alaska
The vacation was wonderful, but it is so great to be home again!
A mountain view along the South Klondike Highway
I made another quick stop at Log Cabin to get a photo of these new winter-friendly outhouses in better light than I had during our long morning stop. Recreation Sites and Trails BC has recently installed these – impressive when many people don’t even know that this is part of BC.

That was a great day. The dogs are pooped out, and I’m more focussed. While I have a lot of physical work to do around the property yet, I’m also spending a lot of time in my large collection of historic documents (by “large”, I mean thousands of items). A few days ago, I posted 3 articles of local interest from The Journal of the Canadian Mining Institute, 1909, and I’m currently working on getting these 3 documents entirely online.

Edit: the one on the right, a 20-page guide to the Canadian section of the Alaska Highway published by the Canadian Travel Bureau in 1958, can now be seen here.

And in my spare time, there’s planning to do for future Adventures!


Now you can Subscribe to The ExploreNorth Blog

It was brought to my attention by a reader a few days ago that I don’t have an easy way to subscribe to this blog. I’m very flattered to have been asked this question, and have just added one that works on a system that I’m quite impressed by. With News@Me, your subscription will get you an email notification only when I post something related to the post that you subscribe on. A subscription box will appear at the bottom of every post – in the example below, if you subscribed on that post, you would only get posts related to Vancouver, BC, cruises and a handful of other tags. Since the Yukon, Alaska and BC are my most common subjects, and “RV” will be once it gets warm again, those are the tags that I’ll use on this post, for those of you wanting to keep up with my usual posts.

Note that if you just scroll down the main page of the blog (http://explorenorth.com/wordpress/ or http://explorenorthblog.com/, you don’t see the subscription form – only if you’re on a specific post, ie. http://explorenorth.com/wordpress/now-can-subscribe-explorenorth-blog/ in this case.

The Trip Home, from Hot Sand to Snow

On Thursday, we began the 4,000-mile trip home. We were scheduled to fly out of Honolulu at 1:15 pm with Alaska Airlines, have a very short overnight in Seattle, and be in Whitehorse just before 2:00 pm Friday. Although there were some bumps along the way, that’s not too far from what happened.

I haven’t posted many photos of the hotel we stayed at, simply because I didn’t want to spend any time taking a good set. Everything about the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort was wonderful, though – this is the massive reception desk on the right.
Reception desk at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort
We thought about laying on the beach and going swimming one more time, but to me it didn’t seem worth it to deal with wet bathing suits again for just a couple of hours. We did go for a last walk, though, and were greeted by this rainbow in a clear sky.
Rainbow over Gray's Beach, Honolulu
Out at the end of the jetty, dozens of these little fish were being bashed around where the waves hit the rocks. It seemed like an odd place to choose to live.
Little fish along the jetty at Gray's Beach, Honolulu
There were a few little crabs out baking in the hot sun instead of dropping into the still water a foot below.
Little crab on the jetty at Gray's Beach, Honolulu
While we waited for a cab to the airport at 10:20, I took this photo of the weather report screen in the lobby. *sigh* :)
Weather report for Honolulu
At the fairly quiet Honolulu airport just after 11:00, a very helpful agent assisted us with the checkin kiosk and Agriculture inspection, and we were soon through security.
Alaska Airlines area at Honolulu
Hawaiian music and a last photo op with a hula dancer in the terminal.
Hawaiian music and a last photo op with a hula dancer in the Honolulu terminal
The Japanese garden in the center of the terminal is lovely. That’s our plane in front on the left – very convenient.
Japanese garden in Honolulu airport terminal
The control tower, directly above the Japanese garden.
Honolulu airport control tower
Although I take photos of lots of airliners, I seldom post any to the database I contribute to, because they’ve all been done before. The listing for this one, though, Hawaiian Airlines’ 2013 Airbus A330-243 N393HA, didn’t have a photo yet so I added it.
Hawaiian Airlines' 2013 Airbus A330-243 N393HA
Awesome – Honolulu Airport with a Hawaiian Airlines plane, and Diamond Head in the background :)
Honolulu Airport with a Hawaiian Airlines plane, and Diamond Head in the background
At 1:27 we were off the ground, and 12 minutes later, said goodbye to Hawaii. Mahalo!
Hawaii from the air
Sunset out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere. Having a large beer with lunch at the airport was good for helping me pass the time with my eyes closed.
Sunset out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere
We landed in Seattle a few minutes before 10:00 pm, caught a shuttle to the nearby Hampton Inn & Suites, and were in bed by 11:00. Because we had to start Friday with an international flight (so a 2-hour-prior arrival), we had a 04:00 wakeup call. The fog outside didn’t look good!
Foggy morning in Seattle
The days of good dining were over – a fast-food breakfast in the food court at SEA.
Food court at SEA
At 07:00, we walked out to our plane for the 34-minute hop to Vancouver. It was Alaska Airlines’ (Horizon Air) Bombardier DHC-8-402Q (Dash 8) N402QX, which is decorated with University of Montana colours and logo.
Alaska Airlines' (Horizon Air) Bombardier DHC-8-402Q (Dash 8) N402QX
When there was no real attempt to increase power as we travelled along the active runway, I said to Cathy that an ugly message was coming, and a couple of seconds later the captain announced that the flight had been postponed due to weather issues in Vancouver. We taxied back to the terminal but didn’t get off the plane, and at 08:45, we tried again, though we were #9 in line for takeoff this time.
Taxiing in a Dash 8 in the fog at SEA
At 08:48, we were above the thin fog layer, looking across at Mt. Rainier. When we got to Vancouver I could see no indication that there had been any weather issues, but we were still in time for our connection to Whitehorse so it didn’t really matter.
Mt. Rainier above a low morning fog.
Security, Customs and getting our Air Canada boarding passes was all quick and dead simple, but Cathy’s Swiss Army knife had somehow ended up in my backpack, and she no longer owns it.
Quiet day at YVR
Our Embraer 190 taxied away from the terminal at 11:20 as scheduled, but we sat in the run-up area as plane after plane went around us. The captain announced that we had a minor maintenance issue to deal with, and a few minutes later that it was actually a crucial mechanical problem that had to be dealt with, so back to the terminal we went. It might not take too long so again we stayed in the plane.
At 12:20 we were on our way again, and quickly climbed into clouds. There were a few breaks around 2:00 as we neared the Yukon, though – just enough so we could see the mountains and feel at home.
Aerial view of mountains in north-western BC
At 2:33, the final turn to land at Whitehorse.

We arrived home just after 3:00 pm, to a joyous reception from the kids :) As amazing as the trip was – one of our best ever, we agree – getting home to our family is the best feeling.

I can’t finish this off without thanking the wonderful woman we found to take care of our home and family at the last second when our regular sitter got very sick. Rebecca Barfoot is an artist from Colorado, and as well as taking an instant liking to her, we both love her work. She left this beautiful piece for us with a note that says in part, “a little piece of ocean & a little piece of the Aurora (which she saw here on her birthday), & the boreal”. You can see some of her work on her Facebook page and other pages linked from there. Monty clearly missed her the first day, so we have no doubt that life was good, and we can’t thank her enough.
Painting by Rebecca Barfoot

Now, back to reality. It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and that’s precisely what we’re doing – giving thanks for the amazing life we have here. I hope that you’ve all enjoyed travelling with us on our last long trip without our family for many years. From now on, the trips you’ll be seeing here will be motorhome adventures :)

You might wonder what this trip cost. In round numbers, the total for the 19 days was $9,000, and all of our flights and the Seattle hotel were free on points. By booking almost a year ahead, we got great rates on both the cruise (which sold out a couple of months in advance of sailing) and the Hawaii hotel.

Post #1 of 16 from the trip – 48 Hours in Vancouver, the Cruise Port