Flying Home to Whitehorse from Vancouver

Sunday morning was a sad/happy time. Sad because I had to say goodbye to my niece as she starts the next phase of her life far from the Yukon, happy because I was flying home.

We were in no huge hurry to get moving, and the White Spot restaurant downstairs in the Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel didn’t see us until after 08:00. A “Chorizo & Goat Cheese Omelette” caught my attention, and it was deeeelicious! It’s made with chorizo sausage, sauteed zucchini, bell peppers and arugula with BC goat cheese and a special blend of cheeses, topped with Arrabbiata sauce, for $11.99 including sourdough toast and chunky potatoes. I’ll be trying this one at home some day soon 🙂

Chorizo & Goat Cheese Omelette at White Spot
After breakfast, Bobbie headed for the ferry to Vancouver Island, and at 9:30 I caught the hotel shuttle to YVR for my 11:15 flight.

Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel
Check-in at the Air North counter was dead simple – I only had a little daypack to carry on. At security, a litte whoops! – I had missed one of the beer I had put in my pack when we arrived at our Vancouver hotel.

I usually spend my spare time at airports taking pictures, but this time I found a quiet spot and worked on editing the photos I’d taken during the trip. I had the camera on high-speed drive during the Fraser Canyon section, so had a lot of images to go through and delete.

Planes at YVR
Our departure was delayed by 20 minutes due to a bag being loaded and then the passenger not showing for the flight. At 11:35, though, we were on our way to the active runway.

Vancouver International Airport, YVR
On the way to the airport, I heard people complaining on the radio about how cold it was (just below freezing), but climb-out was stunning. This is such an incredible piece of coastline.

Climbout from YVR

Aerial view of the BC coast
Air North has new coffee cups – “The Best Brew with the Best View”. Truth in advertising! The coffee is from Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters –

Air North and
It was cloudy for much of the flight, but I got enough views of the ground to keep me happy. The Japanese guy beside me wanted to see out, but I suppose had taken the middle seat to keep his wife happy with her aisle seat. If I don’t get a window, I’m just not flying except under extreme duress 🙂 Cathy often says that she wants the window, and my response is always that she’s welcome to have the window seat in front of or behind me.

The view from an Air North flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse
The view to the south over Carcross as we descended into Whitehorse. Mid-December and Lake Bennett isn’t frozen yet – that’s crazy.

Looping around Whitehorse to land into the south wind. That’s the Riverdale residential area at the bottom left, downtown at middle right, and the airport across the upper center.

Cathy, Monty and Bella met me at the airport, and by 2:30 we were settled down enjoying a glass of wine. It was a great trip in so many ways – mostly, I would have felt awful saying goodbye to Bobbie in Whitehorse. But that’s the last road trip except for day trips to Skagway, Kluane, etc until Spring arrives and the motorhome gets fired up again.

Driving from Quesnel to Vancouver

We got off to an early start in Quesnel on Friday, excited about this being the last day of the road trip to Vancouver. After a big breakfast at Smitty’s, we were on the road at 06:50.

Although we did get a lot of fog and ice as expected, we made good time, and by 09:00 were in 100 Mile House, 210 km (130 miles) south. This used to be “cowboy country”, but it’s a very different world now.

100 Mile House, BC
We continued to go in and out of fog and ice for hours.

A foggy, icy day on BC Highway 97
As we neared Cache Creek just after 10:00, historic Hat Creek Ranch prompted a stop for a few photos and a stretch in the warm sun.

Hat Creek Ranch, BC
The wet road and sunshine made driving rather blinding for many miles. Not that we were complaining about the sunshine!! 🙂

Sunshine and a wet road - Cariboo Highway, BC
I’ve never had a close look at it, but have always liked the design of the church at the Bonaparte Indian Reserve No. 3, home of the St’uxwtews band of the Secwepemc nation (pronounced suh-wep-muh).

Church at Bonaparte Indian Reserve No. 3, BC
At 10:45 we made a long stop at a viewpoint overlooking the Thompson River. I spent a lot of time in this area when I lived in BC, and could spend a lot more – it’s certainly on the list for a motorhome trip some day not too far away.

Thompson River, BC
The tight valley has both national railways as well as the highway – the Canadian National on this side, the Canadian Pacific on the opposite side. I dawdled for a while hoping that a train would come along, but no luck. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for trains along here – sometimes successfully 🙂

Canadian National Railway line along the Thompson River in BC
One more photo before leaving the viewpoint, of Bobbie and Car.

BC Highway 97 along the Thompson River
We were not nearly finished with the fog yet, and travel got quite slow at times. Although I had done all the driving as far as 100 Mile House where the ice quit, Bobbie took over from there.

Fog and cows in BC
I hadn’t been a passenger in a car along the Thompson River or through the Fraser Canyon in several decades, and was really happy to be able to do almost nothing this day except take photos and tell stories about past adventures in this area.

BC Highway 97 along the Thompson River
Starting into the Fraser Canyon, still one of the finest drives in BC.

Driving the Fraser Canyon
The Klickumcheen Indian cemetery near Lytton caught our interest and we stopped for a walk. Unfortunately very few markers are still legible, but they appear to go back into the 1800s.

Klickumcheen Indian cemetery near Lytton
Just before noon, we stopped at a tiny viewpoint that offered this view of the highway and canyon.

Looking straight up through the mist from the same viewpoint. It’s quite amazing that it’s still hanging on to the cliff.

We stopped for lunch at Fat Jack’s just north of Boston Bar, and were very impressed. It was closed for many years, but was purchased 2 years ago, and the new owner is doing wonderful things with it. The nachos were extremely good (guacamole with roasted garlic – yuuum!) and even the clubhouse sandwich was a cut above the norm. Four thumbs up on that stop 🙂

Nachos at Fat Jack's diner, Boston Bar, BC
For anyone who likes tunnels as much as I do, the Fraser Canyon is awesome! There are 7 tunnels, built between 1957 and 1964 as part of the Trans-Canada Highway project. In this photo we were about to exit the Ferrabee Tunnel and enter the Hells Gate Tunnel – they are the second and third tunnels coming from the north.

Ferrabee Tunnel and Hells Gate Tunnel, Fraser Canyon
The fourth tunnel, the Alexandra Tunnel, is the longest at about 610 meters (2,000 feet).

Alexandra Tunnel, Fraser Canyon
I didn’t shoot this video, but if you have 3 minutes and 43 seconds to spare, it shows you all 7 tunnels, driving from south to north.

As you come out of the Saddle Rock Tunnel, this is the view ahead – one of the more dramatic views on the canyon drive.

Driving BC's Fraser Canyon
At 1:50 we were nearing Hope, the southern end of the Fraser Canyon and the start of the Fraser Valley. Bobbie had never been on the upper section of the Lougheed Highway, Highway 7, so at the junction seen in the distance in this photo we stayed on the west side of the river instead of crossing over as most people do.

Highway 97 just north of Hope, BC
We spent 20 minutes on the Lougheed Highway, and then crossed over to the freeway (Highway 1) on the Agassiz Bridge over the Fraser River.

Agassiz Bridge over the Fraser River
I had read about the new highway (Highway 17, or the South Fraser Perimeter Road) that makes getting to the Vancouver airport much easier, and had seen part of it under construction, but hadn’t been on it yet. Signage for it on Highway 1 is fairly good, though tends to blend in with ferry signage in some places.

Signs pointing to new BC Highway 17, the South Fraser Perimeter Road
Wow, is this ever nice! The old stop-and-go route through Langley and Surrey was awful, and I avoided having to make that drive whenever possible. That’s the Port Mann Bridge ahead – the old bridge upriver from the 10-lane one that opened 2 years ago is currently being disassembled. The new one has the second longest cable-stayed span in the western hemisphere – the distance between the towers is 470 meters (1,542 feet).

BC Highway 17, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, and the Port Mann Bridge
I’ve crossed over that bridge countless times during my life – it’s the Pattullo Bridge between New Westminster and Surrey, built in 1936-37. Land acquisition costs must have been a big part of the $1.26 billion cost of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, as this was a fairly well-developed area.

Patullo Bridge
Ahead, a huge auto transport ship, the Glorious Express out of Singapore, goes under the Alex Fraser Bridge, a.k.a. the Annacis Bridge.

Ship going under the Alex Fraser Bridge, a.k.a. the Annacis Bridge
When we got near the south end of the Alex Fraser Bridge, the South Fraser Perimeter Road ends, and so does any signage to the airport. We ended up in a residential part of North Delta, made a U-turn on a very busy street and got back to the bridge, which is the correct access to the airport.

We were in our hotel room well before 4:00. The Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel was the cheapest accommodation of the trip, and certainly offered the best value – in fact for $72.45 total on a senior’s rate it was quite remarkable. Even Internet access and an airport shuttle are included.

Coast Vancouver Airport Hotel

After getting settled, we drove into Richmond to see my oldest brother and his wife, a perfect end to this trip. On Sunday morning, Bobbie would catch the ferry to Vancouver Island, and I’d fly home.

Driving from Fort Nelson to Quesnel

We had driven 944 kilometers from Whitehorse to Fort Nelson on Thursday, and our destination for this night was Quesnel, some 970 km south. We filled up the gas tank at $1.329 when we arrived last night, and after a good breakfast, were on the road at 07:20, with the temperature sitting at -17°C (+1°F) a good driving temperature.

The sun wouldn’t rise until about 08:55, but I shot this photo 20 minutes before that.

Just a couple of minutes later, we made a stop at the side of the road for some photos of the sunrise colours.

After coming through the Northern Rockies the day before, this isn’t dramatic country, but it is really pretty, especially on a morning like this.

From the Buckinghorse River south, there’s a lot of oil and gas industry traffic, and problems can almost be expected. At the front of this mess that we came upon at 10:05 was a van pulling a U-Hail trailer which had spun out on the very icy hill. They were putting on chains, and the semis behind them were forced to also put on chains to get going again. Getting around them was extremely dangerous – if there had been any traffic coming the opposite direction, an accident would have been pretty much unavoidable.

Just an hour later we reached a very long stoppage caused by a dead semi, but at least a flagman was getting traffic around it safely.

At about 11:30 we met Bobbie’s stepson at the junction of the Alaska Highway and Highway 29, and they arranged to meet on Vancouver Island over the holidays. Taking Highway 29 (a.k.a. Don Phillips Way) up the Peace River valley was a great idea – it’s extremely scenic compared to the way most people go, through Dawson Creek. The road has far more curves and hills, which is what makes it more scenic and less popular.
The part of the valley seen in this photo may some day be flooded by an extremely controversial new dam currently known just as Site C, as it would be the third dam on the Peace River. One of the biggest selling points for the $8 billion project is that it would generate approximately 35% of the energy produced at the huge W.A.C. Bennett Dam with only 5% of the reservoir area, but the 30 families who would lose their homes (and many others) have put up lots of protest signs.

On an icy hill, I missed the entrance to a viewpoint and had to make a U-turn at the bottom of the hill to go back, but it was worth it. This is an HDR image made from 3 photos.

Another of the many shots I took at the viewpoint.

There’s not much commercial traffic on Highway 29, and most of it was log trucks hauling north from a cut block just north of the town of Hudson’s Hope. We met the van and U-Haul that had caused the problem on the Alaska Highway – he had spun out on another hill, and had torn a chain off getting going again. Some people seem to just go out looking for trouble.

I knew that the drive would be slow due to the scenery. This was shot from a pullout at 1:00 pm. About 4 inches of snow had fallen the previous night, and having a 4×4 to get into this pullout was a comfort (well, it was a comfort for the entire trip, actually).

Looking back to the north as we neared Hudson’s Hope at 1:15.

Hudson’s Hope is the third oldest community in the province, having been first settled in 1805. It had a population of 1,074 as of 2012, down from the 1,157 that Wikipedia is still reporting from 2006.

We almost changed our minds about making a detour to see the W.A.C. Bennett Dam after seeing that it’s 22 km off the highway, but quickly decided that it would be silly to miss it. The 2 security guards at the gate registered us, and said that the viewpoint hadn’t been plowed but we could still drive across the top of the dam. The Visitor Centre is now closed for the season and is being renovated – it will re-open on May 16, 2015 and then will be open until September 7th.

Completed in 1967 after 6 years of construction, W.A.C. Bennett Dam is one of the world’s largest earthfill structures, stretching 2 km (1.25 miles) across the head of the canyon and measuring 183 meters (600 feet) in height. Behind the dam is BC’s largest reservoir, Williston Lake, which covers an area of 166,000 hectares (410,000 acres).

Looking down the Peace River from the centre of the dam.

St Peter’s Anglican Church overlooks the Peace River beside the Hudson’s Hope museum. Although the “Open” sign was lit in the museum window, we had a very long road ahead of us yet.

We stopped at the Sportsman Inn for a late lunch, and it turned out to be a very good choice. That’s an impressive burger for $9.95 including fries.

At 3:00, with the light rapidly fading, we were back on the road.

There was a bit of freezing rain and lots of ice on the road, so we didn’t reach Quesnel until almost 9:00, over an hour later than I’d planned. I couldn’t remember the name of the motel that I stayed in last time through and was pleased with, but Google Maps identified it as the Sylvan Motel, so that’s who Bobbie phoned and made a reservation with. That turned out to be wrong, and although the bathroom colours were a bit shocking and the towel bar had fallen off the wall and never been replaced, the Sylvan was okay for $70.

It had been a very long day (the mileage was 976 km, 606 miles), and we were in bed almost immediately. The forecast for the morning, with fog and freezing temperatures, indicated another slow drive for a few hours as we continued south towards Vancouver.

Driving from Whitehorse to Fort Nelson

My niece and I are on our way to Vancouver. She’s not comfortable with driving 3,000 kilometers by herself this time of year, and – well, I’m her uncle 🙂

This was the weather forecast for the entire route – not too bad. Mostly warmish with a bit of snow.

We left the house at 06:10 – 3 hours and 49 minutes before before sunrise – in a light snow, with reservations for a motel in Fort Nelson for the night. Teslin was our first stop, for gas and breakfast. At 08:45, we were back on the road, at the viewpoint over Teslin.

Viewpoint over Teslin, Yukon
The colours of sunrise seemed to go on for hours – this was shot 22 minutes before the 09:59 sunrise.

Winter sunrise on the Alaska Highway
This ice-tower is caused by flakes of ice in the air.

Sunrise ice-tower
We were both hoping to see lots of wildlife on the trip. The first were a few bison near Coal River at 12:20.

Bison along the Alaska Highway
We stopped at Watson Lake and put in just enough gas at $1.179 to get us to Contact Creek Lodge. It’s been my regular stop for some 20 years, as they have the lowest gas prices in the region. Imagine my surprise when gas there was $1.299. I won’t make that mistake again 🙁

My faithful lead dog Nanook is travelling with us 🙂

About 20 miles from Liard Hot Springs we met a herd of about 100 bison, including a large number of calves.

Bison along the Alaska Highway

Bison along the Alaska Highway
The sun broke out as we neared the Smith River, and although I drove past, a mile or so down the highway I did a U-turn to go back to Smith River Falls. It’s 2 km down a narrow road with a few inches of snow on it, but was worth the detour.

Frozen Smith River Falls, Alaska Highway
We stopped at Liard Hot Springs Lodge to top up the gas tank – at $1.699! In front of us at the pump was a fellow who goes by The Social Traveler on Twitter. We had planned on having a dip at the springs, but decided that we wanted to maximize our highway touring in the sunshine instead.

The Social Traveler at Liard Hot Springs Lodge

Liard Hot Springs Lodge
Bobbie’s car at the Muncho Lake viewpoint. I stopped to check the price of gas at Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake and found it to be $1.979. That’s nearing double the price in Whitehorse.

Muncho Lake, from the viewpoint.

I shot this 5-minute video as Bobbie drove along the lake.

Near the Tetsa River Lodge as it got dark, we met a herd of some 40 elk.

Elk along the Alaska Highway
Crossing the Racing River Bridge at 4:08, 52 minutes after sunset.

This is a screenshot from the page that my Spot GPS Messenger sends data, to allow friends and family to track us. It can be seen here.

Tomorrow, we’ll be away early again, with Quesnel our destination for the night.

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. In a rack at the start of the trail, 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