A warm and foggy winter, and a litter of rescue puppies

It’s been more than 5 weeks since I last posted – time flies when you’re having fun πŸ™‚ Here’s a bit of a catch-up on what’s going on. Mostly, that’s another litter of rescue puppies that we’re fostering.

I haven’t seen confirmation by the weather office, but I expect that we’re having the warmest winter in Yukon history. The snow in Whitehorse has pretty much all melted away. Although we’re colder than the city and haven’t had above-freezing temperatures nearly as often, there’s only about 4 inches of snow on the ground. While we used to have clear skies and cold temperatures, the warm air has resulted in a fog or low cloud that blankets the valley day after day.

One of the places where the fog has been a problem is the airport, where a few flights have been cancelled. The Royal Canadian Air Force Canadair CC-144C Challenger (CL-604) in the first photo brought Governor General Julie Payette in on her first visit to the Yukon, on November 29.

The Royal Canadian Air Force Canadair CC-144C Challenger (CL-604)
The fog is quite localized, and the Fish Lake Road is a good place to go for a drive to see the sun. The next photo looks back down towards Whitehorse.

Climbing out of the Whitehorse fog on the Fish Lake Road
Fog and sunshine can produce some wonderful effects, like these crepuscular rays (a.k.a god beams).

Crepuscular rays (a.k.a god beams) at Whitehorse, Yukon
The ice on Fish Lake doesn’t seem to be very thick yet, but walking on the shore ice in the sunshine with the dogs was wonderful.

Winter sun at Fish Lake, Yukon
The sun dropped behind the mountains at 3:55. Today, we’re 7 days from the shortest day, and the official sunset is at 3:47.

Winter sunset at Fish Lake, Yukon

I’ve been mentally ready to foster another litter of rescued puppies for a few weeks, and when I saw that YARN (the Yukon Animal Rescue Network) had a litter needing a Whitehorse foster, I offered. I’ve had a new puppy facility in my head for a while, and quickly built it. A roll of 4-foot-high-wire, a sheet of plywood, and a few 2x4s were turned into 80 square feet of indoor space (in my double garage) leading through a door to 100 square feet of outdoor run, and a doghouse with a heated floor. The total cost was about $300.

On December 3rd, 5 puppies arrived – the Fabric litter consisted of Lace, Vinyl, Textile, Rayon, and Suede. Lace had already been adopted and I would just have her until after I took them to the vet for a checkup a couple of days later. In the next photo, Textile is in the back – we thought at first that he might be sick, but he turned out to just be painfully shy.

The Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
Bella has a strong maternal instinct but is even more so a rule-enforcer and a herder. She was happy to meet them with a fence between them πŸ™‚

The Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
Here’s a look at the indoor part of the facility. The doghouse has an electric heating pad in a space below the floor, keeping it cozy.

The Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
I see my job as foster dad to keep the puppies healthy and safe, to socialize them and make them adaptable, and to teach them about love and security. We have several friends who are happy to help with the socializing and love parts. Cathy, in the background, is on crutches for a month due to a knee operation (that went very well).

The Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
Setting boundaries: “Don’t even think about it you little bastard, or I’ll rip your eyes out and eat them!” Oh Molly! She has always had a love/hate relationship with puppies. The puppy is Lace, by far the most adventurous of the litter.

Cat and puppy - who is in charge?
This is Rayon (“Ray”), a very terrier-looking boy. Mom is a Lab cross, but there’s quite a mixture in the puppies. Ray is the puppy whose character developed the quickest.

Rayon, from the Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
Played out πŸ™‚ From left to right, Vinyl, Textile, Rayon, and Suede.

The Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
I have a particular soft spot for puppies who need extra help, and Textile (“Tex”) responded wonderfully to extra time and separate feeding.

Murray with Tex, from the Fabric litter of rescue puppies from YARN
The next two photos were shot during a very busy day! Bella had her paws full trying to herd puppies and teach them the rules, but she sure had fun πŸ™‚ Bella is a rescue herself, saved by Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue in Canmore, Alberta.

My sheltie-cross Bella with rescue puppies

My sheltie-cross Bella
My friend and pet photographer Gerry Steers came over for some play and portrait time, and captured some wonderful images, including this one of Tex and I.

Murray and rescue puppy Tex. Photo by Gerry Steers
Another evening, friends brought their 3 dogs over – all rescues, 2 from YARN, and one a previous foster of ours – and built pizzas to get the party started!

Home=-made pizza
Rosie was a YARN rescue, and now has the life she deserves. She is such a love!

Rosie was a YARN rescue puppy
What a wonderful night, with 9 dogs (all rescues, 7 of them from YARN) playing in the house. Rosie had her first experience with puppies, and was amazing – you’d think she was born to the business of taking care of them.

9 dogs (all rescues, 7 of them from YARN) playing in the house

9 dogs (all rescues, 7 of them from YARN) playing in the house

The puppies were all adopted quickly, and went to their new homes on Friday night and Saturday morning. On Sunday night, though, I got a call that one of the adoptions hadn’t worked out – would I take Rayon (“Ray”) back for a while? Of course I would.

On Monday morning, right after Ray’s return, I took Cathy into Whitehorse for an appointment and did some shooting around the SS Klondike while I was waiting.

Sternwheeler S.S. Klondike on a December morning

Sternwheeler S.S. Klondike on a December morning
Being the only puppy with a couple of adult dogs now, Ray is learning lots of important skills for being part of a strong pack.

Being the only puppy with a couple of adult dogs now, Ray is learning lots of important skills for being part of a strong pack
I got a call on Tuesday asking if I could babysit another former foster dog for 3 days. Heck yes! Klee, mother of my Berry litter of rescue puppies from two years ago, fits right into our family, and is always a pleasure to have here. She immediately took on the job of puppy-protector, spending much of her time at Ray’s kennel door. Ray is a house dog now, learning a new skill-set to help him move on. Ray was housebroken incredibly quickly – he’s one of if not the easiest puppy I’ve had.

Klee guarding rescue puppy Ray
I never tire of watching the interaction, and the rapid development of puppies. Klee plays rough, and I’ve heard a couple of yelps from Ray, but Bella and I keep an eye on them as much as possible (and both of us intervene when needed), and it’s all part of the learning process.

And there we go, all caught up. Well, sort of – there has been a lot more than this going on. I post frequently on my Facebook page – the smaller things that don’t call for a blog post but are important in my life.

Sternwheelers in Whitehorse – reminders of our history

For its first 50 years, Whitehorse was solidly connected to the Yukon River, and to the sternwheelers and other boats that ran up and down it. Now, although the restored sternwheeler S.S. Klondike is the city’s most iconic attraction, the other boats have been pretty much forgotten, and even the community’s historic connection to the river isn’t obvious.

The shipyards of the British Yukon Navigation Company was the heart of steamboat life in Whitehorse when the boats were operating. By the time Dave and Lois Mitchell shot the next two photos of the shipyards below, in about 1960, there wasn’t a lot left compared to what had been there. A couple of days ago, their daughter, Caren Hochstein, sent me several of their boat photos to use, in response to a couple of discussions in my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group on Facebook.

The shipyards of the British Yukon Navigation Company in about 1960
In 1961, the Aksala on the left in the next photo was disassembled and hauled up to the Alaska Highway to be used as a restaurant.

The sternwheelers Aksala and Casca in the shipyards at Whitehorse in the 1960s.
The Aksala was eventually burned because it was considered to be too deteriorated to be of any further use. Luckily, the 22,000-pound paddlewheel was saved, and was restored in 2010-2011. It sits at Paddlewheel Village at Km 1418.2 of the Alaska Highway.

The paddlewheel from the sternwheeler Aksala at Paddlewheel Village, Km 1418.2 of the Alaska Highway
In 1966, the sternwheeler that was in the best condition, the Klondike, was moved from the shipyards to a new home upriver. The next photo is one of Dave and Lois Mitchell’s, and the late Les McLaughlin told the story of the move in one of his Yukon Nugget pieces on radio station CKRW.

Moving the S.S. Klondike in 1966
The story of the shipyards came to a dramatic end on June 21, 1974, when the sternwheelers Whitehorse and Casca burned. The uncredited photo below is in the men’s washroom at the Yukon Transportation Museum. See more photos of and information about that fire here.

The Whitehorse and Casca burning at Whitehorse on June 21, 1974.
Today, as I mentioned, the S.S. Klondike is the main thing that keeps the exciting steamboat days in view of most Whitehorse residents, and a high percentage of visitors go to see it.

Restored sternwheeler S.S. Klondike in Whitehorse, Yukon

Restored sternwheeler S.S. Klondike in Whitehorse, Yukon

The British Yukon Navigation Company shipyard became a squatters’ village for many years, but is now a park that was named Shipyards Park.

Shipyards Park in Whitehorse, Yukon
At extreme low water levels on the Yukon River, you can still see remnants of the days when the boats were running.

Yukon River at Whitehorse
The largest artifacts are the timbers that the boats were slid along to be taken out of and put back into the river – the ways.

Timbers from the shipyard ways at Whitehorse

Timbers from the shipyard ways at Whitehorse

Timbers from the shipyard ways at Whitehorse

Looking closer along the riverbank today, there is broken glass, pieces of steel – both scrap and equipment – and lots of hand-made spikes like the one in the next photo.

A hand-made spike along the Yukon River at Whitehorse.
Docks and warehouses used to line the Yukon River. Now, although many have been buried in rock to stabilize the bank, there are still some pilings from those docks and buildings.

A paved walking path follows the Yukon River all the way through downtown Whitehorse, and a deck called The Wharf has been built beside the WP&YR train station. It quickly became a popular spot to stop and enjoy the river. The pilings seen in the photo above are immediately downriver from the The Wharf.

The Wharf at Whitehorse, Yukon
A large artifact has been brought from the slough across the road from Walmart. Now mounted at The Wharf, though with no interpretation, this paddlewheel shaft is from the sternwheeler Clara Monarch, which gave its name to the slough where it was abandoned in 1907. The wreckage of the hull can still be seen in the slough at low water levels. The next photo below shows the paddlewheel shaft at Clara Monarch Slough in 2012, and the photo below it shows it in place at The Wharf.

The paddlewheel shaft from the sternwheeler Clara Monarch

The paddlewheel shaft from the sternwheeler Clara Monarch

Upriver from the S.S. Klondike is a sternwheeler site worth mentioning. The sternwheeler Canadian was renowned for her longevity, working on the upper Yukon River from 1898 until being scuttled to serve as as a breakwater to protect the White Pass railway at Whitehorse in 1931. Until May 1997, her hull and equipment could be clearly seen in the clear shallow waters near what used to be called the “Big Bend” of the river, to the south of town. During a major road reconstruction project, however, she was buried under hundreds of tons of rock, although the boiler, pistons and sternwheel frame were recovered first, to be used in an interpretation project. The first photo below, of the Canadian being buried, was shot in April 1997, the second photo, of the interpretive site, was shot in October 2011.

Sternwheeler Canadian being buried under rock i 1997

Sternwheeler Canadian interpretive site

If you’re one of the people who use the walking path along the river, or ride the waterfront trolley during the summer, give some thought to what the waterfront used to be like. Imagine the sights, the sounds, the people that helped make Whitehorse what it is today.

A late-Fall hike in the White Pass with the dogs

On Saturday, my friend Karla and I decided to take advantage of the continuing beautiful Fall weather for a hike in the White Pass. As well as my dogs Bella and Tucker, and Karla’s little dog Meeko, I was baby-sitting my former foster Klee for the weekend (see that amazing fostering adventure here), so we had a good Jeep-full of fur πŸ™‚

The weather forecast called for wind and perhaps a bit of rain, so I picked a sheltered trail, Bryant Lake, which is right above Fraser, where the Canadian border crossing is located.

We got away from Whitehorse just after 09:00, and by 10:15 when I made the first brief photo stop, we were in the pass between Windy Arm and Tutshi Lake on the South Klondike Highway.

Snowy peaks along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
Fifteen minutes later, the light was so wonderful at Log Cabin that we spent a few minutes shooting. The grass, the WP&YR rail line, and the snowy, storm-lashed peaks behind offered plenty of opportunities.

Late Fall light at Log Cabin on the South Klondike Highway, BC
The White Pass & Yukon Route has lots of work going on, on track maintenance and upgrades, but the tourist trains stopped a month ago.

Late Fall light at Log Cabin on the WP&YR railway
On October 17th, cannabis use became legal in Canada. It’s also legal in Alaska, but it can’t be carried across the border, so signs have been installed to warn about that rule that some people may not expect. This sign is at Log Cabin, so people have lots of warning and an easy place to turn around if necessary.

No cannabis at border crossings
I decided to go past the Bryant Lake trailhead to have a look at the new bridge construction. The light for the final climb up to the White Pass summit was certainly dramatic.

Early winter in the White Pass, BC
The new William Moore Bridge was supposed to be finished by the end of August, but it’s not nearly finished yet, and crews appear to be gone for the winter.

The new William Moore Bridge north of Skagway
We drove back to Summit Lake, and decided to give the dogs a good rip down on the beach before taking them on the more confined trail. They had plenty of exploring to do on the walk to the lake.

Dogs exploring on the short trail to Summit Lake on the South Klondike Highway, BC
They got way ahead of us and quickly made it clear that the beach was a great idea. Meeko in particular was quickly soaked, dirty, and happy πŸ™‚

Dogs playing at Summit Lake on the South Klondike Highway, BC
Tucker loves being chased, and Klee was game for that. The lake level was extremely high and the beach was extremely small, but there was still plenty of room for fun.

Dogs playing at Summit Lake on the South Klondike Highway, BC
“Rocket Man” showing off just how fast he is! πŸ™‚

My dog Tucker running at Summit Lake on the South Klondike Highway, BC
Klee and Bella after the initial energy was burned off. The wind was quite strong and very cold at the lake.

Dogs at Summit Lake on the South Klondike Highway, BC
I love being able to put a smile like that on that little girl’s face.

Okay, it’s noon – back in the car and let’s go find a trail. The cover we bought for the back of the Jeep makes wet and sandy dogs no problem.

4 dogs in Cathy's Jeep Cherokee
At 12:40 we were well up the trail to Bryant Lake. We brought leashes in case any of the kids didn’t stay with us, but they were all being great.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC
Cookie time. By this point we were out of the worst of the wind, but it was damp and cold.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC
Just before reaching Bryant Lake, there’s a creek to be crossed. I had expected the high country to be frozen and the creek to be low enough to cross easily, but that wasn’t the case.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC
Klee crossed on the water line that supplies Fraser, but Karla and I decided that with the weather closing in, the lake itself wasn’t that important, so called her back. She wasn’t nearly as confident on the return crossing! πŸ™‚

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC
The sun was trying hard to make an appearance as we walked back down towards the highway. I had to put Klee on a leash for the last half-hour or so, as her explorations had gotten too ambitious, beyond my comfort level.

The trail from Bryant Lake, BC
Along the trail were some of the healthiest looking lichens and fungi I’ve seen in a long time, and I spent a while shooting them.

These are British soldiers lichen (Cladonia cristatella).

Karla captured this shot of me hard at work photographing lichen, with my attentive assistants standing by in case I need help πŸ™‚

Murray Lundberg photographing lichen in the White Pass
We got back to the Jeep just before 2:00, made the quick crossing at Customs, then made a photo stop to capture the great light on the peaks beyond Tormented Valley.

Snowy peaks at Tormented Valley in the White Pass
My new EF 100-400mm lens allowed a close look at the crags of Dail Peak. On the lower slopes, we saw dozens of Dall sheep and mountain goats.

Dail Peak, Yukon

Dail Peak, Yukon
The 1906 Venus silver mine workings, seen from the highway with the long lens.

The 1906 Venus silver mine workings above the South Klondike Highway
At Pooley Canyon, there were more mountain goats, these ones low enough to get decent photos of. In total, we saw nearly 60 Dall sheep and mountain goats in about 15 minutes.

Mountain goats above Pooley Canyon on Montana Mountain, Yukon
Just before we reached the Bove Island viewpoint, a hot spot from the Windy Arm wildfire flared up. I find it quite incredible that it’s still going after almost 3 months, especially with the rain we’ve had recently.

That turned out to be a wonderful day – the weather was a minor issue. The weather forecast is calling for a few more warm, sunny days, so we just may get out again before the white stuff starts to limit our options – perhaps even in the White Pass again.

A spectacular night with the aurora borealis

I haven’t done a lot of aurora shooting yet this season, but the forecast for Tuesday night was so incredible, I made arrangements to meet a friend for a night of dancing lights. After editing, I have 144 photos from this night, but I’ve only posted a dozen πŸ™‚

We decided to go far out of Whitehorse, to Lake Laberge. There, man-made lights don’t interfere with the natural ones, a broad view to the north is available, and few other people go. Lady Aurora arrived at the lake at the same time we did – 9:30 pm – and five minutes later, I shot the first photo in this post. It was only a narrow band along the horizon but had some wonderful colours. Lake Laberge is way out of cell range, so I couldn’t even post a note about the activity to my Aurora Alert Yukon group, where over 500 people are waiting for posts like that.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The aurora didn’t develop much for a while – the next photo was shot at 10:24 once it began to liven up.

Northern lights at Lake Laberge, Yukon
By 10:50 when the next photo was shot, the aurora was spreading beautifully and there was some good movement and shapes.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The 10mm Rokinon lens that I bought specifically for aurora shooting (it’s the only lens I use for night skies now) wasn’t quite wide enough to get the whole display in the next photo from 11:15. That’s a “selfie” – set the 10-second shutter delay, move quickly, then freeze for 30 seconds.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The first of the 2 vehicles to show up during the 3½ hours we spent at Lake Laberge was a couple from Newfoundland who were on the last night of a 3-week Yukon trip. Neither had ever seen the aurora, and when my friend suggested that we take a photo of them, I was happy to oblige. When I emailed the photo to them, I got a reply that that night was also his birthday – what a present!

Northern lights at Lake Laberge, Yukon
At about midnight, the aurora started to move higher in the sky. The next photo was shot 10 minutes later.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The next photo was cropped a bit to better show some of the great patterns that were developing as the northern half of the sky filled with light.

Northern lights at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The other car that joined us was carrying these 3 guys, who moved to Whitehorse 3 years ago. This was their first night out trying to photograph the aurora, and Karla gave them some tips.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
Another double-selfie with Karla and I, just before 01:00, as we were getting ready to start back towards Whitehorse.

Northern lights at Lake Laberge, Yukon

A couple of minutes after we left Lake Laberge, a very dramatic display began, but we were driving through a forest and there was no opportunity to shoot it. By the time we stopped at a large pullout at the highway junction, the best of it was over.

As we headed south on the North Klondike Highway, I could see a good display in my rear-view mirror, and at 01:20 we stopped for a few photos.

Northern lights over the North Klondike Highway, Yukon
I dropped my friend off at her home so she could get a bit of sleep before work, but with the aurora still putting on a good show, I went looking for more options. I had no luck getting any good shots at the SS Klondike, so the Schwatka Lake float plane base was next.

Aurora borealis with float planes at Schwatka Lake, Yukon
The final photo, shot at 02:25, is one of three I shot of that scene. For this successful one, I “painted” the Turbo Otter slightly with light from my headlamp, to get just a bit of light on it.

Aurora borealis with a Turbo Otter float plane at Schwatka Lake, Yukon

Although Lady Aurora wasn’t nearly finished, I was tired and went home just after 03:00. This had been my best aurora night in a very long time, and it got me pumped for more πŸ™‚

Trucking for a few years, and I still love trucks

A few days ago, I renewed my Class 1 driver’s licence, meaning I can drive anything from semi-trailer rigs down. For many years, there hasn’t been any practical reason for doing it, but it’s part of how I identify myself. That thought got me looking back in my “Trucks” photo folder, at some of the trucks I’ve driven and places I’ve gone with them, as well as some of the hundreds of photos of trucks I’ve shot since I stopped driving them. I have many more as slides and prints, but I didn’t go through them.

I began driving semis for Overwaitea Foods in 1979. They had one small semi, a single-axle International, used for local pick-ups, and when I heard in 1978 that the driver was thinking about moving to a different job, I went to a commercial driving school and got my Class 1 and air brake ticket. When the job posting did indeed come up, I was the only one qualified in-house to take it.

A few months before I got the job, Overwaitea had bought a new semi, a much larger tandem-axle 1980 Western Star, and a 45-foot enclosed trailer. The primary justification for the new rig was the need for at least 40,000 pounds of sugar products at the warehouse every day. The little International required 2 trips to bring that in, while the Western Star could do it in one. The first photo was shot from the Western Star in June 1989 as I was passing Vanterm, the container facility in Vancouver’s Inner Harbour.

Vanterm, the container facility in Vancouver's Inner Harbour, in 1989
My rig at BC Sugar in June 1989. Every once in a while, an American driver with little experience backing into tight spots would arrive – I sometimes offered to do it for them, and the offer was usually gratefully accepted πŸ™‚

My Overwaitea tractor-trailer rig at BC Sugar in June 1989.
I got a lot of holidays at Overwaitea – so many that I often drove semis on long-haul runs for other companies on my time off. Those trips would sometimes be team driving, sometimes solo. The cabover Freightliner in the next photo was one of the trucks I drove. It’s seen at Dead Man’s Flats on the Trans-Canada in July 1986.

A cabover Freightliner at Dead Man's Flats on the Trans-Canada in July 1986
Ellison Mills at Lethbridge, Alberta, was a common destination on the highway trips – the 1986 Freightliner named “Purple People Eater” was a beautiful truck to drive. The next 2 photos were shot at Lethbridge in January 1989.

1986 Freightliner named Purple People Eater

Ellison Mills at Lethbridge, Alberta
For 3 years (1987-1989), I ran the western States on many of my moonlighting weeks. The next photo was shot from a Kenworth along I-5 in California in July 1989.

Kenworth along I-5 in California in July 1989
The Kenworth on Route 178 at Kern River Canyon, where I’d gone on an oppressively hot day in July 1989 while waiting for a load of produce at nearby Bakersfield. The stains in this photo and the one above were caused when I fell into the Kern River and my film got wet πŸ™‚ (I was shooting Kodachrome 64 slide film in those days).

Kenworth at Kern River Canyon, California, in July 1989
In April 1990, I quit my job at Overwaitea and moved to Whitehorse to be a driver/guide on Yukon-Alaska tours. A couple of years later, Overwaitea closed the warehouse and everyone lost their jobs – it was good to leave on my own terms. I never lost my love of trucks, and the North has offered many good truck photo-ops, like this ore-hauler on the South Klondike Highway in January 1996. It was northbound from Skagway, where its load had been dumped to be loaded onto a freighter. Those trucks were called “muffin trucks” because of the shape of their ore containers.

'Muffin truck' ore-hauler on the South Klondike Highway in January 1996
I’ve always had a particular fascination with mountain logging trucks, and in 2015 a friend introduced me to Farwell Canyon, west of Williams Lake, BC. It has turned into an amazing place to shoot logging trucks, as the next 3 photos will show.

Logging trucks at Farwell Canyon, west of Williams Lake, BC

Logging trucks at Farwell Canyon, west of Williams Lake, BC

Logging trucks at Farwell Canyon, west of Williams Lake, BC

Well, that’s a brief look at my connection with trucks. I’d like to make one more trip with a semi, and I still have the licence to do it πŸ™‚

This season’s final RV camping weekend at Kluane Lake

A last-minute decision took Cathy and I back out to Kluane Lake this past weekend, for our final RV camping weekend of this season. With night-time temperatures forecast to be nearing -15°C (+5°F) in Mary Lake later this week, it’s time to get my water system winterization done.

We arrived at our favourite campground, Congdon Creek, at 8:20 on Friday night. That was 5 minutes after official sunset, but in the deep shadow of the Kluane mountains, it had been quite dark for a while. We were very pleased to find that our favourite lakeshore campsite, #8, was empty, and we were soon set up there.

The first photo was shot at 07:47 on Saturday morning, 9 minutes before official sunrise. A strong cold wind unfortunately made spending time on the beach not very pleasant. Click on that photo open a new window with a much larger version.

Fall dawn at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Our view towards the mountains at 08:17. This photo was processed as an HDR image to bring out the detail in both the lighted and shadowed areas.

Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
The actual sunrise was much more dramatic than the dawn had been.

Fall sunrise at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Tucker is a guy who loves to be cozy – wrap him up in a fleece blanket and he’ll be there all day πŸ™‚

My little dog Tucker wrapped in a fleece blanket
To get out of the worst of the wind, we drove back to Bella’s favourite beach (she hates rocks), and the Fall colours were good there. The poor visibility was due to sand being blown up on the Slims River Flats.

Fall colours along Kluane Lake, Yukon
We continued our highway bear and sheep hunting by driving up the access road to the Slims River West Trail. There were no bears, and no Dall sheep down low, but we could see about 60 sheep scattered across the slopes of Sheep Mountain.

Fall colours at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
There’s not much left of Horseshoe Bay anymore. I thought that the water level of Kluane Lake couldn’t go any lower because the outlet – the Kluane River – would control it. As it does seem to keep dropping slightly, though, my hypothesis is that the Kluane River is cutting a deeper channel.

Horseshoe Bay on Kluane Lake, Yukon
There’s a lot of work going on at the campground, most notably enlarging the parking area at the electrified (bear-resistant) tenting area, and adding 2 more lakeshore campsites at the west end, between sites #8 and 9. The new sites are both excellent.

New camp sites at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
Getting ready for a special dinner to finish the season off – including a huge steak-for-two from the barbecue, a Caeser salad, and a bottle of very nice Cabernet Franc that we picked up at Synchromesh Winery in Okanagan Falls during our 5-day stay in Penticton this past May.

A special RV dinner
Bella knows how to clean off a steak bone properly! πŸ™‚

Bella, our shelty/husky, cleaning off a steak bone
The moon rise was beautiful on Saturday night, though a bit of cloud obscured a perfect view. This was 2 days before the full moon, known as the Harvest Moon.

Moonrise over Kluane Lake, Yukon
Even though the wind had mostly died, the girls seemed to be none too anxious to get Sunday started.

My dog and cat sleeping on the RV couch
The beach just keeps getting bigger and bigger! The recent drop in the water level has uncovered a lengthy strip of sand along the water, which Bella quickly found.

Huge beach on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella in one of her happy places. She rarely swims, but loves splashing around in the water.

I caught a few shots of a bald eagle patrolling the beach.

Bald eagle patrolling Kluane Lake, Yukon
A classic Kluane Fall scene along our beach walk, with brilliant colours along a meadow, and snow in the high country.

A classic Kluane Fall scene
We had a campfire going all day Sunday. It felt almost like summer had returned in the afternoon, although the weather report says that it only hit 14.1°C.

Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
One of the very few RVs still on the road passes by in the distance. Most of those RVs are rentals being driven by Germans, but they rarely look like they’re having fun, huddled around huge campfires.

RV passes Kluane Lake, Yukon
I had Bella and Tucker out on the beach a few times, going down to a large sandy area so they could play. In the next photo, Tucker is literally “flat out” running from Bella.

My little dog Tucker playing on the beach at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Doesn’t he look pleased with himself? Tucker is such a character!

My little dog Tucker playing on the beach at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella alerted me to a family of 6 Red-breasted mergansers (Mergus serrator), and we sat down and waited for them to get closer. The kids are so good when I ask them to be patient and quiet at times like this.

Red-breasted mergansers (Mergus serrator) on Kluane Lake, Yukon
My new 100-400mm Canon lens really makes birdwatching in particular a lot more fun.

Red-breasted mergansers (Mergus serrator) on Kluane Lake, Yukon
A telephoto look at the high country above the campground. At 5:00, we packed up and started for home. It was a short weekend, but it had been wonderful.

Fall snow in the Kluane mountains
At Sheep Mountain, there were about 20 Dall sheep close to the road. To get a better spot to park to watch them, I turned around at the interpretive centre. We had to wait for 3 semis to go by with armoured personnel carriers headed for Alaska – there have been dozens going by in the past week or so.

US armored personnel carriers on the Alaska Highway
Some idiot with plates I didn’t recognize pulled off the highway and drove up a side road right into the middle of the herd of sheep. The sheep may have been headed for the grass on the flats, but that ended that plan, and they started back up the mountain.

Dall sheep at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
The sheep with my long lens.

Dall sheep at Sheep Mountain, Yukon

Dall sheep at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
There were more sheep fairly low above the highway at the same spot.

Dall sheep at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
One young sheep had us worried that he was getting himself into a spot he couldn’t get out of. In the next photo, he’s at the upper centre.

Dall sheep at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
One final shot, looking across Slims River Flats to Fish Heart Island.

And that’s it for our RV Season 2018. I may use the motorhome for short hiking outings until snow shuts it down for certain, but my project for today is winterizing it.

Fall colours, bridges, and wildfire along the South Klondike Highway

On Wednesday I drove to Skagway and Dyea again. The Fall colours are a bit of a disappointment this year, but the South Klondike Highway is always a stunningly beautiful drive in any season.

One of the definitive signs of Fall in the Yukon is the arrival of corporate jets carrying rich big-game hunters. When I went into Whitehorse to fuel up, there were 3 of the little jets on the ramp, including this 1992 Dassault-Breguet Mystere Falcon 900. Owned by a charter company in Connecticut, it can carry up to 12 people, at a charter rate of about $5,500 US per hour. If you’d rather have your own Falcon 900, $42 million US can make that happen πŸ™‚

1992 Dassault-Breguet Mystere Falcon 900 N590D

My drive started off very well with a grizzly grazing right beside the highway at Kookatsoon Lake. That would be about a 1-hour walk to my house for him. I didn’t take any photos because of the number of cars stopped to watch.

The new bridge at Carcross is coming along nicely The arrival of the main steel beams a few days ago caused quite a stir along the highway. They’re each 143 feet long, and were trucked up from Vernon, BC! The back 5 axles of the trailer have their own driver to make corners possible.

The new Carcross bridge
I was surprised to see that the Windy Arm wildfire is still burning in many places, despite below-freezing nights.

Windy Arm wildfire
Just swinging the camera to the left gives a very different impression of that scene at Bove Island.

Fall colous at Bove Island on the South Klondike Highway
I’m trying something new today – posting enlarged versions of some of the photos that I use in other social media platforms (my pages at Twitter and Facebook). Clicking on the image below will open a new window with a much larger version that you’re welcome to download, save, share, etc. This photo shows the changing seasons – looking up Montana Mountain to Fall and Winter from Conrad.

The changing seasons in the Yukon in September - looking up Montana Mountain to Fall and Winter from Conrad
After 112 years, most of the towers for an aerial tramway that ran from a dock at Conrad to the Mountain Hero silver mine are still standing.

The Mountain Hero silver mine aerial tramway
Just above the highway a few kilometers further south are some of the towers from the Vault silver mine, also from 1906.

The Vault silver mine aerial tramway
I made my usual stop at Tutshi Lake to walk Bella and Tucker. There were a couple of tour buses at the parking area, so as I had Cathy’s Jeep, I drove down the beach to a quiet bay.

Tutshi Lake, BC
This small un-named lake at Km 45.9 sometimes provides good photo ops, and sometimes a bear. This used to be grizzly country, but in the past decade or so, the grizzlies have left and cinnamon bears (brown-coloured black bears) have taken the territory.

This spot along Shallow Lake often stops me. I should try to remember to check the WP&YR schedules – it would be great to have a train rounding that curve at Ptarmigan Point. A few years ago, I shot a video of a rotary snow plow working its way down the line at that point, and it has over 76,000 views now. Clicking on the photo will open a much larger version in a new window.

September on the South Klondike Highway just north of Fraser, BC
Nearing the White Pass summit at about Km 30 – Summit Lake is on the left.

Nearing the White Pass summit at about Km 30
With the high country now mostly frozen, waterfalls are drying up – even this fairly large one at the start of the International Falls hiking trail.

With the high country now mostly frozen, waterfalls are drying up
Looking south from the Canada/USA border.

Looking south from the Canada/USA border on the South Klondike Highway
I need to go through my photos and see how much this glacier has shrunk in recent years. I think the retreat has been pretty dramatic.

Glacier along the South Klondike Highway
The other new bridge on the South Klondike Highway, replacing the unique Captain William Moore Bridge, is also taking shape now. It’s not so much a bridge as a culvert and fill, though.

Replacing the unique Captain William Moore Bridge on the South Klondike Highway
After picking up a few packages at the Skagway post office, I drove over to Dyea so the kids could have a beach play. The next photo shows the famous pilings from one of the very long docks that were built during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Dyea, Alaska
A cold wind made our Dyea beach stop fairly short. The next photo shows Nahku Bay (a.k.a. Long Bay) on the way back to Skagway.

Nahku Bay (a.k.a. Long Bay)
Progress has been speedy on a new mile-long loop track for the WP&YR trains at the White Pass summit. Much of the work involves blasting solid granite – this must be the biggest construction job on the line in recent decades. Crews are living in trailers set up at the summit, and they have a fuelling station for the equipment set up at Fraser. I posted a large version of this photo at the Narrow Gauge Railroad Discussion Forum on Facebook this morning.

Construction of a new loop track on the WP&YR rail line at the White Pass in 2018
We made another stop at Tushi Lake on the way home.

Tushi Lake, BC
The view to the south along Tutshi Lake.

Tushi Lake, BC
To end this post, a couple more photos of the Windy Arm fire.

Fall colours and the Windy Arm wildfire

The Windy Arm wildfire

As soon as Cathy gets off work this afternoon we’ll be going somewhere in the motorhome for the weekend, but I don’t know where yet. Maybe Kluane Lake, but maybe just down to Conrad…

A quick trip down memory lane in Surrey, BC

I got home yesterday from a quick trip to Surrey (a suburb of Vancouver), where I went for the 50th anniversary reunion of my high school graduation class. From our little school, Princess Margaret Senior Secondary, 97 people (including some spouses) had signed up to come. It was wonderful, and it was overwhelming.

I flew from Whitehorse to Vancouver on Air North’s 07:30 flight on Thursday. The weather forecast for the entire 3-day trip was for clouds and showers, but the rain in Whitehorse was very close to being snow when I left home for the 15-minute drive to the airport. I shot the first photo as our Boeing 737 was being pushed back. The ATR 42-300 would be leaving for Dawson shortly.

A rainy morning on the ramp at the Whitehorse airport
Far south of Whitehorse, the clouds cleared enough to get a view of the peaks below for about 20 minutes. I just never get tired of seeing them. The next photo was shot just north of Stewart.

The Coast Range just north of Stewart
Vancouver has one of my favourite airports. I love the architecture, the fact that it never feels crowded, and the art. Much of the art is quite incredible, like the Rivers Monument by Marianne Nicolson. Each pole is a cut through of the Columbia and Fraser River systems, with the top of the column representing the surface and the bottom of the column the riverbed. I was in no hurry, and spent quite a while with this piece.

The Rivers Monument by Marianne Nicolson

I soon had my rental car from Thrifty – a VW Jetta that I immediately disliked. Are they as cheap as they feel? Even the radio was junk. Anyway, I had time to kill before I could check into my hotel in Langley, so went to Boundary Bay Airport, where I did some advanced training (multi-engine and much higher speeds) in 1987, in a Grumman Cougar, a beauty of an aircraft. I see that the aircraft I trained in, once C-GTFN, was sold to a company in Michigan the following year. You can see a current photo of it here.

The memorial in the next photo honours the 29 airmen who died while serving at RCAF Station Boundary Bay. The Skyhawk Restaurant in the new terminal was an excellent place for an early lunch.

Memorial honouring the 29 airmen who died while serving at RCAF Station Boundary Bay.
Going back to my car, I noticed that this Solo 1-person electric car had arrived. It’s really cool for $20,000, but the company’s other two cars are bloody awesome! Especially the electric 356 Porsche replica (for $124,900 πŸ™‚ ).

Solo 1-person electric car
I spent a fair bit of time at Crescent Beach in the ’60s, so went for a look at what 50+ years has done there.Β There are actually surprisingly few changes – in the village, new homes have largely been done in styles that fit in very nicely, and the multi-million-dollar ones along the way are well hidden in the forest. The photo shows Blackie Spit Park, which was a popular party spot in my day, and in more recent years has been a nude beach. Now it’s a lovely, heavily-protected area for migratory birds – stay on the path, and dogs aren’t allowed. The fellow in the centre of the next photo called me over to chat while I was down in that area. His name is Sook (that’s probably spelled wrong). A Sikh, he moved to BC from Singapore in 1990. He’s the same age I am, and we talked for quite a while about the changes in Southeast Asia and in BC over the years.

Blackie Spit Park
This photo popped up in my Facebook Memories as I was writing this post, so it’s obviously supposed to be included πŸ™‚ From September 1969, this was bandit drag racing at its finest, on Latimer Road in Langley. A few days before I shot this photo, I had bought a 1969 rs SS Camaro from Westminster Motors for $4,395 plus tax. In less than 2 years it was a wheel-standing beast, and I spent many nights at these bandit strips.

Latimer Road bandit racing, 1969
At 1:00, I reached my motel, the Days Inn in downtown Langley. Langley had been chosen for the reunion rather than Surrey because it has better facilities and isn’t quite as crazy-busy as Surrey.

Days Inn in downtown Langley
Room 313 was exactly as you’d expect in a hotel like this – immaculate and well equipped. When I fired up my laptop to do some work on my Pioneer Cemetery project, the wifi was fast, so life was good.

Room 313 at the Days Inn in downtown Langley
The view wasn’t inspiring, so there was nothing to distract me from important things – including an afternoon nap before the reunion banquet that evening.

The view from room 313 at the Days Inn in downtown Langley
Another of the grads and I had planned to get photos of each person as they arrived, but that didn’t work out, so the first order of business once everyone (we thought) had arrived was getting a group photo. One of the spouses got a photo of me setting the shot up (thanks, Bob). Yes, I was having fun.

Murray Lundberg setting up a group photo
There are only 60 people in the photo, so it seems that many people who registered didn’t come. A 10-second timer on the shutter allowed me to get into the 3 shots I took.

The 1968 grads of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School, in 2018
We had a 20th anniversary reunion in 1988, and it didn’t seem like most people had changed that much from high school.

Some of the 1968 grads of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School, in 1988
The added 30 years had changed us all, but many are aging very well. One of the things that was quickly confirmed is that good friends are always good friends – after 50 years, conversation with them is still easy. It was a wonderful evening, and I was really glad I came down for it. It was overwhelming, though, and I didn’t get to talk to nearly as many people as I had hoped to. I hoped to rectify that somewhat at a school tour the next day.

Some of the 1968 grads of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School, in 2018
On Friday, I drove around the Newton and Scottsdale parts of Surrey looking for anything familiar, but it’s all gone. The next photo shows the lot where the home I grew up in used to be.

An empty lot in Surrey, BC, where the home I grew up in used to be.
The school that we attended was bulldozed many years ago, but when some of us gathered in the office of the new Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School for the tour, I was pleased to see a series of paintings of the school we knew.

Paintings of the old Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
The school principal, Paulo Sarmento, had offered to show us around the school. I was very quickly impressed by his love of what he’s doing, and by his respect for the school’s history.

Paulo Sarmento, principal of Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
They don’t build schools like they used to! I knew from touring my grand-daughters’ high school about 3 years ago that it’s a different world now, but it was interesting to see this direct comparison. The murals in the gym are wonderful – a lion has always been the school emblem.

Lion mural in the gym at Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
One of the teachers dug the school yearbooks from 1966, ’67 and ’68 out of the library archives, and we spent a while going through them.

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
Although they were damaged while being moved from the old school, all of the old class photos have been restored, some with huge effort, and are hanging. A current student spent quite a while talking with us there. It occurred to me that this visit would be like the Class of 1918 coming to visit us in our final year there – it seemed to be a big deal to everyone we met, students and teachers alike.

Old class photos Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
We interrupted a few classes, and had fun doing it πŸ™‚

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
The main hallway is beautiful. There are 1,300 students at Princess Margaret now, about double what there was in 1968, I think.

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
At the end of the tour, Mr. Sarmento (that sounds funny but “Paulo” doesn’t seem right πŸ™‚ ) presented each of us with a t-shirt that proclaims “Once a Lion Always a Lion”. Peggy and John allowed me a photo of theirs. What a great souvenir – very appropriate.

Once a Lion Always a Lion - Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
We gathered for a group photo at a totem pole that was created many years ago by students working with elders from the Semiahmoo First Nation. It has a very interesting history, and has survived two attempts to destroy it.

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
Fred John was my math teacher for his first 3 years of teaching – he also taught art. At 77, he’s still teaching, and was a big part of our reunion. He’s a good example of the quality of teachers we had 50 years ago.

Fred John, math teacher at Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC
The special needs class has been given control of the school sign on 72nd Avenue, and told to have fun with it. They are indeed having fun with it, no doubt putting a smile on many faces of people driving by! πŸ™‚

Princess Margaret Senior Secondary School in Surrey, BC

The school tour ended up being over 2 hours long. It really was quality time – with fewer people, it was easier to get into conversations – and was an excellent way to complete the reunion.

That night, I went to another airport restaurant, Adrian’s @ The Airport in Langley. It was a fine way to end the day, and brought me back to the Langley airport the next morning.

Langley (Langley Regional Airport – YNJ) was my primary airport during my flying years. Much of my training beyond my basic private licence as done here at Skyways, whose office is now home to Adrian’s restaurant. When I owned my own plane, it was tied down here. So in a light rain on Saturday morning, I wandered around the airport. As with everything else I’d been seeing the past couple of days, not much was familiar.

The Canadian Museum of Flight, which I put many volunteer hours working at, is now based at Langley. They didn’t open until 10:00, which was too late for me, but I had a look around at what I could see. One of the gems in the collection is CF-PWH, “Spirit of the Skeena”, the oldest surviving DC-3 in Canada. Built on February 24th, 1940, for American Airlines as “Flagship Texas”, she later served in the USAF, and with Trans Alaska Airlines, Queen Charlotte Airlines, Pacific Western Airlines, Great Northern Airways, and Trans Provincial Airlines. Her flying career ended in 1972.

CF-PWH, 'Spirit of the Skeena', the oldest surviving DC-3 in Canada
I had thought about doing some more wandering, but the rain wasn’t really conducive to that, so I returned to the Vancouver airport a couple of hours early. I can always amuse myself there watching airplanes. This Air Canada Dreamliner, C-FGDT, was throwing up a good spray on her takeoff run.

Air Canada Dreamliner C-FGDT throwing up a good spray on her takeoff run at YVR
Even in the secure area, you can wander for what feels like miles, and there’s always something going on. My Air North flight was at gate B-18, in an area where most of the other gates had WestJet 737s at them.

WestJet Boeing 737s in YVR
We boarded the plane at 1:00, but were delayed for a long time. Within a couple of minutes of taking off just before 2:00, we had vanished into the low clouds. But I had seen a forecast showing sunshine in Whitehorse so had high hopes for my window seat. Just north of Stewart, it started to clear, and a little while later, the community of Telegraph Creek, badly hit by wildfires a few weeks ago, was below.

Atlin Lake often provides a stunning view, and yesterday was one of those. Teresa Island is in the centre of the photo, the Llewellyn Glacier is on the left, and Juneau is on the shore of the distant salty waters.

Atlin Lake
Looking down on the community of Atlin a few seconds later.

One final shot of Lewis Lake, commonly called Lewes Lake, as we descended into Whitehorse. Cathy had been getting Bella and Tucker excited about my arrival, and I got a wonderful greeting from my family.

There is now talk about planning more reunions for the Class of ’68 – every 5 years perhaps, or even small annual ones. There are many people I’d still like to talk to, so I hope these happen. Except for that, the odds of me returning to Surrey are pretty much zero – the world I knew no longer exists.

Exploring Spook Creek in Whitehorse, Yukon

This little exploration was prompted by a couple of videos that were posted on Facebook recently, showing a beaver crossing 4 lanes of traffic on Two Mile Hill in Whitehorse. My response was something to the effect of “where is he going? There’s no water over there”. Somebody responded that there is a creek, so I had to go for a look, having driven by it thousands of times. What I found was a surprise. Although Spook Creek is little more than a ditch when its flow is controlled through the city, a trail along its forested upper reaches is quite lovely.

This aerial view from Google Maps is a good way to start our tour from the mouth of Spook Creek to its headwaters, a total distance of only about 1.4 kilometers (0.9 miles). The headwaters are in a gully that runs across the aircraft approach to the Whitehorse airport. Click on the image to open an interactive version of the map in a new window.

Let’s start at the mouth of Spook Creek (on the left in the next photo) where it empties into the Yukon River at the upper end of Clara Monarch Slough. The slough was named after the steamboat Clara Monarch, whose hull was abandoned there in February 1907. The slough is one of the best places in Whitehorse to watch birds (especially nesting gulls, and hunting bald eagles) and beaver. The large building in the distance is in the Marwell industrial area, on the site of the CANOL oil refinery built during World War II.

The mouth of Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Going upstream, Spook Creek now enters a culvert to go under the former White Pass & Yukon Route railway, now part of the Trans Canada Trail (recently -re-named The Great Trail – a really poor decision, in my opinion). Then the creek goes into the long culvert seen in the next photo, under Quartz Road.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Spook Creek now really does become a ditch along Quartz Road, along a still-undeveloped piece of property beside Save-On-Foods. The next two photos look downstream along that section.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Now we come to the spot that captured my interest in seeing more of Spook Creek – a beaver dam recently constructed between Save-On-Foods and Home Hardware.

Beaver dam on Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
In the next photo, I’ve crossed over the 4 lanes of traffic that the beaver has been crossing, and am looking downstream again. Here, it’s not really recognizable as a creek anymore. Peter Long, who runs the amazing Whitehorse Walks Web site, is promoting development of that section of the creek as “a Spook Creek trail/parkette with a paved wheelchair-accessible trail, complete with flowers, trees, benches, lights. It would formally link the Lower Escarpment Trail with the Waterfront Trail at Spook Creek Station.” I think it’s a great idea.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Above the Two Mile Hill road, the City has done some work to mitigate the silt that comes down the creek from fairly frequent mudslides in the gully. Along the section of the creek, a beaver path is well-worn, but I never did see what he’s up to.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
From there, I was very surprised to find that a trail has been built by persons unknown. It crosses the creek several times, and each crossing has a bridge.

Bridge on the trail along Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
The next photo shows the only crossing that doesn’t have a proper bridge. Those pallets are heavy, though – a great deal of work has gone into the trail.

Bridge on the trail along Spook Creek in Whitehorse, Yukon
Many sections of the trail have been cut into the sidehill, and many trees that have fallen across the route have been cut.

Trail along Spook Creek in Whitehorse, Yukon
The next photo shows the only sad part of the trail – a squatter’s camp where several people have been living until recently. It will take considerable effort to clean this mess up.

Squatters' camp along Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
There are some other items that may properly be described as artifacts, probably dating to World War II. There are two possible reasons for the name of the creek – one is derogatory, coming from an encampment of Black soldiers of the U.S. Army located somewhere along the lower section of the creek. The other possible source of the name “Spook” is a First Nations cemetery that I’ll show you at the end of this post.

Artifacts along Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Continuing up Spook Creek, which is less than a foot wide at this point. The banks aren’t well defined, or a bridge wouldn’t even be necessary.

Bridge on a trail along Spook Creek in Whitehorse, Yukon
The next photo shows one of the largest bridges on the trail. At this point, the lumber and nails/screws have been carried a long way from the nearest point a pickup truck can get to.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Continuing up the creek.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Suddenly, the forest opens up as the airport is neared.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
Reaching a road that runs from the airport level down some aviation equipment, you can either go up to the trail system that runs around the airport…

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
…or down to a landing-light tower. To the left of that tower is a marshy area where a friend of mine says 6 varieties of orchids grow. There are also signs of it being a dumping area for the military decades ago.

Spook Creek - Whitehorse, Yukon
That takes us up to the airport trails, which is a fairly extensive network. The primary access to those trails from downtown has been the Black Street Stairs for many years.

Airport trail - Whitehorse, Yukon
The furthest-north of the airport trails runs along the top of the Spook Creek gully. The next photo looks across the gully to the landing approach lights. On July 18, 1967, a USAF Martin EB-57E Canberra crashed there while on approach, killing both crew members.

Spook Creek gully - Whitehorse, Yukon
The trail through the forest along the top of the gully is very nice, but is seldom used.

One of the airport walking trails at Whitehorse, Yukon
It’s nice to see that tree-fort building still goes on – most of my friends did that when we were kids.

Tree fort along one of the airport trails at Whitehorse, Yukon
As the trail starts to drop down a ridge along the clay cliffs, the largest First Nations cemetery in Whitehorse can be seen below.

First Nations cemetery along Spook Creek in Whitehorse, Yukon
The trail down the ridge is very steep, and I wouldn’t do it in wet or icy conditions – this silt gets extremely slippery.

Steep walking trail down from the airport at Whitehorse, Yukon
The cemetery is fenced off and visitors aren’t welcome. About 100 meters past this point, I was back at my car which I had parked in a large parking area along the Two Mile Hill road.

First Nations cemetery along Spook Creek in Whitehorse, Yukon

It’s nice that Whitehorse continues to surprise me. This was a particularly fine discovery, and Spook Creek will be on my list of walks regularly now.

The renovation of the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse

One would think that, because it’s so close in both physical and emotional ways, that the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse would have been a prime focus in my cemeteries project. But it had been neglected for so many decades that my heart just wasn’t in it. That has all changed now – the cemetery is well along on a major renovation, and I’m putting a great deal of time into documenting it now.

Originally called the 6th Avenue Cemetery, the Pioneer Cemetery is located in downtown Whitehorse, at the base of what we call “the clay cliffs.” Atop those cliffs is the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. The image below is from Google Maps – click on it to open an interactive version in a new window.

Aerial view of the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
The main entrance to the Pioneer Cemetery used to be at the southeast corner.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
A grand new entrance has been constructed at the northeast corner of the cemetery, where the United States Military Cemetery was located during World War II. The new entrance has 3 interpretive signs that describe the history of the cemetery and a map of the 701 grave sites that are now known (701 by my count of the plots on the map).

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
The beginning of the renovation planning dates back to 2012. One of the early parts of it was the construction of a leash-free dog park a couple of blocks away, as people walking their dogs in the cemetery and not cleaning up after them has been a long-standing complaint. The sign in the next photo is now in place at the main entrance.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
In February 2017, Ecofor Consulting brought in a Ground Sensing Radar unit to search for unmarked graves. There were surprises – both the number and location of lost graves. Although 800 grave sites is the number that’s been used for many years, and my list of reported burials has 808 names, there are, as I mentioned, 701 known grave sites marked on the map at the new cemetery entrance. I took photos of all 235 markers a few days ago for my cemetery Web site, so we’re still missing approximately 107 grave sites, and 673 grave sites need names. (Photo by Ecofor)

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Last spring and summer, raising and levelling headstones that had sunk and/or shifted was the main priority – that work was done by crews from Sidrock. Part of that work involved building concrete bases for most of them. (Photo by Sidrock)

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Once in their proper position, the headstones were cleaned. You can see in the background how badly sunk some of the headstones and grave surrounds were. (Photo by Sidrock)

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
The next photo shows the front of the cemetery as it looks now. Known grave sites that don’t have markers now have concrete pads, and if names are ever found, markers will be installed – the type of marker is still being discussed.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Further back in the cemetery, work continues. Known grave sites have been marked as seen in the next photo, and the concrete pads will soon be in place on them as well.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Completion of the new fence around the cemetery is rapidly approaching. It’s felt that a high-quality fence will greatly add to the respect that the cemetery gets, and it will eliminate the paths across the property that developed over the years.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
On Wednesday (September 5th), a Grand Re-opening ceremony was held. There wasn’t much promotion about the event, so the turnout was quite small.

Grand Re-opening ceremony at the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
The Yukon’s Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, was the first speaker at the ceremony.

Grand Re-opening ceremony at the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Gordon Steele (seen in the photo) and the late Grant Lundy, both of the Yukon Order of Pioneers, put countless hours into this project since planning began.

Grand Re-opening ceremony at the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Helmer Hermanson of the RCMP Veterans Association is another of the primary drivers behind the renovation. “Respect” was a word heard many times during the presentations. The respect that had been lost by neglect of the cemetery, and the respect that has returned.

Grand Re-opening ceremony at the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
The ceremony was short and to the point, and soon the ribbon was cut. While there is still a lot of work to do, this is a project that everyone involved can be proud of.

Grand Re-opening ceremony at the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
After the opening ceremony, tours of the cemetery were led. I went with consultant Ian Robertson, who showed his group some of the headstones that he found most interesting in various ways.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
Now, we as a community have hundreds of grave sites to try to identify. Anyone with early photos of the cemetery can help fill in those blanks. In 1949, Robert Allen Burnside died the day after his 13th birthday. A cousin, Patty Hannah-Miller, sent me this photo of his grave, taken shortly after the headboard and surround were erected – there is no marker on the grave now. Several other photos and other information about people buried in the cemetery have been posted in my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group at Facebook, adding more pieces to the puzzle.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
In some cases, even headstones present mysteries. An example is the one in the next photo, which just has the initials “IKG” carved in it. I haven’t found any name of my list of burials that matches those initials.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon
At the end of the war, all the men that had been buried in the United States Military Cemetery were moved to the States, and that ground is now the location of the new entrance. But at the lower left of the next photo is the grave of Max Cyr. He now has a headstone located some 60-70 meters away from that spot, and so far we have no answer as to how that can be.

Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse, Yukon

My part of the project is now primarily posting all of the photos I shot of the existing grave markers, on my Pioneer Cemetery pages. That will take 40-50 hours. I hope that I’m not yet finished with the motorhome for this season, though, and in 5 days I’m flying to Vancouver for the 50th anniversary reunion of my high school class, so I have a very busy month or so ahead.